VieAMaggi.com

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

Month: April 2019

Salsa By Marcela at Cacao

Today I was invited down to “Cacao”, a Latin American restaurant in Kits. We were here to get a first hand look at their new salsa line through an interactive cooking demonstration. I have never been to the restaurant, so thought this would also serve as a great introduction to it.

Here, we would meet Marcela one of the house chefs, who serves her traditional Mexican cuisine every Thursday night. Her credentials include her own cooking show, radio show, and books in Mexico. In Vancouver she is a mother of 4, launching her own salsa line with her daughters. It was her recipes and they took care of the packaging and marketing. Marcela found a need for her product given the abundance of tex mex in Vancouver. She simply wanted to offer real, traditional, Mexican salsa. And today, I would learn to tell the difference between it and Americanized Mexican cuisine.

Marcela was a sunny person, happy and welcoming in her deep purple and fuchsia chef’s coat, with colourful embroidery. She was patience in explaining to us what we were having, spelling out their proper Mexican names for this blog. She took the time to teach us about a few of her traditional Mexican kitchen utensils, including the carved wooden chocolate milk muddler pictured above. We also learned about chilli, how to buy them and how their name varies based on it being green on the plant, or dried and red.

Our night began with some “Tepache”, a traditional Mexican drink made from fermenting pineapple skin in water and sugar. It is comparable to kombucha in taste. Great for hot weather and best mixed with sparkling, like how we enjoyed it was today.

To snack on we had “totopo”, the Mexican word for chips. These are made by deep frying tortillas. They don’t make there own tortilla here, but do cut up, fry up, and season what they get from local “Chancho Tortilla”. Marcela declared theirs the best and most authentic tortilla that a Vancouverite can get. And true enough, these tortilla chips were amazing. This snack had the whole room going back for chip after chip. Their thick crunch and salty coating, the perfect vessel to scoop up fresh made guacamole salsa. Salsa prepared using one of Marcela’s bottled ones below. Together this was so good that I inquired about purchasing a bag of “totopo” to take home. However, they don’t offer them by the bag, making them a good reason to return.

Next we had some “Gorditas”, doughy circles that were cut down the middle and stuffed with a creamy avocado spread. The table loved these too. I liked the texture that sprung back after you took a bite, but I found it was lacking in flavour, especially compared to the “totopos” above. It reminded me of a mild corn, but made into dough and baked.

When the demo began we were invited around Marcela’s makeshift cooking station. She had her three bottles of salsa on display and all the fresh and dried ingredients she would need to prepare a full meal with them. She began by explaining to us that salsa isn’t just for dipping. And that when you purchase one of her salsas you get a snack and a meal helper all in one. Each is all natural and keeps for two months in the fridge, once opened.

She would show us 4 quick and easy recipes that you could prepare at home, yourself. But first prefaced the demonstration, explaining that in her cooking and for her recipes nothing is exact, it depends on the day, time, and mood.

First was an oven baked fish. BC red snapper prepared with lemon, salt, and her “Papa Carlos’ salsa”. Each of her three salsas are named after the family member who taught her the recipe. This was her grandfather’s recipe that her family used as an emergency mealtime solution. This pickled salsa is great with any seafood. You top your first with it generously, wrapping it all up in tinfoil, then allowing it time to bake in the oven. The result, a juicy fish made spicy with the vegetable mix. I could have used more salsa to enjoy with each bite of fish. But be warned, it is on the spicier side.

Next was a Mexican fried rice prepared with her green “Tio Emilio” salsa. She added oil to a hot pan and to it fried onions and poblano chilli. Next went in garlic, corn kernels and her uncle’s sauce, jalapeño, garlic, water, salt, oil, and fresh cilantro. When simmering you add in half a cup of salsa and half a cup of water, with one cup of rice. Stir, add salt, and reduce heat. I really enjoyed the rice and thought it was a clever way to use salsa that I could myself copying in the future.

All “Salsas by Marcela” can be utilized hot or cold. The green sauce was also great as a salad dressing. It was tasty with mixed greens, sunflower seeds, and tomato.

Next Marcela showed us how to make her favourite enchiladas using the red “Mama Luchita” salsa. You start with oil in your pan and to it add in her mother’s smokey sauce. With a bit of water, allow it to boil, before submerging a tortilla. Once fully coated, plate said tortilla, fill with feta, fold over, and top with more sauce from the pan. Once again these tortillas came from “Chancho Tortilla”. When trying it, you definitely got the two types of chilli smoked and cooked in oil that went into the bottled salsa.

