VieAMaggi.com

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

Author: mag_mei Page 2 of 205

Ancora Downtown, First Table 1 year anniversary in Vancouver

Time as been flying by, it was only a year ago since “First Table” launched their early bird dining website in Vancouver, the premise dine early at select restaurants and save money. I don’t know about you, but this idea just makes sense. First of all, who else gets hungry right after work? Why snack when you can eat fully and enjoy plenty. Two, studies show it is better to stop eating before 7pm, to allow your body to fully use/process the fuel you earn from the food you eat. So eating earlier than later just makes sense. And if you are like me, you work early and start your day earlier, why wait to eat dinner with everyone else who sleeps in and works late?

So in celebration of the app’s one year anniversary, and with the desire to dine out at a nicer restaurant, I sought out my bubble buddy, and we had a classy dinner at Ancora’s downtown, water front location.

Despite the earlier sun sets and the blanketing darkness that renders their all window restaurant front moot, the interior opulent setting is view enough. Vaulted ceilings, sparkling tiled floors and a glitzy chandelier cascading over head. A lovely setting as you eat, separated by plexiglass from the adjacent table.

Today we would begin our dinner with a bottle of champagne and a platter of caviar. A special pairing every Wednesday for $200, for two. There is no better way to set up date night right than this sumptuous bounty, guaranteed to impress. Chilled bubbles and all the fixings you need to enjoy your salted fish egg delicacy. A round of dough, egg whites, egg yolks, minced onion, chives, and a creamy spead; topped as you like it.

Next, came their complimentary array of focaccia and breads, served with a spiced hummus. I found this a lovely way to showcase the array of flavours to come.

For our meal we tried a few dishes from Ancora’s winter menu. Starting with a trio of smoked prawns over golden potato, crispy quinoa, guacamole, and a panca emulsion. The flavour of the smoke came through on the prawns. A char that was accentuated by the creaminess of the pillow of mashed potato. As a whole this dish spoke well to the Japanese-Peruvian concept of the kitchen.

Next we had a beef tartare made with tenderloin, topping a slice of sourdough, finished with sunny side up egg and cured egg yolk shreds. The colours of the raw beef and the boldness of the egg yolk was appealing. But be warned, things do get messy if you bite into the runny yolk. It’s oozing centre lends itself to the moistened tartar, adding additional to the contrast of the crispy toasted bread.

The steelhead trout with braised daikon, broccolini, shimeji, and Nikkei grains spoke to the current fishing season. This pink fleshed trout was deliciously refined with the gentle vegetables and the simple and clean pour over dashi. The umami-ness of the broth warmed me to my core. I found this perfect for the chill of fall, going back for spoon after spoon of the savoury, clear liquid. I ate this more like soup than entree, drinking the bowl clean.

But the most memorable dish of the night had to be the scallops with, ajo blanco, huacatay sorbet, black pudding, and drunk apples. If scallops were made into a dessert, this would be it. The sweetness of the marinated apple came through in the foam mixed with pisco and simple syrup. The addition of apple chunks elevated the flavour, and the chew of the heavy blood pudding offered a contrast that made bolder everything else on the plate.

I would highly recommend saving room for dessert as their guava creme burlee is one of a kind, and worth indulging in. The flavour of the exotic fruit was not hidden behind custard or cream. I liked the visual appeal of the chocolate, Christmas themed garnish; however found its slightly bitter flavour overpowering. Instead, I preferred the grapefruit and its citrus to add some freshness and pop to the dessert.

Admittedly I came into dinner apprehensively. I have had dinner previous to this and it fell short on expectations, based on my perception of the name and the setting I took in. So, tonight I am happy to report that with a new chef at the helm, Ancora downtown feels like a new space, and one that is living up to its opulent persona.

Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio – False Creek
1600 Howe St #2, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2L9
(604) 681-1164
ancoradining.com

Street Auntie, set menus

Reading the press release, I was really excited for the eventual opening of this new Asian fusion restaurant. However given their creative branding and concept, I was surprised to learn that they were situated downtown, along the Granville Entertainment district. Instead, I envision them in a more eclectic neighbour, one more befitting of their flare. Though at the same time, they are ones worth travelling to.

The name catches your attention and their pin up model mascot (inspired by the owner herself: tattoos, sex appeal and all) kept your attention. I was sold by this and the traditional Asian flourishes throughout the restaurant. For example, the decorative pantry right as you entered, the menu that included Chinese paper patterns, and the bamboo utensil holders at each place setting. We grabbed a seat by the plexi-separated bar to see all the action of the kitchen and bar unfold.

Street Auntie currently does not have their liquor license, but are making due with an interesting and well developed drink menu, nonetheless. A listing that they cleverly refer to as “The Sobering Menu”, which can just as easily have a shot or two added into each concoction, to give it a little “spirit” (when they have the proper documentation to do so).

The following is all 3 of their available drinks, which can be ordered as a pairing with the set menu below. The drink add-on runs for $19 per person.

The “Teatonic” features Yunnan sparkling tea. It is a refreshing beverage with a hint of tanginess that reminded me of tamarind. Here, the cooling flavour of the tea definitely helped with the spiciness of our first course below.

The “Golden triangle aromas” included lemongrass, ginger, mint, and lime. It was a great drink to help cleanse the palate in between bites; while offering some freshness for the deep fried foods it was paired with, also learn more below.

