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Ocean7 Restaurant, AQUA Bistro & Wine Bar

We were at “Kingfisher Resort and Spa” for dinner, here thanks to a handful of recommendations. But what sold it for us was the promise of the “best patio view” in Comox Valley. And I was not disappointed, especially as we got the table right by the water.

The restaurant sits behind the resort. Guests staying overnight only have to stroll across the courtyard for a night cap. As visiting diners, you walk through the entrance and the bar greets you. Past it is either their fine dining room on the left, or their cement block patio on the right. On the patio, golf umbrellas offer shade for clustered tables. In the distance, a boat sails on calm waters, a bald eagle soars over head, and snow cap mountains offer much to take in on this warm night.

But what set them apart for me, was the cat that has made this property her home. She roamed freely and rested where she liked. Today it was the lounging on the concrete, amongst the diners. And taking a peak in the kitchen, only to be lured back out with cat treats.

As for the actual dinner, I started with their “Fizzle my swizzle” cocktail, enticed by my curiosity over cachaca. “Cachaca” is a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. The result, a tropical punch with fig reduction, coconut, lime, and orange. A very tropical drink, like a pina colada. Good, but I didn’t taste any of the promised fig, which would have elevated this to more than just an island punch.

To eat, I ordered the “Marinated Yellowfin Tuna Tacos”, after a strong suggestion from our server. A white corn tortilla filled with avocado, marinated cabbage, black and white sesame, scallion, and a chilli vinaigrette. The tuna was absolutely the best part of this meal, but there was not enough of it. A small chunk of tuna with every bite, but not enough to taste it past the generous amount of julienne vegetables; with the combined texture of coarse slaw. Red cabbage, nappa cabbage, red and yellow peppers, chives, carrot, and guacamole with spice. Be warned this is quick to fall apart, but I was quicker to grab a fork and eat it like a salad.

With them, you get the choice of sides between the pommes frites or organic green salad. I upgraded them to the “Aqua Pommes Frites” seasoned with rosemary, Grana Padano, and truffle aioli. There was plenty of truffle, so rich that I wanted some ketchup to cut the taste, and offer with it a refreshing tang. Although the fries were already pretty salty and the truffle’s oily and buttery nature was hard to mask when in excess.

My partner got the “Bistro Burger” with ground chuck, smoked cheddar, honey cured bacon, roasted garlic aioli, and grainy mustard; all between a pretzel bun. This too comes with your choice of pommes frites or organic green salad. He got the former. The menu didn’t list pickle being in the burger, so he was upset that it “contaminated” his dinner. He removed it and the two slices of tomato. But I found the density of the juicy patty and the heavy pretzel dough in need of those vegetables for freshness and balance, like the sweet cherry tomato.

 

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.
Overall a good enough meal, but what you will remember is the view, and the reason I will return is for this view. But next time around I will be visiting their fine dining property. It too has the same view, but just behind glass.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OCEAN 7
330 Island Hwy S, Courtenay BC, V9N 9R9
+1 800-663-7929
kingfisherspa.com

Salsa By Marcela at Cacao

Today I was invited down to “Cacao”, a Latin American restaurant in Kits. We were here to get a first hand look at their new salsa line through an interactive cooking demonstration. I have never been to the restaurant, so thought this would also serve as a great introduction to it.

Here, we would meet Marcela one of the house chefs, who serves her traditional Mexican cuisine every Thursday night. Her credentials include her own cooking show, radio show, and books in Mexico. In Vancouver she is a mother of 4, launching her own salsa line with her daughters. It was her recipes and they took care of the packaging and marketing. Marcela found a need for her product given the abundance of tex mex in Vancouver. She simply wanted to offer real, traditional, Mexican salsa. And today, I would learn to tell the difference between it and Americanized Mexican cuisine.

Marcela was a sunny person, happy and welcoming in her deep purple and fuchsia chef’s coat, with colourful embroidery. She was patience in explaining to us what we were having, spelling out their proper Mexican names for this blog. She took the time to teach us about a few of her traditional Mexican kitchen utensils, including the carved wooden chocolate milk muddler pictured above. We also learned about chilli, how to buy them and how their name varies based on it being green on the plant, or dried and red.

Our night began with some “Tepache”, a traditional Mexican drink made from fermenting pineapple skin in water and sugar. It is comparable to kombucha in taste. Great for hot weather and best mixed with sparkling, like how we enjoyed it was today.

