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

Month: July 2019 Page 1 of 4

Buttermere Patisserie Cafe

Popular online bakery, “Butter Mere” now has its own store front. After three years of providing Vancouverites with tasty and trendy cakes for all their special occasions, they have finally found the ideal location. A relaxed cafe setting to serve their confectioneries, conveniently close to their actual bakery.

Notable for their one line lion logo, a male lion standing on its hind legs holding a cake. They have taken over the old home of a now shuttered smoothie shop. And luckily for them, their predecessor’s modern decor with bleach wood accents, geometric printed counter, and fresh greenery transitions well to a bakery’s cafe space. There are several small tables seated in front of a wooden bench that ran down the length of the case, but grabbed one of the two nooks at either sides of the front door, for more private seating.

Their existing fan base has seen that their first week opened gets plenty of foot traffic. With many more walking in to experience their highly photogenic offerings in person. On top of full sized cakes for serving at parties, they have a showcase of individual sized desserts and cream rolls for point and ordering. The latter was sponge and cream in flavours like matcha red bean, hojicha, and chocolate strawberry, etc.

I started with their fun “ruby is the new black” hot chocolate. This is the hot version, but it is also available, just as pink, cold over ice. For those who have tried it, it tastes like chocolate milk made with the limited edition pink ruby Kit Kat chocolate bar, melted down. As deliciously creamy as you think it is. Though sadly only available in whole milk, with no dairy free or vegan alternatives; lest it change and clashes with the taste of the unique chocolate.

We did ask, and more vegan friendly offerings are in the works, with milk alternatives. Upon this visit they have only been open for under a week, and are still working things out logistically.

I paired the pink “yogurt raspberry cloud” with my matching pink drink. This was a uniquely textured cake, made using a mould created by an architect. It ate as fluffy as it looked, light and airy. Yogurt mousse surrounding a raspberry and cherry compote, over a crispy raspberry wafer. A dessert with plenty of textures and flavours to keep things interesting bite after bite.

But the highlight, and the one to order, if you can only get one, is their “Salted egg yolk puff”, it comes in a set of four, as you see here. A crispy, almost cakey shell hiding a sweet custard-like cream flavoured like the distinct salted egg yolk. A wonderful rendition of the trendy food item.

And for those looking for something more rich, they have their tiramisu in a glass. It was a great presentation, but hard to eat. You had to dig around and up to get the right mix of fluffy sponge, whipped cream, quality cocoa powder, and hint of Kahula.

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 celebratory cake, and a now a great cafe to have something sweet at. And seeing as they are the only dessert spot and/or destination for tea in the area, expect them to be busy! Don’t deny your cravings.

BUTTERMERE
636 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2W1
778-956-7789
buttermere.ca

Punch Bowl Festival 2019

This past weekend, on Saturday July 27th, Vancouver saw the first ever “Punch Bowl festival” come to life. This was a summer celebration of cocktails and spirits, under the sun at PNE’s fair ground. It was brought to you by the same folks who host “Hopscotch”, the scotch and spirits festival, every fall. It too is hosted at PNE’s, but in doors.

Today’s event was split into 2 parts, the daytime “tasting” from 12-3:30pm and the evening one from 5-8:30pm. The timed sessions allow vendors to restock in between and for more visitors to attend; with the evening spots selling out quick. I attended the afternoon one, as I prefer day drinking.

The sectioned off event is 19 plus so ID is require and guards are stationed to check them and ensure no one drinks too much. Thought at the prices they were charging, I don’t think that was a problem. The event runs on tokens, you need to purchase them in exchange for cash. At $1 a token (plus tax), taster sized drink offerings vary between $2-4. It is a great way to try new spirits and “bar hop” in the safety of a confided area, but I wish the prices were a little more reasonable. After all you are paying for entry, only water and the live entertainment is free. Anything you want to eat, taste, or try requires tokens; and if you don’t have cash on you, they charge you a fee to purchase them with either debit or credit.

As for the event itself, a series of tents snaked around the allocated grassy grounds. There were 50 plus vendors to explore, majority of which represents a brand of spirit, beer, or cider. The website mentions that “this isn’t a drinking festival but rather a tasting event where you can learn about how you, at home, can recreate the easy-to-make cocktails you see today” and invite you to “take the time to learn about the products, the bands, the drinks, etc.” However with the lines at the popular booths and the speed in which its attendants needed work, there wasn’t much time for dialogue between you and them. You simply read off their menu, pay, and walk away with drink in hand. At the less trafficked booth you were able to strike up a conversation.