Our meal ended with a dessert that embodied “Cacao“ and the Latin American food prepared traditionally, with original flavours, in an European style that they specialize in. These are “Borrachitos”, Mexican sweets known as “men drunk”. Sweet jelly candies made with corn starch, sprinkled with sugar and filled with alcohol; hence the name. They are normally either red, yellow, or green. But tonight’s rendition was dyed purple by the violet flowers they used. You don’t taste the flower, more the punchy tequila that hides with. I really liked them and wished we had more. One to try, and the second to really enjoy and taste.

If you want to try Marcela’s authentic Mexican cuisine for yourself, and not just bring a bit of her into your kitchen, visit “Cacao” on Thursday evenings to enjoy a five course meal that includes dessert. Marcela herself, made sure to note that you will get to try many different types of Mexican food, that it isn’t just tacos. And every two weeks they change up the entire menu, but mole (a chocolate based sauce) is always included.

“Salsa by Marcela” is currently only available at local health food store, “Fresh is Best”. Grab and jar and get more recipe inspiration from their Instagram @SalsaByMarcela.

Given my teaser of “Cacao”, I would love to come back and try more of their menu. I don’t recall the last time I had traditional Latin American cuisine. Don’t deny your cravings.

Healthy Family Expo 2019

The “Healthy Family Expo”, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre this late March is Canada’s largest health and food event, catered for families. And it was a great way to spend a Sunday. I attended with my friend and her young family. Mommy, Daddy, Baby, Grandma, and me. And in doing so was treated to the ability to enjoy this “carnival” (as my 3 year old guest called it), through her wide eyes.

The convention centre was set up with booths and play stations, you jumped from one to another, exploring the wares and engaging those who stood behind them. Each ready to answer any of your questions as they arose. The expo serves as a great place for health conscious families to learn about new products that hit the market place. With the ability to try and taste, to see if any of it will suit their growing families.

Here are a few of the goods and games we tried and found noteworthy.

“Frog Friendly Coffee” features beans that are grown in the wild, not farmed. Raised and harvest on a rich biodiverse land without chemical sprays or pesticides. Every aspect of production is geared towards green, ethical, and sustainable practices.

“Anita’s Organic Mill” helps to boost the nutrition in your home baked goods with their whole grains and sprouted flours.

“GoGo Quinoa” offers their quality quinoa products to almost every store. Today they featured their pasta line of colourful fusilli made from chickpea, cauliflower, and lentils.

“Caulipower” offers a healthy frozen pizza and build yourself pizza crusts made using cauliflower instead of gluten. Their goal is to offer everyone’s favorite comfort foods by making them with cauliflower.

At the “LaCroix Sparkling Water” booth they had a kiddie pool of ice and gave everyone the opportunity to fish for a whole can sample. Rods with a string and a magnet gave you a chance to choose which flavour you wanted to pull from the icy waters. Each, free from artificial sweeteners, sugars or sodium.

“Coast Protein” was sampling their protein bars made from fruit, seeds, nuts, and crickets. They also spoke to how their use of crickets for protein helps to fight climate change.

“Blue Monkey” was a popular booth for their tasty coconut water, now available in other flavours like watermelon.

“Torill’s Table” was sampling their heart-shaped waffles made in the traditional Norwegian style. Each is filled with high quality ingredients like almonds, ground flax and whole grains.

“Quinoa Krunch” are wholesome snack bites made with 100% organic quinoa. No flours, no fillers, no other additives; just uniquely puffed organic quinoa.

At the “Chosen Foods” stand we tried their mayo and dressings made with pure avocado oil, free of preservatives and artificial ingredients.

“Loot Toys” introduced their bath time products in order to bring “magic and delight into what is often a battleground – your kids’ bathtime!” The “Bath Squiggler” is a bath bomb for kids. It fizzes and colours the water, leaving a cute sponge character behind. There are 24 in total to collect. And “Bubble Whoosh” is a skin-friendly, moisturizing foaming bath powder.

“Truly Tumeric” is based on out Vancouver and was featured on season 13 of “Dragon’s Den”. They offer whole root turmeric paste. It is easy to add a delicious and healthy scoop to any recipe.

“Pacari Chocolate” is dedicated to making the highest quality organic chocolates from Ecuador. They work with the cacao growers and acquired their knowledge, this enables them to create a fine chocolate with the best flavor and texture possible.

“New World Organic” is a local family making vegetarian foods in small batches from their factory in Burnaby, B.C. And today, we got a handful of their granola to try.

At “Everland Natural Foods” we tasted some of their dried fruit. They create products made without irradiation, GMOs, food colouring, or chemical preservatives. Each product is packed in eco-friendly ways that reduce their carbon footprint.

“Smart Sweets” gave you classic shaped and flavoured gummies at 3g. of sugar per entire bag. A take on the gummy bear and the red Swedish fish, paired with their own sour blasted “buddies”.

“Wild Coast Fruit Co.” gave out samples of their chocolate covered cherries and blueberries; boasting them as a “sweet little flavour boost” with no preservatives, additives, or artificial flavours.

