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

Month: June 2018

Sushi Ville

A friend had returned from a trip abroad, and she wanted to meet up over sushi. Having travelled Spain and indulged in copious amounts of fine wine, cured meats, salted cheese, and briny olives; she came home to Vancouver craving sushi. The freshness of fish available in our city, and the lightness a roll would provide with it.

So we met up at “Sushi Ville” on Commercial Drive. Here I was thinking she choose this place out of connivence, but the reality was, she had been before and wanted me to experience their decorative presentations.

Walking up to the restaurant, I couldn’t have imagined the plates that waited for us. The photos of the sushi rolls on their sandwich board didn’t speak to this, nor did any of the photos hanging on the walls, inside. The only thing that might have given it away was the laser cut silhouette of a cat and several fishes on their restaurant sign. It spoke to the playful nature of their embellished plates. Regardless of how large or small your roll was, each order got a full “painting”.

With the warm day, the exterior of the restaurant was fully open. We grabbed a seat by the open patio’s high top bar; getting glints of sunlight, along with a gentle breeze as we ate.

The interior of the restaurant is set uniformly with even rows of tables and chairs. Each setting included soy sauce and the dishes to pour them in to. Round paper lanterns hung from the ceiling and a fake cherry blossom tree “sprouted” with flailing branches towards the back.

A dutiful clerk presents you with their 12 page novel of a menu. It was a tough read to get through, so many options to sort through, that it overwhelmed. Each speciality dish and roll had a photo to help you decide or entice you into ordering it. Great if you are indecisive like me, or order based on looks alone, like me.

Although I should have ordered their classic rolls or some clean and simple sashimi to get a true view on the place. But instead I found myself gravitating towards the fusion rolls and the mounds of ingredients that topped them. Toppings on sushi is a smart way to get more in your roll, but still keeps it small enough to fit into your mouth with one bite. They were so wonderfully excessive, but with all those extras and all their sauces, you really don’t eat to taste any of the fresh seafood that should be featured within. Good thing that each roll typically has imitation crab meat or at most shrimp. For all their speciality rolls, it starts with a California Roll as a base, sometimes cucumber or cream cheese is added as a slight variation.

Sadly I ended up ordering two such, which I thought was different, only for me to find them tasting the same; and as result, me not being motivated to finish either.

My first was their “Rocky Mountain Roll” with cucumber, avocado, imitation crab, and sweet potato. Clearly, I ordered them for look,s given that I have yet to see a sushi roll presented as such: turned on its back and topped with a balled up scoop of sweet potato, fried crispy. The latter made it hard to eat, as it was prone to rolling off. The dual creamy and sweet sauces made a dip in soya unnecessary. Although I later did, just to change the taste, with the ginger to cleanse bites in between.

As for its presentation, the cup of liquid nitrogen in the natural wind provided ribbons of smoke swirling around the rounded tips of the sushi “mountains”. The over turned umbrella furthered the illusion of a windy day. The perfect imagery for this “Rocky Mountain” roll.

My second roll was the “Pizza Roll”. A California Roll with cream cheese, avocado, imitation crab, and cucumber. Topped with sweet chilli sauce and diced up #pizza toppings like ham, pineapple, and mozzarella cheese. It was a clever adaptation, that I did not regret ordering for novelty alone. It was an interesting assembly of ingredients. You got the flavour of the ham and savoured the classic sweet chilli sauce and cream cheese pairing, yet you keep waiting for the tangy tomato sauce to chime in, and therefore are left looking for some tang in your bite.

Along with the roll the plate was decorated in edible sauces. If the pizza roll was a tree trunk, this was the edible branch, sprouted with cherry blossoms that grew from it. Under this, whimsically scribbled were words that read “Coming on time”. Looking back I wish I tried what they tasted like. But they were just too pretty to ruin. So I simply left it on the plate, along with the rolls that I didn’t wish to finish.

Instead, of these two dense rolls that came with their own sauces, I should have done what my guest did and ordered a speciality roll and a single cone. The negitoro cone made for a great cleanser, a nice break while still eating. You enjoyed the simple rice and fish combination with the salty soya sauce, which was a nice contrast to your other sweet roll.

Her’s was the “sweet potato roll” featuring flowers and the word “someday” drawn in edible sauces. I really liked the detail they put into each drawing, and here especially the bold blue hue in the petals. As for the sushi, this too was basically a California Roll topped with crispy fried sweet potato shreds. The strings of potato gave each bite a nice crunch, making the once small roll feel much more substantial.

 

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.
Overall, they did well with their creations. Each roll had a good flavour and a good mix of textures. Each speciality roll stood apart on its own, thus making they themselves stand out in a heavily saturated sushi landscape. “Sushi Ville’ is worth checking out for the pageantry alone. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SUSHI VILLE
2068 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4B2
604-559-4611
Sushi Ville Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rosé All Day at The Wine Bar

Vancouver is well known for its craft beer scene, and all the bars that serve them in barrels, batches, growlers, pints and flights. There are more and more small breweries popping up every month, with more and more bars to offer them to you. So I was ecstatic to discover that our fair city now has a wine bar to cater to those who prefer grapes over hops; offering just as much variety in wine as your local bar would beer. Introducing “The Wine Bar” the literal name, that gets right to the point, as well as delivers on the promise of wine by the glass, as well as bottle.

And if that isn’t reason enough to visit them, they have recently launched their rosé program, making “Rosé all day” a reality, and not just a slogan reserved for graphic tees.

On this night I was invited to the #Rosé launch party, allowing thirsty guests the ability to sample their collection of pinks. They have more than 40 different rosé wines available by the glass, and even more options if you are willing to order by the bottle. This assembly even included a 4 litre bottle for over $1,500, which was quick to sell, at 25% off. Every Sunday, “TWB” invites guests down to their water side bar for 25% off any rosé (bottle or glass)

But tonight we were able to taste as many of the pinks as we could, whilst mingling with the vendors that represented and distributed the various labels. They too were enjoying the wines and the space, as they gave guests a little more in depth information on the brand they represented. Around the quick to fill room enthusiasts were seen swirling and swishing, trying with a spit. And there was myself, downing each taster like a champ, with my face turning a shade to match my quick to empty glass.

I wish I was able to be a bit more discerning of each sip that I took. But truth be told, I cannot recall the notes between sweet and/or dry, just that I enjoyed them all; and half the fun is try as many as you can. Hence the appeal of the wine bar in the first place, as it is what sets them apart from others. They allow you to try something new, or be more adventurous, without the commitment of a full bottle.

As we drank in deep, a rotation of handheld snacks kept me in check. A selection to showcase the kitchen’s ability in small bites, just as what is offered on their regular food menu. A menu that has similarities to their sister restaurant, “Provence Marinaside”, next door. The only difference is here, they have cultivated a more casual setting to spend your time at. Truly laid back and easy, like your favourite bar, but with wine and the air of sophistication it always brings.

Your option of seating includes cushy benches indoors, and a patio up front with a water side view. The latter was the perfect setting to people watch, and be seen at, behind a flower lined fence. But the actual place to be is right at the entrance, in front of the fully stocked wine bar. Bottles corked and left to chill, and taps with slender nozzles to admire. But on this occasion it became our standing bar, and the perfect platform to highlight their new French and American rosés; as well as a collection of pink sparkling.

For nibbles we enjoyed a self serve, auto replenishing platter of raw oysters on ice with caviar, because fresh oysters and wine seem like a natural conclusion.

Jumbo shrimp served chilled with a tangy dip. Self explanatory and always a crowd pleaser.

I liked the mildness of the juicy sausage, a sharp contrast to the soggy cheese and vegetable with quinoa on bread bite.

I much more prefer the perfectly round pastry puff topped with a veggie ratatouille-like zesty mix.