Some vendors really followed through with their branding, putting forth elaborately decorated booths. These were the ones that drew the largest crowds and their money, myself included. “Beefeater London” gin was pretty in pink, mixing up muddled strawberry and orange cocktails.

And Ketel One Botanicals gave visitors a garden theme with the only cocktails severed in a plastic goblet, topped with a branded “K” stir stick. Cucumber & mint, grapefruit & rose, and peach & orange blossom vodka spritzers.

But out of all the little cups available, my favourite way to enjoy a cocktail at “Punch Bowl” was sucking on a mimosa freezie from the Cointreau booth. Even cut with mango & peach nectar sparkling wine this was not skimping out on any of the alcohol.

And to balance all the drinking, there were a few booths offering food. Including a few Vancouver chefs “showcasing their take on a west coast summer bbq” (as taken from their website).

Like B.K.H. grilling up their Singaporean style short ribs.

And bbq award winners “Smoke & Bones BBQ” and “Dixies BBQ” with their smoker. The two were competing to see who has the best ribs in the city. Guests were invited to try both at 12 tokens ($12 a plate) with sides like slaw and beans or coleslaw and potato salad. Then texting in their favourite of the two.

With so many booths to bounce around from, you could easily spend the afternoon drinking. Or simply lounging in their seating area, which included cushions under shade and wood games like corn hole and jenga.

In short, a successful new event that gave Vancouverites a unique setting to enjoy drinking and sun in one.

PUNCH BOWL
punchbowlfest.com

Calgary Trip 2019

Few months shy of a year ago, my girl friend and I bid on, and won at a charity auction. Our prize was redeemed as this trip.

Flight for two and a two night stay at the “Fairmont Palliser”, in town to enjoy a champagne hot air balloon experience. But sadly even with all the best planning, we could not predict the weather, as we got Vancouver-like rain in Calgary (which we were told is rare). Therefore we unable to go up up into the air in a hot air balloon. So instead, this post reviews how we kept busy and how much we ate and drank in lieu. Here is 48 hours in Calgary!

We stayed at the illustrious “Fairmont Palliser” and we maximized our visit with a room upgrade, access to their gold member lounge, a trip to the spa, drinks at their Hawthorn restaurant, and room service. For the full “Fairmont Palliser” experience, check out the link below.

Fairmont Palliser

 

The following is all sights we saw, the meals we ate, and the drinks we drank.

Our winning package included two $300 gift cards to sister restaurants “River Cafe” and “Deane’s House”. The former was located in a park, with a walk across a bridge over a river required, (hence the name of the restaurant).

It was decorated in a cabin theme with natural logs, worn furniture, and chairs assembled using branches. The bar utilized snow shoes for decoration, and its shelves were crafted from half a canoe. This rustic feeling and theme continued into the food and their drinks, like the “Cabin Fever”.

The “Cabin Fever” cocktail featured Forty creek whiskey, ginger, lime bitters, and soda. A refreshing drink that eased into our bottle of champagne.

Realizing that we wouldn’t be able to eat $300 worth of food. Nor would we be visiting anytime soon, so we decided to fully indulge with our gift card, using it all. And here, we had the “Pol Roger blanc de blanc Chardonnay”, a bottle of champagne priced at $204. This definitely set the tone of the trip.

For food we had the “Fogo island snow crab” with artisan sake kasu, Edgar farms peas, espelette chilli, cedar jelly, and spruce shoots. This was my favourite dish because I am a fan of peas and their pops of freshness. The sweetness of the peas played off the sweetness of the crab, whereas the pea shots added a mild spice to the mix.

In contrast we had the “Bison tartare” with Oat crema, pickled Saskatoon berries, puffed rice fife, and cucumber. This was another beautifully presented plate. Fresh flavours to accent the peppery meat. Tart berry and refreshing cucumbers, cut perfectly into cubes. Each balanced meat and vegetable bite was best paired with bread from our complimentary basket. It needed a base.

Similarly the “Fish and game board” was best enjoyed with its side of canola seed crackers for crunch and textural contrast. It ate like a fried and flaky pastry chip, topped with your choice of wild sockeye salmon, bison pemmican, goose ham, rabbit rillette, or coppa. “Coppa” is thinly cut slices of pork shoulder, a little sweet, with pockets of fat in all the right ways. The pemmican was like a chewier jerky that crumbled. I wasn’t a fan of the dry rabbit product severed chunky and cold. The goose ham was fatty, it reminded me of duck in its flavour. And the salmon was some of the freshest I have ever had.