It wasn’t all just eating and food, there were also booths showcasing the latest sensory toys of kids and even the best stroller for any one’s individual needs.

There was also a “ Family Rest Stop” area within the Expo. This area served as a great place to relax at. With picnic tables for parents and guardians to sit at. And games to keep the kids engaged. Our toddler got to play some basketball and she also enjoyed a giant game of plastic connect four.

We also took in the “Gumboot Kids Live Show featuring Jessie Farrell, Scout & Daisy, with special guest appearances by Daniel Tiger and True from CBC Kids.

In short, this was a great way to entertain your littlest family members, while keeping yourself up to date on the best parenting tools and healthiest food alternatives. For those who missed out on this unique showcase this year, be sure you bookmark the link below and mark your calendar for the 2020 convention. And keep in mind I only covered 30% of all there was to see and do on this day! So carve out the entire day to experience all of this fun filled event.

Exhibitors & Partners 2019

Il Posto, #pizzachallengeyvr

This is another restaurant I would not otherwise know about if not for the Vancouver Foodster. As I continued to judge all the contestants of this year’s Pizza Challenge I found myself in Ladner, at the threshold of “Il Posto”. A beautiful building, symmetrical with red and teal trimmed windows.

The restaurant is modern with several spaces to enjoy their food at. The main dining area by their bar, a private room towards the back, and a little breakfast nook up front by the windows. We picked the latter to be able to get a look at the sidewalk and the currently closed patio up front.

”Il Posto” has been open for a little over a year now. They are located on a popular strip of Ladner. The street is often closed to host such events as the Delta Classic car show, the cycling competition, Tour de Delta; and the lower mainland’s largest farmer’s market in summer.

They have only been offering brunch since November, and today we were here to get a taste. But first we would accompany our food with some classic brunch time cocktails. The easy to down “Aperol Spritz” in a large glass. Aperol, Prosecco, soda, and orange. And a double Caesar with vodka, Clamato and spices. This was the classic recipe with olives and pickled asparagus as garnish. Though they do ask you if you like it spicer or with extra Worcester.

In general the service here is amazing. You felt the good energy walking in. The hostess is welcoming and vibrant. She and our server made small talk and jokes, you immediately felt comfortable in your seat. During our stay we would meet many faces and it was the same for each. The table next to ours was celebrating a birthday and their server surprised him with a personal sized tiramisu, a lit candle, and a song.

Our second round of drinks included their “Italian 75” made with gin, lemon, and Prosecco. It packed a punch like an adult lemonade. And the Bellini with Prosecco and peach was a lot lighter by comparison. This wasn’t the classic rendition. No frozen slush, but all the flavours you’d expect. Sweet like a fuzzy peach.

For food I considered ordering their waffle dish, but decided against it after hearing that they weren’t made in house. They were prepared locally and brought in as a sweet breakfast option. So instead I took our server’s recommendation and had their salmon Benedict.

“Wild smoked salmon Benny”. Smoked salmon, pickled red onion, caponata, fried capers, and hollandaise on an English muffin. I never had a mix of onions and red peppers on a benny before. It gave this a zesty fajita feel, but it wasn’t one I liked. I found it combative against the likes of the salmon, an already very pronounced flavour. I found myself removing one or the other. I would have liked either on the side as a change of taste. Although the fresh greens and herbed potatoes proved capable in that regard. In fact the potatoes were my favourite part of this order. The restaurant doesn’t have a deep fryer in house, the chef works off of a pizza oven. So these cubes of tasty potato were cook within it at high temperatures for a great crispy shell. They were well seasoned, and for the first time I didn’t reach for ketchup on my breakfast potatoes. I also liked the creaminess of the perfectly poached egg and its runny yolk, and the foamy hollandaise that was much lighter than others I have had.

We also tried one of the “stone oven skillets”, the heaviest of the three options that had “Two poached eggs” with red wine braised beef short rib, leeks, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, potato hash, and a mornay sauce (a white, light, cheese cream sauce). Utilizing the skillet kept our meal warmer for longer, a good thing as the oil and sauce congealed once cooled. By comparison to the above I found these potatoes saucy and soggy. They were a lot heavier with the tender strands of meat. The first few bites were good, but I found myself wanting a break from the flavour. Here, the house made focaccia was great, but there was not enough of it. I could have eaten a loaf as is, it was so well seasoned with coarse salt and herbs. It was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with its air bubbles.

I didn’t need any additional seasoning, but if you do, the restaurant offers up bottles of their house made chilli oil and/or a rosemary thyme oil. These are best use as a drizzle or a dip on one of their pizzas. Like the one I was here to try.

