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Month: April 2019 Page 1 of 2

Herradura Tequila Workshop

Today I was invited down to “Ancora Waterfront Dining” for a margarita masterclass. A tequila workshop, that included a step by step tutorial on how taste and assess the quality of tequila, with the opportunity to make our own signature cocktail; all sponsored by “Herradura” brand tequilas. Not only do I love drinking, but when looking for a good time, my spirit of choice is tequila, to shoot. So not only did I walk away from this class with a smile, but also having discovered a tequila I would gladly sip over ice.

All participants were seated around the restaurant’s naturally well lit bar, eager to learn from Joel Virginillo, a tequila specialist and a master of spirits; like a sommelier is to wine. From him we learned that by definition tequila must come from Mexico, and that only certain areas in Mexico can produce tequila. We also learned the difference between regular tequila and the top shelf stuff like “Herradura, that uses premium agave, which makes a difference.

Tequila has a similar preparation to whiskey, with parallel vanilla and wood tones that come through. Tequila is made from a specific blue agave and much contain 100% pure agave. Anything else and any other percentage made using agave earns the designation of Mezcal wine. By law Mezcal much contain at least 51% agave, and the remaining percentage can be a cheaper, fermentable sugar.

To make tequila you first harvest your agave plants. These plants are not cactuses, but are more like succulents, aloe, or orchids. These picked plants are then slow roasted in an oven where its starches are broken down. This sugar is then extracted and the plant is fermented. The resulting product is then distilled and allowed to age before being bottled.

“Herradura” originated in 1870, they are the original tequila producers and the “godfather of modern day, luxury tequila”, according to Joel. The company is family run, with their own agave fields. They boast Mexico’s first tequila distillery. “El Jimador” tequila is also produced in the same compound, which is the most heavily consumed tequila in Mexico, it is the label that the locals go for.

“Herradura’s” logo is an upside down horseshoe. Which makes sense given that the word “Herradura” means “horse shoe” in Spanish. It is inverted because when you pour from the bottle, the horseshoe would be right side up. This represents luck, and who isn’t lucky when they are getting some tequila.

And when it was finally time to taste, Joel walked us through a sampling of “Herradura’s” three tequilas. Before this, I didn’t realize there were variations to tequila.

But before we put lips to rim, we were given a crash course on how to drink tequila, or any other hard spirits for that matter. You want to draw the liqueur in and then hold it, allowing the alcohol to rest on your tongue. This pause allows you mouth to get use to the spirit and its intensity, so that it doesn’t burn going down. Instead, you get a warming sensation with a nice finish.

Our first taste was the “Herradura Silver”, which is most commonly used for cocktails. Given its smooth and sweet finish, I was surprised to learn that it was only aged for a month. This is easily the most enjoyable tequila I have ever had. No chase needed.

Next was the “Reposado”, aged for 6 months. Here, you tasted an oak barrel flavour. Finished with caramel tones, and some light honey and vanilla notes.

The last taste was the “Anejo”, a tequila that is aged for 2 years plus. This spirit is best in any popular smokey drink, like an Old Fashion or Manhattan.

Any tequila that is aged any longer, with a minimum of 3 years is classified as an “Ultra”. The amount of time the tequila spends in the aging process affects its price, along with techniques used in this slow process. But out of our 3 case study bottles the “Reposado” is available at any government owned liquor store. The other two: “silver” and “Anejo” are only available at select privately owned liquor stores, like “Legacy” at the Olympic Village.

With all our drinks came rounds of appetizers prepared by the “Ancora” kitchen team. Short rib croquette with Caribbean cheese aioli. A crispy meat ball stuffed full of shredded beef. It was a little on the dry side. I could have used a more creamy and tangy sauce to fully dip my ball in to.

Tuna tartare over a tempura fried seaweed cracker. It was on the blander side, but where it lacked in salt it made for in interesting texture.

One mushroom tortellini with red onion jelly. I would have liked the tortellini as is, to be able to taste it more. The one bite had the red onion and its sweetness taking the lime light.

Fresh sushi in a vegetarian cucumber and tempura sweet potato roll, a dressed up “Dynamite Roll” with tempura shrimp; and a not so spicy, spicy tuna roll.

After we loosen up with a welcome lime margarita with a thick salt rim. And once we knew more about the nuance of tequila through the taste, it we finally time to make our own signature drink.

We stared off with worksheets and the ability to check off which ever sweetener, sour or acidic element, fruit, herbs, etc; that we wanted to use. And then we all took turns behind the bar, learning basic bartending skills and having our concoctions critiqued, ensuring a delicious mix. We would later take our recipes home, along with a metal cocktail kit; it included everything we would need to recreate our signature cocktail, except of all the ingredients.

