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

Month: May 2019

Salty’s in Penticton

We have been to “Salty’s” once before and walked out with a bad taste in our mouths. However my partner had forgotten this and made them the destination for his birthday dinner this year. And as far as a lively spot in Penticton with an expansive menu and plenty of drinks goes, they certainly met the criteria, and he made the right choice.

A skull and cross bones marks the spot to their pirate themed restaurant. A theme noted on their drinks menu, and with the pirate and mermaid silhouette marking the respective washrooms between men and women.

Our group of 6 were able to reserve a seat on the covered side of their patio. Under a heat lamp and adjacent to a fire pit that would keep us warm all night. In fact the latter was so strong that a few of us felt like we were getting a heat stroke, and the others sweated through their t-shirts. We eventually had the staff shut the heaters off after realizing that lowering the setting didn’t make much of a difference.

Here, I will only be covering what my partner and I ate, with respect to what I tried and can now review.

We started with some drinks. Their fish bowls come in either the “Pacific” or “Atlantic”. I got the former which included blue curaco for this neon hue; along with Absolut citrus vodka, lambs rum, beefeater gin, olmeca tequila, and bar lime. This was a sweet drink that did the trick.

Following it I had the “Big dog”, a lime margarita on the rocks with an upside down Coronita. Exactly as I expected it to be. Here the sharp citrus was a nice change from the sugar above.

To eat, my partner had the exact same dish he had two years ago for his birthday, and it was as he remembered it. A 6oz Creekstone Farms black angus, sirloin steak with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. A thick cut prepared medium rare with a pink centre. Wonderfully partnered with the garlicky smooth whipped potato and the firm asparagus stalks.

I too went safe with their Pad Thai prepared with shrimp, chicken, tofu, egg, Thai sauce, rice noodle, and bean sprouts. Topped with roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro. Good, but a little too tangy with the amount of tamarind used. Chewy noodles with plenty of varying textures and the freshness of the raw sprouts. I was satisfied by it, but it was no where near authentic.

For dessert the birthday boy had a “Chocolate mousse cake”. Dark chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse, drenched in salted caramel and chocolate ganache, and served on a raspberry coulis. And he devoured the soften mass of chocolate it with his sweet tooth.

 

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.
The service was better today and this experience was certainly redeeming. An easy spot by the beach, with plenty to satisfy most appetites. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SALTY’S
1000 Lakeshore Drive, Penticton BC, V2A 1C1
250-493-5001
saltysbeachhouse.com

Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek

We were spending the weekend in Oliver, enjoying the guest suite at “Tinhorn Creek Vineyards”. So after our first night, we decided to take advantage of the proximity of our suite to “Miradoro” with a 2 minute walk. I do advise making a reservation to get the table you want; one over looking the valley or with Osoyoos Lake in the far distance. We were luckily enough to walk in early and grab one such table. Truly the patio is the place to be, to take in a view only available in the Okanagan. However, if you don’t get a table there, the dining room is still a classy setting to enjoy a delicious meal and some of their wines to pair at.

On the patio, the mild breeze and the gentle murmur of the other seated tables paint the scene to a relaxing meal. And the techno dance music playing overhead got everyone awake this morning, but its base and erratic beats didn’t add anything to the tranquil setting that rolled out before us. Here, I will recommend visiting earlier in the day to take in this view. After the sun sets and the valley gets dark, there really aren’t enough lights to light up the city before you.

This was breakfast for us so my partner had a Mimosa.

I opted for the “Tinhorn creek wine” flight to be able to get a more comprehensive taste of the winery. 3 3oz pours. You either pay $2 less for an all white flight, or $20 for an all red flight. I spent the $20 but got a taste of a white, rose, and red in my trio. And naturally I went for the priciest tastes as told by the menu price per glass. They each came in the appropriate glass and looked to be more than the promised 3oz. I wasn’t complaining. Oldfield Reserve Chardonnay, Oldfield Reserve Rose, and “The Creek”. Each easy to drink and great with our meal below.

To start with we were served a complimentary plate of sesame seed crusted focaccia, and a dish of olive oil with balsamic for dipping. The bread was so spongy and fresh, you fully enjoyed its taste paired with a soggy dunk in the tangy and salty flavours of the fine oil.