This is the “Fat Tony”. Its name comes from the starter dough that they use. A dough that is made and allowed to rest for 48 hours. I liked it, as it was much like the focaccia above. A thin crust dressed with red sauce, sliced meatballs, caramelized onion, caciocavallo, pecorino, basil, and oregano; then finished with a garlic focaccia crumb. I liked the presentation, the fresh and full basil leaves, and the round meatball that crowned it. Although when it came time to eat, I would have preferred the leaves chopped up and the meat ball better divvied up. You got two meat balls in total, the other one was already sliced up and shared amongst the 6 slices. They are perfectly prepared, moist and still a little pink. And they sliced like butter. At the core of it, this is a solid margherita pizza, but with some creative and dressed up elements. It is also a little sweeter due to the caramelized onions and the sweetness in the tomato sauce. The sauce gets drippy and things get messy, it is best to eat with your hands.

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite to win the people’s choice award.

Pizza Challenge

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If they were in Vancouver I could see myself returning and frequenting. It is a nice restaurant, but a far commute for a meal, from my home in Burnaby. I don’t know much about Ladner, but based on our experience and overhearing all the positive conversations of the customers around us, this is the place to be. In their food you could taste the farms that surrounds them. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

IL POSTO
4866 Delta Street, Delta BC, V4K 2T8
604-946-1300
ilpostoresto.com

HQ Wines Portfolio tasting

Today I was invited the “Listel Hotel’s” conference room for an Impressionist Gallery. We were all gathered to get a closer look at wines from “HQ’s” portfolio. Sips of red and wine from “Free Form, Haywire, Narrative, Pedro Parra Y Familia, Poggiotondo, Loveblock, Meinklang and Intersection Winery”.

“HQ Wine and Spirits” was founded in 2010, specializing in organic and natural wines that showcases respect for the land. All “HQ wines” are inspired by the place in which their grapes are grown. In some cases the landscape inspired the vintners and shaped the wines, for others the grapes themselves dictated the resulting creations . My guest enjoyed the red wines from “Haywire” for their easy to drink nature. I preferred the Okanagan whites for their sharp dryness.

This all started with the Okanagan Crush Pad, a state of the art winery located in Summerland, BC; and the 3 other wineries that operated under it: “Haywire”, “Narrative”, and “Free Form”.

“Haywire” is from the Okanagan Valley, Summerland. They are the original vineyard from which HQ was created. Its name refers to the wire use to control the hay that troubled the vineyard. This orchard saw a change in crops grown from 2005 to 2011 until they found their winning formula. Today their wine marks the years of hard work, errors, and resilience. The large “Haywire“ wine portfolio contains various sparkling, sauvignon blanc, rose, gamay and pinot noir.

 

“Haywire” is the most well known and most well established of all the brands. It sustains their collective, whereas “Freeform” is their passion project. “Freeform” is also based out of Summerland. Their wine is made from organic grapes and native yeast, and is free from of additives. The vintners allow their grapes to grow free, to be formed in their own way, and naturally. They don’t do anything to help in the fruits production, only allowing sheep on the grounds to help with the insects population. The result, every batch and bottle you enjoy will be different. They offer Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Sparkling.

“Narrative” is also from Summerland. Their name is based on their desire to tell the story of their land through their wine. It is imprinted in the wine through its unique blends and innovative ideas introduced in each batch. For example, “Non Fiction”, a 2017 vintage red was made in concrete tanks instead of the traditional oak barrels.

In an effort to master the creation of cold weather wine, winemakers from Italy and Chile were invited to collaborate with and be part of “HQ”, since they all shared a similar respect for the land and their wine’s creation. Because of this collaborative spirit, today HQ also includes wines from Austria, New Zealand and Australia. These they import and help to distribute wholesale to restaurants and liquor stores.

Our favourites were the wines from the “Pedro Parra y Familia winery”. These grapes are grown by improvised framers that have inhabited Itata, a valley in the South of Chile from some time now. Their vines were introduced by Spaniards hundred of years ago, which makes them ancient and unique. “The Haywire Pink Bub Sparkling” is a combination of these, with a great body and strong flavours, in contrast to the light bubbles.

With all this to try we were also given a good spread of meat and cheese to grazing on in between tasters.

Getting to learn more about these wines definitely has me reaching for their labels when I am shopping for a bottle, or looking for a glass at a restaurant. For more on these labels with a story to tell visit http://www.hq-wine.com/.

Pizza Carano, #pizzachallengeyvr

My pizza judging duties brought me to “Pizza Carano”. And today I walked in to their restaurant, eager to try their entry for this year’s Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge. I really enjoy such events, without them I wouldn’t get the opportunity to try such unique places. In them, getting suggestions for stops I wouldn’t otherwise think to make, like “Pizza Carano”

Located in Fraserhood with a simple interior and exterior you wouldn’t expect great Italian thin crust pizza lies within. Share style tables and bar stools front their open kitchen. Their menu is printed over mirrors and specials are written on ceramic cutting boards. You grab a seat anywhere and the server is quick to greet you.