I was first to debut “MagMei in Paradise”, a pretty in pink drink that was garnished with a spring flower plucked from one of the trees surrounding the water side restaurant. Herradura Blanco, plum wine, lime juice, simple syrup and watermelon juice; all shaken with ice and served in a large coupe.

Others too crafted their drinks with a specific colour in mind. Like this purple cocktail with cassis and this blue one with blue curacao.

We ended our happy hour sipping on our creations by the water side. Thus ending a very informative and fun workshop. What a great way to learn about a new product and experience it first hand. My biggest takeaway was discovering a tequila that I could take in without a grimacing scowl after every sip.

For more on Herradura Tequila and where yuh get yourself a taste, visit the link below.
https://www.herradura.com/

Vancouver Opera Festival launch: VOX

Today I was invited down to Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the launch of the 3rd annual Vancouver Opera Festival, and 1st annual singing competition: VOX. Many young singers across Canada auditioned, and they managed to dwindle this number down to eight to compete. Eight future opera stars from across the country, competing for cash prizes and recognition on Vancouver’s large stage. A decision as voted by six judges and the entire audience. A panel of esteemed judges chaired by Music Director Emeritus, Jonathan Darlington. And we, the live audience voting for our favourite singer.

Attendees gathered prior to the show for a cocktail reception. The bar poured glasses of sparkling non stop. A pop and a fizz to get the night flowing.

You couldn’t bring glassware into the auditorium, but beer or wine in plastic sippy cups were fine.

And to keep you balanced, servers offered up small bites on slate trays. Like this tomato bruschetta on a crostini.

Seared tuna on crispy wonton skin.

And chocolate covered strawberries in milk and white chocolate.

Then when 6:30pm neared, we were invited into the auditorium for the live competition. Where I got my first taste of live opera and the ability to live out my “America’s Got Talent” dream as a judge.

The first performance got the pace going. Shantelle Przybylo was energetic and welcoming in her singing.

By comparison Amanda Perera was soft spoken. Her voice didn’t project the same and I couldn’t properly take her range in. But she was stunning, and great to watch; with her body motions matching the intensity of the effort she put into her singing.

I like having a male voice next for contrast: Ryan Nauta was mellow and smooth, and he sang us a smoothing ballad.

Joé Lampron-Dandonneau was another male voice, giving us a Tenor with more range.

Ana Toumine was a Soprano with powerful vocals. Though that broadcast came at a cost. You could hear the quick breaths and at points her being out of breath. She also showed off her ability with plenty of high to low notes in her choice of music. It was certainly interesting to listen to.

Sarah Bissonnette, a Mezzo, sang the happiest of all the tunes. It was upbeat and loud to start, really drawing you in. And the humorous gestures and quirky quips in piece kept you wanting more. She also choose the best song to showcase her skillful voice manipulation, and proved that the choice of song can determine a win.

 

Elizabeth Harris, a Soprano, too choose a difficult song. This one also showcased her ability to hit high peaks and low dips. Like her out reaches arms, her voice called you and pulled you in. Her mystical melody make me think of the ones mermaids would call out. Especially when the accompanying piano stopped playing and only her voice rung out through the hall.

Our last performer, Zainen Suzuki was a Baritone. I enjoyed how animated his facial expression were. They brought me into the story he was telling. And the audience gave him the loudest clap for it.

Next came time for us to vote, using hand held remotes, we keyed in our pick by number.

And while the judges deliberated we were serenade by Vancouver’s own Erin Wall, Canada’s leading opera singer. She melted so much through her facial expression and hand movements, that she had to stabilize herself against the Stanley and sons piano.

In the end Elizabeth Harris won third place. Second went to Ana Toumine. And for both first place and people’s choice, the win went to Sarah Bissonnette. Winning $5k and $2.5k respectively.

This was just the beginning of the night, as Vancouver opera’s signature fundraising event. A handful of attendees also purchased dinner tickets that began when the competition ended, and the curtains on stage lifted to reveal a banquet hall set to serve.

In short, this was a very nice way to kick start Vancouver’s Opera Festival, a taste of what to expect, leaving you wanting more. For all other showings and all opera fest events, and how to get your tickets, visit the link below soon to not miss out. This year’s theme is fables and fairytales, as told through visual, musical and theatrical arts.

Vancouver Opera Festival creates extraordinary experiences that redefine opera. Running from April 27 to May 5, the annual festival features nine days of operas, concerts, and free events. Explore #VOFest and buy tickets at www.vancouveropera.ca

Backcountry Brewing, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today the weather was beautiful, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. Ideal conditions for a nice cruise up the Sea to Sky highway. And since we would be driving to it, this was also as good of a time as any to stop at Squamish for lunch. Squamish, home of the town’s only brewery, “Backcountry” and their tasting room with full bar and pizza kitchen. It was also the next stop on my Vancouver Foodster #pizzachallengeyvr tour, with me playing the role of one of the three judges.