To snack on we had “totopo”, the Mexican word for chips. These are made by deep frying tortillas. They don’t make there own tortilla here, but do cut up, fry up, and season what they get from local “Chancho Tortilla”. Marcela declared theirs the best and most authentic tortilla that a Vancouverite can get. And true enough, these tortilla chips were amazing. This snack had the whole room going back for chip after chip. Their thick crunch and salty coating, the perfect vessel to scoop up fresh made guacamole salsa. Salsa prepared using one of Marcela’s bottled ones below. Together this was so good that I inquired about purchasing a bag of “totopo” to take home. However, they don’t offer them by the bag, making them a good reason to return.

Next we had some “Gorditas”, doughy circles that were cut down the middle and stuffed with a creamy avocado spread. The table loved these too. I liked the texture that sprung back after you took a bite, but I found it was lacking in flavour, especially compared to the “totopos” above. It reminded me of a mild corn, but made into dough and baked.

When the demo began we were invited around Marcela’s makeshift cooking station. She had her three bottles of salsa on display and all the fresh and dried ingredients she would need to prepare a full meal with them. She began by explaining to us that salsa isn’t just for dipping. And that when you purchase one of her salsas you get a snack and a meal helper all in one. Each is all natural and keeps for two months in the fridge, once opened.

She would show us 4 quick and easy recipes that you could prepare at home, yourself. But first prefaced the demonstration, explaining that in her cooking and for her recipes nothing is exact, it depends on the day, time, and mood.

First was an oven baked fish. BC red snapper prepared with lemon, salt, and her “Papa Carlos’ salsa”. Each of her three salsas are named after the family member who taught her the recipe. This was her grandfather’s recipe that her family used as an emergency mealtime solution. This pickled salsa is great with any seafood. You top your first with it generously, wrapping it all up in tinfoil, then allowing it time to bake in the oven. The result, a juicy fish made spicy with the vegetable mix. I could have used more salsa to enjoy with each bite of fish. But be warned, it is on the spicier side.

Next was a Mexican fried rice prepared with her green “Tio Emilio” salsa. She added oil to a hot pan and to it fried onions and poblano chilli. Next went in garlic, corn kernels and her uncle’s sauce, jalapeño, garlic, water, salt, oil, and fresh cilantro. When simmering you add in half a cup of salsa and half a cup of water, with one cup of rice. Stir, add salt, and reduce heat. I really enjoyed the rice and thought it was a clever way to use salsa that I could myself copying in the future.

All “Salsas by Marcela” can be utilized hot or cold. The green sauce was also great as a salad dressing. It was tasty with mixed greens, sunflower seeds, and tomato.

Next Marcela showed us how to make her favourite enchiladas using the red “Mama Luchita” salsa. You start with oil in your pan and to it add in her mother’s smokey sauce. With a bit of water, allow it to boil, before submerging a tortilla. Once fully coated, plate said tortilla, fill with feta, fold over, and top with more sauce from the pan. Once again these tortillas came from “Chancho Tortilla”. When trying it, you definitely got the two types of chilli smoked and cooked in oil that went into the bottled salsa.

Our meal ended with a dessert that embodied “Cacao“ and the Latin American food prepared traditionally, with original flavours, in an European style that they specialize in. These are “Borrachitos”, Mexican sweets known as “men drunk”. Sweet jelly candies made with corn starch, sprinkled with sugar and filled with alcohol; hence the name. They are normally either red, yellow, or green. But tonight’s rendition was dyed purple by the violet flowers they used. You don’t taste the flower, more the punchy tequila that hides with. I really liked them and wished we had more. One to try, and the second to really enjoy and taste.

If you want to try Marcela’s authentic Mexican cuisine for yourself, and not just bring a bit of her into your kitchen, visit “Cacao” on Thursday evenings to enjoy a five course meal that includes dessert. Marcela herself, made sure to note that you will get to try many different types of Mexican food, that it isn’t just tacos. And every two weeks they change up the entire menu, but mole (a chocolate based sauce) is always included.

“Salsa by Marcela” is currently only available at local health food store, “Fresh is Best”. Grab and jar and get more recipe inspiration from their Instagram @SalsaByMarcela.

Given my teaser of “Cacao”, I would love to come back and try more of their menu. I don’t recall the last time I had traditional Latin American cuisine. Don’t deny your cravings.

BC Seafood Festival 2019, kickoff

The BC seafood festival is back for another year, and today we were invited down to “Pacific Yacht Charters” to get a taste of what you can expect from the week long festival in June. And what better way to enjoy the bounty of the sea than on a yacht, in it. The celebration BC seafood included the announcement of their “Buy BC Seafood Campaign”, encouraging the purchasing of local goods. And a collection of chilled drinks and delicious seafood tastings from Chef Mardy Ra, Pacific Yacht Charters, and other guest chefs. Here is a recap of what we enjoyed.