Their menu had me indecisive, there were so many interesting possibilities. When ordering I tend to gravitate towards the more creative combinations, flavours or elements I have never tried or expected. And there was plenty to consider here. “Italian gomae” with currants and pinenuts, a Hawaiian Pizza with roasted macadamia nuts, a white sauce pizza with ham and pistachio. We eventually managed to narrow our choice down to the following, with no regrets.

The “Marinated smoked olives” are a must. Both my guest and I are a fan of olives and have never had it smoked before. These were done in house and served in a mason jar of olive oil with lemon peel, rosemary, and chilli. You couldn’t miss the smokey flavour with its flavour peppery notes. We both have never had an olive so tasty. If you don’t finish your serving, you can just cap the jar and take the rest home. Not to mention, the oil is worth saving as well.

I also suggest doubling down on your olives through one of their classic martinis. A stiff drink with gin, dry vermouth, and one of their hickory smoked olives; sans the pit. The smoked olive transforms this cocktail, it helped in adding body to the drink and to cut into it with its sharp tang. I also recommend ordering extra olives, if you aren’t already ordering a jar. Every sip is best following a whole green olive.

Reading the menu, their “Spicy coconut kale” pizza really stood out for me. I thought about trying their pasta dish, their house risotto or even a salad; but kept coming back to this unique assembly on thin crust. Coconut cream, kale, peanut satay marinated mushrooms, fior di latte, coconut flakes, and chilli oil. The satay flavour was pronounced and delicious, bold peanut with a dull heat. The mushroom gave you some chewy substance, meaty for a fungi. And the kale ate like chips, offering some crunch; along with the crispy, slightly sweet coconut shards. This pizza had me eating my greens and craving for more soon after I left. I would definitely come back for more of this and to try their other pizzas.

I enjoyed their Italian – Neapolitan pizza with its thin base and plentiful crust. There is a lot of the latter, but utilizing the smoked olive oil above, you had a great drizzle to dip the excess bread into. Each pie is personal sized, with four large slices. For its size one might consider the $19-22 price point a little steep, but the quality and well thought out combinations are well worth the tag.

And lastly we had their feature pizza, the one I was here to try for the challenge. Made with saffron leek, bacon, chilli pepper, and dill. Yet again you could taste the quality of all the ingredients assembled together. The heat from the pepper, the saltiness of the bacon, the freshness of the leeks, and the dill as the wild card that brought it all together. It varied from bite to bite, keeping your interest from start to finish. You could and wanted to eat the whole thing. I found the amount of toppings just right, allowing you to taste the breading, whereas my guest wanted a little more toppings.

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite to win the people’s choice award.

Pizza Challenge

 

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.
Not available by the slice, their pizza makes a great option for dinner. Bring a friend down and enjoy a pie or two with drinks and olives. I myself, will be sure to bring my picky partner back to try their margherita pizza for only $11. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PIZZA CARANO
4241 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4G1
604-877-1270
pizzacarano.com

AJ’s Brooklyn Pizza Joint, #pizzachallengeyvr

This year I had the honour of being one of three judges to taste and critique pizzas, in order to find the best of the all; on behalf of Vancouver Foodster.

Nine unique pizzas, starting with “AJ’s Brooklyn Pizza Joint”. This is a true blue New York pizza place, with the owner hailing from Brooklyn. He has since planted roots in Vancouver, and has carved out this bit of his hometown on East Broadway. In these walls plastered with black and white historic photos, and hung with home team tees with matching caps; you can order slices to go, and full pies that you can customize.

We grabbed one of their cherry red booths at the front and plopped down to a couple of beers. Mine, one of their house lagers from “Parallel 49”, and my guest a “Main Street” sour IPA. They were the perfect sip to follow all our salty and greasy pizzas. Salty and greasy in only the best of ways.

Today we would be trying their “Detroit style pizza”. A first for me, and possibly a first for the city. There is no other place that I can think of that offers pizza as thick and doughy as this. It looks like a deep, deep dish; a cross between this Sicilian style crust, and Chicago with the baked and slightly burnt cheese that coats it. It comes in two flavours, split between 8 rectangular pieces topped with their house made ground tomato sauce, (a sauce that is applied after the pizza is cooked), fine sea salt, dried oregano, mozzarella cheese, white cheddar cheese, granted Pecorino Romano cheese, and garlic oil.

One was zesty, with enough pepperoni cups to cover the entire surface; the other, a take on a margherita pizza with roasted rainbow tomatoes and fresh basil. I preferred the latter for its mild flavour and the ability to make out their tasty sauce. I am not a fan of pepperoni to begin with, so to have so much here overwhelmed me. This pizza launched with the start of the friendly competition, and will be available regularly going forward. Just ask for the “Detroit Red Top” when ordering.

