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Month: September 2019 Page 2 of 3

Havana Vancouver

We had just completed an improv class in their theatre, so went to the restaurant after to celebrate. “Havana’s” facelift has been completed for a while now, however this was my first time experiencing it.

The first half of the restaurant is as I remembered it: dark with scrawled on brick. The gallery that I once visited is now a secondary dining area. A pink wall between two pastel green ones, surrounding a mustard yellow bench. Wicker baskets are refurbished into lamp shades. And hanging greenery and a lone cati help to create a more tropical island feel. Not to mention the oil painting portrait of a man smoking a large cigar.

Our celebration began with pitchers of their “Classic mojito” and “Red Sangria”. The former was a refreshing citrus cooler, the latter a punch with both apple and orange juice.

The rest, were appetizers and small plates that we shared family style. The “Cheesy poblano + corn dip” was my favourite. A skillet of cotija cheese and pickled Fresno chillies melted, and made gooey for a stretchy cheese pull. A dunk into dip that you can either make with fried tostones, fresh tortilla chips, and/or Cuban fry bread. Out of the three I preferred the crunch of the chips for this lumpy yet smooth, sweet, yet salty dip.

The “Avocado tostones” were twice fried plantain, cotija cheese, and pico de gallo. The base had the texture of thick mashed potato, made further lumpy by the mound of chunky avocado and juicy tomato. Texture-wise, I was missing some crunch. Flavour wise I was missing some seasoning. Although this may be an inadvertent comparison between this and the dish before.

“Tostones” twice fried plantain chips served with a tasty avocado and lime dip. I enjoyed the thickness of the chips and how they are cut length wise for a more fulsome feeling. Great texture to crunch through, the perfect starchy base for the tangy sauce.

The “midnight snack croquette” is one I would order again. Mojo pork (a Cuban sauce made with garlic and olive oil or pork lard), Swiss cheese, pickles, cohiba aioli, pickled onions, and crackling. This is everything in one ball. Crunchy breading, gooey cheese, crispy bites, and chewy bits. Nothing to dislike.

They were kind enough to prepare a gluten free dish for one of our guests, by way of roasted cauliflower. The same kind and flavour that was featured in the “vegetarian flatbread” below.

House cashew cheese, charred corn, squash, roasted cauliflower, cohiba sauce, and mojo vinaigrette. A tasty collection of vegetable over toasted bread that could use a little dressing, something to give it a vinegary tang.

I preferred the “creole prawn flatbread” with grilled prawns, pickled onions, provolone cheese, avocado mousse, and shoestring potatoes. It was a great collection of ingredients that came together and brightened up one another.

Worth mentioning is their bathroom decor. A fun patterned and papered wall worthy of a selfie.

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 spot for chill vibes and great shareable snacks. Photogenic for those who want to up their selfie game. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAVANA
1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X4
(604) 253-9119
havanavancouver.com

Improv Class, presented by The Vancouver Improv Festival

In celebration of the upcoming “Vancouver Improv Fest”, one of the largest improv festivals in North America; we were at Havana’s. Here, for an improv class, promising small bites and “liquid courage” as a reward for a job well done.

Our teacher for the night would be acclaimed improv professional, and festival associate, Patrick Dodd. He would help us get over our fear of the stage and making a fool of ourselves in front of a live audience. (I might be projecting here.)

Our group gathered in Havana’s theatre room, (one that I didn’t know that they had). An intimate group of 11 in an intimate theatre. With classic wooden auditorium fold out chairs in three rows, focused spots lights on a low ceiling, an all black stage with matching curtain, and the theatre’s name splashed against a colourful geometric mural at the back.

We were a group of writers, producers, and members of the media. Regular folk who don’t necessarily have much experience in public speaking, let alone on the spot improvisation. So we were eased on in with some warm ups. These were games designed to help encourage fast responses, and help us make eye contact.

“Zoom” had us sending claps to one another, back and forth. Each round getting progressively harder with more rules, like saying the person’s name that you are sending the “zoom” to. And then saying the name of the person, but not looking at them.

“Bunny bunny” has us chanting in unison, and loosening up with dancing and hand motions. The result, keeping pace with some another while doing our own thing. This was a great lesson in listening.

Similarly, we were tasked with counting to 20, one at a time, in no particular order; and with the goal of not speaking over one another. We had to look around the circle, and read those around us. Messing up, meant we had to start all over again. This activity helped with our “group mind”.

Next, was a lesson in positivity. When setting up a scenario you need characters and conflict. But where it is easy to “start a fight”, for the sake of a scene; it is better to agree for the progression of the story. For example if improver one’s character points out “hideous tartan curtains”, instead of disagreeing with him, improver two’s character can agree with the sentiment to move alone the plot. When it comes to improv, it is not about trying to outshine your teammates, but working together to both shine.

We further focused on positivity, while practicing our emotional acting by offering each other imaginary gifts, and feeling so very grateful by the gesture.