“Pacific Yacht Charters” had severs coming around with small bites, like these crispy crab cakes.

“Locals Restaurant” in Commox were offering guests their cucumber wrapped smoked sablefish with kelp and caviar cream.

“Fanny Bay Oysters” served up a thick and creamy Manila clam and corn chowder, topped with corn salsa and paprika oil. And they paired with smoked pork belly with a crispy crackling skin. This was a gluten free chowder that won the “2019 Oceanwise Chowder Chow Down”.

From “Ancora Waterfront Restaurant” in West Vancouver came a refreshing ceviche. A mix of fresh seafood and citrus that we were encouraged to take down like a shot.

From “Blackfin Pub” came a made to order pan seared albacore tuna, all done before our eyes.

And on the deck was Gordy McLellan from Mac’s Oysters shucking a variety of BC oysters that guest slurped down.

The empty shells were tossed over board, or used as a shot glass for some “Unruly Gin” from Wayward Distillation House.

I highly recommend the “KRUPNIK“ they were also sampling. This was a spiced honey liqueur that was one of a kind and easy to sip neat.

“40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery” was also on site serving guests a taste of their red, white, and rose.

The 2019 BC Seafood Festival will run from June 7-16. It will once again be held in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. This the largest seafood festival in western Canada. It is a great treat for seafood lovers, and a better destination for families looking for a summer vacation trip. More than just food stalls and booths, they offer up seminars, gala dinners, master classes, cooking competitions, and plenty of activities to keep the whole family engaged. For more details on how you can get your tickets and help in planning your trip check out their website with the link below.
https://bcseafoodfestival.com/

#BCSeafoodFest

Nana’s Green Tea

There was much buzz surrounding this green tea themed dessert parlour, one that continued to surround it well though the summer. I was able to visit it before the season ended with a larger group of friends. Amongst us five we were able to try all their matcha frappe variations, and one of their red bean creations too. But truth be told each is pretty much the same, except the toppings varies slightly from one cup to the next.

The little shop had little room to shuffle in, given the crowds they drew. A poster version of their menu and stanchions helped to organize this ramble. The goal was that you would use the time waiting in queue to have your beverage or parfait chosen well before; thus hemorrhaging the time those behind you would have to wait.

If the space allows, you can even eat your treat at the back. Just follow the informative panels, leading you towards this dining area. They educate visitors on the quality and the process that goes into the matcha powder that they use. And if you manage to secure a seat, I would suggest ordering one of their very photogenic parfaits, served in a tall glass with the lengthy spoon to match. This is layers of ice cream and whipped cream, available and topped with the same ingredients as our frappes below. You can also have it to go, but having to scoop up and walk might prove challenging.

As for the frappes, they were tasty. If given the choice, and if they were located in a more accessible area, I would absolutely order this green tea over any at Starbucks. You could taste the quality in the powder. Their ice cream and mocchi finishes offered additional flavouring and creaminess.

Matcha frappe with vanilla soft cream.

Matcha shiratama frappe.

Matcha warabimochi frappe.

Black sesame shiratama frappe.

Azuki caramel latte. A nice non-caffeinated alternative with a rosy red bean flavour.

 

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.
Available hot and cold, they cater to matcha lovers and those who enjoy other Japanese flavours like hojicha and azuki. A great desert stop in Kerrisdale and one I would visit more often if it was only closer to my work or home. Will definitely swing by the next time I am in the neighbourhood. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NANA’S GREEN TEA
2135 W 41st Ave, Vancouver, BC V6M 1Z6
604-263-5054
nanasgreentea.com/en

Honjin Ramen

My partner works in New Westminster and has slowly begun to search out new places for dinner. Today he invited me to check out a newer ramen shop by his. This is “Honjin Ramen” in Coquitlam. Located in the plaza adjacent to the Silvercity movie theatre. Here, their little shop boasts “Authentic Japanese noodles” that they make themselves in house.

They have been open since April of this year, despite what their menu might say. Our server, who I guess is also the owner, based on his stature, and out of everyone he was the most keen on engaging with his customers and seeing to their needs. He waved off the bold first line on the menu reading “soft opening”, as it was something to disregard. I guess when you print a menu in colour and laminate it, you plan on using it for a while.