Not that you need any more flavour for the above, but the bottle of “Mike’s Hot Honey,” infused with chillies, at each table is well worth trying. It is sweet and spicy, paring well if our pizza above and the meat balls below. Not to mention, they would be just as good with many more food and drinks outside of this pizzeria. This Brooklyn product is available for sale here by the bottle.

We also made sure to try their meatballs. There were new to the menu and available as is or on various pizzas, along with other toppings. Seeing as we had plenty of pizza to go through, we simply had the meatballs as a trio. These were the smoothest meatballs I have ever had. They were meaty, yet fluffy and airy like cake. Such a unique texture paired with their delicious sauce. The fresh marinara is what sets their balls apart. To them we added fresh arugula and baked mozzarella for $1 and $2 more.

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

http://vancouverfoodster.com/pizza-challenge/

 

AJ’s BROOKLYN PIZZA JOINT
325 East Broadway​​​​​​​​​​, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W5​
604-428-5805
ajsbrooklynpizzajoint.com

Bellagio, Las Vegas

My girl friend and I visited Vegas recently, and based on another friend’s suggestion, made “The Bellagio” our destination. It ss known for its whimsical water fountain that shoots streams of water in tune to music. It’s a free show that has made it on to the list of many sightseers.

Inside, the hotel is associated with its glass blown lobby centre piece. A field of bloomed flowers with light shining through their glass petal. It covered the entire skylight that loomed over a floral samurai on horse back that was themed to match their conservatory and indoor garden space.

In time for the spring and the Japanese Sakura festival this space was themed with Japanese culture. You enter by walking under two pink gates adored with cherry blossoms, with giant sparrows suspended over head.

On the right, two giant automated cranes that flapped their wings and chirped in a garden with running. Next to it was a wooden bird cage with real song birds calling it home. On the left, giant urns wrapped in flower petals stood tall and poured out water into a pound of koi fish.

At the centre of this scene a Japanese castle lit in neon at night. Surrounding it a garden of spring blooms like tulips and pansies.

For our accommodations saved $50 per night by opting for a suite without a view. And a good thing too, as we really didn’t stay in our hotel room all that much.

For our last meal in Vegas we brunched at the “Sadelle’s”. A pastel blue restaurant with blue chairs and pink booths. Most memorable were the pink dessert carts that functioned both as decor and a visual menu for point and ordering.

We had their take on traditional breakfast cocktails to start. I had their “Green Mary”, their twist on the Bloody Mary made with green tomatillo juice. They also offered the “Ghost of Mary”, a Bloody Mary made with infused horseradish vodka, with no tomato juice this was a clear drink, hence the name. I ordered the green option for novelty sake. It was a pretty drink, but lacked flavour: watery with cucumber undertones. There was no spice and nothing but the garnish reminded me of the traditional cocktail. My guest had the “Blood orange mimosa”, a mix of sparking wine and tangy blood orange juice.

For food I had their Belgian waffle. A light and fluffy round that was pressed with their signature “S” logo in cursive. It comes plain with sides of creamed butter, maple syrup, and whipped cream for self dressing. I also added some mixed berries for colour and freshness for extra.

My guest had the “Eggs Benedict”. Poached egg and hollandaise over a toasted and crispy English muffin. For $2 more she swapped the ham for smoked salmon. This was one of the better, if not best egg Bennys that I have had. Everything was fresh. Buttery smooth, messy, and oh so good with the sauce.

But my favourite dish and our most frivolous order from “Sadelle” was their specialty, a “grapefruit cocktail” for $12. Not a drink, but half a large grapefruit with the fruit peeled from
the rind and the pith carefully removed. The grapefruit flesh was sprinkled over with sugar and torched to caramelization. Sour, sweet, and zesty with the mint. A great start to the day, and a better end to a long night of drinking.

Overall, a lovely stay at a lovely hotel. Plenty of great restaurants to dine at, even more to see on the casino floor, and central to the strip with easy walking distance to plenty. If there weren’t so many great hotels to visit and stay at, I would definitely return for my next over night stay.

For more on our stay at the Bellagio, and all that we got into in Vegas, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

BELLIGIO
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-693-7111
bellagio.mgmresorts.com

Wynn Hotel, Vegas

Sinatra Restaurant, Parasol Down~

My girl friend is a big fan of Frank Sinatra; the American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He made a mark
in Vegas as a member of the “Rat Pack”. So when visiting Vegas with her, we made sure to visit his name sake restaurant at the “Encore at the Wynn”.

The “Wynn” was one of the nicer hotels we visited. It is actually two hotels in one, connected to one another by meandering pathways. I enjoyed exploring the space. And my girl friend enjoyed its classic decor with its butterfly motif. Colourful wings on tiled floors, embroidered carpet, and fluttering across curtains and wall art.