I had the grilled cheese with a tomato bisque soup. The latter was the special of the day. My aim was to order something that was easy to pack and could serve as a late night snack in our suite tonight. This worked. Kootenay alpine nostrala on focaccia, fruit mostarada, and crispy onions. Given how much was going on with this sandwich, I decided to not add prosciutto for $3 more. I liked the curve ball that the pearl onion and cooked raisins gave this rendition. This childhood classic was dressed up and make grown up with it and the crispy toasted bread and crunchy fried onion bites. All of which made this a stand above all the other sandwiches.

The soup was good on its own, but didn’t really do much as a side to the flavour packed toasted sandwich above. It was deep, yet light to drink; the tomato flavour was prominent, yet one toned and dull. And I would have liked the croutons that were quick to go soggy, served on the side.

After not enjoying the pizza he had the night before, my partner was determined to have a better experience with “Miradoro” and their classic Neapolitan style pies. The “Margherita with tomato, basil, fior de latte was pretty good; but the sauce could have had more seasoning for a more exciting flavour. But at least the basil was fresh and the generous globs of white cheese, delicious.

 

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 great place to visit in Oliver with tasty wines, dressed up plates, and a delicious view. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MIRADORO
537 Tinhorn Creek Road, Oliver BC, V0H 1T0
250-498-3742
tinhorn.com

Red Collar Brewing Co.

Today we were leisurely traveling to our destination and weekend stay at the “Tinhorn Creek Winery’s” guest house. We took the long way, dedicating 8 hours worth of scenic driving to the journey. And our travel brought us through Kamloops in time for dinner.

Here, we were looking for a lively spot to best celebrate my partner’s birthday at. And after a few circles around the city centre, we found ourselves at “Red Collar Brewing Co.”; Having spotted their busy patio from the road. They looked like a hot spot for a Friday night dinner and drink.

But sadly by the time we found parking and got there, all the patio seats were filled. And so were the ones in their outdoor room with a fireplace, couches around coffee tables, and no air conditioning. They had several such pocketed seating, each staged to mimic a well lived-in family room or hosting salon. They work because they looked comfortable and were seated in for extensive periods of time. We however were left seating ourselves indoors, on a spacious table, by the entrance. Here, we were able to keep cool in the concrete tap room, with fridgerated units of cans to go and growlers for filling, adjacent.

Seeing as they were a brewery first, I had to taste a sampling of their brews; and the best way to do this is ordering a flight. The following is in order of the strongest to the smallest ABV percentage.

“Impeachment” is a cloudy wheat beer brewed with peaches, for a slightly tart taste. The menu suggested it as a good starter beer for those trying to get into the world of North American sours.

The “Tripel” is a golden coloured Belgian ale of Trappist origin. The boiled coriander used in this gives the beer a dry and spicy flavour with an aroma of bananas and cloves.

“Alternative facts” is a cloudy IPA with citrus notes and very little bitterness.

“Mild”. This dark British style ale earned its name from its 4.2% ABV. It is a session with grapefruit notes meant to be enjoyed for its flavour and not alcohol content.

And my partner ordered a pint of the “Maibok”, a traditional German lager brewed in celebration of a German spring festival that takes place in April. At 6.4% this is one of their greater ABVs.

For food I went safe and ordered their nacho platter. It is typically hard to hit a miss on chips topped with vegetables and drizzled over with sauces. Tri-coloured tortilla chips topped with tomato, black olives, banana peppers, green onion, roasted peppers, and a chipotle sour cream drizzle. Quick to cool, despite all the spice from the banana peppers and chipotle sauce. Good, but I would have liked more of everything for a better chip to dressing ratio; but this came at a cost, $2-3 more on a $15 plate.

My partner ordered the “Smoked chicken pizza” and was disappointed. House smoked chicken, spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella. It also comes with roasted red peppers, but due to preference he ordered it without. And in doing so removed a necessary fresh component from the 12 inch artisan pizza. The pizza needed something light to cut through all the heavy flavours. The smokey and sharp hickory of the chicken over powered, and we found the pizza better without it. My partner went so far as to pick all the chicken out. But as a whole he didn’t like the pizza and ended up only eating the crusts and avoiding the actual build of the pizza.

 

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 great place for a drink, a great stop for the traveling beer enthusiast, and the ideal setting for catching up in large groups. Although I would stick with the drinks and maybe order finger snacks peanuts and pepperoni sticks at most. For the price, the time it took, and the taste I wouldn’t recommend ordering their hot food. This is your happy hour stop or your after dinner drink. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RED COLLAR BREWING
355 Lansdowne Street, Kamloops BC, V2C 1X9
778-471-0174
redcollar.ca

Locus Restaurant and Lounge

This long standing restaurant is a Main Street staple. For over 21 years it has been run by the same owner, serving their community dutifully.