The restaurant was very brightly lit. It felt uniform and sterile, clean of debris and clean with its lines. Although sleek, it wasn’t a comfortable setting to eat slow and linger at. There is no music playing, nothing to cover up the pauses in conversation and the lone cough in the corner. The quite allows you to hear the hum of the fridge, and the kitchen at rest. Today there were three people behind the counter waiting for an order. And two more hovering around the dining area floor, looking for the slightest hint that they are needed by their assigned tables. Although earnest, it didn’t feel very welcoming. More like you are being watched, be cause there is nothing else for them to do. I certainly felt the eyes when I had to take the photos below. And the temperature within the restaurant was just a little too warm. To the point I felt discomfort and even more so when hovering over the bowl of hot soup below.

Each wooden table with matching chair and bench included a collection of sauces, spices, and extra seasonings. So many small jars and squeeze bottles that the intended tray couldn’t house them all. Vinegar, togarashi seasoning, garlic paste, soy sauce, a house made chilli sauce and a store bought version. The only way I know this is because I had to ask. I wished they were labelled instead

My partner had us share two of the dishes he would return and order again, should he like either of them today. The “Tonkatsu” is deep fried pork coated in crispy bread crumbs served with tonkatsu sauce, and a side of shredded cabbage. Served with steamed rice, a side salad with dressing, tangy pickles and miso soup. At $8.95 this was a great deal and a filling meal. With all the small sides and little bites you can have in between your pork cutlet, the meal lasted, it felt wholesome and it covered all flavours and textures. The pork itself had a great coating, and the meat inside wasn’t dry. My partner found it true to the taste he remembered when he first had it in Japan. And I liked it with the milder tonkatsu sauce. I am not really a fan of it in the first place, preferring more of a sweeter dipping sauce; so this was a good compromise.

I was impressed by the heartier miso soup. There were plenty of bits to chew through. Seaweed, regular tofu, the fried variety, and green onion. Like the broth below, this serving too was oily. I didn’t mind it in taste, but didn’t like the residue that adhered to your lips because of it.

The “Shio Ramen” featured a salt based chicken broth with homemade noodles, chashu, corn, marinaded egg, bamboo shoot, green onion, and roasted seaweed. It was super clean, flavourful, but not rich. I liked the variety of elements, how they offered variation in each bite. The sweetness of the corn, fermented qualities of the bamboo, creaminess of the egg; and the fatty, yet super tender pork meat. It was good, but as a whole it didn’t really stand out compared to all the other ramen offerings around. That was until I looked to the garlic paste on the table. With a glob mixed in, it gave my noodles new life and a longer lasting impression. However it also left me with the lingering taste of garlic on my tongue, and therefore I assume breath.

The “owner” took the time to promote and talk up his stamp card program, explaining to us that after the 10th visit or dish ordered and 10 stamps later we would get a plate of gyozas for free, but should we keep collecting to 20 stamps we could earn tonkatsu, or any bowl of ramen at 30 stamps. Stamp cards aren’t new, but the amount expects here is. 10 orders for one side felt pointless. If you can afford and do end up eating here 10 times, the possibility of free gyoza isn’t the reason. 4-6 visits feels more reasonable. With 8-10 for a main. Thought when it still came time to pay, I asked for one anyways. And ironically he looked confused over my mentioning ir 30 minutes later. We left with a card and two stamps.

We came into an empty restaurant, but left one that was full. The once awkward silence was now replaced with kids laughing, tables chatting, and plenty of clanging and sizzling from kitchen.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They aren’t a destination, but instead, a good option for a quick and inexpensive meal in New West. $8.95 and $9.95 are such good prices for the quality of what we got and the portions of it. Most other ramen places just as good, charge you $12-14 for a bowl. The above at under $10 is great for everyday eating. An easy option for people like my partner and myself, who don’t really cook or meal prep. Therefore every dollar matters, and you certainly get your value’s worth here. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HONJIN
228 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K 6V7
604-553-7960

Festival of Lights at Van Dusen Gardens

I am on a roll with all these winter shows and festivals that I have been visiting this year. Majority of them were my first time to boot, so tonight I was crossing another one off the list.

I have been to Van Dusen a handful of times prior to, visited for all sorts of reasons and for all sorts of different events. So was never really just there for the plant life, with the goal of fully taking them in. So when planning for tonight, I figured I would get that chance now, however it was the same as always, something takes my attention away from the nature. Tonight it was the entirety of their “Festival of Lights”.

This was and will probably be the most Christmas lights that I see in one given place this year. And through this festival I learned how spacious the garden grounds are. I would like to come back to visit during the day time in spring. It would be nice to actually see the flora and fauna here all year round, that this garden was actually cultivated for.

