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

Month: October 2019 Page 2 of 4

Stateside

A group of local Vancouver food bloggers and I ventured down to the Settle for a two day and one night stay. The goal, to eat and taste our way within Seattle and Bellevue with liked mined individuals, and blog all about it after. We created our itinerary based on popular Seattle stops and places that came recommend. Our first was “Stateside” for an Asian inspired fusion brunch. I liked the pan Asian influences to the menu, so was excited to give them a try.

The restaurant had a tropical feel with palm frond printed wallpaper and worn wooden tables and chairs. It was kept dark and cozy with the romantic glow of orange bulbs, the handsome bar was outfitted with several, hanging above each seat. We were given one of their round tables, which proved ideal for light conversation and the sharing of everything 5 ways. The following is what we had, in the order they arrived. Written with the feedback from Diana of @foodology, Joyce of @vanfoodies, @pickydiner’s David, and Sherman of @shermanfoodadventures.

We started off with some drinks. The classic slow drip “Vietnamese iced coffee” with condense milk to stir into and glass of ice to pour over.

The “Jasmine ice green tea” came in a bamboo shaped glass.

“The coconut” was a popular cocktail given the way it was presented. A whole young coconut with paper umbrella. Rum, lime leaf and galangal, mixed with coconut water in a freshly cracked coconut. It was boozy and citrusy, with a sugary finish.

I had the “Tom yum Mary” and was so disappointed by it that I ended up sending it back. It was an aromatic infused vodka mixed with chilies, ginger, lime leaf, and fish sauce; but all I tasted with salt. I expected it to have the thickness of a Caesar, and resemble more like drinking a soup. It didn’t taste like Tom yum, besides having a sour kick. I asked for more tomato juice to cut into it, but that did nothing. It was so strong that it took away from the flavour of everything else. Our server offered me another Bloody Mary, or any other drink of my choice, I passed as I wasn’t all that impressed with the coconut either, so didn’t want to take a chance on another disappointing cocktail.

For food, I liked the texture of the “crispy duck fresh rolls”. Not just your regular vermicelli and raw vegetables wrapped in rice paper; these included a deep fried wrap for an extra crunch. I wasn’t a fan of the texture of the pulled duck meat, it was mealy and fibrous (much like a few of the other meat products below). Where as I wanted freshness in the roll, and a creamy sauce to balance out the deep fry. Similarly, I wanted a creamy sauce for the appetizer below, but I can at least appreciate the fact that each appetizer had a different dipping sauce to go with it.

The “Crispy sticky rice finger sandwiches” were filled with a chili-cumin pork or a tofu mixture (for the vegetarians), and is seasoned with house fermented mustard greens. We went for the former, and I found it too salty and the cumin out of place. It was punchy and in complete contrast to the dish’s assigned cilantro lime sauce. It was a refreshing sauce that brightens, whereas I wanted something more complimentary to the flavour of the filling. Like a tangy oyster sauce or a slightly spicy mayo that adds levels. I did like the idea of this and how crispy the sandwich “bread” was. If I had to choose, this would be my favourite of the night.

The “pho braised beef potstickers” sounded promising, but with the same mealy texture of meat used above, and a salty black vinegar and ginger dipping sauce that added nothing, I was disappointed. I wanted a more classically done potsticker and for it to taste like pho. It could have been a soup dumpling with pho broth inside. Or filled with a mix of the more familiar sliced beef and beef balls, used with pho. And to bring it back full circle, the dipping sauce to be the brown sauce provided to help rejuvenate a bowl of pho and any restaurant.

Another one that I liked the idea of, but not its execution was the “eggs bao’nedict”. It is similar to a regular eggs Benedict, but instead of using an English muffin, they use a stuffed and fried golden steamed bun. The bun was stuffed with diced Canadian bacon, then topped with poached eggs; all smothered in a thick hollandaise, and sprinkled over with pork floss. Once again, a similar sandy shredded meat was used here. I grew up on pork floss and wanted the authentic kind that is airy and light with a texture that melts under the tongue, and a slightly sweet after taste. The egg was at least perfectly done and the hollandaise well made.

I was the most excited for the “Hong Kong style charcoal waffles” that mentioned the use of pandan. However I was barely able to taste it in the syrup, and would have liked more of it flavouring the jug of coconut cream that came with the waffle. A help yourself serving of sweet cream to glop over over the waffle. Heavy and coconut-forward, it just made the waffle soggy. And had we known this was the case we would not have gotten the scoop of coconut pandan ice cream, as extra. It didn’t add anything new in flavour or texture. I did like the mango jam and shaved almond toppings, and found they gave things a nice twist.

The “open faced gold brown omelette”, weren’t the Vietnamese-style egg crepes we thought they would be, but more like an omelette pizza or frittata. We added on country ham for $3 more, and found the omelette too salty for it. I didn’t make out the gruyere and the “potato crunchies” were more of a distraction. They were cut small and fried up hard; whereas I would have liked them better as larger chunks with a crispy shell and chewy centre, more like breakfast potatoes. The crepe did have a nice spongy egg texture, but was oily. I wanted something fresh to bite into: raw cherry tomatoes or some pickled vegetables on the side, or better yet the classic fish sauce to dip egg into.

“The Classic” was as promised, a banh mi stuffed with housemade Vietnamese mortadella, chicken liver pâté, pork floss, pickled vegetables, cilantro, chili, cucumber, maggi sauce, and mayo. There was a lot of meat in this, and I wanted just as much vegetable to balance things out. The sandwich was dry and I was left longing for the cream of a mayo and more tang from the barely pickled vegetables.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wanted the traditional flavours I was drawn to from the descriptions on the menu, but in new applications. Instead, I was left with the disappointment of one note dishes and diluted ingredients. Great ideas, and great for anyone that hasn’t tried the originals, that these dishes take example from. I don’t visit the Seattle area often, so wont be coming back, when I can visit other such brunch spots. Don’t deny your cravings.