I enjoyed the activity that had us crafting every day objects with our bodies. We had the number of people required and the object assigned to us; and then was told to do our best to recreate it. We would have to remember our pose and who we got formed it with, to later come back to it and them. In teams of 2 we made a dune buggy. In groups of 3 we were a Ferris wheel. In a foursome we made a dinosaur attaching the other group’s dino. And all together as a group, we did our best to become an airplane. However, settled for 2 propellers and everyone making the noise of them slapping again wind, while moving in the same direction.

And finally, for our last activity, we tried our hand in an actual improv game. In rows of twos, we paired off and worked on giving vivid detail to set up and finish a scene in 3 lines.

All in all, everyone came out of the class with smiles on their faces and the feeling of accomplishment on their shoulders. Myself included. And this was just a little work shop to introduce us to improv, and to get us excited for the festival the following week.

However, I am considering taking more classes after this. Not only are they fun, but they help in public speaking, creativity, thinking outside the box, and facing your fears. In fact, for those reasons above, I started my YouTube channel. A way to practice my public speaking. While I edit my videos, look at myself, and plan how to improve my speech and what to improve on in general, for the next one.

If any of the above is of interest to you, check out the link below, on where you can take an improv class yourself.
https://vancouverimprovfest.com/workshops/

As for details on the festival next week, you can visit their website for more. “The 21st Vancouver International Improv Festival will run September 24-29, 2019 at The Cultch. This year’s festival features performers from across North America and beyond, including Andrew Phung, Kim’s Convenience; Stephnie Weir, MadTV; Rich Talarico, writer from Key & Peele; and Lamabati, one of Israel’s leading and longest-standing improv groups.” You are encouraged to get your tickets now!

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL IMPROV FEST

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Pre-Passions Event at Pacific Yacht Charters

Today we were treated to a hint of sun, so we took advantage of the clear skies, and set sail with “Pacific Yacht Charters”!

We were gathered aboard to celebrate the upcoming Passions Gala, in support of the Dr. Peter Centre and the Dr. Peter AIDS Fountain. Their work is focused on providing food, support, and therapy to those suffering with HIV/AIDS. Doing so with the belief that “the most basic building block of health comes from the food we eat”. Each year the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation prepares approximately 96,000 meal for approximately 500 people living with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, housing insecurity, and various substance use disorders. Everyone enrolled in the program has access to quality food twice a day. Enough to ensure that they meet their daily nutrient requirements, which is critical in helping with all or any “hefty medication regime”. The result, a program that boasts the best food for any social service program, anywhere.

Our evening started with drinks and canapés, meeting board members and recalling our favourite “Passions” memories from years past. Not to mention getting teasers on what we can expect from this year’s festivities, on its 16th year.

We drank organic wine, enjoying our watery backdrop.

And grazed on artisan olive oil dipped in to with fresh crusty bread.

We picked at a cheese platter with crisp crackers.

And snacked on revolving small bites like black bean quesadillas. Mashed bean and soften tortilla full of zesty flavour.

The beef tartar with Parmesan cheese and red onion was tasty, but the crumbly bread-y base had me wishing for a crunchier cracker.

The herbed chicken skewer was nice with its lemony finish.

And before our evening wrapped up all the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation community and board members were acknowledged, its staff thanked for pulling everything together; and the man that started it all: Nathan Fong, was recognized.

Nathan took the stage, recalling how he started the event over 16 years ago. It all began with a cooking class he held and the request to have him throw a cocktail party in support of the foundation. Back then his first go yielded 9 Chefs and 100 attendees, raising $7,000. Fast forward “Passions” has raised 1.6million to date. An impressive feat considering this is one of the only charitable organizations that donates 100% of all its profits to the very foundation it is fundraising for. If you haven’t heard of this event before, this is definitely not the one to miss. Over 20 restaurants and chefs rolling up their sleeves and cooking for a cause.

The following is a list of which restaurant attendees can expect. An impressive list representing the breadth of Vancouver’s culinary scene. New to “Passions” is “Cantina Norte” (coming to North Vancouver in 2020), “Hydra”, “L’ Abattoir”, “Ancora”, and “Fanny Bay Oysters”. Familiar annual favourites like “ARC”, “Beaucoup Bakery”, “Boulevard”, “CinCin”, “Forage”, “H2 Rotisserie”, “Honey Salt”, “Joe Fortes”, “Market by Jean-Georges”, “Minami”, “Notch8”, “Pacific Yacht Charters”, “Provence Marinaside”, “The Observatory”, “Togo’s”, and “West”; will be back for 2019.

For those interested, there are a few tickets left. General admission is $225 per ticket. It includes unlimited small bites from all the participating vendors above and drinks by mixologists from “Elisa” and “H tasting lounge”. For $300 per ticket you can upgrade to VIP status. If you are planning on attending, this is the ticket you want. VIP ticket holders gets in earlier, with first access to all the food and drink stations, glasses of bubbles, and a VIP gift bag to close out the night with. And once again, it all goes to a great cause. 100% of your ticket cost goes directly to support the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood; and their 7 day a week, 24 hour licensed care residence, and enhanced supportive housing program.