And this Easter long weekend the neighbourhood too decided to come out to “Backcountry Brewing” for a pint and a pie. Luckily, we were able to grab the tail end of a share style table, without any wait. You order your drinks and your meal at the bar, the former you take with you back to your seat, the latter gets brought out to you.

But many more visitors came in to purchase beers in bulk. Their full assortment was available for grab and go in refrigerator units, you also had the option to buy a grower and fill it from their taps. And to complete the experience, you can drink your “Backcountry” beer out of one of their branded glasses, while wearing their outdoor lifestyle merch. All also available for purchase.

Naturally, we had to start our meal with said beers. Especially considering this is a brewery, and that you can see the tanks from any seat in their open dining area.

My guest had the “Ridge runner Pilsner” for a nice crisp drink.

I will always opt for a flight, to be able to taste more in one go. I choose the following based on their names. Each more and more fun as I moved along. The “I’ll have what she is having” is a peach, boysenberry, and mango sour that actually isn’t all that sour. The “Dead of night galaxy IPA” uses galaxy hops exclusively, for a lighter and fruiter brew. “Everything is coming up Milhouse” is the West coast version of their popular “Widow Maker” beer, but crisper and lighter. And the “Really really ridiculous looking” is new on tap, a lighter and fruitier lager that ended up being my favourite of the afternoon. Each brew I tasted was just as good as the next, each unique, each delicious. They weren’t overwhelming, but easy to drink.

When it came to food, first came the pizza I was sent here to try. “I pity the falafool”, a vegetarian pizza that catered to Squamish’s plant-based eating. Tahini, feta, falafel, halloumi, yogurt, and mint. This was the only vegetarian entry for this year’s competition. I have never had a pizza like this before, and it lived up to its name and the expectations you had reading it. You absolutely got the promised flavour a falafel. It ate like a whole other meal, making it a great vegetarian offering that didn’t have it feeling like you were missing anything. It was also just as complex as any other meat-happy pies on the menu. It had an all encompassing Mediterranean feel, that I would be happy with the next time I am craving the distinct flavour of a falafel.

We also tried their Margherita pizza, wanting a base pizza flavour that we are familiar, and could use to gauge the quality of the pizzas coming out of their kitchen. The crust was beautifully baked with plenty of air bubbles and crispy blackened bits. It checked off all the boxes. Where it lacked was in the depth of the sauce. It was a little two sweet for my taste, whereas I would have liked more seasoning and a lot more fior di latte cheese. Therefore I suggest getting one of their specialty pizzas that they do so well, instead.

Like the “Wake-N-Bacon 3.0”. Maple garlic cream, roasted potato, guanciale, mozzarella, oven cured tomato, and a sunny side up egg. A delicious assembly altogether, but it was really the maple syrup that made all the difference. This was also the chef’s favourite pizza, and a popular brunch option. Salty, sweet, and savoury all rolled into one. My only critique is I wanted more runny egg to go around, only one slice and one person gets to have egg.

We also tried their new “Galaxy Pastrami Sandwich”. The pastrami is brined in their Galaxy IPA, hence the name. It is stacked between two thick slices of herbed focaccia, along with gruyere cheese and a mustard vinaigrette slaw. Served with a side of regular chips, and their in-house made beer pickles. It was a thick and delicious looking sandwich, but a little too dry for my tastes. I was left craving a creamy sauce, more mayonnaise, or even a gravy dip to dunk the sandwich into for moisture. The sides offered a change of taste and texture and helped in getting this down. I liked the pickles the most, but would have liked them sweeter for a better contrast. I did like the meat as is, they were quality you can taste. Similarly the crispy toasted bread would have been great as is with a slather of salted butter.

For some spice in any of the above, each seating had a bottle of their beer infused “Backcountry Brewing” hot sauce. It is prepared locally using their “Ridge Runner Pilsner”. Like their beers it gives you want you expect, without being overpowering.

 

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.
A great spot to stop at when in Squamish great pizzas and beers coming together for a delicious lunch or brunch. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BACKCOUNTRY
405-1201 Commercial Way, Squamish BC, V8B 0R5
604-567-2739
backcountrybrewing.com

 

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

Titanic the Musical, presented by the Lindbjerg Academy

On the anniversary of the Titanic‘s sinking I was invited down to the “Shadbolt Centre for the Arts” for a special musical performance.