Although I had a great time, given the amount of attendees and the tone of the gathering, I wasn’t able to fully take-in or enjoy “The Wine Bar”; so decided to come back for a more “normal” night shortly after. Doing so with a friend who drinks wine like others drink water. Although sadly she must have been overwhelmed with all the options, as she decided that we should share a bottle of bubbles from Italy. This was the easy choice, instead of picking and choosing by the glass, visiting the world through its wine in the process. Guess that gives me the excuse to return once again.

Because “The Wine Bar” has over 200 different wines available by the glass, and over 400 by the bottle. 400 different wines to choose from, in a dining scene where no other restaurant or bar can boast the same.

During our stay we would nibble on their small plates, taking advantage of the Southern French fare that “Provence Marinaside” is known for. Naturally, the menu helped you pair the perfect glass to go with your dish of choice; but for us, our bottle was plenty.

First we had some garlic marinated “frog wings”, because: when in “Provence”. They were dressed in your choice of sea salt, Jim bean bourbon, or espelette Pepper. We went for just some salt to flavour and exemplify the garlic. With the simple dressing the flavour of the well seasoned wings came through lough and clear. The little, one-bite drums had the frog meat falling off its bone. You put the whole thing in your mouth and with a twist of our tongue you removed the meat. These were so great that I could have eaten a half dozen more.

Next we had some “crispy calamari” with lemon and a garlic aioli, for a similar crunch. Well breaded and chewy, but unmemorable when served along side the frog wings above.

We would start our meal and time in the small dining, waiting for a table to free up on the patio. When it did we moved our set up, and indulged in our next course of tapas plates with fresh air and a cool breeze.

Having drank to the point where you want carbs to balance yourself out internally, I immediately eyed the “Gnocchi du jour”. Today the chef’s creations was their house made gnocchi in a light cream sauce with morels and kale. They had the perfect texture and were the exact taste I was craving for at the time. Chewy and buttery, the mushrooms added some earthiness and depth, with the kale brightening up the plate with its change in texture.

Off the dessert menu, we also enjoyed their “Artisanal BC cheese plate” with gluten free crisps, olives, and fruit compotes. Wine with cheese just seems to fit best at a French style restaurant, and even better when it highlight’s BC’s dairy farmer’s contribution to the cheese game.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As, I mentioned above there isn’t another place quite like this in Vancouver, and none with a view like they do. A great spot for those who enjoy wine and would like to get acquainted with an extensive list of wines from around the globe. Here you can try them by the tap, glass, or bottle at reasonable prices. They not only have the largest by-the-glass wine program in Vancouver, but in all of Western Canada as well! Come for 400 plus wines, but be sure to start with a visit on Sunday for 25% off bottles and glasses of rosé. “Each ready to drink by itself or pair well with our food menu.” – Josh, Wine Director at TWB. “Don’t deny your cravings” – Magmei

 

TWB
1167 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver BC, V6Z2V4
604-681-4144
thewinebar.ca
The Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

#PopUpPatio 2018, The Westin Grand Robson

Nothing epitomizes summer more than cool drinks on a sunny patio. And once again “The Westin Grand” on Robson Street has opened theirs up for Happy Hour. Every Thursday and Friday this summer, their poolside terrace is open to the public, and today we were here to celebrate the occasion with a mix and mingler.

The location gives you an elevated look at Vancouver’s central library and its square, with the round of BC Place in the distance. No water or mountain views, but a look at the cityscape from its centre. With cushioned seating and a glass fire place, the spot does gets comfy. I only wish you could actually sit by the pool that they advertise. You are technically adjacent to it, but you actually can’t be “by it”. Unfortunately its use is limited to those staying with the hotel. Patio goers can only enjoy it as background in their peripheral. Hotel guests are the ones who are able to lounge in the chairs, dip their feet into the waters of the chlorine pool and neighbouring hot tub. Sadly if we could too, I could see this “pop-up patio” being even more popular.

If you are looking to catch some sun and perhaps tan a little as you sip, I suggest coming right when they open at 3:30pm. By 5:30pm the sun’s ray were shielded by the neighbouring skyscrapers. The patio’s accessibility and happy hour run until 7:30pm, weather permitting.

As for drinks and eats, both are provided by their in hotel Resto-Lounge: “Hendricks”. The “Hendrick’s” chefs and bartenders work offsite behind the patio’s bar and grill. Mixing cocktails, pouring beers, and serving wine. We would enjoy the latter by the plastic glass-full.

I didn’t get a true picture of the food as there were self serve platters to nibble at, and a couple of servers rotating small bites around the terrace. Majority of it was pre-made and passable at room temperature; and the stuff that was intended warm was cold, by the time we got it. Therefore, I suggest visiting for yourself, for a more accurate portrayal. Or better yet, check out my review of Hendricks.

Hendricks Resto-Lounge

 

Crispy chicken sliders. The chicken was good, but the bun was dry by the time I got my hands on one. I could have also used some more sauce for flavour and some spice for kick.

The flavour of the beef skewers were good, but the meat itself was tough. I had to jerk my head back in order to pry meat from stick.

The deep fried mac and cheese balls were delicious, easy to pop in to your mouth with a tangy tomato paste.

The samosas were also a nice finger snack, with their flaky crispy skin and well seasoned vegetable filling.

The pork belly was also easy to go back for more of. Equal parts meat and fat in a sweet and salty brown sauce with pickled vegetables. I just wanted more substantially, over a bowl of rice.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
My first visit to the patio was 2 years ago, and it was a negative one. It was their first year open and it felt like they were still toying with the concept. It existed outside of “Hendricks” and I felt like the setting didn’t live up to their advertisements and my image of them, specifically the accessibility to the pool. This year they made sure to stress that the patio is not pool side, but pool adjacent. And they invested more into the furniture, making it feel like a more fulsome lounge space, with the ability to stand on its own. The service was lacking then and the food was okay, making it nothing noteworthy. But this year with a festive launch party, lively DJ, and a extensive spread; they are certainly pulling out all stops to help make their #popuppatio a more memorable destination to not deny your cravings on.

To read my original review visit the link below.

#PopUpPatio at the Westin Grand, Robson

 

#PopUpPatio
433 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6L9
604-602-1999
westingrandvancouver.com/vancouver-patio

 

Goat Yoga at Maan Farms

Animals and people just go hand in hand, both as pets and as companions. But not everyone is able to have their very own fur baby, be it the cost of rearing an animals, not being able to house them in a pet-friendly environment, or the potential of allergens. Therefore places and activities that allow you to get up close and personal with your favourite animal seem to be a great solution/alternative. Specialty cafes allow you to sip coffee with cats. And it is so popular of a concept that variations such as rabbit cafes, hedgehog cafes, and even owl cafes are a thing. Unfortunately they all exist in Japan. Luckily Vancouver now has its own animal themed experience, one that best mirrors our West Coast lifestyle. Introducing “goat yoga”! The yoga class that has you flexing with kids (the plural of baby goats)!

This very unique class requires no formal yoga knowledge, no shots, or waivers. Just a lengthy travel out to Abbotsford’s “Maan Farms”. Known of being more than just your neighbour farmers, they offer more than just berries and fresh vegetables. They also host families with plenty of seasonally driven activities like a corn maze to scamper through, a petting farm to interact with baby goats, a wooden fortress and plenty of obstacles for kids to climb over and slide under, and their pumpkin patch when Halloween rolls around. And for the parents, they have a great store featuring their hand picks produce for sale, a bakery with fresh baked goods, the perfect pairing for their spread and compotes. And they even offer wine tastings, a showcase of their own fruit flavoured wines for tasting and purchasing.

But for me the allure is their goat yoga classes and the ability to do it while drinking wine. However the timing was off and we weren’t able to secure a spot in that class, so this is my recap of regular goat yoga; still good, but admittedly just not as enticing as a glass of red in one hand and the petting of a goat in the other. All while comfortable in stretchy yoga wear, sitting barefoot on a foamy mat.