“Locus” is better known for its eccentric decor. Artsy with oil painted portraits and a series of sculpted branches twisted above booths.

Even the washroom has a touch of their dark and rustic art aesthetic. Painted like a cave wall, this single stall depicts a drawn savannah setting with birds in flight and hoofed animals grazing on the plains.

Today we were invited down for a reintroduction and a taste of what the kitchen has been churning out most recently. A kitchen helmed by the same head chef for the last 5 years; who features plenty of seafood on his menu, drawing inspiration from protein and produce sourced from local organic farms. His offerings include a weekly revolving fresh sheet that at times can get adventurous with camel, crocodile and even giant octopus. Sadly, this was not one of those weeks.

The following is what we had, we ordered all that peaked our interest, or what we saw as something different and unique to the restaurant.

To start, we sipped on some chilled cocktails to beat the heat. With blinds up, our seats by the windows took in a lot of sun, and things got fairly warm. “The railbird” came highly recommended by our server and bartender. Bourbon, ginger beer, peach preserve, honey syrup, and fresh lemon. It was light on the ginger and strong on the alcohol. A great one to beat the heat with and still get the sting of alcohol that you are looking for in a double. (All their cocktails are made with 2oz).

The “War of the roses” is Pimm’s no. 1 gin, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, fresh pineapple, and cranberry. It was like a spiked ice tea with a strong hint of mint. I got some tang from the pineapple, but missed the cranberry completely. Here, it would have been nice to have either of the two fruits as a garnish. The drinks are tasty enough, but given that this was a Lounge I wanted things elevated, with more thought on the presentation. But at $10 for a double, I can’t complain.

“The Flirtini” was fun and filled full in a large martini glass. Stoli raspberry vodka, Cointreau, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, fresh lime, and sparkling wine. This was a good time in a glass, a great drink to sip on all night long, and get into trouble from well after.

As for our meal, we had a complimentary basket of bread brought out to us to start. Their potato wheat bread is baked daily by their Main Street neighbour, “Cobs Bread”. But the potatoes that are needed and the recipe that is used is all “Locus”. Said potatoes are first boiled in house, then walked across the street and transformed into the fluffy and airy slices of bread that now sat before us. You got the starchiness of the potatoes, but not their dense nature. Great as is, but better with either their spicy or sweet butter. The latter is a cinnamon and brown sugar spread served in the morning with their cinnamon raisin bread.

We were here just in time for happy hour cut off so ordered their “Crispy Brussels sprouts” as a starter. I am a fan of fried Brussels sprouts, so can confidently say that this is one of the better renditions. There was plenty of flavour and taste without extra grease or oil. Simple and clean greens salted with hard cheese and seasoned with cracked pepper for $7. It is worth noting that their happy hour runs from 3-6pm and 10pm to close Sunday to Thursday.

The “Cyprus Halloumi skewer” is not actually served on skewer, but simply prepared on one. Grilled Cyprus sheep’s milk cheese, basil-arugula pesto, toasted pine nuts, sun dried tomato, charred artichokes, kalamata olives, arugula, citrus olive oil, and cilantro sprigs. Altogether the assembly tasted great. Though the halloumi didn’t stand out like you would expect it to, given the name of the dish. I enjoyed its firm texture, but didn’t get much taste from it or any of its blackened char. As a whole this dish would have been great over pasta, flatbread, or salad. Tasty as is, but I left like it was missing a base.

From this week’s dinner feature menu we tried their land and vegetarian offering. If you were expecting dressed up dishes with contrasting flavour profiles, this isn’t them. The following are rustic offering in large servings. Sensible flavours and familiar pairings for hearty and comforting plates.

The “Surf n turf steak and frites” was pan roasted AAA Alberta beef strip loin in a demi-glace with grilled garlic black tiger prawns, Parmesan black truffle pomme frites, smoked paprika aioli, wild and cultivated mushrooms, and a seasonal salad with French red radishes. This was a good amount of food, small servings of everything for a balanced meal. We ordered the steak in a medium rare, but it came more like well, with very little pink. At least it was cooked tender and sliced for easy sharing. But it was the large and juicy prawns that were the stand out, along with the crispy fries. There was only a little truffle essence on the latter, but the paprika aioli gave each stick more than enough kick.