Speaking from experience, attending last year’s occasion for the first time, and bidding on and winning one of the large auction prizes; I can tell you this occasion is the one to be at! The preeminent food and drink event in the city; the one that every foodie needs to attend at least once. Entry includes the ability to hob knob with a room full of talented chefs, while gorging on their delicious dishes; all in support of a great cause.

For more information on next week’s highly anticipated gala, check out the link below, and be sure to get your tickets soon! I will see you there!
https://www.drpeter.org/events/Passions/

 

PASSIONS 2019
1110 Comox Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1K5 604-608-1874
www.drpeter.org
Facebook: DrPeterAIDSFoundation
Twitter: @drpeterAIDSfdn
Instagram: @drpetercentre
#Passions19

Long Table Dinner at Singletree Winery

“Handmade and Homegrown” with Tourism Abbotsford

Today I was invited down to Abbotsford to learn more about their new marketing campaign: “Handmade and Homegrown”. We gathered at “Singletree Winery” for a harvest themed event, which spoke to “Abbotsford’s booming agricultural scene, unique food culture, and fall offerings.

The heavy downpour put a damper on the evening’s plans, but with an erected tent and enough rain cover, we made the best out of the wet situation.

Our arrival began the reception, where we were treated to a welcome glass of “Singletree’s” sparkling wine. A light effervescent sipper that paired well with the large help yourself charcuterie board in the corner. This was a rustic platter of assorted meat and cheeses supplied by “Lepp Farm Market” and “Mt. Lehman cheese”. You grazed on the above, pairing it with crisp crackers, rye and sourdough loaf, seeded bread, and crusty baguette. Then dipped and spread your way through beetroot and chickpea hummus; roasted pumpkin, chilli and tahini; and eggplant and roasted garlic baba ganoush. There were also pickled bites and fresh fruit to nibble on. Pitted olives, pickled artichoke, strawberries donated by “Maan Farms”; and candied walnuts sweetened with honey from “Campbell’s gold honey farm and meadery”.

We grazed and chatted while awaiting the main event: the grape stomp. This will be my first ever grape stomp, and another one crossed off the foodie bucket list. The only thing I was missing was being able to pick the grape from the vine, and then drinking the squished product. For hygienic reasons, this is no longer the way juice is extracted from grapes, so it was a treat to be able to kick it old school, literally.

In groups of three we lined up behind the giant buckets filled with grapes still on stem. Then all participants stomped their hearts out, competing to see which team would produce the most juice. Speaking from my own experience it was fun, but tiring. Grapes between your toes, juice splashing against your ankles, and a warm foot bath waiting for you when your turn is done. Our team did not win, but everyone, who got to try, won in experience.

For how the stomping went, and the rest of this one of a kind night, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Then it was time for our long table feast. Two tables set under the glow of strung up lights. Each laid with grape vines and silver plated chalices filled with actual grapes. They set the tone and spoke to the farm land we were dining on.

Our dinner was prepared by “White Table Catering Co.”. It featured plenty of local produce and products from neighbouring farms and businesses in Abbotsford; much like the charcuterie board above was. Their menu was created to reflect the transition of the season from summer to fall.

We started with the “zucchini veloute”, a luxurious soup. Soup so thick and creamy that it ate like dessert. It was given more depth with the roasted tomato tart finish. It was a two bite flaky pastry, topped with a micro herb salad for some freshness.

The next dishes were served family style, featuring locally grown vegetables. Platters that were passed from person to person as we took our fill and went back for more. The two salads were heartier, and exactly like how I want all my salads to be. The “Turmeric cauliflower salad” was crispy florets sweetened by bits of dates and pomegranate, given spice with coriander, and tang with yoghurt. I could eat this and the green salad below, every day.

The “Ladolemono salad” was green bean, asparagus, almond, and radish. More crispy vegetables, seasoned perfectly in butter, to allow them to shine through with their freshness. And the almonds slivers and the radish slices offered a different kind of textural crisp.

The “Roasted eggplant” was seasoned in Mediterranean spices, served with a thick Catalan tomato sauce, raw red pepper, and goat feta from “Mt. Lehman cheese”. You must like eggplant to enjoy this one; but if you don’t, the flavourful sauce and salty cheese does help to mask both the soggier texture and distinct taste of the purple vegetable. Good, but I would have preferred this as side to the chicken below, instead of a main on its own.

I much more preferred the “Roasted Brussels sprouts” with lemon yoghurt, dehydrated strawberries, more “Mt. Lehman” goat cheese, and crushed up hazelnuts. Another well balanced vegetable dish that gave you a great collection of tastes and texture to sort through. If I had access to such dishes more regularly, I would be a lot more healthier.

And lastly “roasted chicken” with a squash and pumpkin purée, and a corn and heirloom tomato succotash salad. This was my favourite of the savoury dishes. Tender and juicy quality chicken breast from “Rossdown Farms”, paired with every taste and textured side I would want with my lean chicken. Starchy purée, sweet corn, and juicy tomato.