When I agreed to participate in “goat yoga” I didn’t realize the distance I would have to drive to get there. 56km, and I made the mistake of giving myself only 1 hour to commute. Therefore we were late by the time we found parking in their small gravel lot.

A chalkboard sign directs you into the above mentioned grocery store of sorts. There, the clerk behind the cash desk points you in the right direction of the right barn. A white building aged from the elements. Inside, you are instructed to pack away your shoes and purse, as the goats will in fact try to take a nibble of both if left unattended. You then claim your place amongst the others by laying your yoga mat out in one of the parallel lines that take up the entire room. Despite the travel time, our entire class was booked, it was literally a full barn.

A representative from the farm thanks you for attending and introduces you to the class to come; including an introduction to the instructor: a certified yogi for the hour. Our yoga instructor told us to go at your pace, taking on movements and motions to make the class your own. She reassured us it was okay to be afraid of the goats, and that she felt the same when when she first started teaching in this barn. She emphasized fun and that it is what you make of it. In my case, it was less about stretching, and more about taking candids of the goats.

To get a better idea of what doing yoga with goats is like, check out my latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

Admittedly the goats are a distraction to the yoga process. Goat feed is placed before every mat, in order to lure them to you. And as they nibble you pet and photograph. But watch out for your hair, if available they will try to chew through that as well, true story. But if the goats get out of hand, cause too much of a disruption to you, or if you look too uncomfortable by them, there are two handlers on site to help steer them away or direct them to something else more willing. These individuals are equipped with brooms and pails should any of these farm animals decide to relieve themselves. It didn’t happen to me, but one of the attendees did have her yoga mat urinated on by one of the goats. And one of the farm employees was quick with the paper towel to soak it all up.

The goats are harmless, they roam about looking for food, most gnawed at the wooden supports of the barn; but a few grew bored of doing that, so curled their hoofs under themselves and went to sleep.

If you missed out on some quality goat time during the session, there are plenty of opportunity to get close to the goats after the class. During this time staged selfies are possible.

To end time, everyone gets a snack of chai ice tea and samosas with dip. All of which are prepared at the farm using their home grown ingredients. This enjoyed outside, away from hungry and brazen goats.

The rest of the time is yours, your $40 fee includes admission to the farm and the ability to roam and engage  in some of the above mentioned activities. For us the jungle gym and the fighting with the kids at a birthday party to pet the available farm animals didn’t seem all that appealing. So we found ourselves in their shop salivating over fresh baked cookies with jams and taking part in their wine tasting. $5 gave you a taste of 4 out of their 8 fruit dessert wine offerings.

Unfortunately they are no longer offering goat yoga or goat yoga with wine classes. But I advised staying in touch through their website to be able to book a class if and when they do become available. For now, they have other yoga classes available and a lot of other different activities to have you visiting them this summer.

 

MAAN FARMS
790 McKenzie Road, Abbotsford BC, V2S 7N4
604-864-5723
maanfarms.com

Formula 1 & Montreal Trip 2018

It’s been three years since my original trip to Quebec and 1.5 since my partner last saw his parents. So we figured it was as good of a time as any to visit the land of the French speaking Canadians, especially as our timing coincided with the Formula One in Montreal, Canada’s only Grand Prix.

We would attend the weekend of racing at its finest: “the highest class of single-seater auto racing”. For those unfamiliar, it isn’t just about going fast around a track. There are a set of rules to adhere to regarding how specialized drivers race and what they race in. The vehicle’s build, the engine’s make up, and the tire’s composition are just a few of the moving parts to consider. Then there is the matter of when to change the tires, how to maneuver to keep all participants safe, and everything in between. The sport invites all walks of fans, visiting various locations all around the world, in splendour. Each location on the tour is its own “Grand Prix”. This is a full weekend of racing with a grand champion at the end of the 3 days, with podium celebrations and the spraying of champagne to end each. I won’t be getting into more of the logistics here, but let’s just say it is more than just watching fast and low cars going round and round. And take it from a first hand account, fans of the sport go deep into these regulations, enjoying the ability to follow stats and the rules that keep it “interesting”.

We attended two days of the four day occasion: the qualifying match and the actual Grand Prix. This being our first time, we really didn’t know what to expect, so weren’t as ready as we could have be. Therefore we went for the general admission tickets, only to learn spending more for the grand stand set seats is well worth the elevated cost. Though it is often $100s of dollars more for these better seats with the best views. But when travelling we were looking to save and ended up still spending quite a bit: $65 each for general admission on day one and $98 for general admission on the second.

General admission meant unassigned standing room, and the need to go early to mark your claim. This also meant that we spent our entire day guarding our spot in one of the designated general admission areas. This ended up being track side behind two layers of chain fencing. For our protection from debris, but to our visual dismay. So without any elevation, we were only able to see the cars drive by on our peripheral area of track. Luckily the televised monitor high above, was within our eye line and we caught most of the action from it. We choose our position by the hair pin of the track. A position where the cars comes at the corner from a straight really fast; then they break hard, only to accelerate again on the straight after.

After the first day on our feet, with flatten bottoms from the hard concrete; we learned the necessity of comfort. We procured cheap folding chairs. $9.95 for each gave us hours of ease and sitting. They also functioned as place markers, although if you are not seated in them, these can be easily moved aside by anyone looking to improve their vantage point. Overall a great investment as we spent the entire day on the track. 9am to 6:30pm on the first day and 8:30am to 4pm the second day.

Friday was the less busy day out of the two. All the races were qualifying matches, set to decide how each of the cars would position themselves on the actual race day. Although all the grand stand seats did sell out on this day as well as the next. It was just less busy because there were just less looky loos wandering the compound with their general admission tickets. This toned down traffic allowed us the time to explore the expanse of the compound early, engaging in some activities and casing out our ideal spot (the one described above).

There was lots to see and do, more than just watching the races themselves. And plenty of time to line up and do them on in between matches, with often 1-2 hours in between.

We visited a few of the booths that had race simulators, offered photo ops with F1 vehicles, and gave out free merchandise for doing a survey. We most enjoyed trying our hand at the Red Bull Test pit stop. In two man teams you remove a tire and exchange it for a new one, just as the real pit crew would during a time sensitive race. The fastest time (the professional time) recorded is a microsecond over 2, this was a large discrepancy from ours. We fell far short in our three attempts at 11 seconds.

There was also plenty to shop with F1 and auto themed stalls offering merchandise like caps, shirts, and printed posters. And of course food vendors were on-site offering all day-ers the option of tacos, burgers, hotdogs, and rotisserie chicken for their three meals in the day. Naturally this wasn’t the cheapest: arena quality at arena prices. A dried bun, cold hot dog cost us $6.50. A serving of poutine with half cooked fries, runny gravy and not enough cheese cost us $11. So disappointed by its look, I didn’t even capture the former.

There was also plenty to quench your thirst with, given the clear skies and the hot sun this proved necessary. Energy drinks, pop, cocktails, and beers. But to avoid having to use any of the porto-potties excessively I avoided drinking too much. Although keeping it just water and sipping only as needed still proved pricy. $4.25 for a bottle, and to not get dehydrated cost us over $25 for the day. We got smart the second day bringing our own snacks and drink.

I did appreciate that there were plenty of portable washroom stalls around popular gathering points. There were even certain portos designated for men and women; and due to there being less women than men at this event, there was often no or little lines for them. Although clean to start the day, this would deteriorate as the day wore on. Many ran out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, with no one to replenish either. Either way going in one of these is never a fun experience.