The vegetarian “Mac and cheese” was not as expected. When you read mac and cheese you expected a gooey cheese sauce over tender pasta. This was noodle and vegetable topped with cheese. Serpentini pasta, carrot, grilled asparagus, curly red kale, blistered heirloom tomatoes, basil arugula pesto, arugula, pine nuts, and micro greens. All the vegetables above were prepared individually then mixed together with the cooked noodles, and after the whole lot is topped with soft ripened Quebec cheese. It was a light pasta serving, not creamy or cheesy, more like a pasta salad in a non-tangy vinaigrette. It had a similar flavour as the halloumi appetizer above, but less punchy. A dish I would make myself when wanting to eat better, but not one that I would order again from a restaurant.

Our second pasta dish was a lot more satisfying. Pan seared wild spruce tip, chèvre (cheese made with goat cheese) gnocchi” with crumbled chè·vre, arugula pesto, grilled summer squash, asparagus, fresh strawberries, and a balsamic reduction. We ordered this one out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised by how much we all liked it. It had a similar pesto and vegetable flavour to the appetizer and other pasta dish above, but enhanced with the other ingredients. Ingredients that you wouldn’t think would work together, but just does. All brought together by the large, chewy balls of gnocchi deep fried for a crispy and doughy chew. Each irregularly shaped ball was great on its own, but best as a base for the crunchy and gritty pine nuts, the bitter squash chunks, the sweet strawberry slices, the grilled acrid asparagus spears, and the pops of salty goat cheese every now and then. And what originally seemed like a dish constructed as an afterthought was really a well conceived and very interesting entree. It is no surprise that this was the first dish we fully finished, leaving not even a single pine nut behind.

Our third pasta dish too felt flat by comparison, it too tasted like everything else; with similar seasonings, pesto, and like vegetables. Here, I wished we would have been given a warning of all the similar flavours, and that our server would have steered us toward dishes with their own unique flavours. “Seafood Spätzle”. “Spätzle” is a type of pasta that looks like lumps or threads, made from a batter poured through a coarse colander into boiling water. The texture of these noodle drippings were great, but with all the vegetable and seafood to sort through, it got lost. I would have liked a more simple dish, maybe just three vegetables or simply mushrooms and spätzle. Less to better highlight the feature ingredient and its texture, that you don’t find on too many menus. Fried sage and orange spätzle with Atlantic lobster, rock crab, Manila clams, jumbo tiger prawns, sockeye salmon, capers, caramelized fennel, snap peas, blistered tomatoes, curly endives, and mustards greens; all in a citrus herb oil.

I liked the simple beauty of the “Haida Gwaii BC halibut”. A pan roasted local halibut filet served with a torch Provençal lemon herb butter, grilled summer squash, roasted bell peppers, caramelized fennel, organic fingerling potatoes, spinach, and a Chardonnay halibut fumet. It tasted just like how you would expected it to with buttery smooth white fish and its crispy buttery skin.

To be honest, we were considering dessert, eyeing their blood orange cheesecake or Anjou pear featured strudel and bread pudding; however it was just so hot in the restaurant that I had to get out. I was boiling, and fanning myself with my cloth napkin wasn’t helping. Therefore our stay was cut short. So I guess that gives me a reason to return, and hopefully I can coincide my next visit with some adventures game meat. I have never had camel and didn’t know it was even an option in Vancouver. But trying this requires a keen eye on their website when their fresh sheet updated weekly, on my part.

 

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.
Their dinner menu was okay, but where they shine is their happy hour specials and offerings. Interesting small bites that I wish I got to take better advantage of. A handful of small plates partnered with their tasty cocktails, overlooking Main Streets sounds like summer time fun. $4.50 beers, $5.50 wines and cocktails, more Brussel sprouts, a miso poutine, halloumi fries; and nachos with charred corn, black beans and a pineapple salsa. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LOCUS
121 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6
604-708-4121
locusonmain.com

Improv Mondays with Michelle, Vancouver Theatre Sports

At this point I have been to a handful of improv shows, so I am not exaggerating when I say this has to be my favourite one to date. As our host of the night so aptly claimed, “this is the most fun you’ll have on a Monday night”.

Tonight was the first of many Monday performance to come, hosted by “Michelle”. This was her show, featuring actors she hand picked to work with. Essentially each challenge and scene was in the form of a familiar improv game. And with the audience’s suggestions our performers injected humour into every day people, places, and things. The only and most important difference was Michelle. She set the tone and the pace, really elevating the stage presence.

She was the hostess with the mostest, and this is the first time I can actually utilize that saying fully. She caught your attention with her elegance in sequin gowns and retro shoulder pads. They paralleled her bougie persona and dry humour. She had quick quips and great reactions to suggestions, and even her expression to her actor’s ad libs added to the over all performance. I don’t want to spoil the whole character for you, but I wish it was her actual personality, because it was larger than life and one that I aspire to.

To start, she welcomed the audience up by assuring us that we were at the place to be on a Monday night. And that drinking was the right course of action, as she herself threw back a cosmopolitan cocktail. Then she got us warmed up to improv by having us shouting out our names and favourite foods.

From there, she set up scenarios and threw curve balls for tonight’s actors. Act one had our players unable to look at one another, unless music was playing. Another game had them freezing in place at random, and taking over for one another, keeping their positions but changing the scene. I was especially impressed by their “four square” match. A game that had all four actors switching scenarios with rapid fire speed, backwards and forwards. This was a great way to see their talent and ability to think on their feet.

Act two had Michelle highlighting her improv chops in a group scene. Here, each player took on multiple roles and they tried to trip each other up. There was the suggestion of intense dialogue between two characters, played by the same person. And for individuals to give long winded explanations told through song. The scene was set with the audience’s suggestions and drama ensued. Tense music and elongated pauses. Secret romances and drug fuelled story lines. All the above a sneak peak at Michelle’s other acting project.

Tonight was the perfect platform for you to fall in love with her character and want more. The perfect time to introduce you to her YouTube web series. A comedic drama that takes place in the “fast pace” night life of Hope, BC’s restaurant scene. If your aren’t able to check out any of the upcoming shows on Monday, you should at least see what you are missing. The entire first season has been uploaded with the link to the first episode below. Spoilers, the ex is back in town with his new girlfriend and is coming for Michelle’s restauranteur crown.

Overall a great night of improv with a show worth checking out, a character worth visiting, and the most fun you’ll have on a Monday.

 

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

Prost Haus

 

Downtown Vancouver has a new new Bavarian beer and food hall. And in this post I was invited down for the grand opening, to check out all the fun. Located on the covered roof top of “Dublin Calling”, they have found themselves a permanent home; where as “Roof Top”, the reincarnation before, was only temporary. “Prost Haus” has their own entry way on Granville Street, and tonight you couldn’t miss them and their blue and white checkered motif. Past the podium, you walk up the stairs; towards their faux window, overlooking an Austrian castle. From here, you enter via their lounge area. High tops and wooden booths given some mystique with the tinge from red bulbs.

There are many more seats in the dining hall. Lengthy share style benches under the skylight; or more intimate seating by individual tables, towards the secondary bar at the back. Each table clothed in blue and white gingham. With matching blue and white pennants and flags hanging over head.

The German theme is furthered by a collections of beer steins on display behind lock and key, the largest gathering of mustard variations I have ever seen, and all the employees in their brown lederhosen uniforms. I am not sure if the dress code was solely for today’s grand opening festivities; but I hope not, as it really added to the fulsome theme and got me in a more celebratory mood.

Even the bathroom doors were marked with cartoon characters in German traditional ware.

There was plenty to drink tonight with a curated selection of beers on tap. We drank our fill and snacked on roving appetizers.

German pretzel balls with a beer cheese dip. Hard dough balls, only slightly moisten by the thick cream dip you poured over it. Clever presentation, but a messy one.

German pretzel balls with grainy mustard. Same pretzels as above, but with a zesty condiment.

Pork belly and red cabbage over crostini. By favourite bite of the night, wish I got more of it as a plate.

Spicy sausage and grainy mustard over sauerkraut. A great accompaniment to our collection of beer, but a slice is not enough.

Chicken schnitzel. A little dry, even with the cream drizzle. Could have used a little more seasoning as well.

There were also several help yourself fondue stations with vats of warm beer cheese and cubes of bread that you dip into with skewers. Would have liked more options to dip with and fo the cheese sauce to be punchier with sharper cheeses.

But it was lively polka music and their 10 person ski shot that really helped to jump start the party. The latter is a lengthy wooden stick the width of the room. It hangs on the wall when not in use, and requires two individuals to gingerly remove it from display. It is set up with 10 shot glasses and 10 guests wanting to partake in a shot front it. With glasses filled and on a count of 3, it is bottoms up as all 10 participants are forced to drink as one. Unison drinking as the stick moves from table to mouths.