In a similar sense, but with more creaminess was the “Jasmine Babe”. It is essentially a floral milk tea. Its familiarity and comfort mellowed out some of the more potent dishes. This would be the one I would take togo in a plastic cup, I was just missing some pearls.

As for food, Street Auntie is open Wednesdays through Mondays for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Their unique concept allows diners to enjoy as many dishes as they want from the weekly rotating menu, during a pre-booked one-hour time slot. This run for $38 per person for lunch or $58 for dinner, respectively. Basically you have to get the only set available. They currently have a collection of 4 different menus on their website. Each with 8 different items, available during specific weeks, with some overlap from set to set. The following is the “Ocean Auntie” menu, which we enjoyed, and is currently available from November 25th until December 2nd.

The “Yunnan Ghost Chicken” was a starter salad made with mango, pickled young papaya, sawtooth herb, lemongrass, chilli, and golden triangle lime. The chicken that resembled Hainanese chicken, really stood out in this. The sneaking heat of the vinaigrette was mellowed out by the crisp julienned vegetables and fruit. A crisp texture furthered along by the crunchy deep fried tofu shreds. I found the salad’s chilled tang helped to jump start the appetite. I liked this as the first course, and finished my portion clean. Whereas others found it too large for such a refined tasting.

The second course with its upscale take on dim sum was one of the most memorable for me. Street Auntie took familiar favourites and gave it a boujee twist. Like the morel mushroom finish on a juicy siu-mai pork dumpling. Or the unseen addition of avocado to the classic shrimp dumpling, har-gau. And most decadent of all was the stuffing of sea urchin into what looked like a gyoza skin. The latter offering a most out standing flavour. I would recommend Street Auntie for this trio “basket” alone, thankfully all the menus to come includes it.

I am a fan of salted egg yolk fish skin, I buy the imported packages from Asian grocery stores, so it was a treat to get it fried fresh with a heavy duck egg-yolk coating at Street Auntie. This is another dish I would recommend, however it is only available on the “Ocean Auntie” set.

Similar in bold flavour and crunch was the spicy, garlic fried, soft shell crab. There was plenty of peppery garlic flavour on the crispy crab, and as excess “sprinkles” , that I later shovelled into my mouth.

And what is a Chinese meal that does not end in a starch like rice or noodles? With the “Ocean Auntie” set, that starch is the “Street Auntie fried rice” severed with their house made “XOXO” sauce. They doubled up on the “XO” in the name because all the ingredients are doubled. This help yourself serving of sauce on the side is what flavours the otherwise bland rice. Therefore, it would have actually been nice to have the rice served and eaten in conjunction with the crab above, more like a side than a main dish (as it was served).

As tasty as all the dishes were above, dessert was my favourite course for its presentation alone! Served on a tray with some cleansing tea or energizing coffee, diners get a one bite of “mango and pomelo sago explosion”. Like its name suggests, things can get messy if you are not careful. Eat this in one bite and be surprised by the amount of tasty, sweet, and citrusy flavour that floods your mouth when literally “burst the bubble”.

I really liked the “Beijing Hulu” that looked like sticky lollipops, but are actually a hard sugar coating juicy grapes. I could have eaten a handful like candy.

However, the showstopper of the night was the giant fortune cookie cake you share with your dining companion. And the best part, it comes with an actual fortune you can eat. Printed on rice paper, it doesn’t add a taste or texture to the dessert, but is definitely plus 100 in pageantry. I would order it for visual alone. Eating wise, this was a soft sponge cake filled with a slightly bitter jasmine tea and strawberry gel filling. A mild cake that would perfectly accompany the tea above, severed in delicate and traditionally printed porcelain.

And for good measure, we even got regular fortune cookies, but dipped in frosting and decked with sprinkles for that extra panache.

Not on any of the menus, but made upon special request was their tongue and cheek “East Van Special” a mint chocolate and fudgey chocolate cannabis leaf served over a chocolate cookie crumble, with edible rice paper “plated” printed with the east van cross pattern. I thought this was such a fun idea and great homage to the city.

At this point they are still working out the logistics and menu, so I want to reassure you that my feedback was passed on and taken with a grain of salt. I cannot wait to go back to try a completely different menu and maybe by then, some tasty alcoholic drink pairings to go with it all!

Street Auntie Aperitivo House
1039 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L4
streetauntie.com

Sula, the second location on Main Street

Being a fan of the original Sula, Indian restaurant on Commercial Drive, I was excited to try their second and newest location on Main Street, one week after they had opened. And boy was I not disappointed by decor alone.

The space is warm and opulent in a time that requires us to be cold and distant. Glowing lights suspended by gold; they matched the copper of the table settings and the brown and oranges of the bar. Shame that their opening coincides with these times, because I can definitely see them as a place to linger and enjoy lively company within. They certainly have the drink list to keep you sipping long into the night. Including a healthy Gin and Tonic listing, much to my guest’s delight.

The “Kerala” is a mix of Tanqueray Rangpur, Kaffir Lime, Green Cardamom, and Mediterranean Tonic. It is an effervescent cocktail, sparklingly light, and finished off with a tangy punch.