This was only the second time that the five-time Tony award winner, “Titanic the Musical” was coming to Metro Vancouver. During this occasion it would be preformed by 27 locals from “Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts”, under the direction of music theatre instructor, Mark Turpin. This show ran from April 12 – 14, 2019 and I had the privilege of taking in the second day’s showing during, its matinee performance.

About Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts as taken for their website. “Lindbjerg Academy is a performing arts centre dedicated to teaching the art of musical theatre, dance, singing and acting. Classes are open to all different levels of ability and children between the ages of three to 18. For more than 20 years, Lindbjerg Academy has taken pride in the fact it is not only a centre where children learn the skills to perform, but also a place where those skills are applied and enjoyed. The school is parent-participation focused and offers volunteer opportunities throughout the year to ensure parents can share their talents and feel engaged with every show the school delivers.”

The Lindbjerg’s production of “Titanic the Musical” was as authentic as possible to the original Broadway production. One that was eclipsed by James Cameron’s blockbuster that centred around the fictional love story of Jack Dawson (Leonardo di Caprio) and Rose DeWitt (Kate Winslet).

This shipwreck story began as a vision of the shipbuilder and the pride he felt seeing its fruition, from page to metal sitting at a dock.

The production moves pretty quick from scene to scene and song to song. It follows the view points of a handful of characters and tells the story of the ship’s triumphant maiden voyage through their wide eyed wonder.

Irish immigrants looking for a new life and their chance to recreate themselves in America. A second class passenger wanting more for herself, starting with the ability to hob-nob with the elite welcomed into first class. A worker in the boiler room longing to complete this journey, in order to be back in the arms of the woman he wishes to marry. And the captain under the pressure of the ship’s financier, wanting the ship to push harder and travel fast than any others before it.

Given that this is the story of the Titanic, we all know what happens with the ice berg, therefore I won’t go into detail recapping it. But with this retelling you get more characters, more story lines, and more of the actual logistics of its travel then from Leo and Kate’s rendition.

Naturally, the performers were much younger than the historic characters that they are depicting, but with accurate costuming and the right props they were able to draw you into the illusion. These rising stars spent the greater part of seven months working hard to reproduce this show, to capture the real chronicles of the actual passengers and crew on the Titanic. Studying music and lines, and memorizing choreography. They even studied the passengers in-depth and even went to the Titanic exhibit that was on display in Metro Vancouver for inspiration.

It was my first foray into this world, and I was glad it was on a topic that I was already family with. This and other shows at the “Shadbolt Centre” are a great way to support local talent, and a way to take in the Arts in Burnaby. This was a great experience and a great performance. And best of all, during the intermission they do open up the drink bar, where you can order a glass to help better immerse you into this sing-song world.

For more shows and their next big project visit the link below.

What’s Happening!

 

Firecrust: BBQ Fest, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today I found myself at “Firecrust” on Davie, just in time for dinner and the crowds that came in for an easy meal solution.

Right when you enter you are greeted by their build your own pizza bar. It runs down the length of the restaurant and ends at their specialty pizza oven. Here, you can customize any pie or salad for $11.95. Craft your own pizza by choosing your sauce, cheese, protein, and veggies. Or salad from the greens to the cheese, protein, veggies, and dressing. A choice made between 30 premium ingredient.

The possibilities were endless, but I was swayed by their “BBQ Fest” advert. I love a good themed menu, and even more so if it is only available during a limited time. This checked off all the boxes, so I found myself trying 3 out of the 4 pizza offerings on this menu.

And one of them happened to be the entry for this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s #pizzachallengeyvr. This is the “Bacon Mac & Cheese” pizza and it is exactly as it sounds. Macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon, topped with more shredded cheddar before it is baked. Served with a side of coleslaw. It was doubly comforting, two fan favourites served together as an easy handheld. But be warned the toppings are heavy, so easily fall off. Best eaten with knife and fork. I would have liked the the noodles a tad more firm and the cheese more stringy like pizza cheese. However, the bacon was perfection. Its crispy texture was great with the gooey and starchy mass of noodles. Overall a anytime snack, but best when craving carbs or the munchies.

The coleslaw had a nice flavour to it, something tangy and crunchy to change the flavour with. Though I liked it better with the pulled pork pizza, a combination we discovered when enjoying the pizza with the mound of slaw that topped it.

Though slaw on pizza does have it getting warm and melty quick. But it gave an otherwise one note: sweet and tangy BBQ-full pizza some freshness. This pie featured “Firecrust’s” own hickory BBQ sauce as its sauce base, then more of it found its way over plenty of pulled pork, caramelized onions, and shredded cheddar. It is all baked together and served with a side of mac and cheese, so you don’t miss out. I liked the sweet sauce on the pulled pork, but felt like I needed more to complete it. I ended up picking out all the onion, out of preference; there was a lot, almost 1:1 between it and the pork meat.