At Deane’s House we had a similar indulgent experience, we drank more than we ate, also ordering the priciest bottle of champagne that they had. The $188 bottle of “NV Bruno paillard rose premiere cuvee”.

We visited during brunch so had their “Side stripe shrimp and Scotch egg” with pecans, deep water greens, and a chilli rhubarb vinaigrette. It ate like a salad, outside the soft boiled egg wrapped in a spicy herb sausage patty, then battered and deep fried. The shrimp lent sweetness, the pickled beets some tang, and the broccolini plenty of crunch.

We also enjoyed half a dozen fresh shucked oysters from the East Coast, served with a ginger and rhubarb minuet and their house made chilli sauce. The sauces made all the difference.

Still with a balance on our $300 “Deane’s House” gift card we furthered the brunch time vibe with two classic brunch cocktails, their seasonal mimosa with peach juice and a simple caesar made with “Walter’s Caesar” mix.

Throughout our three days and two nights we would hop in and out of bars and restaurants, stopping for a drink and/or small bites. They are the following.

After exploring the “Core” mall we ended at Calgary’s “Hy’s” for some bone in ribeye done medium rare. Because when in the province of Alberta one must indulge in some quality Alberta beef. And naturally if eating steak you must visit one of the best restaurants specializing in it. And the pair it with their buttery smooth whipped potatoes.

For drinks, I had their seasonal “Pink Wink” cocktail with Sobieski vodka, honey water, ginger beer, grapefruit, pineapple, and lime juice.

We then stopped at “Metropolitan” restaurant where I disliked the 2 cocktails I tried. The first was so bad that I sent it back, it also wasn’t made as the menu listed. The second cocktail was so sweet that pinched my nose to be able to take it down. The two were so horrible, that I will never eat at the restaurant because of them.

The menu described the “Silly sailor” as Sailor jerry rum, lime juice, house made grenadine, pineapple whip, pineaapple juice, and vanilla extract. I didn’t get any pineapple and the whipped cream topping was from a can, that I saw the bartender use.

I liked the idea of a “Brûlée sour”, but didn’t realize it would be so sweet. Bombay sapphire gin, amaretto, lemon juice, egg whites, sugar water, and brown sugar. It was at least torched like you would expect a creme brûlée to be.

Our next stop was “Murrie’s” for another drink and some nibbles. I had the “Weekend at Murrie’s #2” for the novelty of drinking out of a tiki mug. A drink as tropical tasting as it looks. Plantation pineapple, Bacardi 4 year, siderit, averna, freshly squeeze grapefruit, house made orgeat, and a sombra mezcal float.

My guest had another glass of wine and we shared some calamari coated in chickpea flour and flavoured with za’atar spice. A different twist to a classic, with a warmer and zestier spice note.

The next day we continued our drinking tour in Calgary’s Inglewood, which saw us shopping the local boutiques and pausing for a cocktail in between.

Two quick popular brunch cocktails at “Monki”, an eye catching bistro with its monkey skull and cross bones logo. We sat at their micro bar, sharing the counter with an impressive collection of quirky hot sauce bottles.

The “showstopper mimosa” gave you 0.5oz more of sparkling wine than a regular mimosa, and topped with a rotating juice feature. The “bad a** caesar” gave you a choice between vodka or gin and mixed it with tomato juice and their own “monki” blend of hot sauces.

We also took some wine to go from a local liquor store in the area. We were sold on this taller, usual bottle of red German wine.

But we spent most of our time exploring Calgary at the Calgary zoo, taking in the animals, the exhibits, and the fact that it wasn’t raining yet. We easily cleared 10,000 steps. There was so much to see, this is the largest zoo I have visited to date. Below are a few of my favourite photos.

Overall, this was a great trip, and now we have a reason to return. We have to come back next summer to try a second go at our hot air balloon experience. In fact, we have already booked our hotel for next year, with the intention to visit during the Calgary Stampede!

Fairmont Palliser

My girl friend and I were visiting Calgary for the weekend, and we were delighted to be able to spend that time at the “Fairmont Palliser”. We are fond of the “Fairmont” chain of hotels with their history and prestige. The “Palliser” is conveniently located in the centre of downtown Calgary, and we were within walking distance to plenty, however due to the rain we mostly kept in doors.