There weren’t set ticket quantities for general admission, so the traffic and my complaints swelled Sunday (our second day). This was to the point that there were lines to walk about. And some of them were longer than the lines for the washroom or to purchase food  from vendors. No paths to pass, no room to walk up and down stairs, with patrons claiming steps and rails as their “spot”. This continue even after security tried to maintain a path and some order. Therefore we were very fortunate for our claimed position, being able to inch up as the day wore on, on Sunday. Just walking pass the bodies shoulder to shoulder squinting at the monitor from afar we could not imagine paying $100 for their view. Though we did work hard for it. With sore legs from standing, sun burnt backs, and bug bites.

 

As for the race itself, highlights and better photos of the action are available on any sporting network. So instead enjoy what I saw, taken from my phone, by shoving it through one of the holes in the chain link fence.

I enjoyed how they had mascots shooting tee shirts into the crowd with guns. They were your favourite race car drivers in their driving suits with blown-up cartoon bobble heads. The Lewis Hamilton one was spot on.

After the F1 qualifying there was the Ferrari Challenge and Porsche GT3 cup qualifying races. We didn’t stay to watch that show, but instead rushed to where they pitted so that we could watch them roll in after their match. It was a parade of Ferrari 488s and Porsche GT3s all set to the same specks. Meaning, the race is based on the better driver and how well the garage maintains its vehicles. Each race ends with rigorous tests to ensure the strict regulations are met. It is down to tire pressure, amount of fuel in tank, ride height, alignment settings, etc.

It was a behind the scenes affair where you were able to talk up the mechanics that serviced these impressive vehicles and the men who worked for the companies that sponsored them, such as Pirelli the only tire manufacturer that services all of Formula One and the Ferrari Challenge.

On the second day we were able to watch these amazing vehicles round the track. Not that I wish for any, but complications and accidents make for better entertainment during these races. There were so many crashes in both series that it kept fans on their feet, urging on their favourite driver to pass one another. Whereas once the F1 race started the top three held their places and from lap 40-60 nothing happened.

We ended up leaving the actual F1 race with 10 laps left, hoping to make our way closer to watch the podium ceremony live. However given the thickness of the crowds and the traffic we would have to endure, we thought it best to just escape the park and ride the subway home as soon as possible. In hindsight this was the right idea. Surprisingly this didn’t take us all that long, the city was prepared for the influx of bodies. The subway stop, the park, and the track are only in use during F1, so the additional bodies on foot isn’t cutting into anyone’s commute time.

In fact, the city celebrates the weekend, acknowledging the tourist boom the event brings. Stores invite people in with black and white checkered flags and pendants cheering on their favourite drivers. Popular roads were closed off with makeshift patios to eat and drink on. We visited “Corneli” on Friday for a late lunch. It is a restaurant and pizzeria within Montréal’s Little Italy. It is located on Saint Laurent, one of the popular streets shut down for the Grand Prix weekend. We took advantage and sat on their covered patio.

Our meal began with a complimentary loaf of ciabatta, served with a spicy pepper and olive oil mix.

The “Margherita pizza” is prepared in their stone oven with tomato sauce, melted mozzarella, and fresh basil. It had too much cheese, more than what is enough for the tangy tomatoes and dried basil. I found it too salty, and in need of something refreshing like real tomato slices and fresh basil leaves.

We had their “Fettuccini Alfredo con pollo” without the red peppers that was listed on the menu. The broccoli was a nice healthy touch and the grilled chicken was tender. Both were well covered in their thick enough cream sauce with fresh Parmesan. It was good, but a little too watery and light in flavour for my tastes.

The “Spaghetti bolognese” was more hearty, a classic with their homemade meat sauce and served with a giant meatball on top.

We also explored downtown Montreal Saturday night. Many more streets were closed off for their night time block party. Here all car enthusiasts were cruising these busy streets showing off their expensive rides, and you were lucky if you could find a place to stop yours.

Restaurants had their wood and metal patios set up to attract party goers with candlelight and wine. There were displays of show-cars lining the sidewalks for carboys and cargirls to gawk at. But most impressive was the makeshift stage and night club with a second floor made from shipping containers. Here the DJ blasted the music, and even though you didn’t pay for cover, you could enjoy the ambience and dance house music from your sidewalk perch.

After exploring Saturday night, we grabbed a beer at “Bier Markt”. There would be no hope of getting a patio table on the busy streets, without reservations or knowing the right people. “Bier Market” is a chain restaurant offering over 150 beer from 25 different countries, 40 of the beers are from Quebec.

I grabbed a beer flight and made sure to order the one from Quebec. Brasseurs du minded l’Infuse three tea white ale – 5.4%, Jukebox new wave milkshake ipa – 6.1%, Peche mortel imperial stout – 9.5%, and Frampton brasse nuit d’automme dark strong ale at 10%.

And after that we visited one of the most noticeable landmarks in Montreal: “Gibeau Orange Julep”. A giant orange that serves as a fast food snack joint. They are open until late making them the ideal place for car meets and late night snacking stops. And luckily we were able to represent with the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that we had on loan from Mitsubishi of Canada. We put it to go use travelling around Montreal, Quebec, and Thetford Mines with it,

At “Gibeau Orange Julep” we tried one of the orange smoothie drinks. It is light and creamy like a creamsicle, similar in flavour and blend to that of “Orange Julius’” orange drink. To go with it, I had one of their stuffed pretzels. A doughy bite filled with extra cheese.

We didn’t do much else during our time at Montreal, it was very F1 focused so I barely took in any sights or ate from any of the restaurants that was recommended to me. But during our limited time stay, we did visit two very French Canadian themed restaurants.

The first was “Mache” at “Berri-Uqam” station. It was a more stereotypical Canadian restaurant with wooden planked walls and art prints of wild animals and vintage skis and sports equipment hung on it.

I had their “Le ginger bitter” with rhum blanc, old fashion bitter, ginger ale, and bleuet et romarin. It tastes like a fruit and herbed flavour sparkling water beverage. Thirst quenching, but not alcoholic-ly satisfying.

And given that the name of the restaurant translates to “mash” in English I went for one of their name sake’s shepard’s pie. Although in French what is shepard’s pie directly translates to “Chinese pie”, despite its origin being the United Kingdom. This is their “Le “new” style”, an interpretation on the traditional potato mash, ground beef, and sweet corn mix. Instead this was a combination of pulled pork, leak, corn, and mashed sweet potato. It was interesting, but lacked everything I liked about shepard’s pie, and was a little too watery and bland for my liking. Luckily ketchup was the easy fix here, like it would be for traditional shepard’s pie.

My partner had the “8oz seasoned Canadian beef sandwich” with a side of fries. In between their spongy soft bun was two stacked battered onion rings, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and spicy mayo. The fries were amazing, burnt slight and crispy. I liked the juicy homemade beef patty, but there was a flavour in its seasoning that just didn’t jibe with the otherwise delicious handheld.

And a trip to Quebec just isn’t the same without a stop at “St Hubert”. In my books modern Quebec cuisine is made up of three pillars and “St Hubert” has all three: cheese, potatoes, and chicken.

This is their classic rotisserie chicken platter with dark leg meat (my preferred type of meat). Their chicken is roasted for 3 hours and served with sides. The bowls of their popular coleslaw are unlimited and come in either normal or creamy. It is hard to tell that we got the latter, given that it tastes as dry at it looked. Their famous bbq sauce is prepared in their kitchen every day using their original recipe that was created in 1951. It is watery in texture and tangy in taste. Not bad, but I prefer a thick and meaty gravy, or a sauce that is sweeter for chicken. Ironically both my partner and I liked the plain and simple, toasted half white hamburger bun the best, enough to order another two. The last side is your choice between fries, salad, rice, vegetables, or any of their upgrades for extra. I got the mashed potato, thinking I would like the gravy more and it would be good to pair with the mash. It wasn’t.

My partner got their ribs with the same sides I did above, and his choice of fries. The ribs fell off the bone, texturally they were perfect, but like the chicken they were tasty, but you just wanted more of its taste to come through. More zip, more pop, it tasted bland and it is already established that I don’t like the gravy.