And for dessert, it was one of the most beautiful panna cottas I have ever had. Roasted plum compote, pistachio, edible flowers, and honey from “Campbell’s gold honey farm and meadery”. A perfectly light dessert to end on. Just as fresh and beautifully done as all the courses before it. Tart plum and a silken pudding flavoured mildly like coconut. Conversing with my table mates, everyone else enjoyed this and their meal just as much.

And with dessert we enjoyed the 2015 Late Harvest Kerner from the Okanagan Valley. This smaller bottle of sweet dessert wine, left a great impression on everyone. It was so tasty, that I would mind just drinking this for dessert.

And with the first 6 of our 7 course meal we enjoyed either/or, or both a red and white from “Singletree’s” collection. Their 2017 pinot gris made from grapes grown in the Fraser Valley, and their 2015 Harness with grapes gathered from their vineyards in the Okanagan. Both wines perfectly reflecting the theme of “homemade and homegrown”. “Singletree” is terroir driven, they focus on the grapes that naturally grow well in this climate, thus giving you a true taste of Abbotsford.

You may have missed this culinary experience, but you can still enjoy the hospitality of the “Singletree Winery” through their events and use of their property. “Wind-down Friday” hosts local musicians as they perform live. And on any dry day, you can grab a seat in their licensed picnic area. Pull open a book, or see if you can spot some of the wild life that visit. The wild animals can be caught nibbling from the wild fruits that still grow in the area; seeing as the property use to be the largest fruit orchard in the city, with a focus on blueberries. Black bears, deers, and birds of prey.

SINGLETREE WINERY
5782 Mount Lehman Rd, Abbotsford, BC V4X 1V4
(604) 381-1788
singletreewinery.com

#handmadehomegrown
#cultivatedcity
#exploreabbotsford

Samsoonie Noodle & Rice

Richmond’s “Dumpling Trail” brought me to “Samsoonie” for some Korean style dumplings.

Located in the corner of an outdoor plaza, you might miss it, if you didn’t know what you were looking for. Luckily the map on the “Dumpling Trail” brochure is easy to navigate. On a Thursday mid afternoon the restaurant was empty. All its wooden tables and chairs left un-sat. It was a homely restaurant with hand written signs, various ads for alcohol posted throughout, and their featured menu items projected on a blank screen towards the kitchen.

We grabbed a seat by the window and began sifting through the tiny print of the fully laminated menu. It was easy to read with the names of dishes written in English, Chinese, and Korean characters.

When it came to appetizers you had your choice between dish size. A larger serving for a about $4-6 more. We started with the “Pan fried dumplings”, a crispy shell housing pork and green onion filling; just as the brochure recommended it. It was charred and chewy, best serve still order.

Another dumpling option is their “Boiled wontons”. Easy to chew and swallow in one bite. I tasted the pretty distinct flavour of sesame, which got diluted from the extra water pooling at the bottom of the dish. The sauce below helped in this regard.

Before our appetizers arrived, we were given a bowl of chicken broth soup, a side of chilled bean sprouts, spicy kimchi, and a vinegar based dipping sauce. As I mentioned, the latter complimented either dumplings well, if you wanted more zip.

To round out our meal, we followed our two appetizers, with something more concrete. The “Beef bulgogi” came sizzling on a hot plate. The crackling oil fully cooked the beef, giving it a charred essence, along side the hefty amount of onions and cabbage in this. There were plenty of flavours to enjoy with the side of rice. Although it would have been nice to have some sauce for the rice, and for it to become more crisp from its time on the hot plate.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall, a great option for Korean cuisine in Richmond; with not only Korean classics but their take on Chinese and Japanese cuisine as well. Come for the dumplings and stay for the noodle and rice. Don’t deny your cravings.

SAMSOONIE
8211 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC V6X 1A7
(778) 297-7798
samsoonie-noodle-and-rice.business.site

Parklane Chinese Restaurant

With so many possible dim sum locales in Richmond, it is hard to sort through them all and pick any given one. Especially if your best options are within walking distance of one another. Today I was here at “Parklane” thanks to Richmond’s dumpling trail. If not for the brochure and guide, I would not know that this place existed. Especially considering it is within spitting distance of “Empire seafood restaurant”, which also serves dim sum and is more well known with triple the square feet. But reality is “Parklane” is just as good, if not better. This is due to the smaller dining crowd they have to tend to, and the staff’s ability to see to them all. We even had the managers checking in on us and asking how everything was. A rarity, in my experience.

Their is nothing really standout about the restaurant decor wise. The typical patterned carpet under foot, a series of round tables draped with white cloths, and light fixtures bedazzled with sparkling crystals.

The menu is easily a novel at 117 options. You read and check off what you want with the sheet and pencil provided to you, when you sit. My guess wasn’t all that familiar with dim sum, so I kept our orders relates to the “Dumpling Trail”. She was able to reference the brochure for what she liked visually, with a description to boot.

I ordered the classic “har gaw” and “sui mai” combo. Dim sum for beginners and guaranteed to please with its comforting flavours. The “Steamed shrimp dumplings” were packed with prawn loaf, chewy chunks under a starchy shell. No complaints.