We upgraded our our 2 night stay, taking advantage of their “gold membership” status and perks. A designation that gave us a larger room on their 8th “gold member” floor and access to their lounge space, on the penthouse level. At the latter we could enjoy breakfast buffets daily from 7-11am and stop by for pre-dinner appetizers from 5-6pm. The lounge space was open until 10pm with a honour bar, board games, books, and desserts. There were plenty of seats and a view of the neighbouring buildings from it’s tall windows to look out at.

The breakfast buffets varied slightly from day to day, offering variety. Waffles one day and blueberry pancakes the next, scrambled eggs the first day and egg roulade the second, and herbed potato wedges versus crispy hash brown triangles. Constant were the selection of flakey pastries, fresh fruit, chilled juices, oatmeal, cereal, and hot beverages. Plenty to keep you happy and picking throughout any multiple-day stay.

We only enjoyed appetizers one day, but were told these too rotated. They were tasty, and if you ate and planned well, there was enough for dinner. Here, we enjoyed caramelized carrots with garlic beef, crispy fried chips, vegetables and hummus, and charcuterie.

With so many bars nearby, specialty liquor stores in the neighbourhood, and a artisan liquor program in the hotel itself, we didn’t take anything from the honour bar. Though liquors and wines were available for self pouring, you simply choose what you want and fill out a card that allowed them to charge your hotel room for it.

 

The best cocktails were at the “Palliser’s” hotel lobby lounge/restaurant. Stiff drinks made from local ingredients, in a historically captivating setting.

“The home grown” is made with their own Eau Claire “Hawthron” gin, “Fairmont Palliser” apiary honey, and “See Ya Later Ranch” Brut. An effervescent cocktail that gave you a taste of the hotel.

I noted their 105 specialty cocktail online. We had missed the weekend celebration with it, commemorating their 105 years, but one of the managers kindly offered us a taste with this glass of “Woodford Reserve Old Fashion” with citrus notes; grapefruit, lemon, orange, and strawberries.

I ordered the “Tea and henny” for its name and was thrilled at its pageantry. It was Hennessy VS, Cointreau, Lot 35 tea, syrup, lavender bitters, and cinnamon; served in a tea pot. You pour from pot to tea cup yourself, where we were surprised to learn that it is served chilled.

And here I must note how beautiful the “Hawthorn” washroom was, papered in pink and white flowers against a black background. Perfect for those girls night out selfies.

The only other meal we had at the hotel was room service. Seeing as we had a larger suite with extra tables and chairs we thought to enjoy it a little more.

A king sized bed, chaise lounger, couch and coffee table, and little nook for a desk/work space. Additional little perks included a traditional pant rack, bench at the end of the bed, and humidifier.

The washroom was outfitted with heated floors, a scale, make up mirror; and plenty of toiletries, should you need it.

Room service was delivered on a trolley that folded out to become its own white cloth table. As expected, the food wasn’t anything new or noteworthy. We were just taking advantage of its convenience.

Shrimp cocktail with tangy cocktail sauce and lemon.

Crispy battered chicken finger and fries.

The Garganelli pomodoro pasta with grana padano and basil was presto generic. It was flat in flavour with sweet under tones. Didn’t finish it.

Having time to spare (due to the poor weather), we also decided to indulge in a massage at their spa. And to our delight, was able to get two appointments on the day. We went for their standard “West Coast massage” that had our choice of aromatherapy between lemon grass or Japanese mint. I went for the whole body experience, starting belly down and ending face up with a towel covering my eyes.

I especially liked how she rubbed my feet with a hot towel and then wrapped each individual with another two heated towels. My session ended with a couple of rejuvenating spritz on my face, and her laying my robe over my blanketed body, with my slippers under the bed.

My registered massage therapist then waited for me to get dressed, waiting outside with a cup of water. I was invited to then enjoy their spa space. Reclining chairs in darkened rooms and a counter of tea and sweets to indulge in.

This was all by their indoor pool and hot pot that any hotel guest can enjoy.

The rest of our Calgary adventure we spent eating and drinking around downtown. For part two click the link below.

Calgary Trip 2019

 

FAIRMONT PALLISER
133 9 Avenue SW, Calgary AB, T2P 2M3
403-262-1234
fairmont.com/palliser-calgary

Green Leaf Sushi

Today I was at the “Green Leaf” located in Kits, based off of a recommendation. And seeing how many people were waiting to enter right when they open at 5pm, alongside with me, it seems like I made the right decision. Here, it was nice they had benches around their exterior to seat those waiting.