At the threshold of our dinner destination was a collection of Sinatra memorabilia on loan from the family. Historic photos of Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn, Sinatra winning awards and the prized records he won them from. Inside they kept up the motive with large photos of the celebrity on the walls, his music playing over head, and movies from his time period broadcasting over the bar.

The menu was also well stocked with Sinatra references. It won my guest over with their Have it “my way”, Jack Daniel Sinatra select. This was a limited release, 90 proof special barreling of “Jack Daniels Whiskey”. The very brand that Sinatra helped to put on the map, when he declared it “nectar of the gods” in the late 80’s. This was just one of the factual tidbits that our knowledgeable and friendly server offered up to us. The menu described the whisky as having “smooth bold flavours that embody the character of the man himself”. We found the drink strong, needing water to chase. But at $45 a glass I was determined to not let a drop go to waste.

Our dinner began with an amuse bouche. A scoop of “Pea Panna Cotta with a Parmesan crumb”. An easy to eat spoonful that was light and crunchy, with only a faint flavour of vegetable.

It was followed by a basket of bread served with a basil, blossom, and salt butter. Rosemary focaccia, Ciabatta, and Olive baguette. However I didn’t eat much of it given the large entree portions below. They were plentiful, with the price matching the quantity and quality.

My guest ordered the “Lobster risotto” with parsnip purée, fine herbs, fennel sprouts, and parsnip crisp. It was rich in lobster flavour, and buttery throughout. Although my guest did encounter a shard of lobster shell in her mouth.

I too went the seafood route, ordering “Frank’s spaghetti & clams in a tomato garlic broth”. What I expected was a plate of noodles and a handful of clam in shells. In reality there was just as much clams as there were firm noodles. I estimated this at 45 clams. Together they dominated the dish, and began to overwhelm with the one flavour mid way, having me crave a side to break things up with. And in the end I was unable to finish my serving.

We made our reservation mentioning that we were celebrating an occasion and were treated to a welcome card, a celebratory tiramisu dessert, and a keepsake post card each. These extra little touches really made the evening memorable, elevating our visit with plenty of surprise. Similarly, I have never had more attentive service, standing at the ready. Ready to refill your glass. Ready to pass you a new dish for your clam shells. Ready to pick up your napkin when it falls on the floor.

And lastly there was one more surprise to follow. Another platter of desserts to close out our meal on a sweet note. It included a tangy and sweet lemon meringue tart. A Jack Daniels infused coffee dark chocolate, with a rich smokey coffee flavour. A bite of pistachio and amarena cherry cake. And a hazelnut biscuit that was buttery like a sugar cookie.

After dinner we made our way from “Encore” to “Wynn”, stopping to take a photo of metallic Popeye in front of “Wynn Theatre” with red glittery butterflies flying above.

This was then followed by a full photo shoot of their indoor garden. An artificial wooded clearing of green canopies hung with lights and strung with floral bobbles.

There was also a hot air balloon decorated with flowers and its basket filled with luxury goods.

And an ever rotating carousel that was crafted with even more blossoms.

We eventually found ourselves at “Parasol Down”’a bar named after the red, orange, and yellow umbrellas that hung above it. It was as whimsical as all the other curated decor pieces above. Located at the bottom of two escalators it looked like a cabaret stage.

But we choose to have our drink outside on their adjacent patio. This was a heated area overlooking a stone wall in the middle of still water. Using a projector and a sound track, it mimicked a water fall.

And every 30 minutes a visual and musical show would play. We would only stay for two to confirm they were different each time.

Given the local and its name, we ordered the “The Pear-a-sol”. Stolichnaya gluten free vodka, St. George spiced pear, St. Germain elderflower liquors, pear purée, house made vanilla infusing, and fresh lemon juice. And with it, we sat and sip in this quiet and still setting, hidden within the hustle and bustle of an ever waking hotel.

This is the hotel for those who like a classy setting. A more upscale and vintage experience of Vegas. I will definitely make every effort to visit the “Wynn” again on my next Vegas excursion.

For more on all the fun to be had in Vegas, check out my latest vlog as we test out some drinking aids.

 

WYNN LAS VEGAS AND ENCORE HOTEL
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-770-7000
wynnlasvegas.com

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Vegas

Egg Slut, Milk Bar, Pok Pok, and Chandelier Lounge~

When visiting Vegas this April, “Egg Slut” made it on to both my and my travel buddy’s lists. So we made sure to make our way to “The Cosmopolitan Hotel” to check it out.

The name “Egg Slut” alone peaked our curiosity, and the line for breakfast at 10am had us convinced of our decision. This was one of many well known restaurants that have set up shop at this funkier, modern hotel-casino.