The “Steamed pork dumplings” had the same shrimp, but to it more pork. The pork meat reminded me of the kind you l get in a serving of steamed short ribs. Tasty and tender, with bits of fat interlaced.

The “Deep fried taro root dumpling” is either something you hate or love. A very unique dish that gives you crispy battered shell, chalky mashed taro, and gummy minced pork at the core. I liked the taste okay, but the mix of textures aren’t my favourite.

I much more preferred the “Deep fried green tea balls”. The menu didn’t list it, so I was surprised to discover a core of liquid salted egg yolk cream, hiding under the layer of chewy green tea paste, and crispy fried dough my shell. Best fresh, and soggy with oil if you try to reheat.

In short the “Dumpling Trail” does not disappoint. Another great restaurant vetted by Tourism Richmond, and one worth checking out for tasty dim sun and delicious dumplings.

PARKLANE
7997 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC V6X 1A4
(604) 273-0888

Hot Star Large Fried Chicken

My guest and I met up and started our meal with dessert, so now after four cakes we were both craving for something savoury, salty, and hearty. Her mind went straight for deep fried chicken, and lucky for us, Richmond has a new one.

Made popular in the lower mainland by the Richmond Night Market; and the ability to pose with a slab of chicken, larger than the size of your head. That was “G-Star”, a replica of “Hot Star”, originating from Taiwan. My guest believed that someone saw how well “G-Star” was doing and decided to bring the original rendition to Canada, as this franchise.

The restaurant is pretty straightforward. A row of tables on either side. On the wall on the left was a series of photos presenting the extent of their menu. Easy to entice, easy to order. Photos of their chicken in its various formats, and a couple of their drinks.

On the right hand side, a visual instruction on how to eat their chicken. The recommended first bite, where to watch out for bones, where the meat is the juiciest, and which pieceto end your meal on.

You walk up the the back counter and order from there. Which might be intimating when the restaurant is empty and they have 3 employees behind it, and two more visible in the kitchen, awaiting your decision. The menu is splashed above the counter, a series of drinks, followed by their specialty chicken steak, more chicken served different ways, and the sides. The latter was interesting, not just your typical fries and slaw with chicken, but spring rolls, corn on the cob, rice, and even fried buns.

However, it was disappointing to see that parts of the menu was listed as “coming soon”, with menu images obscured by the declaration. Disappointing, because I wanted to try their melted cheese stuffed chicken, and their regular take on fried chicken.

Nonetheless, we ordered to dine in, but they don’t have any plates, plastic or otherwise. They suggest eating off the paper bag, over the plastic one, you receive with your order. It was too hot and too hard to eat holding it, so knife and fork over plastic it was. And needless to say, it wasn’t an easy or great dining experience.

Having tried the large steak from “Big G’s” I can’t help but compare the two now. And right away, I can tell you they aren’t the same. Two completely different products with the same premise. A hammered out and flattened piece of dark meat chicken, battered and fried with a series of available seasonings. This seasoning mix and their textures is where they differ. I found “Hot Star’s” salt and pepper original cutlet more saltier and more tangier for starters. And the meat juicier at “Big G’s”.

What looks like a lot of meat is actually, 40% bone and you are left scraping what little meat there is left to better satisfy. I had the “Korean large fried chicken”, but didn’t taste much or any of the sauce. I felt it was stickier in texture because of it, and did make out the sesame seeds that were stuck all over it. But it didn’t taste much different than the regular below.

My guest got the “Original large fried chicken”. Available in salt and pepper, seaweed, spicy, plum, and curry. She enjoyed the former the most. Once again, not much different than mine, just more of its gritty crusty texture coming through.

Things did get salty, so it was nice to have a drink and side to help change the taste. I found their soda the perfect palette cleanser, especially my “Blue curaçao yogurt” drink, its creaminess cut through the deep fry easily. My guest enjoyed her “Grapefruit mojito” just as much.

But the real star of our meal was the “fried king oyster mushrooms”. They weren’t too dry or too chewy. The mushrooms popped with juice and gave the meal some freshness.

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 go out of my way to avoid a revisit, but they won’t be my first choice for fried chicken in Richmond. Don’t deny your cravings.

HOT STAR
1623-4791 Mcclelland Road, Richmond, BC V6X 0M5
(604) 370-1955
hot-star.ca

Moo19 Cake Boutique

Seeing their cute cakes online, I was eager to try them for myself. So when I was planning on meeting up with a friend in Richmond, we made this one of our destinations. “Moo19” started off and specializes in wedding and event cakes, customized elaborate works of art. And today they have their very own cafe. A location to pick up orders and have a slice or two as you wait.

You walk into their small cafe and are immediately taken a back. A picture of decadence and luxury compared to the out door strip mall that they are a part of. The decor has the makings of an upscale wedding reception, to match their gourmet confections. You don’t know which way to look first.

From the window, a display of cakes lures you in. Like a cityscape, 4 towering cakes sit perched on free standing pedestals. One resembled a cascading tower, another a merry go round, and there was even one made to look like a snow globe with “glass” bowl. If this spoke to the desserts before us, we were in for a treat.