“Vayu’s Calm” includes Hendricks Gin, Spanish White Vermouth,
Green Chartreuse, Cardamom, Mint, and Lime. This reminded me more of margarita, especially with how lime focused it was. I was just missing the salt.

Round two of cocktails had us trying the “Cosmic Dance” with Big Boss Cashew Fenny, Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Apple, Honey, Chili, and Spices. This one was more my speed. A heavy sipper with a dull heat that is slow to burn the back for your throat. This is the kind of cocktail I want to drink if I am under the weather.

The “Delhi Junction” included Fenugreek-infused Bombay Sapphire, Fino
Sherry, Dry Vermouth, and Aromatic Bitters. This was their take on a martini, but more subdued. It was a new flavour combination for me, one I can only best describe as being herbaceous in a juicy way.

Whereas the cocktails at the Commercial Drive location are sweet and tropical, these are more refined and for the spirit connoisseur. This bar is one you would make a bee-line to, just for a stiff drink or three. Therefore, it would have been nice to start off with a small bowl of mixed nuts or crackers, to really celebrate the bar list and align them more with a place you would frequent for their cocktails.

Instead we nibbled on a couple of appetizer’s whose serving served more as an entree. As good as they were, I would have liked 1/3 of each presented as a starter, in order to save room for all the entrees you can’t help but be curious to try later.

The Indian Street food and Chaats are dine in only, due to the nature of the dishes and the need to enjoy them fresh and crispy. Chaat is a category of Indian street food that hits every component of taste. It is a combination of sweet, sour, tangy, crunchy, umami, and spicy.

The “Papdi Chaat” is Indian canape wafers topped with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt and chutneys. It ate like a bowl of cereal or platter of nachos. Although as good as it was in texture and taste, less would have been more. This was enough for 6, but ordered for 2.

The “Mumbai Vada” is a dairy-free battered potato dumpling seasoned with green chilli, tempered cumin, and mustard. I expected a fully encased bundle, but was served my dumpling pre-cut up. From presentation sake, I would have liked this in smaller bites, left as a whole. Flavour and texture wise, it was much like a somosa, but without the traditional accompanying chutneys.

When it comes to Indian cuisine, it doesn’t matter where I go, or how much I try, I always gravitate towards butter chicken. I would not be satisfied without giving Sula on Main’s version a try, and sauce wise it held up. Rich and creamy with the flavour of their Tandoor broiled chicken in tomato, cream and butter sauce coming through. My only critique was that the pieces of chicken were dry, despite them being left in large bulky chunks. I Would have liked bite sized portion of chicken, cooked tendered instead.

And unique to the Main Street location is Sula’s seafood offerings. It showcased the regional cuisine of Mangalore, a coastal town in the southern part of India. Between lobster and crab, we gravitated towards crab due to our server’s suggestion, however based on what we had, I would suggest the lobster instead.

 

The “Jenji Gassi” is local Dungeness crab cooked in a coconut curry, highlighting flavours from byadigi chillies, poppy seeds, and cumin. The crab was cumbersome to crack in such an opulent setting. I appreciated its whole, shell and all in our presented serving. However, found the work it took to crack and peel not worth the little amount of meat that came out of it; especially as it was bland. The sauce on the other hand was a treasure. I sopped it all up with the naan below and greedily drizzled it over the rice as well.

 

The Main Street location of Sula also boasts a Tandoori oven, so we were sure to partake in a couple of dishes that required a longer baking. The following two came with a 30 minute warning, so order early and expect to wait with cocktails in hand.

The “Tangdi Kebabs” were described as “Iran’s culinary gift to India”. They are chicken drumsticks char-grilled in the tandoor. The result, an excellent grill flavour from the blacken char, with the smokiness adding levels to the chicken’s seasoning. And here I thought I liked it a lot, until I tried the lamb below.

The “Adraki Lamb Chops” are roasted with crushed cashew bits and seasoned with garam masala, cumin, and a coriander spiced marinade. You got the crunch of the cashew offering a nice contrast to the perfectly prepared, tender and juicy lamb meat. If, no when I return, I will definitely be ordering this again.

And no Indian meal is complete without the rice and naan necessary to soak up all the delicious sauces with. I would be just as happy with just the butter chicken or crab sauce and naan.

The “Tandoori Naan” is a classic as an extra pillowy tandoori Indian flat bread. For something a little different Sula also has stuffed naan. We tried the one sandwiching spinach and Indian cheese, paneer. The addition added an extra level of indulgence to something already so great. I have never see such an innovation else where, so credit Sula its creation.  And I can recommend it just as easily as an appetizer to start with.

For rice, I was disappointed by the coconut rice. Its broken texture did not lend itself to the already soften dishes, and the coconut flavour did not add anything to anything. Instead, I recommend the basmati rice for its fragrant taste and texture. A better mild companion to all the great flavours above.

And don’t forget to save room for dessert. A semi-sweet end to help cleanse the palate is the mango coconut rice pudding with cardamon and rosewater. It eats like a dessert oatmeal with a freshness that leaves you with a cleaner mouth feeling.

Like between two children from the same parents, I hate to pick favourites here, but the new Sula on Main with it sophisticated setting and specialty menu have won me over as my favourite between the two.