The “Festival of Lights” is on now until January 6th. Times vary based on dates with gates consistently opening at 4:30pm. The closer to Christmas the later the hours kept. Purchasing tickets online will save you $1.50 at the door. General admission at the gate is $20. However, tonight there was a line at the gate, pre purchased ticket holders found themselves waiting because they planned ahead, and folks were able to walk right through after paying on the spot. We came right when they opened, planning to blitz through the garden before it got busy, knowing large families with strollers would be plentiful, and we wanted to take as many unobstructed photos as possible. The night came on quick and the parked filled up even faster. We watched blue skies turn black and clear paths slowed by lines and clustered bodies to the sides.

The following are a few of the lights of the event, as we wandered and encountered them. Although naturally there is so much to see and nothing can replace the actual experience, so don’t take my words and the one dimensional photo to heart. But a more thorough look at the event, check out my latest vlog, up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

There is plenty to see, you find yourself repeating trails and discovering new ones as you walk trough the maze. There are a few stopping places along these paths. Paths punctuated with activities to interact with or backdrops and props to take a photo with. Well lit caverns to walk through, light trimmed gazebos to stand under, and play houses to crawl in to.

A tunnel of light.

A walk way with lanterns lining it.

A series of pointed spikes to walk in between.

A gnome’s home and a small town of gingerbread houses.

A muppet-like version of a yeti with pointed teeth and even sharper claws.

Light up domes.

Arch ways to stand in and under.

In “Elfie Woods” (a section of the garden labelled that) there were mushrooms and flowers in light.

And elves of the shelves gathered collectively in bird houses abandoned for the season.

If you come early and know where you want to go, you can get a few photos in with just you in the frame. However don’t expect that to be the case overall, as you will photobomb a dozen photos and have yours obstructed a dozen more. Some attractions see people forming lines and taking photos in turns. While some folks saw the entire park as open ground and that you or anyone can’t really expect to have a scene for yourself, thus pushing their way through.

“Dancing Lights” is a series of light that blink and flash in tune to a mix of winter melodies. They play across the Livingstone Lake, every 20 minutes.

At the “Make-A-Wish® – Candle Grotto”, volunteers collect donations for the charity that arranges experiences described as “wishes” to children diagnosed with critical illnesses. Each donation collected, lights and adds a candle to fill the grotto space. I imagine it is quite the sight once a handful is donated.

“Recycled rhythms” is a collection of musical makeshift instruments. With wooden sticks you tap, hit, and strum your way around a tent. Hanging wood sticks, metal pipes, plastic rods, dangling bells, and suspended cymbals.

At the “Tinsel tunes” tent you can showcase your musical talent by tickling the ivory.

The “Carousel” gives kids of all ages a spin on colour animals.

At “Santa’s Cabin” anyone can queue for a photo with Santa. There is no additional cost to do so, as it is included with your ticket price.

The “Fireside Lounge” gives visitors a covered area and fire pits to stay dry and be warm under. Here you can order some mulled wine or spiked hot chocolate.

Other stalls offered mixed nuts and popcorn. And I got a pretzel from yet another.

For something more hearty the garden grounds hosted four food trucks. Mini doughnuts, Japanese style hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers made with a bannock twist, and warming bowls of soup.

Overall the event is less any one spectacle, and more about the collective of lights as a whole. The mass amount of them is what makes this showcase most impressive.

 

VAN DUSEN Festival of Lights
5251 Oak Street, Vancouver BC, V6M 4H1
604-257-8335
https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/festival-of-lights.aspx
#VanDusenFOL

The Dumpling Trail

Tourism Richmond has put together a brochure of delicious dumplings and where to find them in their neck of the woods. This listing has recently been updated with two new stops and one new dumpling, so today we were here to give the self guided tour a go.

Fondly referred to as the “Dumpling Trail”, this listing helps visitors single out the best places to go for the dumplings, that they want to try. It is no secret that Richmond is known for their Chinese food. The city has earned international attention thanks to the accolades bestowed to it from highly acclaimed publications. It is the skill of the chefs immigrated from China to Richmond, and the bounty that Vancouver and Canada’s farms provide: organic produce, grain fed livestock, and fresh ingredients.

One side of the brochure lists 13 different dumplings, what they are and where you can find them. 20 different restaurants all vetted by the Tourism Richmond team. It highlights those only available during dim sum hours, the dumplings that are available with a vegetarian filling, the restaurants that are cash and debit only, and it includes a map on how to get to each destination.