A crescent moon or giant letter “C” (depends on how you look at it), decorated in gold paper flowers and white leaves sits on the floor. An old prop, turned into a fun photo op.

Past it, is a collection of grey tables and chairs, framed in gold; the former branded with the cafe’s logo. They matched the counter behind, and the shelves that arched around it. Here, is where you place your order. The cakes pre-made behind glass, and waiting to be chosen. Similarly, the drinks slow dripped and ready for pouring at a whim.

Coffee and/or tea is slow dripped through a specific contraption that looks like an hour glass. Melted ice pools through a paper filter, each drop collected in a pot, waiting at the bottom. Enough liquid to fill a glass at any time.

You couldn’t tell what was what, and the menu was no help. Chinese characters beside monochrome photos. When I asked for the English version, there was none; and when I asked the clerk behind the counter what each option was, she wasn’t able to articulate. She had to run to the back to have it translated.

Given all that effort, we felt obliged to order a couple of glasses. A peach ice tea and a grapefruit iced tea. Both light, with faint hints of their promised fruits. Good enough, but not necessarily worth the $6.25 asking price. But then again, I didn’t get to learn the full extent of the beverage. It was however, a decent pairing with our desserts below, given they both weren’t that sweet.

Based on the menu, the signs, and the language proficiency of the staff, it seems like they were only catering to mainland Chinese patrons. Not even other Chinese dialects, with the simplified Chinese characters used.

I should have clued in when I saw the LED quote at the back of the room. My guest wanted a photo with it, until she tried reading it and noticed what it said (or didn’t say).

But at least their cakes were signed with English name cards. You definitely order with your eyes here. The first few single serving cakes are shaped like coconuts, Rocky Mountains, and prickly rounds. The second set of cakes, the more classic sponge layered with cream slices; and a couple of rolls, round out their collection. And we were able to try one from each.

Due to the lack of English and communication defunct, the manager came out from the back and offered the “uji matcha roll” to us, complimentary. And we were very appreciative that he did. This ended up being our favourite of the 4 cakes, and the one I would recommend if you are ordering for taste. The slight bitterness was highlighted well, it played off the sweetness of the cream.

I ordered the the “Litchi raspberry cheese mousse cake” and the “mango pineapple mousse cake” for presentation. The former was Aladdin themed and inspired. The rich reds and blues reminded you of the magic carpet. Inside this perfectly spray painted bulb hid 5% cake, 5% raspberry jelly, and the rest foamy and smooth mousse. The flavours jibed well and the dessert was easy to eat, minus the guilt of destroying such a splendid piece of art. Even the hand craved feather was edible, but be warned: mind the tooth pick at its centre.

Similarly the “mango pineapple mousse cake” was a visual treat. A solid white chocolate teddy bear sat atop of a bulbous cloud. You had your choice between the bear covering his ears or one concealing eyes. It was either see no evil or hear no evil. Similar to the mousse cake above, this was more smooth foam than cake, with very little sponge and gel. Tangy with the tropical fruits, but so light you couldn’t differentiate between the two.

For more sponge and a more classic flavour, look to the “Ferraro shortcake”. Sponge cake and cream layer by layer. It had a very faint chocolate flavour to it, more milky cream than anything else. I would have also liked more hazelnut flavour, or to be able to taste it a little.

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.
Overall a great little cafe for stunning desserts and plenty of photos ops. I will definitely keep this one in mind, to see what else they come up with (hopefully it will be listed in English), and for my future exorbitant cake needs. Don’t deny your cravings.

MOO19
165-8171 Ackroyd Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 3K1
(604) 750-6666
moosartstudio.com

Gomae, vegan meal prep

If any of you are following my instrsgean stories, you know I am trying to eat healthier. So when given an opportunity to try Gomae meal prep, I jumped at the chance. A week’s worth of lunches packed and ready for consumption, after a spin the microwave.

But first placing your order. “Gomae” supplies “Zero waste meals delivered for your week”, either starting Sunday or Monday, both for the same price of $47.99. Either, with plenty of dishes to choose from, from off their website.

Each order gives you four choices, all delivered in their reusable containers and bags. And to assure their customers on its cleanliness they ask for each container to be washed after its use. They even give you detailed instructions on how to properly clean each box and lid, online. The washed containers will be later exchanged at next week’s delivery. After, the same containers are put through a complete sanitization process before being reused for the next set of meals.

The reusable containers they use do not absorb odours, meaning they keeping the meals within fresher for longer. It is completely BPA Free, dishwasher-safe, freezer-safe, and microwave-safe. For the latter, it is suggested that you heat the food up in it to 212°F.

As for the actual food, your available choices are from some of the most sustainable vegan restaurants, food trucks and food experts, in Vancouver. This collected menu changes every Saturday morning, so there is plenty to keep you interested for subsequent orders. As for delivery, they can simply leave everything at your front door, if you’re not home. The food comes in a cooler bag with an ice pack so it stays fresh for a day.