We grabbed a couple of seats by the window bar. The space is maximized with short, narrow tables, a necessity given how they all quickly filled 15minutes after they opened. And throughout our stay, the restaurant saw a continuous turn of people sitting, eating, and leaving. Not including all the take out and food delivery orders.

As for the decor, it is more about what materials they used and where, as apposed to a collection of artifacts or art. Tile floors, panelled walls, wood block features, and wooden table and chairs. What didn’t seem to fit was the type of music being played. I found the classic styling of Frank Sinatra a little too jazzy for this causal, fast food, sushi and Japanese shoppe.

When it came to the meal, I liked the option of having either hot or warm tea. I choose the ready to drink room temperature version.

As for the food we shared a collection of items that jumped out at us. The “Aburi tobiko roll” is filled with wild sockeye salmon, cucumber, crab meat, and tobiko; topped with oshi sauce and green sauce. It was a tasty roll, especially with the crunch from the toasted tobiko, and the warming heat from the jalapeño. I would order this one again.

But I would skip the “Kani-ume oshi sushi” the next time around. Real Dungeness crab, tiger prawn, ume oshi sauce, and crispy capers with ume dressing. You could taste the quality of the crab, but the amount of mayo used was overwhelming. It needed more tang to cut into it, and I didn’t find the salted plum or the capers complimentary or effective in this regard.

Our server mentioned having uni in today, so I took advantage, by adding $6 a piece to the “Uni meshi ishiyaki” rice bowl. I ordered two pieces and they gave me two smaller ones when the second piece didn’t measure up. I ended up enjoying them as is, to not take away from their creamy flavour.

As for the mushroom bowl base it was shiitake and shimeji with rice in a hot stone bowl, served with a seaweed sauce. It also comes with a side of miso soup. It was like a Japanese style risotto with the sweetness of the shiitake mushroom coming through. The green onion added freshness and any excess uni acted like a creamy fermented egg to help sauce up the rice.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on the what we had, and all the creative menu items we considered, I would definitely like to return to try more. Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN LEAF
3416 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6R 2B3
604-568-9406
greenleafcafebc.ca

G-men Ramen Steveston

We were in Steveston and looking for lunch. Though this being a Saturday, the historic fishing village was busy and all their popular spots saw lengthy lines.

So wanting to eat sooner than later, we stopped at the new ramen place that just opened up, Steveston’s first. Although, had I known the restaurant was without air conditioning, I might have reconsidered our idea of hot noodles in broth on a hot summer’s day. None-the-less here we were, two amongst many with the same idea. We were able to grab two stools at the very back bar. And there we would be ignored by the busy staff, after we ordered and they delivered our two bowls of ramen. To paint a better picture, it was a struggle to get our bill to settle up and leave. This was despite a line at the door for those wanting to dine in.

I went for their most popular choice, the miso ramen, I added butter and corn to it for $2.50 more, and added an egg for $1 more. Authentic chicken and pork broth with their homemade miso seasoning and thick noodles. This was already a rich serving, and I don’t think the butter made a difference in that regard, except for additional calories. I did like the sweetness the corn added and how they popped with each bite.

My guest ordered their “RCMP” ramen advertised as being “addictively spicy”. She too added an egg, because after all ramen isn’t the same without a soft boiled egg. It was exactly as she expected, spicy with a bold red broth, but manageable in terms of heat.

Everything was good, but one bowl isn’t enough to properly assess the restaurant, especially since their menu is one of the largest I have ever seen at any ramen place. On top of 8 different types of ramen and all their variations, “G-men “ also offers plenty of appetizers from mixed nuts to a chicken dip with crackers, raw octopus to pickled squid. They have salad with and without seafood or meat, plenty of sashimi as is, seasoned and in combos. There are rice bowls and poke bowls, and a section just dedicated to deep fried and bbq items.

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? – No.
I wouldn’t travel all the way to Steveston for ramen, and when there I would choose somewhere to lunch that better showcases the town. However, for the locals this serves as the only, and therefore best place for ramen in Steveston. Don’t deny your cravings.

G-MEN
3711 Bayview Street, Richmond BC, V7E 3B6
604-275-4636
gmenatsteveston.com

Giovane Cafe, revisited

My friend has yet to try one of “Giovane’s” popular sugar buns, so when looking for a meal downtown, we headed to “Fairmont Pacific Rim” to indulge.