The mac and cheese was exactly like the one used on the pizza above. A little too mushy.

The apple pie pizza was a creative spin and very much so the way you want to end a BBQ dinner. Baked apples, cinnamon, and crushed graham crackers over a regular pizza crust. Its description read it being topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but we got whipped cream and caramel drizzle instead. Not that it really matters I guess, either would have melted quick under the warmth of the fresh to bake pizza. But the ice cream would have completed the apple pie feel more, and especially if they topped it with yellow cheddar chunks. That would really take this pie on a pizza idea full circle. Whereas like this, I found it lacking. I liked the idea, but wanted more of it. More graham cracker than just the chunks moulded with butter. Graham as the crust, or at least a sweet dough base to build this pie up on.

And to lighten up our decadent meal we also ordered a salad to share. Some freshness to balance out all the grease. The “South west salad” with kale, roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, corn, black beans, corn chips, shredded mozzarella, and a chipotle lime dressing. This was mostly a large serving of greens, you tossed up, but just couldn’t seem to mix everything evenly. The heavier ingredients fell to the bottom and there was far too much leafy greens to sift though to find them. I would have liked less and maybe a different green. A lighter lettuce or spring mix, the former would have also flowed better with the taco flavour too.

 

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.
An easy stop for some delicious, fast, and possibly healthy food, (so should you choose). Build your own pizza or take their menu’s advice. And for something fun, enjoy their “BBQ Fest” options, available now until April 28th, 2019. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FIRECRUST
808 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2S2
778-379-9646
firecrustpizzeria.com

 

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

Happy Hour at Atlas

Today I was invited down to “Atlas”, the steak and seafood restaurant located in Grand Villa casino, Burnaby’s best hot spot. I was here to try out their happy hour offerings.

Traffic had us arriving later than anticipated, but luckily we were still able to take advantage of their price reduced menu for 20 minutes upon seating. We would immediately order everything we wanted, before cut off.

We started with their cocktail special for $8, and today it was a Amaretto sour. None of the sour, and plenty of sweet from the foamy egg white topper.

We then followed it up with a 6oz glass of wine for $6. Either red or white, Merlot or Chardonnay. They also have 12oz Stella Artois drafts for $6.

For food, the following dishes were $4 a bite. It doesn’t look like much on the plate, but stacking on extra orders grew it to a fulsome appetizer.

The “seared scallop and tiger prawn” was a juicy large shrimp and a softened scallop, sitting atop of a thin slice of pineapple, smoked in their jasper oven. All wading in a pool of sweet coconut curry cream. Together this offered up a refreshing bite that made me crave a side of coconut rice with it.

The “warm prime rib bun” was seasoned in a red wine jus, and served with a truffle mayonnaise in a toasted brioche bun. The folds of beef were perfectly cooked with a pinky hue. It was saucy with the flavour of the truffle shining through. I highly recommend eating this as soon as you get it, as the bun does get soggy quick.

The “hand rolled meatballs marinara” came with two full sized balls and a piece of garlic toast twice as big. I suggest sharing as each ball was plenty. The classic flavour of tangy tomato in a sweet herbed base.

Ironically, my favourite dish off of their happy hour menu was the complimentary, house made kettle chips. Extra crispy, thick cut potato slices that kept you coming back for more crunch after crunch. It came with a garlic aioli sauce for dipping, not that it needed any help in the flavour department. I definitely finished the skillet-full myself.

They also offered $1 an oyster special, with their variety depended on the batch. Although a great deal, we passed for the time being. We had planned to stay around for dinner, and would splurge on their seafood tower before, therefore knew we would get our oyster fix then and there.

This is their “Atlas chilled seafood tower” for two, at $88. Two tiers that arrived at our table with a show of liquid nitrogen smoke. The top included jumbo shrimp with the classic tangy red cocktail sauce; and raw kushi oysters, the catch of the day.

The bottom layer had clams and mussels cracked open, long snow crab legs, and a full lobster tail cut in half for easy sharing. The latter two was also pre-cracked for an easier peel back. Although if you needed more help in this endeavour there were nut crackers available, and we each received a hot towel to wipe our hands with.

This was a fresh feast we enjoyed with a bottle of white wine. It was brought table side and kept chilled in a copper bucket.

During our stay we also got a sneak peak of one of their new services. A cocktail made table side, crafted from premium ingredients. There is something about watching your food or drink being prepared before your eyes that elevates it and your experience. The result, a smokey Old Fashion, topped with a cherry.