STATESIDE
300 E Pike St #1200, Seattle, WA 98122, United States
+1 206-557-7273
statesideseattle.com

Energetic Healing and Alignment

I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. I am at a cross roads in my life. Call it a mid life crisis or growing pains, but I have just been feeling off. A sense of not knowing who I am or what I am meant for. Whereas my whole life I have always felt guided. My instinct and love have always brought me to where I need to be, and the rest has just fallen in to place. Clicking without friction.

Not being able to shake off this unrest, I talked it out with a friend. She suggested I see a medium. I must preface this by saying I am open to everything and anything. There is so much more to the world than that we can see or even understand. So I went into this eagerly and very willing. Doing something is better than nothing, and everything is worth trying. I knew I didn’t feel like me for the first time in my life and even questioned who that I was up to this point. I needed guidance on a level I couldn’t see or explain, there was just something in the pit of me that I knew was there. She referred me to Lazina, a medium, my friend herself seeks out. And considering how balanced and full of love she is, there was nothing to loose with a visit to Lazina myself.

You meet her at her home, which tells you how open and giving she is. Just walking into her studio space I felt energy. A sense of calm and safely fell upon me. Maybe it was the warm glow of dim lights, the fresh air from the open window, the watchful gaze of all her spiritual paintings and accoutrements, or the energy from her collection of gems and stones. Or maybe all the above, and her melodic voice. She was so warm and accepting. She greeted me with one of the best hugs I have ever had; one that didn’t expect or want anything of me, one that just wanted to give me love. And immediately I felt comfortable, I dropped all my walls and skepticism, and fully committed to the experience.

Having never experienced or read anything like this before, she walked me through the process. As a medium she specializes is intuitive energetic healing and alignment. She is able to take in energy and ask for those surrounding and safeguarding her, help in moving it around or out.

The goal, to be able to recognize your own person aura and work towards self cleansing and proper up-keeping of it. Much like you would take a mental health day, or go to a counsellor to work out your issues. Aura is the natural energy field around you that exists in all loving things. Rebalancing it helps to heal past wounds, remove negative energy, and prevent the build up of toxicity.

She began by declaring the safety in the space. Offering a glass of water and showing me a box of tissues nearby (they were the good kind, softer than usual with lotion in each sheet). And necessary, as tears flooded down my cheeks (and believe me, I didn’t want to cry, I just got my lashes done and wasn’t about to ruin that investment so soon). I was ready to release.

I laid on a table in her studio. She made sure I was cozy with blankets, head and knee support. Placing stones in each palm and one on my chest, we began working on our breathing. Breath, a symbol of taking in good energy and intentions, and expelling all negative things that I have been holding on to for far too long.

We then concentrated on opening and cleansing the energy of my 7 chakra points, like a spiritual oil change. 7 points that run along the body and fuels it. They are as follows.

The “root” lives in the base of your spine, and as its name suggests, it helps you feel grounded. It is described as a crimson red light that is associated with your instincts and survival issues like food and financial security.

The “sacral chakra” is described as an orange apricot light that resides in your lower abdomen. It is associated with ours and other’s emotions. My feelings of inadequacy from others live here.

The “solar plexus” is a yellow golden light in your stomach area. It is associated with your self worth. When you get that dark feeling of dread or regret it hits you here. When I feel gutted, this is where that sensation manifests.

The “heart chakra” is both the colour green and pink. The former represents the love you give yourself. And the latter that which you allow to permeate off of you, and latch on to others. Here, I learned that my empathy has allowed me to take in the negativity and sorrow of others. But just like they say during the safety speech before airplane take off: you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. You need to take care of yourself before you can help others. Because not being able to leave behind my own negativity while trying to lighten the load of someone else, only caused me to drown more.

The “throat” chakra is a lapis blue, if functioning properly it allows you to expressive yourself truly and clearly.

Indigo represents your “third eye”, it fuels initiation, wisdom, and imagination from your brow. To have it open means to be open to receive. I was happy to be reassured of my strength in this.

And lastly the “crown” on the top of your head is a golden light that makes us a beacon and gateway for spiritual connection.

Aligning them offers grounding and reassurance in oneself, a foundation of my personality that I had recently lost and would find here today.

I can’t begin to articulate the full extent of the experience. But I opened up on years of self doubt, thoughts of what should be and what I ought to have. What I thought my parents and family wanted for me and of me, and what I believed society expected of me. And through our grounding work, I was slowly able to let it all go. A sensation that I felt throughout my body. The moving of my blood, the beating of my heart, the heat radiating from my limbs, and the air escaping my lungs. I felt the release.

I walked away a little shaky, but as the day wore on, I got more confident. With the blockage of energy taken down within me, and the toxins no longer fuming, I was able to take in goodness. I started feeling like myself, light hearted and light in body. I definitely walked away better. But by no means are my problems solved or my emotional wounds healed, we just opened the gate to change, and invited the law of attraction in. The rest is up to me.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about something so intimate and raw, but with the medium’s encouragement of journaling and seeing what spills out, I read the signs and followed my gut. I can’t guarantee that you will have the same experience as I did. What you put out is often what you get back. I can only recall my own experience and offer my own opinions and observations on the topic, and if anyone finds value in it, all the better.

For those curious, you can find out more on her services at fb.me/lazinamorningstar.
Happy healing.

O5 Tea Tasting, ft. A Toi Gourmet Gifts

I was invited down to “O5 Tea” to try their new collaboration with local French bakers, “A Toi”. Together, they have prepared small bites to pair with their specialty loose leaf teas. And not only was this a great experience, it really sold me on necessity of proper tea preparation.

Located on West 4th, this tea experience is worth travelling for. The salon is a tea bar on one side, with retail shelves on the opposite. It is designed with the Japanese aesthetic of minimalism and texture. Black wooden panels, fold out paper lanterns, simple dried flower arrangements, and fresh sprigs of green. You grab a seat at the bar that runs down the length of the space. Behind it stands three employees ready to talk tea and serve up pots of the steeped stuff.

Not only are you able to pick any tea they sell for a taste, but you can also sample one of their in house made, flavoured kombucha on tap. We started with the latter, sampling a taster that featured their one of their teas. The toasted green “hojicha kombucha” was fantastic. It tasted better than any other kombucha I have had to date. It didn’t drink like juice or vinegar. It had a good balance of effervescent-like soda and the distinct flavour of hojicha, a nice aftertaste that lingered and got our appetites going for the below.

The pastries are prepared ahead of time by “A Toi Gourmet Gifts”, made featuring a tea from “O5”. Its leaves and the flavour of the tea featured in the pastry, then again in a steeped cup for complimentary sipping. A great idea, and a different way to enjoy high tea, especially when you couple it with the informative nature of the service. I fully enjoyed being able to watch and learn proper tea etiquette, and was thrilled to find Annie, our host, especially informative. She was very smooth with her movements. Boiling water for cleaning and more for steeping, retrieving cups with tongs, rinsing them out between teas, and measuring leaves with wooden scoops.

The following is in the order the pairings are presented. The tea is steeped to order, but the pastries come displayed all together on a slate plate.

Assam tea and “64% guayaquil double chocolate cake” made with Assam tea. The French style chocolate cake was made with Guatemalan chocolate. It was dense and slightly bitter, but didn’t over power the darker tea.

My favourite course was the “Kirishima Matcha” with “Mini financiers”, mostly because I have never see proper matcha preparation before, nor tried it as such. Here, a quality matcha powder was whisked until frothy and we drank it like cream. Said whisking went from slow to frantic and back to a steady flow. This was described as an “entry level matcha” one that is easy to drink, and doesn’t turn brown when you bake it. The balls of dough were sweetened, but a little dry, I found it best to dip them into the matcha to pick up its creamy dessert notes.

Next was hojicha paired with a “Dacquoise sandwich and tea infused ganache”. Hojicha is roasted Japanese green tea. It is typically older tea leaves that they don’t know what else to do with, that is roasted to revive it. The result, a deep, smokey, aromatic brew that was warming. It well balanced out the sweeter cake. This sandwich-cake was my favourite of the desserts, and the sweetest of the 5. A fluffy sponge with the mild flavour of hojicha in the cream filling.

Next we had something lighter in the fruity “Thai hibiscus”. A tea paired with “A Toi’s” petal infused financier and raspberry gel. The tea is steeped from whole flowers, the same petals that went into the cake. The tea drank like punch, its tangy fruit flavour much like the raspberry at the centre of its cakey pairing.

And lastly we had the “Wuyi oolong” with two French sables. The tea was toastier, the heaviest we have had and heavily oxidized. It got a rinse before steeping in order to get rid of dust and bits. The rinse also helps to open up the leaves and release more of its earthier flavours. I liked the tea, but not the cookies. I expected a butter cookie, but got one that was hard like biscotti, but made better after a soak in the tea.

I enjoyed each course individually, but questioned the order in which they came. Lightest to strongest teas, mildest to sweetest dessert? I would have liked it Assam, Hojicha, Oolong, Matcha, and Hibiscus. Working through it like a 5 course meal with savoury bites first and the sweetest and most refreshing last.

The pastries are only available for a limited time. $20 for the tray, and $20 more for the teas that go with it. The latter is a deal considering said teas would normally run for $50 for the taste of 5.

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.
This is one of a kind experience great for anyone who is interested in learning more about tea, or for someone who is curious about the differences between loose leaves or tea bags. I walked in not knowing to expect and walked out a big fan of this specialty tea salon. They are a great alternative to any cafe, and perfect to keep warm and toasty in on a rainy day. I would like to see them repeat this service, but with savoury bites and maybe even a whole tea tower. Don’t deny your cravings.

O5 TEA
2208 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6K 1N8
(604) 558-0500
o5tea.com

Ban Chok Dee, revisit

With this marking my 5th visit to Ban Chok Dee, I can safely conclude my appreciation for this authentic Thai restaurant. Not only do they have stellar staff, but the food is consistently delicious. Here is what we had on this latest visit.

Their limited edition old fashion cocktail is what brought us down in the first place. It was competing to be the best amongst 4 in Vancouver Foodster’s latest challenge. And you too can try the “Sweet Autumn” for $10. Cinnamon infused bourbon, palm sugar, pumpkin, citrus touch Grand Marnier, and fresh orange peel. It is finished off with a pumpkin chip topped with coconut flakes and pumpkin seeds with more cinnamon. Booze forward and one of a kind, this cocktail takes its influences from a Thai pumpkin dessert. It is thick like a soup and drinks like one too.

For food we started with the “Chok Dee Platter” to get a little bit of everything. 3 Spring Rolls, 4 Golden Wontons, 2 Chicken Satay, and 2 Pork Satay.

The “spring rolls” were crispy rolls made in-house with rice vermicelli noodles, carrots, cabbage, and black pepper. It is served with a sweet plum dipping sauce. Hearty and full of crispy vegetables, a classic done right.

The “golden wontons” were also made in-house. Wrapped like little bundles with garlic, cilantro, and ground pepper. This too was served with a plum sauce for dipping. They were little solid meat balls hiding under a crispy shell. Tasty, but a little on the saltier side.

The satay was best esteem warm so that the meat was soft and the chunky peanut sauce was easy to scoop up on to it. Tasty with the dip, but the chicken was a little dry. I preferred the fattier pieces of pork.

One of my favourite dishes is the “prawn in crunchy noodles”. 5 marinated shrimp wrapped in egg noodles then deep fried. The texture was like eating raw instant noodles. Fun to crunch now on, but messy, there was more noodle on the table than in my mouth when I was done. It would have been nicer with less noodles for an even bite, and where you can actually get the flavour of the shrimp.

The “Isan summer wrap” was their twist on the lettuce wrap, a street snack with a lot more salt and spice. Fresh leaves of lettuce are used as a base for the fried curried rice salad made with fresh ginger, mint, cilantro, red onion, roasted peanut, and cured and grilled ‘naem’ pork. The pork reminded me of spam with its texture and saltines. I liked it and the crunch from the raw peanuts. I just found the dish a little spicy for my tastes, thought the fresh herbs and crisp lettuce did help to cut into it and lend some freshness to the wrap.

“Sweet and sour snapper”. Deep fried pacific snapper, sautéed with pineapple, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, zucchini, and onions; all coated in a thick sweet & sour sauce, then topped with golden cashews and crunchy egg noodles. A completely satisfying combination of sweet and sour, perfectly highlighted by the white first. The vegetables added freshness and the cashew crunch. I would have preferred the cucumber and tomato raw, and the dish served with coconut rice instead of noodles, for better balance.

The “Shoo shee salmon” came with a bowl of steam rice, the ideal way to sop up all that delicious coconut milk curry sauce. Ocean-wise salmon fillets, broccoli, and red and green peppers, topped with red curry and lime leaves. I was happy that the distinct flavour of the salmon or the punchy peppers did not take away from fragrant curry.

I love a good pad thai and here they do the classic tamarind noodle dish with vermicelli instead of flat rice noodles. A nice idea, but it is hard to properly fry vermicelli, which ends up breaking easily and glopping together. Here, some more bean sprouts would have helped to give the noodles more structure. Instead it was crumbly much like the bits of egg, tofu, and ground peanuts that went into it. Nonetheless I would still eat this version any day, it tasted exactly what I wanted from a pad Thai.

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.
I would visit each time I craved Thai food, if only they weren’t such a far drive out for me. I would love to see them open a Vancouver location, or at least one in New Westminster.
Don’t deny your cravings.

Ban Chok Dee Thai
20563 Douglas Crescent, Langley BC
(778) 278-3088
banchokdee.com

Hail Mary’s

I have been meaning to check out religious themed bar for a while now. And what better time then when looking for a place to drink at, in EastVan?

Although as soon as we walked through the door, things were off to a bad start. The little bar was dark and fairly busy this Thursday night. I spotted two diners leaving and decided to grab their more private high top table, in the corner. A move that would get my guest and I reprimanded by the lone employee working the front of the house. She served as the host, sever, and bartender for everyone seated across 5 tables and plenty of stools by the bar. She called our attention to the sign at the door, the one that we missed due to the darkness of the room. It stated that their only rule is to not sit at an unbussed table. And because we did, for the reminder of the night we felt the cold chill of her upset mood. She was not happy with us, despite the number of drinks and small plates we had ordered and how long we stayed. She was not engaging, never making eye contact, only peering over at us to check-in, but never really taking the time to check on us. Nonetheless the theme of the bar and the novelty of the menu had me staying longer and ordering more, despite the cold shoulder.

With its Catholic theme, “Hail Mary’s” is a little on the controversial side. They use the imagery of Jesus and Mary as decorative elements. Their likeness can be seen across several paintings, porcelain figures, and literature; scattered all across the room. Crucifixes adorned the walls, and the bar had its own alter. The latter included a miniature Jesus statue with a sombrero and his own collection of little bottles of tequila.

They even went so far as to include the washroom in this theatrics. Individual stalls have you choosing between “saint” or “sinner”, each with the motif to match. All “saints” went to heaven, a blue sky and cloud painted room. In contrast “sinner” sent you to the dark and fire-y bathroom of hell. Flames and framed photos of the prince of darkness surround this “throne”.

The menu was just as fun, their list of cocktails kept on with their angelic and demonic themes: “holy grail”, “an evening prayer”, or “penance”. Or you can do what I did, tapping into my “evil side”, I ordered from off their list of 7 deadly sins. Choosing my beverage based on my temperament.

“Envy” was gin, vodka, chartreuse, fresh lime, cucumber. It was green as expected, and slightly bitter to match the emotion.

“Wrath” was pisco el gobernador fresh lime, chilli flavoured simple syrup, and egg white; with a salted rim. The heat and smokiness gave me the fire of anger, and the salt well represented my salty feelings.

Where the above two well represented their respective sin, I didn’t get “Lust” from this one. In fact, I had to check with our server, that she didn’t mistakingly make us another “Wrath” (this only seemed to upset her more as she looked at me and only shook her head in disagreement). “Lust” is a bourbon peach sour with bourbon, peach schnapps, fresh and lime, and egg whites. It tasted like picnic in the park, instead of “sex on the beach”. It is a stretch but maybe the peach symbolizes the innuendo of the peach emoji? Either way, what I wanted and expected from this was a warming drink, something boozier to get you in the mood. Maybe a cocktail with cinnamon and topped with dried rose petals?

My guest choose the “Bleeding hearts” based on its name and use of a whole mini Henkell Piccolo bubbly. Served in a miniature ice bucket, with it you get a carafe of cassis. It is self server as your mix both to your liking, with enough to fill 2 glasses. I liked the idea, but for $16 wanted more depth. Regularly, the bottle itself comes in a pack of 3 for about $20 (at the liquor store). And the cassis is Ribena, a concentrated syrup you dilute with water for a fruity sweet drink. This is around $5-6 a bottle.

When opening the aforementioned bottle the sparkling bubbled up and spilled on to our table and floor. The only thing that came out of our server’s lips was a sigh. She had spilled and now had to clean it up in annoyance. A feeling she conveyed again when the room heard the sound of glass breaking in the back.

With all our drinks we nibbled on a couple of small plates. Their food menu had bar staples like wings, nachos, and a handful of burgers. And included some international flare with brisket tacos, Korean fried chicken lettuce wraps, and Nashville hot chicken sandwiches. They also had some impressive vegan options like chipotle roasted jack fruit tacos and beyond meat burgers and corn dogs. I liked the variety, but didn’t find that they paired well with the cocktails we had, or the experience the bar was serving. I liked the hummus and olive option and the deep fried brie plate; but would have also liked more such elevated bites to nibble on as you sipped slow. And just as much creativity with the food as you got with the drinks. Spicy jerky, a sliced meat charcuterie board, a fire heated fondue, and cotton candy desserts?

Case in point, I liked the “Cauliflower bites”, but not in conjunction with any of my cocktails. So here, I will suggest ordering from their wine or beer list if you are looking for a well rounded meal. These were battered and deep fried cauliflower florets, topped with sesame seeds and scallions and served with a garlic and ginger sauce. The bites were gummy with a soft shell and cooked cauliflower. The spicy and tangy sauce did help to add some interest to the serving.

“Mac and cheese” is a comfort dish and a go-to when I have been drinking. It is the perfect marriage of cheese and carbs that your body craves for, after a handful of drinks. And to this firm noodles and three cheese mix we added a piece of crispy and juicy dark chicken meat. Although at $17.50 (including the $4 chicken add on), I don’t feel like we got our money’s worth in the caliber. Good but more like a side than a main.

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.
I like the edginess of the place and the all encompassing theme. Just wanted more value in the food menu and service that keeps you linger long after your food is done. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAIL MARY’S
670 E Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5T 1X6
(604) 829-7032
hailmarys.net

Pendulum Magazine x Origo Club, free cocktail hour

I was invited down to “Q-Lab” (a vape store by Stadium Skytrain station), to check out a new cocktail-tasting experience coming to downtown Vancouver; brought to you by “Pendulum Magazine​“. “Pendulum” is a Vancouver-based online publication, available in both in English and Chinese. It features travel, business, art, design, architecture, photography and culinary arts; internationally. And starting the month of October, they are teaming up with local restaurants and bartenders that aren’t necessarily accessible in downtown Vancouver. Together, they are bringing you a taste of what they are about, right to your doorstep. A concept that began from the feeling that there is not enough being done to highlight Vancouver’s amazing cocktail programs and mixologists. So this is “Pendulum” shining a light on them, with their platform.

I was here for their inaugural test run, two weeks before. A chance to test out the logistics and gather feedback for the official cocktail hour on October 26th, 2019. This is a free event, but in order to attend you need to register your attendance on “EventBrite”. I will provide the link below for those interested. It is a drop-in where guests enjoy a unique cocktail and small bite for their troubles.

October’s feature restaurant was “Origo Club”, focused on fine French food and drink in Richmond, with their flagship location in Beijing. What makes them unique is their desire to combine Chinese art with their food. Diners can expect authentic French cuisine, and enjoy it with the visuals of a rotating art collection. Their Richmond location boasts an exclusive list of French wines, Barons de Rothschild champagne, classic cocktails, and imported saké and whiskies from around the world.

For this collaboration they are featuring a unique Old Fashion. In true Old Fashion fashion, this one contains sugar, bitters, and whiskey. It is normally $20 a glass, but costs 5 times that to prepare. And is completely free to try in the days to come. Created by, Winson Ho, “Origo’s” Bar Manager. It is made with “the rare ​Château d’Arlay Côtes du Jura Vin Jaune​ (from France) and ​Aged 15-Year Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey”. This cleverly named, “Peculiar Fashion” adds a twist with its highlight of the rare French yellow wine, which is not readily available in Vancouver. A bottle will cost you $150-200, given its specialty production. The wine is not sealed in a barrel, but instead aged with air, giving it sherry notes as an aperitif. And a bottle of the 15 year old whiskey usually runs for $129. This promises to be a strong drink so they are suggesting that you don’t drive, if you plan on indulging. It is familiar as an Old Fashion with dry and mellow notes, while being warming and fresh.

With it, “Origo” is showcasing classic French canapés. A smoked salmon croissant with creme fraiche, and a side of water melon radish and three types of pickles. A beautifully composed small bite, but one that doesn’t necessarily match the cocktail above. Best enjoyed alone or with some tea, especially considering the small bite to follow.

And to finish off your snack, grab one of their housemade matcha macarons finished off with a logo stamped chocolate disk.