 

The following is a review of each dumpling, and where we tried it. For the vlog version of this event and all 18 different dumplings that we tried on this day, check out my latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

The first 5 are only available during dim sum hours, sadly we missed trying the “Jian Dui”. Although I have had these sweet Chinese pastries before. A deep fried sesame seed ball filled with red bean paste, black sesame, or black bean paste. We enjoyed dim sum at “Empire Seafood Restaurant” and feasted on the following 4.

“Ham siu gok” are Chinese egg shaped dumplings, fried to a crisp, with a chewy centre and a filling of minced pork.

“Har Gow” is a popular steamed dim sum dumpling. A ball of shrimp and prawn inside a tapioca wrapper.

“Siu Mai” are equally as popular, these steamed pork bundles are typically coated in a yellow wrapper and topped with florescent orange salmon roe.

“Wu Gok” is a deep fried taro dumpling with a crispy shell and a mashed taro and ground meat filling.

“Chiu Chow For Gow”. This dumpling originated from the Chao Zhou district of China. It is known as one of the most fulsome dumplings, boasting a bevy is chopped and minced ingredients: peanuts, garlic, chives, ground pork, fried shrimp, radish, and shiitake mushroom; all wrapped in a tapioca flour shell.

Not specifically listed on our “Dumpling Trail” guide, the following are a couple of other dumplings we tried during our dim sum.

“Steamed wild mushroom dumpling with black truffle”. We ordered this wanting the taste of truffle, but only got the woodsy flavour of the shiitake coming through.

“Steamed cuttlefish sauce, scallop dumpling”. I like the presentation of this one, having had it wrapped in a dyed orange and now black wrapper.

Empire Seafood Restaurant, dim sum

For more on “Empire Seafood Restaurant” and some other dishes that they offer, check out my previous visit review.

Not just available during dim sum are the popular “Xiao Long Bao”. Originating from Shanghai, these soup filled pork dumplings are best dipped into vinegar and taken in, in one full bite. Although, be aware they are served hot! We had them at “Empire” and “R&H Chinese Food”.

At “R&H” we also had 3 other dumplings. The “Guo Tie”, pan fried potstickers filled with ground meat and vegetable, all wrapped in a thin dough. Its time in the pan gives it a wonderful char.

“Wontons” are typically filled with ground pork and shrimp, served in soup or chilli oil, we had the later.

And not on the guide, but one that we tried was the “boiled dumplings” with pork and chives.

 

R&H Chinese Food

For more on “R&H Chinese Food” and details on how the above dumplings tasted, check out the link above for the review.

 

We had “Shui Jiao” at “Morals Village”. These are simply any dumplings boiled in water. They are found all over Asia with a great variety of ingredients like chicken, beef, and leeks. Here they have either shrimp or chives, we went for the later and it included pork; and got to boil it ourselves in our very on hot pot.

Morals Village Hot Pot

For more on “Morals Village” and what you can expect from their hot pots, check out my the link to my review above.

 

“Banh bot loc” originated from Vietnam. These tapioca skinned dumplings are filled with pork and shrimp, and dipped into fish sauce. They are best eaten fresh when the dough is still gummy.

Another type of dumpling that wasn’t on the menu, but we were lucky enough to be treated to, were these mung bean rounds. With a pork filling and a fish sauce dip, they were similar to the above, but different with its gummy exterior and fried onion topping.

Bánh Mi Très Bon

Both are only available at “Banh Mi Tres Bon” on the trail, for more about them and some of the other appetizers worth trying there, check my review post above.

 

Similarly, you can only get the last dumpling on the list from one location. “Mandu” are Korean dumplings that have a similar taste and feel to Chinese dumplings. They are available steamed, boiled, pan fried, or deep fried at “Samsoomie”.

We went for the “Pan fried dumplings” filled with pork and chives. It was heavier than the other reincarnations above, although the sauce was helpful in brightening it up, as well as giving it a more memorable flavour.

The “Sweet and sour wonton” had a lot more punch. These little bundles were cute, like little presents you popped into your mouth, one after another.

 

And last but not least, an order of beef and chicken gyozas. These are available from either one of the two “Pepper Lunch” locations in Richmond.

Served on their trademark heated skillets, they come sizzling and perfectly seared for an even char. They are served as a set with a bevy of sauces for you to choose your own flavour adventure; be it dip, squeeze, or dab.