 

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.
All the snacks were tasty enough, and even more so after the amount of beer that proceeded it. But as a whole there wasn’t enough of each for me to be able to paint you an accurate picture of their cuisine. But in terms of libation and ambiance, this was definitely the place to be. It is great to have a new themed bar downtown, one that is bright and happy, with that summer time vibe. With plenty of space, beer, and the salty snacks to pair with it; all you need is the right company. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PROST HAUS
900 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L2
prosthaus.com

WingDing Social Club

Today I was invited down to the newly open “WingDing Social Club”. A second floor walk up on West Broadway, reimagined as an event space for rent. And today we would get a first hand look at the space with its 16-foot vaulted industrial ceilings and its advanced audio system, all through their “luxe launch party”. The following is a recap of all the festivities during this inaugural launch.

The red carpet and congratulatory floral wreaths marked the spot. Otherwise one might miss the nondescript door with the letters “WG” engraved in glass.

You walk up a staircase and come up to a concierge desk. Here, they checked your coats and handed you your first of many drinks. There were plenty to go around and a handful of choices to set the mood. Wines in white or pink, or beer with a unicorn motif. Something to sip on as you chatted with friends and took in the fashion show.

A make shift run way snaked along the dance floor. The white dimple loungers to the side of it was ideal for taking in the sights. Everyone else planted their feet and found a spot to linger and watch at.

This was Luxesaint’s SS2019​ Collection, runway launch. “Luxesaint” is a feminine and romantic women’s ware brand by Tia Lacson from the Philippines. She and her collection were flown in for the occasion. Her work takes inspiration from various styles all over the world; with plenty of wispy layers, asymmetrical hems, delicate lace, and floral touches.

During the show and after we were serenaded by more Vancouver talent: jazz songstress ​Maya Rae​, and veteran guitarist ​Dave Martone​.

All the while, guests nibbled on canapés prepared in ”WingDing’s” fully furnished kitchen. Crafted by renowned Parisian Chef Eric Levy of ​“Prosper et Fortunée Paris​“, who was flown in, exclusively for this event.

Fresh fruit and cured meat on crackers.

Smoked salmon and asparagus slivers on bread.

Baked cheese rounds.

And a rich chocolate pudding with whipped cream.

Local artisan ice cream shoppe “Le Glacé” was also in attendance. They were scooping out mini ice cream cones for everyone. Available in their “Blue Sky Mocha” with cold brew coffee and dark chocolate, a sweet mango flavour, and their vegan coco pandan with actual shredded coconut.

And there we all were, enjoying the above in this unique space.

Founder Peng (Travis) Gao brought his social club to life with the belief that they are making a resurgence. And he wanted “WingDing” to be the first of its kind in Vancouver. A social club with the goal of being social; to help people get back to connecting through face to face interactions. He intends to do this by curating a gathering of “like-minded individuals from different cultures to meet and connect through customized culinary, musical, and recreational activities”. Simply put, offering intimate and thoughtfully curated social experiences to members. The number of which will be limited, to ensure the club is able to maintain the exceptional level of personal service in which it believes their clients want. And from here, Gao’s future plans include travel experiences for members. But first, their first ticketed event the “Prosper et Fortunée Paris Pop Up in Vancouver”. This is a dinner on Sunday, April 28, 2019. For $150 per person you will be treated to a “true Parisian culinary experience for far less than a trip to the City of Lights.” For more information visit the link below.

 

WINGDING SOCIAL CLUB
1928 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1Z2
wingdingsocial.com

Ramen Taka, Aberdeen Centre

“Ramen Taka” has opened a second location, and now you can get their Hokkaido style ramen in Richmond’s “Aberdeen Centre”. An opening that has already seen many line up to try their soup noodles, most notably finished off with a scoop of sizzling liquid lard.

Like their original location this new one is happy with a small cluster of tables, a few bar seats, and a family style large share table. The lighting is also the same; giving the room a golden glow from hanging incandescent bulbs.

The only empty wall space is home to their mascot, sketched in black and white. An eagle with out stretched wings looking fierce. Fitting considering, “Taka” does mean “eagle” in Japanese.

The menu is the same from Vancouver to Richmond, although it is worth noting that it has changed several times, since the popular Japanese ramen chain has made the Lower Mainland their home. They are here to offer up their traditional Hokkaido ramen, but are also open to their customer’s feedback. Each table has comment cards and pens, which gives the diner the ability to rank their food and service, as well as leave the restaurant suggestions on how they can improve. “Taka” has taken the latter to heart, and now offers up the ability to customize their ramen for your palette. Like the ability to have less or no lard. And more recently a creamier noodle soup.

Hokkaido style ramen uses a clear broth with plenty of lard, and is traditionally saltier than other versions of ramen. But for the Vancouver appetite they have created a “Vancouver special soup” that gives diners a heartier and ricer broth: paitan. “Paitan” is a creamy white tonkotsu broth made with pork bone. And today would end up trying both this new version and their classic, in order to compare the two.

But first appetizers, and their Hokkaido fried chicken that cannot be missed. An order of the “Zangi” is available in either 4 or 8 pieces. I suggest getting the latter because one taste is not enough and you won’t want to share. Juicy, white meat chicken with pockets of fat, made crunchy in a thick and jagged batter. Each nugget is gently seasoned to allow the natural flavour of the chicken to come through. Dare I say, this might be my new favourite place for fried chicken!

We also had to try the “Kakuni” given how delicious it looked in photo. The menu was right in describing this as “Melt in your mouth braised pork belly”, served in a pool of their tasty “special sauce”. The meat was so tender around the sinew of fat, and so juicy from the sauce it soaked up, that it had a different texture to it. Different than chewy and stringy pork meat; it was almost like liquid, which easily broke down from the weight of your tongue. The sauce was also super tasty, I didn’t want to waste a drop of it, so wished we ordered some rice to absorb it all with.

Next, we moved on to their ramens. Ordering two bowls of the “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu” flavoured with soy sauce. First was the “Paitan”, easily identified by the murky broth. Once again, this creamier version came to be due to the request and preference of their North American clientele. It was definitely creamier as promised, but the fullness of the flavour is missing. Something that you do get in full from their original “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu”, below.

I highly recommend coming for their clear soup noodles, this is what they are known for and you can get a version of the one above from every other ramen shop. But you can only get the “Dragon’s Dewdrop Shoyu” from “Ramen Taka”, and it is worth traveling for. This is a great light broth for first timers. It is simple and clean when it hits the tongue, but then unpacks its flavour the more you take in. Each spoonful leaves a film of oil on your lips, just so you know the fat is there. Here, you don’t need many toppings. The ones included simply add a change in texture; like the perfectly soft boiled gooey egg, the crispy to chewy seaweed sheet, and rubbery bamboo with its distinct bitter note.

The only down side, you can’t take anything you don’t finish home. When we visited, the lids of their to-go bowls didn’t connect. We were told to make it fit, and this photo is the result. We showed the server and he was satisfied with the outcome. I, however, was less then impressed; soup doesn’t travel well already, now you are adding a hole to the equation!?

 

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.
I would visit the downtown location first, due to its proximity to my home. Although when in Aberdeen and looking for traditional Japanese style ramen, this is the one to visit. A soup base like no other and sides so tasty. I would come back just for the chicken. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAMEN TAKA
Aberdeen centre, 2nd floor
2780-4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
ramentaka.ca

Battle of the Burgers at Hard Rock Casino

This evening I was one of six food writers and reviewers invited down the “Hard Rock Vancouver” (which is actually located in Coquitlam) for their newest feature: “Battle of the Burgers”. This would be the first of many competitions to breathe some new interest into the casino’s food program. It first launched on May 1st, 2019; inviting guests in to try one of six creative, limited edition burgers. Six burgers dreamt up by “Hard Rock’s” in house chefs and staff, and our group had the job of judging them all. We were also the very first to learn about this competition and to try it for ourselves.

But you too can try these new burgers over the course of May (ends May 31st). And based on customer’s purchases and votes, the winning burger will find a permanent spot on the “Asylum’s Lounge’s” (within Hard Rock) menu. For every burger ordered a vote is placed, and the customer gets a ballot. The ballot enters them into a draw to win free burgers for a year. (One per day, 356 possible burgers in a year). Similarly, there too is an incentive for the chefs who has their burger chosen as the winner.

Each burger is created by one of the very multicultural members of the kitchen. It serves as a good way to get them engaged and allows them to showcase their food on a plate. Each burger is named after a song or artist, a fact that is included on the burger’s bio, along with where its creator was born, and their favourite singer/performer.

Our judging was based on presentation, taste, and creativity. I mainly focused on the latter. I was searching for a burger that didn’t taste like any of the many others I have had. What were the chefs doing to take this their own.

The “Viva Las Vegas Burger” showcased Chef Fernanda’s mixed heritage and the familiar flavours she grew up with. This is a beef burger with chimichurri mayo, onion salsa, Italian sausage, pineapple bacon jam, kale, tomato, and mozzarella cheese; all on an onion bun. The zesty sausage was the stand out for this. Its heated flavour was well balanced by the tangy mayo and the refreshing salsa. A favourite amongst the judges. And although the menu lists it, there actually wasn’t any kale in this burger, but instead plenty of peppery arugula.

The “We Jammin’ Spam Burger” was my favourite, spam isn’t new to the game, but all that topped it was new to me. Chef Krisken from the Philippines, was inspired by his love of Bob Marley and surfing in this one. This gave you every flavour from salty and sweet to umami and bitter. Fun for the mouth and a winner for spam enthusiasts. Grilled spam, grilled pineapple, jalapeño jam, Japanese mayo, yaki nori, and cheddar cheese, on a onion burger. The use of spam was a flashback to my childhood. Here, the salty meat product was paired with familiar flavours. It had a Japanese feel with the crispy seaweed and sweet and creamy mayo; and a tropical flair with the juicy grilled pineapple. Our judge’s panel agreed that this was great, but it would have been made better with a fried sunny side up egg.

With the “Guinness in the Jar” I was looking for more of that classic dark and stormy beer to come through. You certainly smelled it when it arrived; in the form of a warming, beefy stew. White cheddar, Guinness braised onion, butter lettuce, tomato, and Guinness aioli on a brioche bun. Our chef creator for this one was Mark from Ireland. And his stewed onions in Guinness was the focal point of this burger. There was plenty topping the tasty beef patty, finished with the classic pairing of cheddar. Overall, a hearty and warming burger, and probably the best to pair with a pint.

The “Black & Blue Beatles Burger” is for those that love blue cheese, and I do. Although I wish it gave me something new to enjoy with it. Like some grilled peaches for some sweetness, or even some hot wing sauce, to play off that popular combination. Blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumble, cracked black pepper, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on beef patty, between a brioche bun. Here, the Chef Kulwinder did not fall on her background, but instead crafted a burger from what she liked and what she has found success in, in the past. Once again I did like the flavour and all the cheese, but tonight I was searching for something unique. Here, a mango chutney for sweetness and a nod to the Chef would have been nice. These were the creative twists that I was looking for. Next, I would suggest separating the battered and fried pickle spear that topped the burger, from the actual burger. Pickles and the blue cheese don’t jibe, both are very strong flavours that leave you craving something fresh and sweet to balance them out with. I learned the hard way and had a battle in my mouth.

The “Burger of the Stars” is by Chef Antonia from Venezuela. She tapped into her Mediterranean heritage for this, also pulling from Spanish and Latin cuisine. An olive tapenade mayo with smoked paprika, roasted red pepper, goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on brioche bun. The roasted pepper was plentiful and most pronounced, where I wish I had more from the olive mayo, to give it more depth. A tasty burger, but there wasn’t anything to set this one apart.

“Burger for the Weekend” is the brain child of one of the casino’s promotions manager. He went for chicken as his protein and focused on building a healthier burger. Our judging table was surprised by how much we liked this, especially considering there wasn’t a chef behind its conception. Johnny D simply had something similar in Hawaii and wanted to recreate it for “Hard Rock”. I liked the use of chicken to better highlight the array of toppings. I just wished that it was charred and jerked in rub for more of a blackened chicken flavour. This would have gotten along even better with the sweet chilli and the creamy avocado standouts. Here, I also wanted more sweet chilli sauce, and a thicker consistency, like spread for a stickier texture. Grilled chicken in a sweet chilli sauce with mayo, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, avocado, and cheddar; all on a brioche bun.

 

There you have it, six all new burgers eagerly awaiting your approval. So head down to “Hard Rock’s Asylum” to try them all, and vote for your favourite for a chance to win a black burger card and the ability to dine on burgers for a year! This is only around for the month of May so hurry down soon. And I suggest timing your visit for a weekend of live music, to fully enjoy the “Hard Rock” experience. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ASSYLM
HARD ROCK CASINO
2080 United Boulevard, Coquitlam BC, V3K6W3
604-523-6888
hardrockcasinovancouver.com

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