I find myself frequenting “Giovane”, not necessarily for the food or drink, but instead for the shopping. This unique cafe caters to hotel guests, and as such is attached to a gift shop of sorts. Here, they don’t offer your name on a key chain, or any tees that read “I visited Vancouver and all I got was this lousy tee shirt”. Instead they have a collection of great gifts like hand poured candles, colourful stationary, gourmet candy, men’s leather goods, and onsies for babies. And they frequently rotate this assortment, making them a great place to get any gift, for any occasion.

But I digress, we are here for the food. The “carbonara” with pancetta, egg yolk, shallot, garlic, and Parmesan. The pasta noodles were incredibly fresh, perfectly prepared with a firm chew in mind. This was lightly dressed in a creamy sauce, and salty with bacon and cheese. Although it was one tone and the flavour did wear out.

The “pescatora” with shrimp, baby clam, white wine, tomato sauce, and basil; gave you fresh seafood flavours with tangy tomato. This too needed more depth of flavour, although the mix of shellfish did help to keep things interesting.

Overall, I am more excited over “Giovane’s” desserts then their food menu. Their sweet offerings are a lot more whimsical, creative combinations that change with the season. One such example is the “Pineapple ube” cake. It stood out from behind their glass showcase. And the best way to order dessert is with your eyes. I liked the contrasting colours of purple and orange. You could taste the pineapple and feel it’s fibres against the crispy layers. But I missed the ube completely.

And my guest loved the “matcha sugar bun”. A crispy coating of sugar over chewy bread, filled wall to wall with a fluffy cream. It wasn’t too sweet or too bitter with the matcha. Just a great treat to enjoy with coffee of tea.

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.
The pastas were good, but not memorable, there are a handful of Italian places I would get my carb fix from first. But for dessert, “Giovane” is superb. Cakes perfect to celebrate an occasion with and desserts idea for indulging in. Don’t deny your cravings.

GIOVANE CAFE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G8
604-695-5501
giovanecafe.com

Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot Restaurant

Despite the seasons, Chinese-style hot pot tends to be a consistently popular destination for those wanting a little more involvement in their meal. You cook up your own dinner, customizing it from which broth base you use to what ingredients you put in. And at “Liu Yi Shou” they offer a few more options to make your experience even more interactive and personalized.

For the tutorial on how to maximize your hot pot experience, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

First “Liu Yi Shou” has happy hour, plenty of wine and beer on special. I suggest sharing a pitcher with your friends. With all the spicy and flavourful ingredients, beer makes for a great in between sipper. They also have plenty of can sodas and fruit pops available, and even coconut water you drink right out of the fruit. So start with this as you explore their very extensive menu.

And while you work out your order, or wait for it to come and boil, you can start nibbling on their “Cheese fondue”. This is a new menu item, and one that you don’t often see at a hot pot restaurant. Not just melted cheese, but their fondue is mozzarella flavoured with tomato. It is served with a board of hot dogs, celery, and chicken wings for dipping into. I really liked the flavour of the cheese dip, it had a comforting, gooey tomato soup feel to it. But despite the lit tea light under the individual fondue bowl, it does cool quick. Although it doesn’t congeal, so you can come back to what you don’t finish in between your hot pot, as a flavour changer.

You can also order their popular marinade appetizer dish. This is an assorted platter of quail eggs, bean curd, pig’s ear, and pork hoc marinated in a soy sauce blend. It is enjoyed cold or at room temperature. This you eat more for its textures of squishy, spongy, chewy, and rubbery.

Today I was dining with hot pot experts and they made sure to order the most unique of all the option, plenty of which are exclusive to “Liu Yi Shou”, starting with their tri-soup pot. You can enjoy 3 different flavours of broth, altogether in one pot. Ideal for those who get tired of a one flavour boil; or for those who can’t take their food spicy, dining with those who only like it spicy.

We had the chicken with coconut soup base, the wild mushroom soup base with Chinese herbs, and the spicy and numbing hot pot. The latter was extra special, it came with a block of tallow shaped like their cow mascot. “Tallow” is saturated beef fat, it is higher in calories than butter, but healthier and better tasting! The hotter it got, the quicker he melted, and soon he was face first in a pool of chilli and peppercorns. Not only does this make the soup more indulgent, it also help to cut into some of that hot, hot heat. And if you order the chicken and coconut soup base, you get a plate of raw chicken complimentary, to cook within it.