A great idea, and worth checking out if you will be in the area that day, especially if you like liquor. To see what they are about, register for your ticket with the link below. https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/pendulum-magazine-x-origo-club-cocktail-hour-at-89-smithe-tickets-76346513477

The Tours for the Recently Deceased, Beaumont Studios

I am excited to write about this one! This is a one of a kind interactive display, musical, cabernet, comedy show, haunted house, and dance hall; all in one. A performance like no other that celebrates the arts and Halloween across 13 spooky nights: October 18th to 27th from 7-10pm (11pm on weekends).

This is “The Tours for the Recently Deceased”, brought to the you by “Beaumont Studios” in partnership with “Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret”. This is the studio’s largest “most outrageous theatrical initiative to date”. My coverage is based on my media night attendance, where we were able to take photos and videos to help share this experience. Something that I am more than happy to do. I have honestly been raving about the following since its launch night.

I have never been to “Beaumont Studios” before, so this was just as much an opportunity to explore this shared space (I didn’t know this was even a thing), as it was to see the actors within them. The building is set up like “WeWork”, but for artists. “An open and supportive environment to cater to a wide variety of emerging artists and creative professionals”. Several studios/rooms under one roof: hair salon, mechanical garage, musical studio, art gallery, and fashion house; to name a few.

All together, a great location for the 13 nights of guided Halloween Tours. Which includes 8 audience participation performances, and the spooky Tim Burton inspired characters they are hosted by. You were not only able to engage with the actors and take part in the scenes, but can explore the elaborately deviated setting they were in as well.

Your journey begins as you check-in at the front counter. There, you are greeted by your “afterlife” caseworker, June. With cheek and humour she explains that you are dead, but can still escape the afterlife yet. You receive “your handbook”, which are a series of riddles to solve. One by one you visit each character listed and from them and their performance, you extract a clue. A number that correlates to a letter in the alphabet. And together they spell out a word, a password to get you into purgatory, and past that: the land of the living (aka the exit).

You are able to explore the rooms at your leisure and pace, in whatever order you please; even doubling back the way you came, so should you need to. I liked the freedom of exploration, and the choose your own type adventure that puts you in the shoes of the protagonist. Although letting a group of people loose in a limited space can become chaotic quick.

There were points where we didn’t know where to go. We found ourselves bumping into others, joining scenes mid way, interrupting performances/actors, and missing out on key narratives. But worst of all, we had puzzles solved by those before us. And for a completion-ist like myself, and those who are heavily invested in the experience, this takes away from its entirety. Not to mention we were scolded several times by the in-character actors, telling us that we weren’t suppose to be here. For a couple I couldn’t tell if they were acting or acting out. And that shift the mood. With no instructions and no guides, who are we the guests to know where we are suppose to be and when? Therefore, what I am proposing is set groups that roam the space together. Being ushered by a “tour guide” from scene to scene. You pause, solve any mystery as a group (escape room style), and enjoy the fullness of the show. After all, tickets are already booked in 20 minute intervals to facilitate this.

The following recap is in the order in which we experienced it. I will not be divulging too much detail as to what we saw. I don’t want to give away any of the suspense and surprise. Just enough to entice you to visit yourself. And at $30 per ticket ($25 for members) you well get your money’s worth. All the following to see and be a part of, and strategically placed snacks to munch on, along the way.

Please excuse the quality of my photos. I avoided using flash as to not distract the performers even more. It was also hard to focus on the moving actors.

A witch and the Headless Horseman gave you the scare of your life.

In the hair salon, Edward Scissorhands give you one heck of a hair cut.

We walked in on the Mad Hatter having his tea party. Alice and the white rabbit joined us around the table with cookies and mini cupcakes to enjoy.

There was also chips and salsa in the kitchen.

Outback, a mirrored maze stood between you and the Red Queen. She invites you to a croquet match, but on her terms. She supplies the balls and the flamingos.

I enjoyed the comedic stylings of the Penguin, and marvelled at the beauty of Cat Woman and her flexibility.

The Corpse Bride was an amazing singer. She sang of loved lost and curses broken.

Meat Pie was on the menu in Sweeney Todd’s barber shop. A saucy baker gave us a memorable cooking lesson. She also let us in on the secret ingredient in her famous pies.

While Sweeney himself offered guests free shaves. All in a studio of an artist that makes knives, how fitting.

Also roaming around were a host of characters that could help and guide you on your journey in the afterlife. Like Jack Skellington and Sally from “A Nightmare Before Christmas”.

Along the way, each connecting hallway or corridor was just as elaborately decorated. Be it a mystical wonderland or a spooky scene. Plenty of photo ops and backdrops to take advantage of.

And if you make it through this choose your own adventure theatre experience, you meet the ghost with the most himself: Beetlejuice. Purgatory’s most entertaining and most mischievous DJ.

With a cash bar and an open dance floor, visitors are invited to get down and boogie with all that go bump in the night. Admission includes a complimentary drink ticket to get you started. Exchange it or cash for soda, water, beer, wine, or highballs.

In conclusion, for those who like the macabre and art that is off the beaten path, this is for you. Hands down my favourite Halloween experience for this season and year, and one that I highly recommend. A great first of its kind event, that already has me looking forward to next year’s assembly. Get your tickets now with the link below!!

BEAUMONT STUDIOS
316 W 5th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1J0
(604) 733-3783
https://www.thebeaumontstudios.com/
#beaumonthaunt

VanDusen Glow in the Garden

One week to Halloween, and VanDusen Garden’s fall light show is back for another year. But as my first time, this was all new to me. From October 17th to the 27th the garden is open daily at 5pm to 9pm. Visitors can take in the displays with the last bit of day light, break for dinner at one of the available food trucks; and then go back to enjoying the sights, with the dark of the night making the lights glow even brighter.

Where last year the theme was Hansel & Gretel, this year we have woodland magic. As taken from their press release, “The old barred owl has played a Halloween trick by casting a “hootenanny” spell and making it glow. Take a journey through the garden and help Anna the hummingbird and her friends lift the spell by collecting Halloween treats along the way.”

Also new for this year is the expansion of the arena, new on-site food vendors; and a new timed ticket system, that ensures you are fighting the crowds for your perfect shot. Your ticket choices are between 5-6pm, 6:30-7:30pm, or 8-9pm. Tickets are priced at $9.50-13.50, with kids 2 and under free.

As an all ages event, there are crafts for the kids and a scavenger hunt that has them collecting stamps, in exchange for prizes and treats.

The following are a few of the features you can expect, to help plan your adventure and ensure that you don’t miss anything. We arrived early enough to capture some photos with the last bit of day light, then more when the sun set.

“Hootenanny” is the above described magical trickster owl. With colour changing eyes, she perches at the entrance eliciting a scare with the giant letters “b-o-o-!”

The “Scarecrow” sits at the centre of the lake, guarding the lantern lit walkway.

The “Acranophobia” section plays on the age old fear of spiders. But these are less threatening with tinsel limbs and large glowing eyes.

“Harvest Fest” was hosted by a “squirrel”, she solicits your help in lifting the aforementioned spell. You can find her amongst the hay barrels, corn husks, and pumpkins.

I foresee the giant pumpkin being a popular backdrop.

But preferred the highly detailed carved pumpkins, and the ones in the pumpkin patch.

The latter was a collection of jack-o-lanterns, lit from within. Gathering at a stopping point, in a clearing.

The “Enchanted Forest” came with forest sounds and mystical melodies, adding depth to a lit pathway. You walk along and take note of the mushrooms and caterpillars made out of pumpkins, and the projectors adding blinking eyes and the bat signal to the scene.

“Anna the hummingbird” is a large display in green and pink lights. The character also comes personified, greeting the littlest of guests with purple hair, a large tulle dress, and a masquerade mask.

There were also natural features of the park that they decorated with lights, like the berry tone lit cave and the garden dome.

In conclusion, this is a unique outdoor event that gives guests another reason to visit the garden, and a new way to take in the space. Ideal for families and kids who get into the spirit by dawning their own costumes. For how to get tickets and more on the event, visit the link below.

GLOW
5251 Oak St, Vancouver, BC V6M 4H1
https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/glow-in-the-garden.aspx

South Okanagan in the 2019 Honda CR-V

I was heading to the Okanagan for the weekend and thought what better vehicle to get me there than the 2019 “Honda CR-V”, with its best in class fuel economy and its Econ mode to help us “drive towards a greener future”.

I was excited to be able to take in the Okanagan this fall. I have never visited during this season, so found magic in the red, orange, and yellow changing leaves. They were sprinkled amongst ever greens and the rocky mountain range.

We were able to easily take it all in with our no hassle ride. The Honda CR-V’s remote start and walk away auto-lock, saved us time during our pit stops and gas pumps. And it was easy to get in and out of with 90-degree door mobility. There was plenty of cargo room with an easy to fold down back seat and two level modes to meet all our storing and hauling needs.

We paused to take in the river, and stopped to explore the damp soil patches for various mushrooms.

When on the road, the Honda CR-V kept us comfortable and safe. Sitting pretty with perforated leather seats that heated. And well secured with blind spot display, and all wheel drive with intelligent system control. It got us there and back on 8.5L of gas at 100km. 4 hours each way, and driving from city to city in between; an amazing feet for an SUV.

Fall in the Okanagan has fruit stands bringing their pumpkin and gourds out to the roadside for sale. Many of the ones in Keremeos included visual displays for travellers to stop and take photos of and with. I didn’t know the extent of the variety of gourds available, before this trip. Here are some of my favourite photos.

We also stopped to watch cows graze on the mountainside, enjoying the ability to interact with livestock; something that you can’t do in the city.

We eventually made our way to Osoyoos, to our accommodations for the weekend: “Spirit Ridge”. For our time at Canada’s dessert resort and it’s new restaurant, visit the link below.

Our visit specifically coincided with Oliver BC’s “Cask and Keg” festival. An adults only event that hosted local South Okanagan beer, spirits, and ciders; for friendly sampling. For the full review of the participating breweries through tasting, visit the link below.

Cask and Keg, Oliver BC

The following day it was time to celebrate local Okanagan wines through a similar tasting program, at the “Festival of the Grape”. For the highlights of the family friendly event, and a few of the participating wineries, visit the link below.

Festival of the Grape, Oliver BC

During our road trip we also spotted and marvelled at “Spotted Lake”. As per Wikipedia, “Spotted Lake is a saline endorheic alkali lake located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada, accessed via Highway 3”. The silt at the bottom of the lake is exclusively gathered and utilized by the First Nations people for its healing properties. However, over the years of us visiting, we realized its spots are no longer as bold, and the body water has transformed.

And when in the area, we always seem to find ourselves at “Tickleberry’s”. And despite the cold, the ice cream and gift shop was still a popular spot in fall.

I enjoyed a double scoop in a waffle cone. The seasonally inspired pumpkin spice and “Sunday breakfast”, a vanilla based ice cream made with fruit loops and lucky charms cereal with marshmallow bits.

For dinner on our second night we visited “Convivia Bistro” in Osoyoos. A modern restaurant serving Italian and French cuisine; prepared with local ingredients, and created to be complimented by local wines. Here, we enjoyed some house rosé with our pizza and pasta. For the latter we had lasagna with a tomato meat sauce, cream, Parmesan, and mozzarella. It was all in all pretty standard, it just needed a touch more seasoning. But this comfort serving hit the spot for me, on this night.

Out of preference, my partner ordered the “Goat Cheese And Honey” pizza with the goat cheese on the side. He liked everything else the pizza promised: olive oil, mozzarella, goat cheese, parmesan, sundried tomatoes, bacon, basil, and honey. Truly the pizza needed the pop the goat cheese gave, some interest to contrast with everything else.

CONVIVA
8312 74 Ave, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V0
(250) 495-2223
conviviabistro.ca

For breakfast on our way back home we had brunch at “Jo Jo’s Cafe”, a popular neighbourhood spot, showcasing local art. Here we enjoyed one of their breakfast sandwiches with bacon bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, and egg in an English muffin. A good start, before making our way home.

JO JO’s
8316 Main St, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V4
(250) 495-6652
jojoscafe.ca

And with that this proved to be a quick and successful trip to the Okanagan, all made possible by the Honda CR-V. Thank you for the smooth ride and the travel memories Honda Canada.

#HondaCRV
Honda.ca

Festival of the Grape, Oliver BC

I was in Oliver this weekend, here to partake in the “Festival of the Grape”; the fall festival celebrating the fine wineries of South Okanagan. “Crushing it since 1997”. As Canada’s wine capital, Oliver produces more than 50% of all wine grapes in BC, which is reason for celebration. The festival welcomes over 50 wineries from BC to sample their local wines and fruit in wine.

Similar to the “Cask and Keg” festival (the day before), guests roam around the park visiting vendors for wine tasters, and food trucks for small bites in between. Except today’s event was double the size. Held during the day, this is a family friendly celebration, with plenty to see and do to keep any one engaged, at any age.

We came in 30 minutes earlier with our VIP access, grabbing our glass by the entrance. Every one drinks out of their own miniature wine glass, a great keepsake with the event’s logo etched on.

A new feature this year is the VIP pass. It gave guests the opportunity to enjoy an elevated VIP area. A lounge with a large charcuterie board to nibble from, specialty wines to try, and seminars from winery owners and local and regional contributors to listen to. And while general admission ticket holders had to wait until 1pm to start drinking, VIPs entered at 11:30am and could start tasting from the 4 wine producers stationed in the VIP area. All while enjoying the first seminar of the morning.

This was with Moss, the wine educator of “The Vinstitute” at “Intersection Estate winery”. He has us learning about BC wines in an approachable and fun way. We tried 3 pours, including a Riesling; and two very different tasting reds. With the latter two, the grapes used in both were similar to one another, minus the soil they grew it; and it made all the difference.

The seminars to follow included “learning about BC’s very first Sub Appellation, The Golden Mile Bench; which is home to several notable Oliver Osoyoos wineries”. And the ins and outs of proper stemware, featuring Riedel Glassware. I especially enjoyed the class on pairing the right wine with the perfect cheese with plenty of tasting opportunities.

With the VIP area, you can come and go as you please and explore the festival grounds at your leisure. Under tents were wineries pouring a selection of their collection. This was a great opportunity to learn about a new winery, or try a wine you might not want to commit a whole glass too. All while engaging the very producers of it, with any questions you might have.

The day began with the opening ceremony and parade. Drummers set the tone and pace, and this year’s grape stomp competitors were introduced.

One of “Festival of the Grape’s” main attractions is the grape stomp. In teams of 3, contestants sign up and dress up to compete in the tradition of grape stomping. An old practice that was once the only way grapes for wine were macerated. Now, it is more of a novelty and makes for a great exhibition; especially here as most of them dress up in costumes for the occasion. After 5 heats the team that produced the most juice in the allotted time won.

Also on location were local artists selling their artisan wares. Wine barrel wood work, hand painted wine glasses, locally roasted coffee, and hand made jewelry. There was also the fall art show and sale, set up to showcase various works across varying mediums. You could appreciate them here or take home to own.

For the younger kids, there was a playground for toddlers to climb around in; with face painting and inflatable bouncing. And for those who need a break, there was seating areas available to grab a drink and rest at. Hay bales, picnic tables, wine barrels converted into standalone tables, and floral arrangements featuring recycled wine bottles. And throughout the day, “Jack and Jill” performed live on stage, regaling the crowd with their music.

Though the wine is the real reason why you are here. And with over 50 wineries offering 3-4 different tasters for a ticket each ($1 = 1 ticket), there are far too many to try. Below, are a few of the wineries I did visited. But truth be told it got difficult to try any more after the 5th taster. With no place to spit or pour out excess wine, you find yourself having to drink it all. And a $1 per 2oz pour, you definitely aim to try as many as you can. That price is the best deal I have ever had at any similarly structured event.

There was also a lot more food vendors today and we got to try a few more. Like the honey garlic wings and fries from the “Wings” food truck.

And a gourmet, certified organic hotdog from the “Wienery” trailer. A unique creamy peanut butter, bacon, and dill pickle combo; with crispy onion and spicy mayo, all over their juicy beef wiener.

With an afternoon worth of activities, I can see why the festival attracts more than 4,500 attendees annually. Myself included, who came to “sample a variety of local and regional wines, dance to live music, and cheer on the fun and chaotic grape stomp”. Not to mention the new to 2019 “On-site Liquor Store, where a variety the wines on offer were available for purchase as you departed the festival.”

In short this was a great way to get to know BC’s wine country a little more intimately, and taste your way thought the Okanagan without have to drive from winery to winery. For more on the “Festival of the Grape” and why you need to attend next year for yourself, visit the link below.

FESTIVAL OF THE GRAPE
http://www.oliverfestivalofthegrape.ca/

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