SULA MAIN STREET
4172 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-874-5375
sulaindianrestaurant.com

Anthem Pizza, pizza with a purpose

With the second wave lockdown in effect, there is no better time to introduce a new pizza delivery company to the Lower Mainland: Anthem Pizza. Campy and fun, their packaging and motto sets them apart. That, and their charitable mission. Every slice you purchase has Anthem giving back to one of three worthy charities. One: BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. Two: Unison Benevolent Fund, which helps Canadian musicians in times of hardship, illness or economic difficulties by providing counselling and emergency relief. And in time for the tail end of November: Movember, where Anthem will be donating 10% of its proceeds from each pizza sold, to Movember. Movember is charity dedicated to addressing and advancing men’s health issues like mental health, suicide prevention, and prostate and/or testicular cancer.

“Pizza with a purpose” aside, if you need even more reasons to purchase their pies, look no further than to their packaging. Each pie comes in a pink and white stripped box with punk rock and pop culture references. Artsy and fun they serve just as much as a statement as they do cardboard container. But if you are like me, you may want to Google some of the faces you don’t recognize, to learn a thing or two. And if you like what you see, they have put it on a tee, for sale. Available for ordering from their online store.

And as for the pizza, I was delivered two, contact-free. The first was “The Ace of Spades”. A simple margherita pizza made with tomato sauce, basil, fior di latte, and extra virgin olive oil. Simple and clean over a more bread-like dough. Here, what you see is what you get, pulled together with a sweeter tomato sauce. Mild and gentle is the best way to describe it.

Similarly, the “Hot Honey” we tried used the same sweeter tomato sauce base, and to it added hot soppressata calabrese, black olives, shredded mozzarella, and Mike’s Famous Hot Honey. Sadly I was most excited for the latter, so found myself missing it when I didn’t get much sweetness of spice. It would have been nice to have a container of it on the side for self drizzle. Other than that this was another play no games pizza, delivering on its ingredient list; all over a chewy, more bready crust. So bread-like that I wanted a dip with it and found myself reaching of the bottle of ranch in the fridge.

And if you are interesting in giving them a try, now is the time. To celebrate its official launch, Anthem will be offering its Motörhead-inspired ‘Ace of Spades’ (a.k.a. Margherita) pizzas for only $10 (regular $18); from‪ Friday, November 20 through to Monday, November 30.‬ This exclusive offer is only available when you use the promo code ‘ANTHEM’ when ordering online via anthempizza.ca for pickup at The Five Point Restaurant & Pub (‪3124 Main Street‬) and Park Drive (1815 Commercial Drive). Quantities are limited to one pizza, per customer nightly, while supplies last.

Anthem Pizza
604-425-1129
anthempizza.ca

Vancouver Island in the 2021 Nissan Rogue

Covid has set everyone back, from work to play it has changed plans and turned everyone on their axis. Plans I had of travelling internationally, became exploring my local province more intimately this past year. From the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan Valley, and as far as Grand Forks. And pass Whistler and further North to Lillooet. So for my last vacation of 2020, I decided to branch out to the island.

I have been to Vancouver Island a handful of times, so was now excited to visit during a different season. Fall for the changing colour of the wilderness, some fall fungi foraging, storm watching, and late season fishing. The plan was to go with the flow, allowing curiosity and the call of adventure to take us to all corners of the Island. Skipping the metropolis of Victoria, our travel started at the ferry terminal of Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay. (This was before the non-essential lock down mind you).

Our vehicle of choice, the new 2021 Nissan Rogue. This would be our primary mode of transportation and place of rest. So the right vehicle was essential. And the Rogue fit the bill. We would be the first to set her through her paces; from a mere 555km on the odometer to more than quadruple that by week’s end. With the ever changing terrain and we travelled from muddy roads to steep watersides. From gravel paved and pothole filled pathways, to wet highways, and even snowy mountainsides. And for all of the above, the 2021 Nissan Rogue had a mode for that. Off-road, snow, eco, and sport. The ability to adjust with a twist of a knob as needed kept us comfortable and safe.

Upon landing earlier in the day, we swung by to the nearest city, and the closest breakfast spot. This happened to be Mary’s Bleue Moon Cafe in Sydney BC. Across the way from BC’s aviation museum, Mary’s served as the cafe and bar for pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike. Decorated with historic newspaper clippings and artifacts, the restaurant doubled as a museum dating all the way back to WWII, in its own right.

Equipped with masks the restaurant sat us at our own socially distant table, within the dining area. Breakfast was a collection of classics egg scrambles and pancakes, sprinkled with more innovative options like breakfast crepes and a build your own omelette.

We shared a full order of their Westcoast Benny with smoked salmon, shrimp and lobster on an English muffin. Topped with a perfectly poached egg and their house made hollandaise sauce, enjoyed with crispy hashbrown potatoes on the side. Sadly, the salmon did overpower the other seafood, leaving me missing the lobster. Heck, I got more cocktail shrimp than lobster. It would have been nice to have lobster stock added to their hollandaise as a fun twist.

And despite being able to make such an assembly myself, I find that I still lean towards such breakfast platters when dining out. But more so today given the name was “breakfast of champions”, and boy did I sure did feel like one. Served on a glass fish plate this was bacon, ham, sausage, with three eggs done your way, hashbrowns, and toast. Definitely a classic for a reason. And maybe it was because I was on carefree vacation mode, but each individual ingredient tasted better: fresher than it would have in the big city.