In an effort to save table space, our platter of finely sliced lamb and beef is served on a wooden ring, that fits perfectly around our hot pot. From here it is easy to pick up a slice and dunk it into any broth. Both cook up relatively quick, and after 5 dunks you are ready to eat it.

But as waited for all the soup broths to boil, we made our way to the back of the restaurant, to their help yourself sauce bar. At some hot pot places I find I get bored of the taste, that everything is boiled up the same, and has only the one flavour throughout. Here, you can customize your own sauces and curate the flavour, so that anything you don’t like is on you. Mix and match from sauces and oils like spiced vinegar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, satay sauce, mushroom paste, and bean curd paste, etc. Toss in some minced and chopped dry ingredients like sugar, green onion, toasted soy bean, mashed garlic, preserved turnip and peanuts; for texture and chew.

And while we were busy mixing and creating to our heart’s content all our ordered ingredients began arriving one platter after another. The beautifully plated, raw food comes out quick here.

A wooden box of leafy greens and various mushrooms.

Fish paste moulded into two hearts. This you scoop and drop into the broth for it to boil up and harden into a solid ball.

A platter of shrimp, cuttlefish, pork and beef, pre-formed balls.

An interesting one were these tubes of bean curd that you dip into the pot for 3 seconds. They act like sponges, soaking in the broth and offering a distinct ribbed chew.

For the adventurous you can order a platter of intestines and organ meats, for a more traditional hot pot experience. Pig’s blood, beef tripe, ox aorta, and goose intestine. I would also consider this, one that you order more for its textures, each with its own unique chew or gelatin-like consistency. The aorta had the same chew as squid rings, the tripe was so tender and easy to bite into, the intestine required more jaw work; and the savoury pigs blood had the texture of pudding and jello combined.

But the highlight and feature of our meal was definitely “meat Barbie”. A Barbie doll repurposed. She was dressed in strips of angus beef that you peel of her torso or cabbage base and add into your soup. At her feet is a garden of raw seafood. Shrimp in shell, fish puff, mussels, fish, and sticks of imitation crab. A visual treat, as well as a tasty one.

And for those who actually still have room for more, “Liu Yi Shou” does have dessert, offering something sweet to end on. Like their red rice cakes that you dip into condense milk or a sweet syrup. I did try one, but after all the food above, I felt ending on anything rice related or starchy a little much.

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 like their creativity and the broad offering of their menu. They aren’t just a place for hot pot, but serve as a stop for happy hour as well. Cold drinks and small snacks or dessert. They offer regulars and occasional customers reasons to return with plenty of variety to try and taste. And as the first hot pot place to have franchises all over the world, there are many locations for you to get your fix at. Don’t deny your cravings.

LIUYISHOU HOTPOT
1542 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C2
778-379-3977

Grapes & Soda

I have been meaning to check this bar out, so when looking for an after dinner drinking spot, in the South Granville area, we headed down to “Grapes and Soda”. And to our delight, their head bartender, 2018 best bartender of the year, as voted by “Vancouver Magazine”, was behind the counter mixing tonight.

With its patterned vinyl on the all windowed exterior, you can’t really tell what’s within, if not for the bottle cap logo on the sandwich board, and the flag hanging off the side of the building.

Inside, the little space is a lot more intricate. It has a similar vibe to all the other dark and intimate bars I am familiar with, in the Chinatown area. It leads with a well stocked shelves, 3.5 rows of bottles packed in together tight, and a collection of botanicals and bitters on the counter to speak to their mixing program. The restaurant is spooky and dark, with cozy space saving pockets, and parchment wrapped lights, offering a little illumination. Seating runs down the length of the room, across from the actual bar that continued into their kitchen. Our group of 5 shimmied into the booth by the door.

Interestingly, on the back of the menu was a message, making note of the drawers under each table. Guests were encourage to use these as a place to house their cellphones, a place to put them away securely, and to not be tempted to pull them out for the duration of your stay. However, the fear would be then forgetting them there.

When it came time to order I went for one of their soda cocktails, considering this was their specialty and name sake. Today’s special was a red coloured soda with umeshu, gin, lime, whey, and shiso. They are premixed and pre bottled, served with a glass of ice and bottle opener. It was a easy drink with hints of plum and lime. I didn’t get any of the distinctive shiso flavour though, not that I wanted any.

I liked the look of the wide and short coupe that the “Tempest” cocktail came in. Blackberry, mezcal, coffee, lime, egg white, and a chilli tincture.

The “Lassi legal” drank like a creamy dessert. Kaffir lime, cachaca, kefir, coconut, cucumber, mint, and cilantro.

They can also mix up any of your favourite classic cocktails like this “Spanish gin & tonic”. Basically, anything but a highball, as they don’t carry grocery store sodas like coke or sprite.

We didn’t order any food, but for those looking for a light snack to accompany their drinks they do small plates. Bread and charcuterie boards, vegetable heavy seasonal dishes like cauliflower, peas, and zucchini; and fruit forward desserts like Mille feuille and strawberries and rhubarb with ice cream.

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 fun place for some creative cocktails in the South Granville area, and out of downtown Vancouver. I would love to frequent here if not for the need to travel via skytrain and bus to and from, if I plan to drink multiple glasses. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAPES & SODA
1537 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver BC 6J
604-336-2456
grapesandsoda.ca

Go Blue at Fiore

From July 18-29, 2019 South Granville is giving foodies a reason to trek up and down the strip, with their “Go Blue” festival. This is South Granville’s first ever blueberry-themed event. Over the next 10 days, a number of restaurants will feature BC blueberries in limited edition menus. And the retailers who don’t offer food, will be celebrating blueberries in their own way.

On the first day of the festival we were at “Fiore” where they had plenty of blueberries across their drinks, appetizers, entrées, and desserts. This cute little Italian restaurant, just off 12th avenue, is a bit of a hidden gem. They are brought to you by the same owners of “The Stable House Bistro”, another South Granville staple. Their goal is to make the neighbourhood more lively, and I can attest to that considering I use to work in the area and before the two, there were very little options in terms of where to eat or drink.

“Fiore” is a smaller restaurant, ideal for intimate conversations. Their space is pretty straightforward with wood tables, over a hard wood floor, and faux leather booths towards the back. The most memorable part of their decor was the central light fixture, outfitted with an arrangement of dried plant life. It set the tone of our rustic meal to come.

We got right to the blueberries, starting with their two themed cocktails. The “Blueberry negroni” with blueberry infused lillet, blueberry gin, and Campari. And the sparkling “Blanc de blue” cocktail with blueberry infused lillet and Prosecco. Both were a beautiful bluish-purple from the fruit’s colouring.

For appetizers they had two salads finished with blueberries. We got the “blueberry panzenella, with fresh blueberries, grape tomatoes, arugula, focaccia, and blueberry vinaigrette. It was a salad described as having plenty of croutons by our server, which sounded right up my alley.

Their antipasti platter also came with blueberries, a few in the compote that the single arancini ball (small fried ball of rice coated in breadcrumbs), sat it. The platter varies and today ours came with a lentil salad with pickled onion, a green fennel salad with smoked Gouda, a Spanish salsa, their housemade sausage patty, pepperoni slices, crusty garlic bread, and a dish of olive oil and balsamic. This was a lot for $20, and if you want more, they have a $40 and $60 board available for greater sharing.

Their blueberry entree is a “Blueberry and balsamic pork roulade”, served with summer vegetable and fried polenta. It was a fulsome dish with plenty of depth, well balanced by each thoughtful side. Juicy pork, starchy polenta with nice crunch, fresh green salad, and a sweet blueberry sauce.

For those who don’t want blueberries, their regular menu is also available. Like their “popular arancini ball”, similar to our one above, but with three times as many, and a beet gelee to enjoy it with. And you can’t tell in this photo, but each round is dyed pink on the inside from additional beet juice. Crispy and light, this made for a great tasty start.

The “Pappardelle bolognese” is one of their more popular pasta dishes with tender noodles coated in a slightly sweet tomato sauce, finished with salty Parmesan.

Their risotto is a lighter rendition of the firm, yet saucy, classic Italian rice dish. It is topped with mint, zucchini, and parsnip.

We were too full for dessert, but there is more blue to be had there. For more blueberry focused dishes, and what each restaurant is bringing to the table visit the link below.

GO BLUE ON SOUTH GRANVILLE

 

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.
A great intimate spot for classic Italian in the neighbourhood. And I am glad that they need other South Granville restaurants are giving diners additional reasons to visit them this summer. What a creative campaign. Don’t deny your cravings.

FIORE
1485 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver Bc
604-558-1485
fiorerestaurants.ca

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