 

And with that we successfully tried 12 out of 13 of the listed dumplings on the Tourism Richmond’s “Dumpling Trail” list, enjoying 18 different dumplings in total. To learn more about the “Dumpling Trail” and to get the map and listing for your own self guided tour, visit the link below.

https://www.visitrichmondbc.com/blog/post/10-dumplings-to-try-on-the-dumpling-trail/

Mrkt East, at Parq

This weekend we were spending a night at “JW Marriott” at “Parq”, in celebration of my girl friend’s birthday. And after an earlier dinner and a full evening of drinking we found ourselves hungry at 12am. So looking for something savoury to snack on, we stumbled out of our hotel suite in search of a quick bite.

However, options are more limited, which brought us to “Mrkt East”, the casino floor’s food court that specialized in Chinese street food. Although, at this time only their late night menu was available for ordering off of, which included whatever was pre-made and pre-packed in their refrigerated units. Desserts, drinks, and bottled beverages mostly.

You order at the counter and pay. You are given a plastic number, to signify your purchase and it is delivered to you on a plastic tray when ready.

One of my guests had fries tossed in togarashi. This was a common choice of seasoning that found its away around to all the restaurants we visited this weekend. “Togarashi” is a Japanese spice mixture containing red chili pepper, Japanese pepper, roasted orange peel, black sesame seed, white sesame seed, hemp seed, ground ginger, poppy seed, and dried seaweed flakes. It was good, your standard crispy fries.

My other guest order the cha siu bowl that came with vegetables and rice. It was ok for a food court, but the bbq pork was too lean. And the slices so thin that you don’t fully enjoy the chew of the honey glazed pork.

He also ordered a small bottle of wine, only to declare that it had no taste.

I ordered their wonton noodle soup bowl. It was as warm and as comforting as I had hoped. No complaints. It wasn’t the best, or one I would travel a great distance for, but it hit the spot this late at night.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A quick and convenient option for the casino floor. It caters to their clientele and offers other popular street snacks like bubble tea, fried Korean chicken, and Vietnamese banh mi. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MRKT EAST
39 Smithe Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 0P4
778-370-8600
parqvancouver.com/restaurants/mrkt-east

Fright Nights at Playland 2018

Western Canada’s most highly anticipated adult-themed Halloween event, Fright Nights at Playland is back for another year. And for another year I question my decision to attend the fearsome event. I don’t know why I continue to do this to myself, as I am a huge scaredy cat. I believe in ghosts and worry about what I can’t see in the dark. Yet here I find myself, for the second year in a row at these glowing gates. Past them are haunted houses and scary rides, but with the same snacks and whimsy as the carnival does, in the day. All mixed together with the light of a full moon, a crisp fall breeze, chills down your spine, and billows of artificial fog from their smoke machines.

This year the PNE is proud to present 8 haunted houses, 20 gripping rides, and 3 nightly performances by Guinness World Record holders Monsters of Schlock. All this in celebration of Halloween, where for the month they are unleashing monsters and mysterious creatures to haunt and terrify the public from October 5th to 31st, on select nights. Basically every day expect October 8-10, 15-16, and 22-23. Gates open at 7pm and run to 12am.

Admission tickets can be purchased for a reduced rate online, or at Lower Mainland 7- Eleven stores. Tickets must be purchased for the specific date in which you plan on attending, and be warned popular days do sell out quick. However, I suggest getting your tickets from online as only then can you upgrade them to the Rapid Pass. The “Rapid Pass” offers the same access as a regular gate passes, but without the wait. And yes, there are plenty of stanchions and lines involved at this event. But with these premium passes at its premium price, you literally go straight to the front of the line. And I don’t know about you, but time is money and my time is better spent not in queue. With a punch on this card you gain expedited access to each Haunted House and once for The Beast, Wooden Roller Coaster, Music Express, Atmosfear, and Hellevator. It is worth it for the wooden coaster alone, as you are expecting a 30 minute wait there. Advance Rapid Pass holders also use a separate line for expedited park entry. The time you save waiting in a cold, slow to move line means more fun in house and on rides.

The price for tickets, regular and rapid vary from night to night. $37 on regular nights, and $47 for Friday and Saturday admission. Rapid passes are $89 on regular nights, and $109 on Friday and Saturday. You save $6 by planning and purchasing ahead. $6 that you can put towards getting the PNE’s highly exclusive pumpkin spice cotton candy.

 

$5 gets you a towering tuft of orange in celebration of the season. And for those who love the flavours of fall, this absolutely tastes like pumpkin spice. We had the ability to watch it get swirled before our very eyes, as the largest of the night.