For dessert we had a choice of five different sweet and cakey treats. “Chomeur pudding” is a Quebec classic. An upside down cake with vanilla ice cream and a sugar cream sauce topping it. This was far too sweet for me. I find my partner tends to eat his desserts too sweet, and now know why, it’s because he was raised on it. This was like eating a soggy sponge cake with chunks of burnt sugar and cream in melted vanilla ice cream.

On our way back to Vancouver, we once again stopped in Montreal. Here we would be catching our Air Canada flight back home. But not before a brisk meal at “La Carreta Suchitoto” for some El Salvadorian & Mexican cuisine. I like how many such small bistros create their own patio with fencing and artificial turf on the sidewalk. It makes eating with them feel like a garden party.

Deep fried plantains served with a spicy sauce. The mustard-like dip turned this sweet starchy treat into a savoury snack

“Trio tacos “La Carreta” with beef”. The beef was a little over cooked in this, luckily with plenty of tomatoes and a thick slice of avocado topping each, it helped to give the dish some moisture and freshness. And for some punch the tangy tomato sauce was a great drizzle.

Beef and Chicken fajitas. The chicken was very dry, the beef only a little better. Both a little flat on their own, but with a few scoops of the table side coleslaw, the dish found some crunch and personality,

The beef enchilada was the tastiest of them all. Well seasoned ground beef and diced veggies over a fried crisp tortilla. Best to eat this one right away before it gets soggy from the meat juices.

And with that, this ends the recap for my time in Montreal with the focus in and around Formula One. The recall for my time in Quebec will continue in my next post, focusing on our adventures in my partner’s home town of Theford Mines, 2 hours from Montreal.

La Petite Cuillere, renovated

It’s been a while since I last visited “La Petite Cuillere”, so was excited to get this invitation to check out their new space and new brunch menu.  As the only high tea joint in the area, they have always been a popular destination for the community, so I was curious to see how the new management would put their spin on things and to improve the business.

The exterior no longer does the restaurant justice. Nothing catches your eye or draws you in to the hidden salon, behind the glass door and brick facade. Nothing prepares you for the air of luxury the space now has. Gone is the quaint and clutter-some space with its overflowing collection tea cups, tea pots, and tea paraphernalia to sift through. Now the place is sleek with velvet fabrics and metallic embellishments. And what remains of the tea collection is properly showcase on a wall-sized shelf. It feels like a whole new business, and the differing aesthetic is definitely catered to a different clientele.

Seating is either along their crush blue velvet benches, in of of their high back chairs with a metallic floral print, or in one of their pink velvet couches with its own headboard-like framing. Our group of five were seated in the latter to share our brunch and tea tower.

Their high tea service is their signature menu item. They offer their 3 tiered tower in all sweet pastries, all savoury bites, or a mix of both in varying sizes. You choose how much you want and which bottomless tea to enjoy it with. We shared their “Afternoon Tea” which included all the savoury and all the sweet options for $35. And at that price, this still remains as one of the least expensive tea services in the city.

Everything on their menu, including the following is prepared with as much tea as possible. And with most, the flavour of the teas were well infused. These were the same teas that they sourced themselves and then blended in house. “Most of the items on our menu incorporate some element of tea in the cooking process. When pairing food with tea, we carefully take into consideration aroma, flavour, taste, astringency, and texture”. Given the personal touch in everything they prepare, it is easy for them to customize and curate you a meal that accommodates your dietary restrictions. For example, one of our guests was gluten intolerant, and it was easy enough for the kitchen to whip her up her own tea tower that excluded gluten. The following is the make up of their regular tea tower.

From the bottom to the top, and savoury to sweet.

The soup of the day was a creamy cauliflower puree with notes of curry in its colouring and heat-y flavour. However, it was served chilled to compliment the rest of the assortment, served at room temperature. This was harder to share, as it is served in and intended as a shot.

The “Darjeeling chicken salad tartlet” was a nice mild bite. It was a mix of shredded chicken braised with tea, and crispy bits of celery for texture. It was flavourful with a buttery base. I personally would have liked it a little creamier and tangy with mayo.

The “Veggie Quiche” had the the same buttery crust as the tart above, just topped with baked cheese, caramelized onions, and earthy mushroom chunks. It had a nice fluffy and eggy texture to take in two bites.

The “Lapsang egg salad croissant” had creamy mix of egg, chives, pickled shallots, and cucumber. All together their smooth texture highlighted how light and flakey the buttery croissant that surrounded them was. This one was my favourite of the first tier.

The “Green tea goddess salad” salad was my least favourite. It really didn’t have enough dressing, let alone enough to taste the intended green tea flavouring. All I got was a fork full of bitter vegetable.

The second tier was my favourite for the sugar topped crumbly scones, served with preserves and devonshire cream. A classic high tea offer done well with their tea fragrance scones.

I was not a fan of the caramel flavoured creme burlee that came on the same tier. The torched sugar topping was as expected, but under it the creme tasted like heavy whipping creamy, flavoured with just sugar, I didn’t get any of the caramel.

The top tier was one that was hard to share with single serve desserts.

The “Mango and lavender macaron” was fresh with a crispy exterior and a chewy interior.

The “Earl grey cupcake with raspberry butter cream” was a spongey cake topped with sweet cream.

I much preferred the mildness of the cakey matcha loaf. This was a great accompaniment with the tea.

For my tea I went with the “Black tea with blossoms”. A medium bodied mix of black teas scented with chrysanthemum, roselle, and French rose; served in a reflective golden tea pot and one of their unique tea cup and saucer sets.

Brunch is all new and available every day they are open: Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 2:30pm. The following is 5 out of the 7 new dishes only available during this time slot.

The “Smoked salmon hash” was our table’s favourite. It is crispy potatoes, lentils, dill, and a soft boiled tea egg; coated in a Ceylon lemon aioli. This was very filling dish thanks to the lentils, although I didn’t like the added grit it gave the soften potatoes. I would have liked more smoked salmon and more dill flavour for increased tanginess. The egg was definitely the highlight, the perfect creamy yolk to pull the plate together.

The “La Petite Croque Madame” with egg, ham, swiss cheese, leek jam, and a Darjeeling bechamel was my second favourite of our brunch dishes. I could only imagine how much better it would have tasted warm, while the cheese that topped it was still crunchy. I wanted it more crispiness, whereas by the time we got to it, it was more like a dense and heavy scone (our faults, too much photography and too much talking). I could have also done with less soggy leek bits, as I am not a fan of their texture.

I was not a fan of the “Vegan buckwheat waffle”, although I can see this being enjoyed by vegans. It was a heavy waffle, made more dense with the bitter chocolate drizzle over top. The fruit compote added some freshness, but you needed more of it and the “cream” to give some brightness to the plate.

“Chai tea french toast”. This was a nice tea twist to a brunch-time classic. It is such a beautifully done plate, decadent in all the syrupy blueberries, camomile mascarpone cream, and candied hazelnuts. You could absolutely taste the inclusion of tea in this, it balanced out all the sweetness. A great side dish, or brunch “dessert” to share, but the entire plate by yourself might wear out fast.

 

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 love the new decor of the place, it is definitely now more of my aesthetic. Decadently ideal for a more romanticized high tea service. A more refined assortment of full plates and light sweets, thanks to a kitchen that is dedicated to “food creativity”, as shown through their use of teas to flavour. This is the ideal spot to bring all your girl friends to for some tea, sweets, and the perfect photo op. The perfect place to celebrate a bridal or baby shower, or a sweet sixteen at. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA PETITE CUILLERE
55 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5T1R9
604-298-0088
lapetitecuillere.ca
La Petite Cuillere Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Day at the Hastings Racetrack

I have visited the Hastings Racetrack a handful of times now. But for each, it was for an event with drinking and food in the foreground; and the actual race, an add on. So admittedly, I have yet to bet on a horse, and don’t even really know how to go about doing so. That’s why I was ecstatic to receive this invitation to the racetrack. On this day, I would be attending their Superfecta weekend, where my visit came with a behind the scenes look at the race day, a crash course in betting, and a lovely lunch on the Molson Canadian patio.

 

For the more exciting version to this recap, check out the latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei, as it details how @itsjosheats and I won big at the racetrack!

Our attendance included drink tickets to try a few of the speciality cocktails being shaken and poured on the day. All out of a four sided, roving, popup bar. It featured local bartenders representing their place of employment, with fun race track and horse inspired beverages. You were able to claim your drink, then climb up scaffolding to the bar’s roof top patio.

“The Diamond” was offering a cocktail called “The Front Runner” with Bombay gin, bianco vermouth, strawberry bell pepper syrup, lavender bitters, and soda. It was a very light drink, great for those who don’t actually like the taste of alcohol.

“Mamie Taylors” gave you a much stronger drink, for those who do. This was aptly named “Wild Horses”. It is made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, peach, mint, and bitters.

“The Boxcar” had a “Dill Spritz” that was light and refreshing. It was made with dill infused cazadores, blanco tequila, luxardo, bitter bianco, lemon, honey, lem-Marrakech bitters, soda, and bubbly.

We also had a light lunch on the Molson patio, an area right by the track, marked in red with shade providing umbrellas and its own bar. Here, a catered assortment of fresh vegetables, cured meats, cubed cheeses, and chocolatey desserts were made available to nibble on, as the horses trotted on.

We enjoyed a few races at our position: on the side of the track, a few meters from the finish line marker. Although truthfully, your view here is limited to only what is before you, as you can’t really make out the competitors as they run the full race. The match is televised both on the track side screen; but also world wide for those betting on the online, to be able to follow along. The aforementioned screen does helps, but it too is kept at a distance in needed of squinting.

Being by the track is best for getting a closer look at the contenders, and for petting the horses, should an opportunity arise. This is especially popular with small school aged children, and the social media conscious (as seen with the photos above).

But of course, the view is significantly better higher above. Here, you get to see more of the horses racing, for longer, around larger stretches of track. This was the view from the sky box and the sky deck. A, area reserved for VIPs to eat, drink, and enjoy the festivities from high above, and afar.

Although my favourite view of the visit, was definitely that of the announcers’, in his secluded booth. He and the judges/referees, communicated past a plexiglass barrier, separating their individual box suites.

With binoculars and a list of horses competing, he gave those watching a verbal blow by blow, high above his perch lined with megaphones. He broke down stats, opened and closed out the betting, and was basically the park’s hype man. After all, as much as this was an attraction for folks like me; a day at the races typically means betting for other more dedicated race day enthusiasts.

And we would get a taster of this: being able to place our own bets. But first we would get a crash course on how to do so. How to make a bet at any of the wickets, through the available machines, or even on your phone. To boil it down, you decided which horse you wanted to bet on, how much you wanted to bet on it, and how it will win. “Your horse” doesn’t need to win, it just needs to finish first, second, or third; if you are betting “to place”. Naturally you don’t make as much money as betting to win does/would, but this way, it gives you a greater chance to win.

If you are placing said bet verbally, there is a pattern of speech in which to place the bet. This “how to” is posted at the cash register for an easy reference. My first time was not as intimidating as I conceived it in my head, in realty it was as easy as the ticket for my bet being printed out.

From here, you need only cheer for your winning horse, while hoping for the desired outcome. Having something at stake, while watching, does make it a lot more exciting. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the video above, and then visit the racetrack yourselves, for a fun way to spend a sundays. And if horses aren’t you thing, they also offer dog races. English bulldogs and corgis, just to name a few.

 

HASTINGS RACETRACK
PNE Gate 6 or 9
188 N. Renfrew Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 3N8
604-254-1631
hastingsracecourse.com

The Giga Ramen at Ramen TAKA -鷹の爪

Starting June 1st, 2018 there is a new big bowl eating challenge coming to Vancouver. This is Ramen Taka’s “Giga Ramen”, it is literally the largest serving of ramen to be offered up to willing challengers. With it you get a lot more than with other big bowl ramen challenges (take it from a gal who has attempted her fair share of them). Taka’s ramen bowl isn’t just more noodles or more broth, but this is basically one of their regular bowls of ramen enlarged. And luckily for me, I am already a fan for their Hokkaido style noodles.

To learn a more about one of Vancouver’s newest ramen shops, click on the link below.

Ramen Taka

 

This is their first location outside of Japan, offering ramen in a broth made with a blend of pork bones, vegetables, and seafood simmered for many hours. It is one of the lightest, yet richest broths I have had. This is thanks to the length of time in which it cooks, and the time they take to thoroughly strain it, alleviating any excess fat in the process. Their use of roasted Hokkaido lard, which is ladled over the top of the broth; also sets them apart. This layer of fat not only adds a deliciously rich, meaty flavour to the serving; but it also slows the soup from cooling down too quickly. Which means I will be racing the clock, trying to finish a hot bowl of steaming ramen in under 30 minutes; working past the amount of food and the additional heat of it.

The portion is basically 5 servings of their regular bowls of ramen, offered up in one giant bowl. Approximately 8lbs between noodles and broth. If you are successful in completing this challenge in under 30 minutes, the serving is free. But if you fail, you pay the fee: 4 servings worth of which ever ramen you have chosen to take the challenge with. Prices vary from $11.95 to $14.00; so multiply that by 4 times and that is what you pay if/when you lose. Naturally there are no breaks, you must finish the entirety of the serving in one sitting, which includes the broth, to the very last drop.

They are asking for you to call in and reserve a time in which to endeavour on this challenge, as truthfully they currently only have one large bowl to serve their “Giga Ramen” in. However, they have ordered more from Japan. But for now, this means only one competitor at a time, and no sharing; unless you are ordering it for novelty and not to compete. This “Giga” bowl does make for a great serving to share between a handful of friends.

Today, I would be the first individual to attempt the challenge. I did so with their classic “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu Ramen”. This is their signature broth made with soy sauce, the lightest of the flavours, and the one I had the best chance at finishing with. To see how I actually did and to get a more visual review of this post, check out my latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

If all this looks like too much food for you, try their “Mega Dragon” ramen. This is a smaller “big” bowl, equivalent to 2 servings. It is ideal to do a practice run with (in preparation for the real challenge above), or a great size for those extra hungry days. On top of more broth, noodles, and chashu; it also has the addition of bean sprouts, two pieces of Hokkaido fried chicken, and a whole soft boiled egg.

But if eating large amounts of food really isn’t your thing, they have a regular menu as well. And since my original visit, its offerings have doubled.

For the hotter weather, “Dipping Noodles” are available. It is popular amongst those who want the flavour of ramen, but not its heat. Taka’s version is the only one in Vancouver that features traditional Japanese dry fish powder as a topping of the “dip”. It is a roasted mixture of various dried fish, used to give the broth some great depth of flavour.

And on their dinner only menu, there are two new, more decadent bowls of ramen. Both are only available for ordering after 5pm. One features roast beef and truffles, and the other: tempura-ed shrimp and vegetables, and shrimp oil.

They also have a new take out option for those on the go. Their “microwaveable ramen” with chaushu, bamboo, and mushroom; comes in a plastic container with noodles, that you assemble, and then heat up in the microwave. It is great for travel, and good for three days in the fridge.

And lastly, they now have Happy Hour specials Monday to Friday from 2-5pm. With any alcohol beverage purchase, you get it and any of their sides at 20% off. Gyozas, fried chicken, and their assortment of pork over seasoned rice.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
My original assessment still stands, even after gorging on more ramen then anyone really should, in one sitting. This is still some seriously good ramen, just now with more varieties to choose from. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN TAKA
841 Bidwell Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2J7
604-620-3371
takanotsu.me
Ramen Taka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Honda Clarity, review

In 2017 Honda added the Clarity to their line up of motor vehicles. This name may ring a bell to some, as the 2018 Clarity is the direct descendant of the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle that Honda offered drivers between 2008 and 2014. It was the world’s first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production.

Last year Honda re-introduce a newer version of this hydrogen powered car. It was the same as the 2008 hydrogen version of the Clarity, but only available in parts of California, where hydrogen stations are actually assessable. Now, fast forward to 2018, where Honda releases a plug-in hybrid version of the Clarity. This is what we had the pleasure of test driving this week. Right off the bat, being behind the wheel of the Clarity put me at ease (although this may just be because I have been driving around in large trucks and SUVs as of late). The size and handling was reminiscent of my very first car: the Honda Civic. It was the right size for a driver like myself, quick to speed up and smooth to jet around in, all in the ideal compact size for easy parking.

However, visually the Civic and the Clarity differ greatly in terms of their styling. The Clarity’s appearance isn’t for everyone, you might not even call it traditional “pretty” (for a car). The height of the trunk’s lid felt misplaced and odd in shape. Although its design did serve a purpose. The trunk was was crafted to accommodate the large, high-pressure hydrogen tanks mentioned easier. Similarly, the design of the rear wheel arch covers were function over appearance. They were moulded to reduce drag, thus making the Clarity more fuel efficient. Although for those who preferred form over function, it could be seen as an eye sore.

Thankfully the front end made up for this with its sleek look. The Honda Clarity has very distinctive LED headlights. It and the futuristic and aerodynamic looking 18” wheels make the mid size sedan easy to spot in a parking lot or rolling down the street. (This is what they mean by “a head turner”.)

While the exterior is up for debate, the interior is very pleasing to the eye. It is clearly a step up from other plug-in hybrids. Perforated leather, open pore wood trims, chrome strips, and suede-like fabric; all blended on the dashboard seamlessly. We really like the “floating” gear selector console in the middle of the cabin, surrounded by the above mentioned beautiful wood trim. It also has some fancy cup holders that accommodate larger and smaller beverage cups; a small, but very thoughtful commuter detail.

Honda decided to stick with their old infotainment system for this new vehicle, meaning you have two choices when adjusting the volume or changing the radio station. You can either use the touchscreen, or toggle through on the steering wheel’s controls. Unfortunately, having a few settings only accessible by touch screen can be troublesome. For example, trying to put your finger on the right “button”, when trying to keep your eyes on the road, can prove challenging. Although who really uses the radio anymore anyways? Actually, I do actually… and after the climate setting, it is the second most touched, pushed, and toggle thing in my car. Luckily the first is climate control; and there are buttons to adjust it, conveniently mounted bellow the 8” touchscreen.

On the road the Clarity basically drives like a slower, less-sporty Accord, with a curb weight of 4000lbs. It is actually quite heavy for a mid size sedan, but being heavy seems to be an inevitability for lithium-ion battery powered cars.

A point, that bring us to the question of what propels the plug in? The Clarity has roughly 75 km of electric-only range from the 181-horsepower electric motor and 17kWh lithium-ion battery. There’s also a little 1.5-litre gas engine under the hood, to provide up to 212 total horsepower and a total range near 600km. But the artistry of this car is not the amount of power it has, but the various ways it can harness it. Honda is known for pushing the envelope when it come to technology, and the Clarity proves to be a great example of that.

The only real negative comment we can make is regarding the powertrain’s small 1.5L gas engine and its noise level. It is fairy of loud with a heavier load, going up a steep hill. Although I guess that is to be expected with all that extra weight the midsize sedan has to carry around.

The CVT-type transmission includes three possible drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Each mode delivers progressively more aggressive acceleration, and an increased pedal response. Its regenerative braking system also has a few modes. Four that can be selected by paddles on either side of the steering wheel.

It is also equipped with the latest in road safety technology. Honda Sensing gives you everything from adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, to collision and road departure mitigation. And like the new Civic, there is no blind-spot warning; instead, Honda uses a passenger-side camera. More is visible, but I am more partial and more responsive to a warning of sound, rather than any additional sight.

In conclusion we were highly impressed by Honda’s plug-in hybrid. They have made this vehicle easily accessible for the average driver. The Clarity is perfect for that someone who just wants to get in and move about from point A to B, without spending $100 on gas on their weekly commute. And driving an electric vehicle, such as this, has additional perks. There are government incentives to be taken advantage off if you live in one of three provinces in Canada. Purchasing a brand new Honda plug-in, and decreasing your carbon footprint with it, will save you $5,000 in B.C., $8,000 in Quebec, and $14,000 in Ontario. In short, not just a good ride for you, but a great drive for your pocket and the planet.

Thank you for the opportunity Honda, until the next one!

 

HONDA CLARITY 2018
honda.ca
#HondaClarity

Richmond Night Market 2018

30 food stalls of 2018’s Richmond Night Market!

Here in Vancouver summer and it’s accompanying better weather are marked by the opening of the Richmond’s night market. A popular weekend activity better known for giving attendees the ability to roam narrow corridors visiting food and goods vendors shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others.

Yet despite the crowds and the pushing and shoving, I continue to find myself here year after year, like many others. But this year as the bodies converge, we will be seeing an increase of attendees. This is because Richmond use to have two night markets to choose from, but this year they have just the one by “River Rock Casino” to satisfy all Chinese hawker stall cravings.

Either way, this evening myself and a group of foodies arrived early, well before the market open at 7pm, in order to avoid all the crowds and to hit up our favourite stalls first as part of a initiative ran by @ChineseBites and tourism of Richmond.

The following are a list of the 30 vendors participating in this year’s “Richmond Night Market” media tour, and the order in which we visited them. We managed to hit them all, outside of the one that closed up at 10pm. We arrived at 6:30pm on this Friday night and through our bouncing around from stall to stall, and despite having to wait to order and to pick up; we found ourselves at the market for a little under four hours. Just proving all that there is to see and do, or in this case eat.

In truth, we visited as a group and therefore shared everything between six individuals, in order to try more. Therefore, my description of each might not be as detailed as my writing is known for. But a more interactive and telling experience, check out my latest YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei to see the highlights of this year’s one and only Richmond Night Market.

 

Also note, half way through our experience we began diving and conquering, each going to a different stall, to line up and gather up the serving for the rest of the team. Therefore some of my recaps do not include photos of the stand in which we ate from.

At the “Yummy Foodies” stall their roasted pork hoc was at the ready. Several pieces of meat on bones could be see rotating on their spit, that looked more like a shelf. Each hoc had so much meat that it is served between two containers with a generous helping of sauerkraut and crispy bread. These were fatty pieces of pork with crackling. You are able to sauce as you like with squeeze bottle sauces. The mustard was the classic choice.

“Chef James Foods” was a double stall featuring roasted corn on one side, and several varieties of meat skewers on the other. The former was grilled then passed on to you to season as you like. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan, and a collection of other sprinkle ready shakers.

On the grilled meat side, Chef James himself dawned on the classic white smock and hat. His look: the utmost picture of professionalism as he worked in the hot conditions, furthered by the heat of his lengthy grill. There, he and one other stood saucing, seasoning and flipping skewers of AAA beef steak, honey garlic prawn, chicken, lamb, and lamb kidney. Each served upside down in a paper cup, and each full of zingy flavour from use of chillies and coarse salt.

Next was the “Senbei Brothers” stall offering their pressed Japanese crackers. Each as thin as cardboard and as crispy as a wafer. What makes them unique is the seafood that was pressed along with the baked dough. We marvelled at the whole squid and the shrimp that we were able to identify in this cracker mosaic.