We first noticed it by its lengthy line. A yellow stanchion corralled everyone from the cash desk up front, all the way down the side of their compact space. Given the popularity and the speed in which they operated we were inclined to wait. Although they do offer breakfast all day, and after the lunching hour they slow down with no wait time. So if you can hold off your morning cravings, I suggest them for a great happy hour or snack option.

Their menu is posted around the corner and by the register. Sandwiches, sides, beverages, and their speciality. You have plenty of time to make your choice.

Naturally I gravitated towards the “Slut”, for its name. This was a “cage-free coddle egg on top of house made potato purée, cooked and served in a glass jar topped with gray salt and chives”. You enjoy it with slices of baguette like spread on bread. This was a creative way to enjoy eggs, potato, and toast; familiar friends of breakfast. Both the potato whip and the creamy egg melted in your mouth. They were buttery, light, and delicious; but left you wanting more. Something more fulsome to start your day on.

But if you are only getting one thing, I would recommend it be one of their breakfast sandwiches. We had the “Sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich” made with house made turkey sausage, cage free over medium egg, cheddar cheese, and honey mustard aioli; all in a warm brioche bun. It was a decent breakfast sandwich, but sadly over hyped for me. It was great with lean and zesty seasoned sausage, a perfectly runny egg, bread with a croissant-like texture, and a tasty sauce to bind them all together. But nothing truly unique. Nice to help cure a hang over, and tasty in a pinch if you don’t have to wait to long to get your hands on one. But for a burger you take 5 minutes to eat, I would be just as happy with an A&W breakfast sandwich made with their real organic Canadian eggs done sunny side.

There aren’t many seating options with “Egg Slut’s” open space. A bar with high tops, giving you a view of their cooking station. Everything was sat, and this isn’t the type of breakfast you can walk and eat.

So lucky for us the hotel has carved out an additional seating area across from them, themed to “Alice in Wonderland”. Large rabbit statues, playing card wall paper, chairs with rabbit ears, seats shaped like cracked eggs, and a caterpillar with a hookah photo op.

This was a whimsical and fun place to enjoy your “Egg Slut” breakfast, a healthy drink from “The Juice Stand”, ice cream from “Milk Bar”, or wings from “Pok Pok”. All of which we took the time to visit as well.

We powered up with some “Bee Excellent” nut milk from “The Juice Stand”. This was a blue drink that you shook up for a thick grey-green consistency. Made with filtered coconut, coconut water, raw cashew, spirulina (which gives it its blue hue), raw agave, and vanilla bean. For $15 it promises you a wealth off nutrients in this custom nut milk.

From “Milk Bar” I tried their seasonal soft serve flavour, a red velvet twisted with their cereal milk. And given a choice of toppings I choose the “crunchy fruity cereal” for its crispy texture and colourful appearance.

From “Pok Pok” I had to try “Ike’s world famous chicken wings” seasoned in fish sauce. They were so good that I ate all six full wings, from drumlet to wing tip, myself.

As a foodie, all the above made this one of the more memorable hotels. I was delighted by all the trendy food options, and would love to come back to try “Momofuku”, “Lardo”; and “District” for cult favourite doughnuts, sliders, and brews.

We did find our way back to “The Cosmo” later that afternoon for some pre dinner drinks. We couldn’t pass up enjoying their “Chandelier Lounge” that wasn’t fully open at 11am. This was a three storey bar that centred the casino, all draped in strings of crystal bead, and lit in a neon purple light. You drink within this sparkling curtain, claiming one of the many loungers. Each floor has its own menu, with its own operating hours. The bottom bar is on the casino floor and open for service 24/7.

The top floor, “The Chandelier” opens at 5pm. Here we enjoyed the “Champagne socialist” made with St. George spiced pear, Madagascar vanilla liqueur, citrus, coconut chai syrup, and bubbles.

We sipped until “The Chandelier 1.5”, the middle level, opened at 6pm. Here we had their Alice in Wonderland themed cocktail: “We’re all mad here”. A colour changing beverage with some assembly required. Empress indigo gin, St. Germain elderflower, soho lychee, lemon juice, apple rose water, and Chardonnay cardamom ginger syrup. It arrives in three parts. The drinking glass with ice sphere and a dyed dehydrated pineapple slice moulded to look like a mushroom. A “drink me vial in blue”, and a miniature carafe in a murky white hue. Mixing the latter two concoctions together gives you a pinky brew.

This was just a snippet of what you can try, see and do at “The Cosmo”. In the future I would definitely enjoy staying here over night.

 

For more on Vegas and the fun to be had, check out my latest drinking vlog, where we test out anti-hangover aids.

 

THE COSMOPOLITAN OF LAS VEGAS
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-698-7000
cosmopolitanlasvegas.com

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