 

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.
“Atlas” is the dressiest place in Burnaby. An upscale restaurant offering the downtown feel and experience without the haste of the travel, the cost of the cab, and the trouble of finding parking. And now with happy hour specials, they give you another reason to visit. I suggest starting your dinner early with some happy hour bites as your appetizer. Then enjoying your visit with well crafted drinks that easily take you from after work to dinner. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ATLAS
4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby BC, V5G 1C7
604-453-0776
atlassteakandfish.com

Mordimi Bite of Italy, #pizzachallengeyvr

I was once again trying out a new pizzeria, thanks to Vancouver Foodster, and me being one of the three judges for this year’s #pizzachallengeyvr. This one was only two months old. But as I would soon learn, owned and operated by a highly experienced and passionate husband and wife team. They are not new the pizza game, having ran a pizzeria for over two years before, and a coffee shop prior to that.

They currently call Hastings street their home. A little shop with a handful of seats and the operations out in the open, behind them. A counter with baked good for point and purchase, their stainless steel work space, and a chalkboard scrawling declaring that the “guy making your pizza is a pizzaiolo”.

The restaurant boasted an ever changing menu. Every Sunday they offer up a different brunch items like paninis, sandwiches, and frittatas. Pastas are available for lunch and included the likes of angle hair with ox tail and a carbonara with egg and pork cheek. Every Thursday the pasta of choice is gnocchi, every Friday it is a stuffed ravioli. All the chosen filling and ingredients are based on what our chef found fresh at the market that week, or what he himself felt like eating on the day. Similarly, the desserts get changed up daily, each, also hand made in house.

We made sure to reserve the ones we wanted first, lest they be purchased by the time we finished our meal. We were eyeing the doughnuts, or rather “bigné”, as the Italian way they were called. A tidbit we learned from our chef/host who informed us that “donuts” are the North American copy of the original Italian version (or debatably French version). Here, these doughy rounds are made from puff pastry.

The “bigné with yuzu cream” offered up a good change of taste with its fresh citrus flavour. It was filled full with cream and had a similarly flavoured topping crowning with blueberry and meringue bits.

The “Caramel cream bigné with almonds and peanuts” was my favourite. It was soft under your bite with the toasted nuts giving you crunch. It wasn’t too sweet, but the saltines of the peanut gave you that perfect balance of salty and sweet with the whipped caramel cream filling.

The “Pistachio cream and raspberry bigné” was a different experience. This was definitely a one biter, a little squeeze and all the cream came oozing out the sides. And at the middle of it, a nice sharp tang of fresh raspberry jelly. Given how great each of the above was, I can confidently recommend “Mordimi” as a spot worth travelling to, just for these desserts.

They also offer their take on a mille feuille with custard, a tiramisu cup, and a lemon meringue parfait.

As for savoury we first tried the “best pizza challenge” contender: “Boscaiola”, or “A walk in the Italian forest”. It was prepared in the traditional Italian fashion with organic flour. Yeast is not used to raise the dough, instead, it is allowed to rise naturally across 4 days. All the ingredients used are fresh and never frozen. All these practices make this pizza the healthiest in the competition, and as it is known in Italy: a healthy meal solution. Italian black truffle, potatoes, mushrooms, asiago cheese, and fior di latte. It was very light, you were able to make out the flavours of each ingredient, with the rosemary being most prominent. The potatoes weren’t heavy, but offered a good starch. Although out of preference, I did find it a little bland, having me look out for an oil drizzle or some chilli to give it a little life.

We also tried their “Mordimi Calzone”. It used the same pizza dough as above, just folded over and baked chewier. Here, the pizza dough was more like bread. A pocket of dough sealing chicken pesto, parmigiano, sun dried tomatoes, yellow tomato sauce, and fior di latte inside. I appreciated the large chunks of chicken breast meat. It was fully marinated in the tasty pesto sauce. The tomatoes offered bursts of freshness, and the light cheese an agent to bind them all.

 

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.
If you are looking for authentic Italian pizza from a discerning chef. A chef who cares about the quality of ingredients, and the tradition of pizza being one of the most healthiest foods available: come here and be sure to save room for dessert. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MORDIMI
2638 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 1Z6
604-253-0765
mordimi.ca
To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite. http://vancouverfoodster.com/pizza-challenge/

Maan Farms, Adult Easter Egg Hunt

My girl friend saw an advert for an adult Easter egg hunt and we had to go. The downside it was all the way in Abbotsford, a far trek from Vancouver. But with the promise of drinking and collecting Easter eggs for chocolate, we were going to put in the effort.

The event was cited for 6-9pm. So we rushed and arrived early, as to not miss any of the action. We were the first to walk through their kitchen meets gift shop door, and therefore the group to wait the longest. We checked in, receiving paper bracelets and our one drink ticket, that came with the admission price.