At the “Churros in ice cream” stall we got exactly what we expected, given the name. We chose the popular rainbow one that had a scoop of vanilla ice cream as a base and out from it shot a curl of deep fried cinnamon and sugar churro, partially coated in chocolate and coloured with rainbow sprinkles. But really you are ordering this for the inflatable holder it comes it. Meant as a pool cup holder, but the perfect photo up, and more importantly sales driver. The unicorn is the most popular, but in order to get him you need to fork over an additional dollar for the luxury. A winning combination served in a winning presentation. No wonder Instagram is a flutter with images of it.

Next door is their sister venture “We Are Difference”. Here, they serve up sandwiches using deep fried Chinese doughnuts instead of traditional slices of bread. It ate like a foot long, just with a lot more dry crunch to it. The beef and cheese help to moisten things, but I preferred the two separate from one another.

At the “Mamak LA” stall they offer their trademark roti in various forms. We went for their “Mac-a-roti and cheese” with bacon and jalapeño. It is basically Mac and cheese stuffed roti.

At “Dumpling Master” they were steaming up frozen dumplings in three different colours and flavours. The green spinach one was a vegan dumpling, red has a filling of kimchi beef, and the black one is black truffle with pork. They were enjoyable to watch, bubbling in a pool of dyed water. We were able to try one of each. The serving is topped with mayo, bonito flakes, seaweed, and sesame seeds; much like how you would sauce up a takoyaki. I personally would have licked it more traditional with a dip in some light sauce.

“Sippy Tea” is that popular drink served in a plastic zip lock bag. It is much easier to carry around than any other milky tea served in a cup. Here we had the jasmine rose with coffee jelly. It was such a whimsical presentation with the crushed up rose petals floating on top.

But this wouldn’t be the most unusual vessel that any drink would come in today. That honour went to “Milk Cha” who reintroduced drinking from baby bottles to adults. Naturally it was so odd that I had to have it and had to try it. And honestly it is so soothing, I can see why babies like doing it. Yes you look ridiculous, yes you don’t get much liquid in each sip, and yes you have to work way too hard for so little; but hell if it doesn’t make a selfie a lot more interesting. This is their rose milk tea. The ingredients are kept separate, in order to have the liquid as a gradient. Therefore it is best to shake before drinking.

But for those who like a more traditional experience they have plastic cups and straws available. And if you can’t and don’t want to choose between two flavours, you can have them both with one of their split cups. It’s basically two drink flavours in the serving of one, each with its own straw. Here we had lavender milk tea and Thai milk tea. This two needed a good mixing.

Despite their sign reading “super good popcorn chicken” and they were named “popcorn chicken”, we ordered had the popcorn shrimp from them. These were crispy and chewy balls of puffs.

“Big G” was offering deep fried chicken steaks. Dark meat flattened then breaded and fried to a crisp. Here, the novelty is how the finished product is the size of your head, but more importantly it is tasty too. Although, I remember it being a lot larger, and not not being able to finish it all; so I guess this downsize was a better size.

At the “Tsuga Fry House” we had their deep fried onion, meaning you don’t have to wait for the PNE to open late summer in order to get your fix. It was a wonderful show, watching this giant bulb get fried in bubbling oil. The core of the onion is hollowed out so that you can place a container of chipotle mayo at its centre.

“Okonomi bites” takes everything that you love about the traditional Japanese pancake and its toppings and flavours, and makes it into a poutine. Here we were given a taste of both of the options they were offering. “The seafood okonomi poutine” with battered and deep fried pieces of fish and squid. And the “fried pork okonomi poutine” features its name sake protein. Both taste as expected for the most part, I could have used more sauces to really emphasis the okonomi concept though.

“Mr Crabzy” took the popular crab ball from off dim sum tables and brought them on to the narrow isles of the Night Market. This was easiest to eat with a good grip on the claw. Although three for one serving is a little much for one person, without some sort of dipping sauce on the side.

“Asomi mochi” was offering their traditional mochi in four flavours, each filled with a whole fresh strawberry, then cut in half for serving. We were able to try one of each flavour: original, matcha, purple yam, and black sesame.

“The Phamily Table” offered pork belly over a side salad. But what sets their meat apart is how they infuse it with apple wood smoke just before serving it. The show alone is worth the try. The meat itself was nice and tender with plenty of the sweet and salty sauce that coated it.

“Whatafood” was new to this year’s market. They were making Brazilian street food more assessable to Vancouverites. Here is a cup of their cheese puffs. I liked the texture, but it’s not for everyone. Dry and chewy on the outside, a little oily and gummy at its centre. I wouldn’t have mind some filling or a sauce for dipping to change the taste in between balls.

“Waffle Tower” was offering specially shaped waffles from a custom press. They looked like slender pine trees with a skewer for easy holding and eating. Available in a plain waffle then dipping, topped, and dressed to your preference. We got the bamboo charcoal that was black through and through,. This dark colour made the gold dust that they sprinkled over it all the more visual of a treat. As for taste, it was a regular eggy waffle made sweeter with the condense milk drizzle.

This year “Cupping 8 Cafe” is the dessert stall offering cheesecake made with tofu for those how are lactose intolerant. It was silkier than regular cheesecake, but the flavour was hidden behind the dominating flavour of the sweet creamy durian purée over top. Luckily I like durian.

The “Big Beard Super BBQ” stall had grilled meat on a stick and deep fried squid, two night market staples. Both a heavily seasoned and chewy snack.

“Chicking” had “Korean style Pa Dak chicken” served in a little bowl. Tasty enough, but not enough to stand out again many of the other chicken dishes.

“Tropical Bar” serves their blended juices in the rinds of either a pineapple or baby watermelon. Good juice, but clearly you are paying more for the presentation.

“Icy Bar” served up Taiwanese style shaved ice. We had their most colourful offering, their “summer special icy” which ate like a parfait. If included fresh chunks of mango and strawberry, basil seed, tapioca, mango and strawberry purée, coconut milk, and shaved ice. It was a great dessert to both help you cool down on hotter days, and to quench your thirst.

As the only deep fried and spiralled potato on a stick stall, “Rotato” is one of the most popular at the market, with the longest, ever-going lines. If you want this one and want to minimize your wait, I suggest you come early and make this your first stop. Maybe it is just the one we got, but I remembered this being larger, the stick being longer, with more potato spiralled around it. Though it tasted exactly as I remembered it: crispy and chewy, flavoured with your choice of salty and savoury seasonings.

We got freshly squeezed sugar can juice from the stall with the same name. They also offer freshly cracked young coconut milk. Both fresh juices are served in their novelty palm tree sippers. This was so fun that I kept it for future use.

“G8 Taiwan Kitchen” had Taiwanese stinky tofu, but I was never really a fan of this dish. I don’t mind the sour fermented smell, I just don’t like how bland the tofu typically is. A nice, thick, sweet and sour sauce would have been ideal here.

“The Taiyaki” stall offers the popular fish shaped pastry stuffed with either chocolate or cream, then topped with vanilla ice cream and a biscuit. It is basically an ice cream cone done a different way.

The “Cookies N’ Cream” had so much promise. Who doesn’t love a good ice cream sandwich? But sadly none of this was homemade or exclusive to the vendors. The ice cream, cookies, and toppings were all store bought, and just assembled by them.

The “Virgin Cocktail” booth is one you visit as soon as the sun sets. They offer sweet fruit flavoured drinks in an array of colours, but their true selling feature is the blinking LED “ice cubes” included as decoration. This was enough to have their lines growing.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Now that this is the only Asian style outdoor market in the game, there is even more to see and do at this year’s Richmond Night Market. I am sure I don’t need to force your hand into coming down and visiting. In fact, I am sure you are making plans as I write. So, don’t deny your cravings!

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8448
richmondnightmarket.com

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