Then it was off towards Campbell River, the capital of salmon fishing, in the world. With a pit stop in the larger city centre of Nanaimo first. There, I took in some local street art and grabbed a coffee and a treat at local hot spot: The Vault. Given the time, I would have found myself here for a meal.

We spent two days and two nights in Campbell, parked by one of the lakes in Elk Park. Our backdrop: warming clouds, thick greenery, and still waters.

We kept warm in the car thanks to a sleeping bag and multiple blankets piled high. The driver and passenger seat proved comfortable when driving upright with its lumbar support. Although the curvature of the seats less so when fully reclined in slumber. Night two was spent in the tailgate with back seats flattened, this proved more ergonomic.

 

There was so much to see just cruising around in the 2021 Nissan Rogue with its panoramic sun roof. We discovered pockets perfect for mushroom foraging. Mossy fields teeming with chanterelles, chicken of the woods, elm mushrooms, boletes, cremini, and hedgehog mushrooms. All of which we cooked and ate during our trip.

There were many more mushrooms that were just stunning, but not to be consumed.

Most amazing were the ones we found on the roadside. The bounty and their available was amazing. Especially considering how hard we have to hunt within the lower mainland for such treasures.

The most memorable moment for me during our time in Campbell was fishing with a mama bear and her two cubs. You could see them across the river way. She caught multiple chums with her paw and snout in the cold water, and I couldn’t even get a bite with my bait.

At Campbell we found comfort in the historic Ideal Cafe, established in 1940’s. One lunch was a soggy Monte Cristo with house roasted turkey breast, shaved ham, and mozzarella cheese. Sandwiched between two pieces of egg battered French toast. It was heavy and on the bland side. I ordered it confusing it with a French croque-monsieur. I hoped a dip in the side of tomato and turkey soup would help add some tang, but alas was disappointed by how bland this was too. In retrospect, I have gotten a bowl of their thick and tasty seafood chowder instead. The fish and chips proved tastier with the house made tartar sauce and fries that the server suggested we add a side of gravy for dipping to. This did not disappoint.

Another meal was spent at A&W. Chicken sandwiches and onion rings enjoyed across the spacious Nissan Rogue’s cabin and arm rest.

 

One dinner had us travelling to Courtenay to take in island night life. A couple flights of beer and a burger with fries at Gladstone Brewery. I fully enjoyed their garage theme that included the up cycled use of old licence plates to holster a flight of four.

Their unique collection of burgers included the “Chrome Dome” a ground pork burger that came in a “Egg in a Hole” Potato Bun. Fun to look at, but hard to eat. The house blended tannadice ground pork was seasoned sweet. It was the dominat flavour profile, whereas I could have used more saltiness from their Natural Pastures Courtenay cheddar cheese or some tang from the Hazy Pale Ale onion relish. But it was the poutine on the side that stole the show with its tasty gravy and meltEd cheese over chewy fries. I always recommend breweries or distilleries as points of interest to visit when travelling, their unique offerings are worth partaking in.

Although, my favourite meal was the one we prepared our self; dry, under the protective tailgate of the 2021 Nissan Rogue. Using propane and camping cookware we sautéed chanterelles with zucchini, pan fried cubes of spam, and boiled up three packets worth of mi goreng. All served up on a plastic plates along side a bottle of red wine.

The day after, our travels took us from Salmon and Kennedy River, to the Pacific Ocean. With a stop and a two night stay in the “Lazy bear cabin” Airbnb in Ucluelet. This was unfortunately amidst of a blackout, due to strong winds blowing down power lines. Luckily our stay coincided with the tail end of it, and power resumed later in the evening. Having been sleeping in the Rogue, we came equipped with our own torches and flashlights; and even had a lamp to keep us warm. Water ran, but it was cold. Therefore our long awaiting shower comprised of a damp rag and boiled water, much like what we were doing before this night.

Nonetheless we made the best out of the situation, keeping warm with layers and warm beverages. Specifically Tofino Distillery’s old growth cedar gin mixed with earl grey tea and ginger ale, for a warm you inside out sorta cocktail.

Dinner was made possible thanks to the barbecue outside and the town’s only grocery store still open. Without electricity they were unable to keep meat cool and therefore dinner compromised of canned corned beef, grilled vegetables and a mix of the chanterelles we collected, along side chicken of the wood. The latter is a type of mushroom, aptly named for its texture that resembles dried chicken. A little too rough for me, but a first experience worth trying nonetheless.

Eventually the power did come back, and we were able to have a late night snack prepared within the warmth of our Airbnb cabin. Snack was toast made with luncheon meat, cheese, and a chanterelle omelette in between two slices of garlic bread. Served along with French pressed coffee and a salted caramel cheesecake slice.

The next day, fresh off of the excitement of having electricity. I made an elm and chanterelle cream of mushroom soup, served along side a different garlic toast sandwich. This time with a sunny side up egg and sautéed elm mushroom filling.

Well fed, it was then off to explore the city of Ucluelet some. Starting with the first look of the Pacific for the week; and a light hike that included a loop around a light house, where winds carried waves and crashed them angrily against large rocks.

As per the locals we grabbed coffee and the Foggy Bean and snacks at Zoe’s Bakery.