When it is time to place a subsequent order, you are already signed up for their weekly meal plan, so will need to either select the next set, or opt to skip it. Either option needs to be made before Thursday at 11:59 pm. This isn’t to scare you away with commitment, there are no obligations, and you can delete your plan at any time. But if you don’t “Skip or Select”, the “Gomae” team will choose the next set of meals for you, for your convenience. And when they deliver this, they pick up last week’s bags and containers, and exchange it with the fully prepared meals you have selected.

Based on the options available, I ordered the following as the ones that peaked my interest the most. The thorough description, calorie count, and vivid photos help.

Their “Jamaican curry” was a hearty beans and rice dish that didn’t have you missing meat. Comforting with an interesting mix of portobello mushrooms, carrots, and plantains. All served over brown rice and peas(red beans), with a side of roasted sweet potato and sautéed red cabbage.

Their “Kale Caesar” was made by “The Juice Truck”. A mix of romaine, kale and radicchio served with sriracha chickpeas, smoked maple tempeh, walnut “parmesan”, chipotle coconut bacon, and fresh lemon. It is packaged well with dry toppings and wet dressing separate, for you to dole out as you see fit. This salad was a good variety of textures and flavours, so you don’t get bored eating it. The dressing was the highlight, creamy despite it being nut based.

This was a gluten free lasagna with artichoke, eggplant, vegan mozzarella and cashew based ricotta. Served with a side of sautéed seasonal greens. By far the best of the four items. The artichoke was a great interpretation, it gave the lasagna the meaty feel I would otherwise have missed.

The “Spinach Veggie Wrap” was the easiest to have on the go. Rolled tight for easy dipping with a side of sweet mango chutney. Inside, there was plenty of cabbage, wild rice and Indian spices. I was genuinely surprised by how flavourful it was.

I am a fan of the premise and liked how easy it was to order. Where the disconnect was, was with the delivery. The person who dropped it off was insistent that we transfer all the food into our own containers and return theirs and the bags right away. The only problem, they delivered to my partner’s work place, where there is no kitchen, let alone containers to repackage with. They eventually let us keep the containers saying they will be back to pick it all up the next day. So when I got home, I repackaged them all and cleaned the original containers, readying them for pick up the next day, as promised. However, it is now 2 months later and I am still trying to give them back their containers. Given the experience above, I opted out of another set of meals, so now they don’t have a reason to return, I guess.

So for those who are looking for the commitment of meals delicately weekly, they are a great option. And especially valuable if you are vegan and looking for diversity in your meals.

GOMAE MEAL PREP
gomaemealprep.com

The Magical Brunch at the Fairmont Vancouver

As soon as it posted, I purchased my tickets for this unique high tea experience; thus saving on the early bird pricing. Held at the “Fairmont Vancouver”, I had high hopes of grandeur, coupled with dreams of castles and happily ever afters; like those belonging to Disney princesses. It was advertised as being Disney-themed, but not directly connected to, or affiliated with the “house of mouse”.

To skip the reading and just watch the highlight reel, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Based on the event’s website, I expected decorations and plenty of photos ops, so planned to stop by early to enjoy those without a crowd or wait in line. However, this was not the case. Early or not, everyone was hoarded into a ballroom and told to wait in a line. A ticket checker in Mickey ears then came around asking to scan your passes. And there we stood, impatiently waiting until 15 minutes after the advertised event start time. It was planned at 2hours, so while holding my breath, I wondered how will they make up for the loss of time? $75-80 is steep for high tea. The venue made up for part of it, but the experience left me wanting more.

There are 3 different sittings throughout the day. The earlier brunch sessions were family friendly, while the evening’s festivities was adults only. High tea and sit down service in the AM. And a cocktail and canapé style event, with over 4 hours of entertainment, in the PM. I rather sit and take in the setting, than chase rotating small bites. Plus, we did plan on drinking, and preferred to do it during the day. We took full advantage of the alcohol available to purchase, but it would have been nice to be greeted with a welcome glass, to set the mood.

You trade cash for drink tickets, and use them to purchase your choice of beverages between classic martinis, craft beer and bottled wine. With a $2 difference between deluxe and premium labels. We enjoyed premium white wine, but wished for sparkling; I felt like that would have been more princess-like.

Seating is first come first serve, wherever there is room. Each table is named after a Disney movie or theme. “Jungle book”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “enchanted tiki room”, and/or “golden zephyr” (to name a handful). We grabbed two seats at the latter, only to have two families with small children join us. We ended up swapping tables, in search of one only seated with adults. This was to ensure that our drinking would go without judgement. Seeing as the room was split in two, with the dance floor down the middle, it would have been nice to split the guests by under 19 and over 19; with the bar centrally located in the latter.

Each table is preset with the necessary dish ware and cutlery, along with two tea towers for everyone to share. One of each item, for each person. However, you can get away with seconds if your table mates passed on theirs.

The menu for high tea was posted before the event, so I knew to be disappointed when we didn’t get what was promised. This was especially the case for the finger sandwiches.

Instead of a “Smoked Salmon & Dill” sandwich, we got an open faced cucumber and cream cheese with green onion. An easy and light start, but not the same without the salmon.

The listed “Roast Beef Horseradish Creme Fraiche” was actually ham and white cheese with mayo and zesty mustard. Once again, good, but not as good, when you know what you should have gotten.

I did like the “Chicken Salad” sandwich. I am not sure if we got what was planned, but it was delicious, and my favourite item of the brunch. Flavoured with fragrant curry, it was definitely memorable.

The online menu also mentions a “Tomato & Cucumber” sandwich as the fourth, but we only got three.

The “Freshly Baked Scones” were buttery soft and crumbly. Each person had two: one plain with powered sugar; the other, slightly salty with baked cheddar cheese. Good as is, but for those who needed a spread, there was “Whipped Cream & Fruit Preserves”. The latter, a nice mellow apricot.

The “Selection Of Petit Fours” did not disappoint. Other than the juicy raspberry tart with custard in a buttery crust, they were all decorated to today’s theme.

A mini chocolate cupcake with chocolate disks to represent Mickey Mouse and his ears. It was spongy and moist, best consumed in one bite.

The sugar cookie was shaped like Cinderella’s glass slipper. They even got the perfect shade of pale blue, to match her iconic ball gown. It was not too sweet, but buttery like the texture of shortbread.

And my favourite was the swirl of meringue, made to look like Olaf from “Frozen”. He was the most animated with chocolate arms and a whimsical facial expression. You felt bad biting into him, and having him crumble on to your tongue.

At the beginning of the service, servers came around to pour coffee or tea, and later again to clear any empty glasses. But the whole brunch felt pretty much like self serve. You get up to get your own drink, you use tongs to grab an item off the tea tower; and if you need anything else, you have to search for an employee to get it.

As you ate, actors recreated popular scenes from your favourite Disney cartoons . All set around “Beauty and the Beast”. Belle and the Beast are spending time together. Belle is recalling her favourite fairy tales, retelling them like stories, with the Beast listening intently.

Belle starts things off by welcoming everyone, and asking them to “be our guest”. She sings this large musical number, alongside her fellow princess friends.

Next, Ariel explores her underwater world and recalls her collection, though showing and telling.

Flynn and Rapunsel sing around her freedom and what the future holds for the two.

Then Aladdin takes Jasmine on a magic carpet ride, all the way “to a whole new world”.

Elsa proves that you don’t need anyone saving you, as she belted out: “Let it go!”

After, Belle and Beast took to the dance floor. There, they re-enacted the moment where they fell in love, mid waltz.

Then humoursly, the “show” closed with all the actors getting together to sing their favourite Disney song, “Hakuna Matata”; nodding well to the upcoming, live action Blockbuster movie.

Those who knew the words sang along to all the songs above. However, with all that was going on, and all the young kids walking through the dance floor with careless abandon, it was distracting. The live actors were great at rolling with things, as their microphones squeaked; and their dance floor saw congestion, as tiny bodies tried to hug their favourite princess. Despite all that, I still definitely preferred this high tea setting to the adult only cocktail mingler. Though the all ages aspect did take away from my experience, as a fun loving adult. If they repeat this event again, I would suggest having two lunch seatings, or brunch on two different days, with and without children.

There was a list of karaoke songs printed out and set at each table, yet there wasn’t any mention of it, or an opportunity to sing along to your favourite tunes. But that might be because they were having difficulties with their projector and getting their message across in the screen.

Along with the live show that came and went, with breaks between musical numbers; there were photo ops and vendors scattered through the ballroom. Not to mention, ones with the actors, once their performance was done.

A paper flower wall of blues, purples, and pinks with gold centres for you to pose in front of.

And a scene decorated to look like a forest clearing with paper mushrooms and butterflies, as well as artificial turf and tree.

There were also two tables where local jewelry artists were set up for shopping. This was a nice idea, but none of their goods necessarily matched the princess theme. Had they, I could see more guests becoming customers, purchasing diamond necklaces and matching earrings to fill out their look. Or something overtly Disney in tone, to take home as a keepsake. Instead, there were crystal necklaces, metal outlines of nature, and animals printed in enamel settings.

And the calligrapher who wrote out the name of each table was on location, creating bookmarks for all the guests. Your name against watercolour or metallic on black. This was a nice little keepsake, and helpful in receiving your seat. Shame, I didn’t wait the 5 minutes necessary to have it fully dry.

Overall the “Magical Brunch” was a great idea, but I would have liked to see it executed differently. The venue was stunning, but I would have liked two high tea seatings, one just for families and another for adults only. The photo ops could have used more props and something more representative of the theme, and maybe more of them. An underwater background for “The Little Mermaid”, the ability to climb up a tower to put yourself in Rapunzel’s shoes, and/or a frozen landscape to build a snow man with Elsa. They could have done much more to elevate this to the level of the “Fairmont Vancouver”, and I didn’t get that. Not to mention what was promised on the menu and indirectly in the photos used to advertise the event, did not measure up. Memorable, but I would not pay the price again.

THE MAGICAL BRUNCH
https://www.themagicalbrunch.com/

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