 

I won’t go into too much detail of each haunted house and/or spooky ride, instead I will give you the gist below and invite you to check out my more telling Vlog for the night. New on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

The 8 haunted houses in no particular order, were the same themed houses as the year before, so I went in confidently. But once inside each, my fears returned in full force. It resulted in using my three guests as my body guards, wearing them like backpacks, and gripping them tight as a shield. I know the costumed actors can’t touch you, the guest; but it doesn’t mean they don’t try their hardest to scare you through shock and suspense. And boy does it work. I can see why “Fright Nights” is not recommended for children 12 years and under, or for guests 65 and older; nor is it for those with sensitivity to strobe lighting, those with high blood pressure, heart conditions, and those who are pregnant.

The “Haunted Mansion” is the house that is available for entry all year round at a cost, as part of Playland’s regular line up. But with your regular Fright Night admission it is free. A maze of moving furniture, sudden breezes, and the occasional trap door are set to catch you off guard.

The “Asylum”. This abandoned and now haunted mental institution is home to zombie doctors and undead patients that try to scare you alike. And here there are no straight jackets or padded walls to protect you.

“Car-n-evil” is the only “house” that equips you with 3D glasses and sets you walking through a paint splotched and clown ridden dystopia. Let’s just say they give a whole other meaning to “balloon animals”.

The “Keeper’s Doll Factory” has one of the most intricate back stories. Child abduction, satanic rituals, and human sacrifices all set to the back drop of a scary as hell, abandoned and dilapidated Doll Factory.

“The Bloodshed” invites you into the home of some county yokels and the atrocities they commit within the scantily of their own home. More guts than scares this visual display of costume and makeup promises to leave those sensitive to blood and gore queasy.

The “Darkness” explores everything that might go bump in the night and sets it upon you.

“Fear” explores more than just the paranormal. It gives you overrun rooms fostering the fear of insects, animals, germs, and being buried alive within you.

“Hollywood Horrors” brings to life the nightmares we see on our screens that visit us every Halloween. Jason, Freddy, and Mike are the boys next door in this cavern of horrors.

After you have made your rounds of all the houses, there are also 20 rides to experience, such as The Beast, Atmosfear and the Wooden Roller Coaster, to take you well into the night.

And this year you can also sees the return of the Guinness World Record holders, “Monsters of Schlock”. They will be terrifying guests with feats of strength and delighting the masses with their light hearted humour.

In short, Fright Night promises a unique experience and some fun scares. Be sure to visit before the season is over and the park closes for the winter. Dress warm, wear comfortable shoes, and be prepared to scream in both fear and delight! Definitely a fun night out for friends and families!

 

FRIGHT NIGHTS
2901 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 5J1
604-253-2311
frightnights.ca

 

 

The Women Against Multiple Sclerosis (WAMS) Luncheon

Every year in Vancouver, WAMS come together for lunch in support of MS Society of Canada. This year’s luncheon returns to the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel on November 22, 2018. The goal is to utilize WAMS’ knowledge and influence, to inspire others in supporting the fight to end MS.

“WAMS” is Women Against Multiple Sclerosis. It is a powerful network of women building MS awareness, and raising critical research funds for better treatments and a cure for MS. The BC chapter was formed in 2015, and since its formation, WAMS has raised over $305,000.

“MS”, multiple sclerosis is “a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord”. The symptoms may include numbness, impairment of speech and of muscular coordination, blurred vision, and severe fatigue”. Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, with 11 Canadians being diagnosed with MS every day. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, and the unpredictable effects of the disease last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides programs and services for people with MS and their families, advocates for those living with MS, and funds research to help improve the quality of life for people living with MS; to ultimately find a cure for this disease.

And this luncheon is the platform, attracting leading professionals and organizations from a wide range of industries in support of the movement to end MS. In addition to raising funds for MS research and support, the luncheon is a networking event that provides table purchasers and sponsors high profile exposure. This year will feature Dianne Doyle as the guest speaker. Dianne was the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Providence Health Care. She made a significant impact on the health and well-being of many of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members society. WAMS will also be honouring Darcie and Kevin James who will be recognized at the event for their outstanding support in helping to raise MS awareness and funds towards a future without MS.

To learn more about MS and how you can contribute to the cause, visit mssociety.ca or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation and get your ticket.

When: Thursday November 22, 2018 12:00PM to 2:30PM
Where: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
Tickets: ​Individual $125, Table (10 seats) $1250
​VIP: $175, VIP “Circle of Influence” Tables (10 seats) $1750

For more information on this important event, or to buy the limited tickets left, visit: www.wamsbc.ca

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