And for our last sheltered night in the Airbnb I upcycled leftover mushroom soup into a Parmesan rich, wild mushroom, Alfredo pasta. The perfect side to medium rare steak, grilled tomato, and sautéed hedgehog mushrooms. To drink: wine, was the very same vintage used to make the soup/pasta.

Breakfast the next day was enjoyed on the damp porch outback. Our cabin included its own forest and redwood tree to take in as we ate what we had leftover from the days before.

After a speedy checkout it was off to Tofino and the tsunami hazard done for the last leg of our trip. Here, gentler waves creeping up sandy shores replaced violent ones. Surfers enjoyed the water under them and we the rain that fell above us.

And what is a visit to Tofino, with a stop at the original tacofino truck? There, I recommend their fish tacos for its freshness and the gringa for its lack of availability anywhere else. The chicken gringa, is a 6 inch flour tortilla stuffed with chicken, cheese, salsa, and sour cream; then grilled until gooey and crispy.

Then it was a safe and easy drive back to Nanaimo to catch the ferry home to Vancouver, safe and sound thanks to the 2021 Nissan Rogue. A solid SUV, with enough room to sleep in, even when you over pack. With plenty of comfort and modern features for extended driving. And an amazing fuel economy to get you further and faster than you expected. In short the 2021 Nissan Rogue is a great travel vehicle in our books, and one to consider if you live a similar lifestyle to the one I described above. Thank you Nissan for the loaner and the memories.

Bisou Bake House

With the most recent Covid 19 lockdown, due to the increase in cases in B.C., I have been finding myself outdoors even more. I have taken to fishing and the season for coho is fast approaching, so I have been dedicating my weekends out in the country. Rain or shine, cold and colder I have left the warm and connivence of home for the great outdoors. So this weekend, I was delighted to receive a care packaged from Bisou Bakehouse in North Vancouver.

They are well known of their pastries and cakes, so had packed me a selection of their post popular goods, and I happily took them with me to my latest excursion. Given the lack of heat or cooking source, I thought that these would make the perfect snacks for me and my companions. A box of goodie to bring some civility to the wild. And boy they and we appreciative.

Despite them being less then room temperature and a day old, they ate wonderfully. Each croissant and danish was just as flaky as I would expect it to be coming out of their glass showcase.

Most memorable was the cheese croissant that made into a sandwich, cutting it in half and filling it with a grilled smokey. It was cheese on cheese and oh so perfect.

As is, I particularly liked the peach danish with its sweet fruit and luscious cream, offering contrast to the buttery pastry. The blueberry one gave you some crunch with its pecans. The same crushed nuts also found its way into a moist muffin. Moisture that I wish the cinnamon roll had more of. But that would have been too messy to eat as a handheld.

Much like the whole blueberry pie Bisou also sent me, but I thought that would be better suited to dining at home. Fresh BC blueberries baked within a golden brown crust. Warmed up for a little gooeyness. If they ate this good in the wild, I can only imagine fresh out of the oven. This taster has inspired me to head into the actual store, the next time I am in their neck of the woods.

Bisou Bake House
1189 16th St W, North Vancouver, BC V7P 1R4
(604) 984-9478
bisoubakehouse.com

2020 Mercedes GLB250 Review

This week was my first time cruising around in a Mercedes, and thanks to this little test drive, I can fully understand the difference a badge makes. Not just luxury for luxury sake, the 2020 Mercedes GLB250 is equipped with enough bells and whistles to justify the price tag you’d expect.

For those reading for the first time, this is my real girl car reviews. I don’t claim to be an automotive expert or even enthusiast. I am just an ordinary, everyday girl. One with relatable questions and loud opinions. So here I put vehicles under the microscope of an every day, regular commuter, just like you.

So as far as SUVs go, I was imagining a behemoth, but walking up to this midsize 5 seater, I found it approachable. Set lower to the ground, with roundness at all its edges it felt compact. From appearance alone, a good size for every day driving. Taking you through narrow neighbourhoods with either sides of the street packed with parked cars, to wide lanes on a highway going 100km/hr. Which by the way, is my commute, and the gauntlet I put the 2020 GLB through. And thankfully the fuel economy was good, enough that I was able to enjoy the drive and afford to eat out that week.

It easy drivability, with multiple modes, and all the modern conveniences of lane assist and turn signal warning aside, the Mercedes comes with several fun features all unique to itself, or at least less common in other-like vehicles on the market. Starting off with the most noticeable and notable is the ambient lighting feature. You have the ability to custom colour code the interior of the GLB to your mood or liking. From a frosty blue to calm your nerves during rush hour, to a fiery red that match the stitching of the suede interior. If the swirling through a colour wheel proves too much, or you are overwhelmed with the possibilities, you can simply select one of their predetermined colour combinations. This includes gradient colour changes across the dash, air vents, and pipping along the driver and passenger door. With names like “jungle green” and “ocean blue”, it certainly add to the vibe.

And speaking of customizations, you can just as intricately customize your seat. From micro movements of it tilting, adjusting, and maneuvering. Worth mentioning is the lumbar, giving you the perfect protrusion to best align to your spine. I strongly suggest giving yourself 30 minutes at minimum to toggling between the above two. I spent 10 minutes alone on colour wheel. Overall the seats are comfy enough, I am just not a fan of the suede; and how it looks against this dressier cabin. It almost played everything around it down.