And there we stood impatiently, as the lobby filled with plenty more adults to come. Majority of them were prepared with proper straw Easter baskets in their hands, and bunny ears on their heads. I asked about the wait time and was told 20 minutes, as the staff were still setting up past 6:30pm. Although the lingering continued surpassing this time and throughout the night. It seemed like they were not prepared. Organizers at least had an Easter bunny mascot come hopping through the crowd. He gave out hi fives and posed for photos. This did entertain for about 15 minutes.

But we weren’t allowed to walk pass their petting zoo, following the lit path to the “Barn” until after 7pm. This was 1 hour spent waiting when the event listed a 6pm start.

Their Barn was set up for a party. Hip hop greeted us and the strings of lights set the mood. Only the goats corralled in the corner and tables crafted on top of barrels reminded you that you were in an actual, functioning barn.

In the centre of the room, a dual sided bar offered wine on one, and beer on the other. We queued at the wine counter and had our choice between three bottle from Maan Farms: two fruit flavours and a more traditional red blend. We went for the latter, and it was a strong puckering punch.

With it we picked at their large charcuterie board. A mix of hard and creamed cheeses served with crispy crackers and stone wheat thins. Salted olives, tangy fruits, a mix of raw vegetables surrounding dip. And plenty of classic East Indian street snacks made my “Mama Maan”.

For a more fulsome dinner there was pre-boxed butter chicken and a chickpea curry in the next room. You ate it out of the take out box or took it as is, home.

The staff informed attendees of a 7:30pm start time, only to have us all wait until 8pm. It was sad that they all weren’t on the same page, or well organized. Here, there was no regard for time, no announcements to inform us what was happening. An hour wait and I didn’t want more of their wine to help kill the time.

When it was finally time for the actual egg hunt, we were disappointed to learn that it wasn’t about collecting the most eggs. Our task was only to collect one of each colour, 5 total. With a chance to find a golden egg for the grand prize: a case of their Maan Farms wine. Then off we scampered as the sun set and the day turned to night. They sold flashlights and buckets when you checked in. I was glad that I didn’t spend money on either as you didn’t need a bucket to hold five eggs and your phone’s flashlight worked just fine to illuminate anything before you.

The hunt was quick to end. As an adult, it was easy to find 5 different coloured eggs. Though the golden egg did require a hint from the organizer. It was on the large tractor that doubled as the DJ booth. We all swarmed and 30 seconds later a winner was declared.

With the competition over, we all assembled back in the barn. There, we dumped our gathered plastic eggs into a treasure chest and collected a goodie bag. Each person got the same bag. A brown paper bag crafted into a bunny with pointed ears and a cotton ball tail. Inside: chocolate eggs, rocket candy, a twizzler, a jar of their wine jelly, and a coupon for 50% off one of their frozen food items. Attached to it was also a raffle ticket. Three participants would win wine and gift baskets. And thus the evening came to a close.

I liked the creativity and appreciated the farm offering such a unique experience. They are always coming up with fun activities for grown women and men, who like to drink. For example, see my past review of their goat yoga class.

Goat Yoga at Maan Farms

 

But for the price tag and what we got, I didn’t leave on our 1 hour ride home, fully satisfied with the experience. For $50 per entry you expected more. One drink $8, butter chicken $12, the goodie bag $5. The egg hunt itself was fun, but brief, as it was only 30mins of this 3 hour event. Keep the idea, but improve on the execution would be my advice.

 

For a more visual account of the night, check out my latest drinking vlog, as we drink and hunt of eggs in the dark.

 

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

Sopra Sotto, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today I was at the original location of “Sopra Sotto”, to visit yet another Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge contestant. With this one you have your choice of location between their two. You are invited to both, to try their entry and vote of your favourite in the “People’s Choice” category.

“Sopra’s” original location is on Commercial Drive, it features their fully stocked bar. Their second and newest location is in Burnaby, and this past week it celebrated its first year anniversary. This is a smaller restaurant, but other than square feet, it offers pretty much the same experience; even down to their eye catching wallpaper littered with colourful birds. Except the Burnaby location has a deep fryer and they take advantage of it, with a handful of variations to their menu. Deep fried street food like a battered calamari. I liked that this gave you reason to visit both locales.

But today I choose Commercial Drive location as our destination, as my guest has yet to visit either of the two; and I wanted her to have the original, flagship location experience.

Our dinner started with their appetizer special of the day. A burrata board with the fresh and creamy cheese dressed in olive oil and smoked balsamic. Served with lusciously thin prosciutto, and in house made herbed focaccia. This was a build your own ham and cheese sandwich, all grown up and delicious. This was an assembly of great ingredients that foreshadowed the quality of the food to follow.

The “Tagliatelle e Tartufo” came highly recommended. This is long and flat pasta made fresh in-house, served in a truffle sauce, featuring a variety of mushrooms and parmigiano. Oyster, protobello and shiitake; I appreciated the textures and distinct flavours of each mushroom in the mix. You also got the flavour of the promised truffle intermingled in the saucy cream. All together this made for a very elevated dish, one that paired well with the specialty pizza below.

And this was the main reason why I was here. Here, to try the “Contadina”. A fresh pizza with plenty of toppings to sift through. Taleggio cheese, smoked pancetta, cherry tomatoes, mixed mushrooms and green onions. Fire baked with a even blackening around the crust. You smelled the bake and all the charing of the toppings as it approached you. Salty with the pancetta, juicy with the tomatoes, and fresh with the spring onions. The latter was a first for me: the first time having green onion on a pizza. But it was the dough that I enjoyed the most, it made all the difference. I especially liked being able to cut the pizza down to size at our table. Each snip of these kitchen sheers heightened the already hands on experience.

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A beautiful setting with fresh plates and attentive staff that matches it modern feel. However, my next visit to “Sopra” will be at their Burnaby location for some deep fried goodness. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SOPRA SOTTO
1510 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 2Y7
604-251-7586
soprasottovancouver.co

75 West Coast Grill, Halibut Festival

Tonight I was invited down to “75 West Coast Grill”, the restaurant attached to the “Marriott” in Richmond. It was once “American Grille”, but has since reestablished themselves as a modern restaurant featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine. They are dedicated to using fresh and local ingredients, and tonight I was here to taste this change first hand.

Parking is within the hotel, you check in at the restaurant to validate. Located right at the lobby, it is a stone’s throw from the concierge’s desk. Past the bar, you follow the curve of the hall, all the way to the dining area. We grabbed a table by the window to enjoy the hub of the busy street as our scenery.

Given that my visit coincided with their “Halibut Festival”, it was only proper that I ordered a plate of the white fish in season. That and both the hostess and our server raved about it. They spoke to how people have been flocking in to the restaurant for it, and how all the staff have been enjoying it daily. The price isn’t listed, you get to choose how the fish is prepared, which starchy side it comes with, and what sauce covers it all. The combination you choose dictates the price you pay. You can either have your fish pan seared, flame grilled, or blackened. For sides, each plate includes a healthy serving of seasonal vegetables, so to it you can pick between roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, or jasmine rice. And for sauce a citrus beurre blanc; a mango salsa with pineapple, red pepper and cilantro; or a Thai curry sauce. Seeing as our server was so keen on this special, I took her advice on how to have it: pan seared with roasted fingerling potatoes, in the citrus beurre blanc. She did not steer me wrong. I am typically not a fan of cooked fish, but with halibut like this I could see myself enjoying it more regularly. This was a well balanced and fulsome serving. The vegetables were perfectly cooked to a firm crisp, similar to the texture and taste of the potatoes. But what made this plate was the sauce. I could drink a cup of it.

By comparison, I wasn’t so hot on their “10 oz AAA Rib Eye”. I acknowledge that rib eye steak is typically a fattier cut, but this thin piece had more gristle than meat. It at least had a good char to it. But sadly we were left with more roasted wild mushrooms , baby tomatoes, and roasted garlic mash side; all sitting in a red wine jus. I also found the sauce a little basic, I wanted more depth from it; like what I got from the beurre blanc.

On the other had, I got all the flavour I was looking for in the “Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese”. The shared serving is pictured above, and I would recommend getting it as a side. It is best enjoyed in between bites, given its one tone flavour profile. Served in a skillet these chewy and gooey spirals were heavily coated in an aged cheddar, mozzarella, and gruyere cheese mix. All topped with a roasted jalapeño fondue and a herb panko crust. This would be great anytime, but especially as a hangover cure, a late night snack, and as leftovers; like how I enjoyed mine. It was creamy, buttery, and fishy with the lobster. Although I didn’t find that the lobster added anything to the pasta. There was plenty of it, but several chunks I happened on were on the drier side.

The “Seafood Crab Cakes” were also nice, crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, with a good amount of shredded seafood in each round. It was best with the romesco aioli, but the radish and pea shoot salad that topped it, absorbed most of it.

It is also worth noting that if you get seated in one of their booths, it is outfitted with an outlet and the ability to charge any device, with USB ports.

 

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.
A nice reimagining of the “Marriott” Richmond’s restaurant/bar. Classic food in a friendly setting. A solid option for the travel and the cautious diner; wanting a taste of BC, outside of Asian food in Richmond. Don’t deny your cravings.

75 WEST COAST GRILL
7571 Westminster Hwy, Richmond BC, V6X 1A3
604-232-2804
75west.ca

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