As for the functionality, it took a while to get use to churning the windshield wipers on the left hand side of the wheel. Whereas all the vehicles I have had before this, it has been a flicking of a handle on the right hand side. Instead, the Mercedes GLB250 has its gear shift on the right. With a flick up you are in reverse, a motion down puts you in drive, neutral is somewhere in between; and park has you pressing the end of the toggle. This definitely put a strain on my three point turn game, and increased anxiety when I had to do quick turns across four lanes of two way traffic. Although towards the end of the week it became habitual, and I was then stuck trying to adjust back to business as usual when I was forced to revert to my regular daily driver.

Similar in learned comfort was the position of my right hand on the arm rest. Built with an island for your wrists, the cushion served as a brace for your hand. You stationary hand, as you toggled through the infotainment system by means of touch pad. If it proves too difficult to use it and look down when driving, you can just as easily utilize the touch screen on the centre console. But with so many options and settings to rifle through, I once again suggest taking the time to read your manual and getting to know your Mercedes GLB250 a little better before hitting the road. And that says something, coming from a woman who is impatient and never reads instructions. A woman who prefers simply jumping it and learning through trial and error.

Sadly, my test drive didn’t happen during summer and I wasn’t able to enjoy ample sun and hot weather with the GLB250’s panoramic sun roof. Although there can be something said about watching the rain beat and bead off it. Similarly, I didn’t get to enjoy the spacious seats or get to invite others to. And it was a very spacious interior, much like the trunk. Extra space as such is great if you have lot to transport, and even better so with the trunk assist. Like placing your hand under an automatic paper towel dispenser, the trunk slowly rises with the motion of your foot under the SUV’s carriage. Great if you are alone and have your hands full, even better as a party trick.

Overall the vehicle certainly impressed, each person who saw me in it, or got the pleasure of riding within it was impressed. The experience was worth it, and now I have a better understanding of the brand and how it’s defined by such detailing as this. Thanks for the ride Mercedes Canada.

https://www.mercedes-benz.ca/en/home

#Mijune x Chez Christophe Collaboration 2020

For those who don’t know her, Mijune Pak is local Vancouverite food blogger turned TV judge, and now chocolatier.

Our very own television personality has teamed up with local favourite,
Swiss Chocolatier, Chez Christophe to release two limited edition chocolate centric treats. They are currently available on the shelves of Chez Christophe Patisserie in North Burnaby, until quantities last. Both scream Canadiana and speak to her home and native land with Canadian inspired packaging and flavour combinations.

The first is a Maple Syrup French Toast white chocolate bar. 34% white chocolate, 35% caramelized white chocolate, maple syrup, and French toast cookie to be exact. Unwrapping this is a treat in itself. With stunning packaging and a sweet (excuse the pun) message within. This heartfelt thanks is surrounded by linear drawings of Canada meets Switzerland (speaking to the heritage of the chocolate). A sketch of mountains to cityscapes and the farms and lakes in between.

The chocolate itself is segregated to align to the mountain peaks of the cardboard wrap. This gives you a stunning visual, but inconsistent prices to break off. But no matter, you are going to end up eating more than you anticipated any how. It’s that good. And then there is the sweet spray painted maple leaf outline detail. A fun homage. As for taste, the white chocolate isn’t too sweet (coming from a person who doesn’t like too many sweets). It is well balanced by the fragrant maple syrup notes. The cookie adds texture and crunch for some mouth interest. A delicious bar I would purchase again for myself, and as a gift for others. And this says a lot as I am not typically a fan of chocolate in general. Although if it has to be chocolate, it has to be white chocolate.

And if you are only going to get one of these two limited edition releases, it has to be the Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowball. This show stopper is an activity and dessert all rolled into one (yes, I like puns). A gradient: red to pink, and to white round with black speckles dispersed throughout. The viral challenge attached to this, is finding clever and artistic ways to crack into the piñata ball of sorts.

Within, is a bevy of tiny chocolate balls, nuggets of chocolate covered marshmallows, and chunks of cookies and freeze dried strawberries. Once again the chocolate and flavours are well balanced. It isn’t too sweet and every element just sings in harmony. If half the fun is breaking into it, the other half is exploring its insides. This is a great reward for any kid or adult. And for a lucky few, if your ball contains a magic ticket, you win a dessert experience with Mijune herself!

Chez Christophe
4717 Hastings St, Burnaby, BC V5C 2K8
(604) 428-4200
chez-christophe.ca

Mr. Japanese Curry

Ever since I had my first taste of curry in Japan, I have been obsessed. The mix of sweet and creamy with a little heat, is unlike any other of its kind. So when I learned of a new little spot in Vancouver offering Japanese curry, I wanted to not only try their offerings, but support this new restaurant venture as well. A restaurant trying to make a name for themselves in this unprecedented time. Opening just before the onset of Covid-19, in a shop that use to host donairs.

The name informs you of exactly what you will be getting. And if there is any doubt, you can smell what’s cooking a block away, or take a gander at the collection of detailed plastic curry on display, in the front window. During my visit their food was only available for take out. A soft opening and test run, accepting orders online, and opting for the delivery of them.

Mr. Japanese Curry is dedicated to providing authentic homemade curry in either beef, chicken, or vegan sauces. Each option also includes a bevy of toppings to choose from, to best customize each plate to your tastes. Every serving comes with their Super Premium Short Grain Koshihikari white rice and a sprinkle of fried onions. Having tried one in each category and being able to see and taste the difference between all three, I highly recommend doing the same. Trying all the different curry sauces to get the full experience, and finding the one you like the best is half the fun. Each is a recipe unique to the restaurant, learned from food technicians in Japan.

Ordering is easy off the overhead menu, with its coloured photos. And if and when dining in reopens, you are able to serve yourself at their cutlery and drink station.

The following is what we had, in the order they came up, starting with their vegan curry. They are proud to offer a tasty plant based curry, in collaboration with the popular and very local “Vegan Pudding Co.”. This was a rich and creamy curry despite the lack of milk products being used. Served wonderfully with fried mashed Japanese pumpkin patties. It was delicious, you couldn’t tell that this was made without cream or butter, nor did it have the overwhelming flavour of coconut milk. The sauce is so tasty that you need only to enjoy it with their perfectly prepared rice. And the fried onion sprinkle offers a nice little crunch in between. In actuality, you don’t want to fill up on rice, but it just goes so well with everything, that you don’t waste a single grain.

We continued to work our way up to heavier with a more flavourful curries with the “Tonkatsu Curry” next. This is their chicken based curry served with a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet, sliced up for easier consumption. This was a curry that was just as light as the vegan option above, but with very different savoury notes. In terms of flavour, this was my favourite of the three, the pork cutlet being the highlight. Each piece was tender and a little fatty for a juicer bite.

The heartiest of our three plates was their signature “Mr. Curry” platter. A beef curry that they referred to as “Stamina Curry”, served a piece of fried shrimp, thinly sliced pork belly in a homemade garlic sauce, a hard boiled egg, and melted cheese. There was plenty going on here to keep you interested. You could mix and match ingredients, curating the perfect bite. The crispy shrimp, the tender meat, the fragrant onions, and the creamy cheese sauce that pulled it all together. It has a stew-like quality to it: comforting and filling.

Overall, a great option for Japanese curry in a neighbourhood, offering something different in the area. Order all three because each is different and worth trying. Great as family food; or late night, drunk eating. This is a flavour I will crave again, and a hidden gem with nothing else like it in Vancouver.

Mr. Japanese Curry
446 W 8th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1N9
(604) 879-4400
mrjapanesecurry.com

Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba, Lougheed Town Centre

The latest location of Kokoro has opened in Coquitlam, giving me easier access and more reasons to enjoy their unique saucy udons. Their physical seating area is still closed for dine in due to the pandemic. However, with the nicer weather and plenty of benches and ledges to sit on in their vicinity, you can easily take your order to go and perch up nearby to finish it, while it’s still warm. I found myself visiting twice in the span of a month, and here is that recap.

For first timers they recommend their best seller, the “Niku Mazesoba”. Slow braised pork chashu, spicy minced pork, half a soft boiled egg, minced garlic, green onion, seaweed flakes, ground Saba fish, chives, and sesame; all over their in-house made multi-grain noodles. Like all their other variations, this one is jam packed with flavour, strong garlics and seasonings that leave you with a rich bowl that I can never seem to finish, and a mouth in need of brushing. Although when the craving for something comforting like this hits, only this would do. But be warned, for those who don’t like the flavour of anything seafood related, the Saba fish flakes are pretty prominent. And I personally can do with less green onion and chives, (though they do make for a great presentation), and more of the noodles instead. You are often left with so much more toppings than chewy strands. They offer up complimentary scoops of white rice to sop up the excess with, but why not just give more noodles to begin with; so that way it wouldn’t be as rich?

The “Curry Mazesoba” has the same flavour base as the “Niku” above, but with the highlight of a spicy Japanese-style curry. A growing heat and plenty of garlic had me stopping 3/4 of the way. Spicy minced pork, half soft-boiled egg, seaweed flakes, spinach, minced garlic, ground Saba fish, green onion, onion, and sesame; with a healthy serving of Japanese curry over their house made multi-grain noodles. A different way to enjoy this flavour packed bowl, but once again I wanted less green onions and onions and a lot more noodle to help balance things out.

I find the best way to refresh your palette and elongate the meal is to accompany the above or the below with one of their “Tokyo iced milk teas”. Brewed with 100% organic black tea, and served in an easy to carry along, plastic, ziplock drink bag. A twisty straw aids in the drinking process. It offers a refreshing, cooling sip that makes for a perfect break in eating.

The “Cheese Mazesoba” is exactly the same as the curry, but exchange curry for a good amount of cheese. But be warned it does congeal quick, and when it does, it doesn’t add the same nuance of stringy pulled cheese. Although overall, you don’t really get much of the cheese’s flavour past everything else.

The “Tan Tan Mazesoba” I liked for its peanut butter flavour, otherwise it is once again just like all the other variations above with spicy minced pork, half soft-boiled egg, seaweed flakes, spinach, minced garlic, ground Saba fish, green onion, onion, and sesame; over their house made multi-grain noodles.

Overall a great addition to the Coquitlam area, offering something unique and specialized out of downtown. Plenty of parking, with delivery and takeout options a-plenty, they are making it easy for you to visit.

Kokoro
531 North Rd #109, Coquitlam, BC V3J 1N7
(604) 917-0719
menyakokoro.com

Page 2 of 205

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén