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The Nomad Chef, Cannabis Spring Menu 2020

This week there are talks of restaurants reopening to the public. Customers are once again able to head out and grab a drink or dinner at their favourite establishment. Though now with new Covid sensitive rules in place.

In light of that I explored the private dining option with an intimate dinner for one, hosted by The Nomand Cook, also more commonly known as the “Cannabis Chef”. He is a self taught chef that stepped away from his suit and tie, management job in pursue of his passion: Cooking. And with his time on “Master Chef” Canada under his belt, he has climbed the culinary ladder and has found his niche with cannabis products, themed dinners, and even a cookbook in the works.

Starting mid May, when gathering restrictions loosen up, he will be hosting the follow four course dinner with cocktail and tea pairings Thursday to Sunday, every week. They will be held in a furnished apartment, redecorated to accommodate a small group of 6 or 3 parties of 2. An ideal size for an intimate party, or a creative new way to go back to date night. With each sitting running approximately 90 minutes in total.

And for those looking for a more safe and private environment, The Nomad Cook is available for private dinners prepared at your very own home as well. He will come in, set up and prepare a feast for you and your friends, to your specifications. Both this and the set dinner are being offered at prices barely above cost. A welcome back introduction to the dining scene, and a way to get our chef doing what he loves again. The following menu is available for the next three months, where he can accommodate any allergies with advance notice. And there is a plant base alternative menu as well. Given the season, this would include spot prawns.

Dinner is served on smaller tables covered in white cloth, they help set the mood for a causal dinner. From where you sit you get to enjoy the green of the indoor herb garden, and/or the green of the trees and grass below, from this 7th floor condo. The space makes the service more cozy and the conversation more intimate. You can’t help but chat up the chef or even the table next to yours. Given the lack of socializing thus far, I suspect people will be clamouring to converse with new faces and subsequently discuss the pandemic that has gotten us to this point.

The table is set with the necessary cutlery, a small stack of napkins, and a carafe for you to self serve. Everything within arm’s reach to minimize the need to have contact. Although our host/chef will be hosting in protective mask and glove to help further ease any uneasy-ness.

In the carafe is chilled tea from “Zteep”, a Toronto based tea company. The founder began making his mother tea with CBD in it to help with her injury and soreness, sustained in a car accident. But in this setting it helps to loosen the guests and their lips, apparently. It makes you more comfortable and chatty.

The food menu is spring and summer inspired, featuring lots of new techniques our chef has learned during his time in quarantine. All while still focusing on cannabis as a super food. Consuming it to rejuvenate the body, while maintaining its original flavour.

We started with the “Roasted Sesame & Wasabi Pea Crusted Lamb Lollipop”. My favourite dish of the entire night and a real bold start. This was a perfectly prepared New Zealand lamb served with a colourful rainbow carrot salad in a balsamic soy dressing. The salad had a stiffness to it that helped to further highlight the tender lamb meat that pulled off the bone. Dehydrated cannabis flower was used, but the THC does burn away. You weren’t able to make out any of its flavour here; the result, simply a really solid starter that you would expect at any casual dining establishment.

With it we sipped on a wonderful gin, and cucumber cannabis cocktail. Made with Hendricks gin, a simple syrup with lime and cucumber, and a mint foam topper. The presentation was spectacular and the flavour even more impressive. I could sip on these all night. I didn’t really taste any of the cannabis in this one, it was more refreshing as a classic cocktail.

We then moved on to a bright “Spot Prawn Ceviche”. In truth I thought this would have been a better start, as a lighter flavour palette. The dish spoke to spot prawn season with fresh seafood and sharp flavours: Grapefruit, Scallions, Pomegranate Seeds, Radish and toasted coconut for crunch. Made with olive oil infused with orange, lending itself to a citrusy cannabis oil. You get the freshness of the cannabis as a peekaboo; it doesn’t overpower, but ensures you don’t forget its there. Not to mention you can smell a faint hint of it in the dish.

Next on the docket was a “Crispy Skin Salmon”, with Asparagus, Shimeji Mushrooms and a Mint Pea Nage. Here, our cannabis flower found itself puréed in the latter. Its herbaceous flavour spiced up the greens well, a nice accent to the wonderfully pink fish. The plate as a whole was kept fresh and light with the crisp asparagus, earthy mushrooms, and peppery greens.

And for dessert The Nomad Cook didn’t pull any punches. A homemade pistachio and cannabis essence infused ice cream, made using the industrial Paco Jet ice cream maker. The impressive appliance sat atop his counter, offering the cream a final spin before serving. Its sweet and creamy consistency paired well with the white chocolate matcha cookie and blueberry gastrique. It acted like a sauce for the tougher and chewier, slightly bitter cookie.

In short this was a great dinner and a fun way to get better acquainted with cannabis, if you aren’t already. A comfortable setting with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. Four courses for $100 a person. A Covid discount of $50, to help us slowly acclimate to dining out again. Worth noting is that this is dine in only, so if you think you will need to doggy bag, bring your own containers.

Once again, for something more intimate, you can also hire The Nomad Chef to cater your next small, maximum 6 person soirée. An occasion that starts off with a charcuterie or canapés and leads into a menu you help create. For more details, visit the link below.

thenomadecook.ca

Shape of Wine Seminar, hosted by Riedel

I am a big fan of the International Wine Festival, I attend the grand tasting every year, and have done a few events over the years. But this year I was especially excited to be part of a class that would expand my wine vessel knowledge, while drinking out of them. This is the “Shape of Wine” seminar hosted by “Riedel The Wine Glass Company” at the “Terminal City Club”. A unique class that gave us the background on this well known wine glass company, and how each of their glass’ shape effects the bouquet of wine you are having.

Not your typical wine tasting this one is hosted by Riedel’s Regional Manager, Alysha Harker, as she guides you on a journey through your senses. (As listed on the event page) “Discover how glass shape changes your wine as you sample Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Performance Series, Riedel’s new ultimate loudspeaker for fine wine. The set of glasses is yours to take home!”

Glass by glass, we would taste the wine as it was intended in the proper varietal vessel, then again and again in glasses that left it flat and lifeless. Our wine changed from the best to the worst, thus proving what you drink out of definitely makes a difference.

“Riedel” is an 11th generation wine glass company, making glassware for over 265 years in Austria. The origin story begins with a bottle of fine wine that didn’t taste the same from vinery to home. Where Riedel’s founder saw an opportunity in the mechanism he was using to drink out of. Fast forward, their glasses have earned them the best invention title at the museum of modern art. With their first customer being the queen, who ordered 99 glasses for her party. Down the road, they were also the ones to invent stemless glassware.

Their focus is on varietal specific stem wine. They work with master wine markers and sommeliers to design a glass that goes best with the grapes of that region. The physics of the bowl, length, and rim diameter are taken into account. The goal, to have the wine hit the tongue perfectly to make it taste the best, as parts of the tongue do taste things differently. This is where they introduced flow into the equation. How far to tilt your head back when drinking, to taste the wine at its best.

Our wine class featured 4 wines and 4 glasses. The “Culmina Family Estate Winery N° 003 En Coteaux Riesling 2016” in the “Riedel Performance Riesling” glass, the “Black Hills Estate Winery Chardonnay 2018” in the “Riedel Performance Oaked Chardonnay”, the “Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2017” in the “Riedel Performance Pinot Noir”, and the “Majella Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017” in the “Riedel Performance Cabernet”. We would leave with our bellies full of wine and chocolate, and a whole set of glasses to take home as a keepsake. And honestly having tried wine in their proper vessels, there is no other way I want to have it. The only down side to this education is not having the perfect glass for all the wines I might buy, and definitely not getting the proper glass at any given restaurant. I finally fully understand the saying “ignorance is bliss”. Nonetheless, I do not regret my new found knowledge and have actually downloaded their app so that I can now only buy wines that I have the proper vessels for.

I will do my best to try and describe the experience in my usual vivid detail, but truly there is no better way than to try this experience for yourself. Before we got into tasting each glass of wine, the panelists that represented the winery spoke to it.

At the “Culmina Family Estate Winery” everything is planted from scratch. This is so that they can control and maximize the quality of their results, specifically cooler climate varieties. What we were sipping on today was part of their number series, only available through their wine club. A small lot made in 2016, and never again. We started with the “N° 003 En Coteaux Riesling 2016” in the Riesling glass. It had our heads tilt back at a 45 degree angle, giving us apple spice on the finish, with some tingling sweetness.

We then moved on to the same wine in the fish bowl shaped Oaked Chardonnay glass. We noted how the wine smelled different from glass to glass. And it tasted muted and lost its light delicate character in this one. There was no tilting of the head here, leaving it tasting like the wine had been open and sitting out for a few days, flat.

In the Cabernet glass we weren’t smelling much of anything. There was none of the fruit that you got in the first glass, which made sense given that there was the least amount of head tilting here. Our host accurately described its flavour as “Sour keys”. This was our first hand proof that the same wine changed from glass to glass, which once again, was the intention of this class. This is also why each serving of wine was held in a separate plastic cup. So that we could distribute it between the glasses ourselves, knowing full well that it all came from the same source.

Next was the “Black Hills Estate Winery Chardonnay 2018” in the “Riedel Performance Oaked Chardonnay. The winery is located at Black Sage Bench in the Okanagan, between Oliver and Osoyoos. It has one of the hottest climates, with the cacti to prove it. They are known for big reds, but also makes a great Chardonnay, like the 2018 we were trying today. Hand picked and pressed for 8 hours in slow and gentle increments. The juice is so clear that it goes straight into the barrel using 50% wild fermentation and natural yeast. It sits for 10 months, oak aging in a 10-15% new oak. This gives the wine a great creaminess and more texture. And lucky us, today was the first time they were pouring it at a tasting.

With the “Riedel performance Oaked Chardonnay”, they perfected the ridges in the glass in 2019. The changes gave it the most optic impact, and increased the surface area for wine by 25-30%. Drinking out of it it we got the vanilla and pear notes as intended, a full bodied white that tasted of bright fruit. Ideal for “red drinkers” that say they “don’t like white”.

The same white in glass number one, the Riesling had it smelling oaky with a strong acidity and a distinct grittiness. And in glass number four, the Cabernet it taste spoiled, like it had been open and sitting for several days.

With this course we were also treated to chocolate from “Lindt”, one of “Riedel’s” partners. A Lindt excellence milk chocolate was paired here. And Alysha hilariously described it as “silky halibut”, to help paint a first course picture and the perfect plate to pair with the white.

Wine number three was a pinot noir from “Quail’s Gate”, who were the firsts to bring this grape into the Okanagan as clones. Over the years they have been able to find the best area to grow said grapes, thus resulting in a better by-product and wine then what they had 25-30 years ago.

We would enjoy the “Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2017” best in their “New world Pinot noir glass”, easily identified with the tulip bulb. The glass gave the wine it’s intended smokey cherry flavour, one we got from curling our tongues and having the vibrant flavour hit the sweet and salty part of it. For sensation, my mouth liked the way it felt on this glass the most, it was also aesthetically the most appealing. But maybe just because I prefer reds.

Having it out of glass number four, the Cabernet glass, the pinot noir was tart with tannins, that had you salivating.

With it we enjoyed a square of “Lindt Excellence” white chocolate described by Alysha as duck confit. As one who isn’t a fan of Pinot noir or chocolate I liked both here and together in this partnership. Alysha herself stated that she cannot drink Pinot noir without Lindt white chocolate.

And last, but not least our varietal glass tour ended with Australia’s “Majella Wines” and their Cabernet Sauvignon 2017. Grown in a strip of red soil, the winery has a fine tune on the land. And as grape grower, our panel speaker was not shy to boast that he and “Majella” grows the best cab sav grapes in the region. He described the wine as being “very commercial”, stored in some of the best oak barrels they can get, for 22 months.

In its proper “Riedel performance Cabernet” glass we got a fragrant mix of mint, eucalyptus, cassis, and mulberries. A great wine compared to the salty and bitter flavours we got drinking it out of glass number one.

With this we had with a piece of “Lindt Excellence” dark chocolate in 70% cacao. And this was our “Triple AAA 28 ounce steak” or “Deep fried tofu with soy” for the vegans.

In conclusion this class was not only informative and fun with a great host, but you get chocolate and the glasses you drank with to take home. And best of all they are all said glasses are dish washer safe. And you are actually advised to not wash them by hand, because you don’t know hard you are actually scrubbing them. If you ever get a chance to chat up Riedel’s Regional Manager, Alysha Harker or attend such a class, I highly suggest that you do. It is life changing and will definitely improve your everyday wine drinking experience.

RIEDEL
https://www.riedel.com/

Terminal City Club
37 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1B6
(604) 681-4121
tcclub.com

Water St. Café

Admittedly I have frequented “Water St. Cafe” a handful of times, but on each visit it was for an event and during such an occasion the experience is much different. A full house with standing room only, and nibbles to graze on, as you sip on glasses of bubbles and wine. So tonight my guest and I were excited to join them for a simple dinner for two, in Gastown.

The restaurant is better known for their fine dining vibe, a modern upscale spot with dim lights, flickering candles, and white table cloths. The best seat in the house is definitely the corner table on the first floor. It over looks the cross section of Cambie and Water Street, with a clear view of the iconic steam clock. Not to mention all the folks taking photos of it, as it bongs and releases plumes of smoke into the night sky.

We were given a table upstairs, to be able to take in the live music they were promoting on this Monday night. That, and the restaurant was fairly business on what others deem a “slow night”. The server led us through a maze of large parties, past their marble counter bar, ascending up the carpeted staircase that spiral. On the second floor there are individual rooms for group events, as well as some pocketed seating that gave you seclusion for your party.

We were seated at a table for two with a view overlooking Gastown’s streets, right in front of the lit “stage”. A curtain of LED string lights set the stage literally. We arrived just as our local and live entertainment were setting up for their set. Across the evening they would perform melodic covers and their own music played across a guitar, base, and drums. I found the live music element a wonderful surprise, and was delighted to be able to take this in. It definitely elevated our evening and experience. That, and the food to come.

We enjoyed wine with our five dishes below, including the amuse bouche that came first. Instead of it being something the chef whipped up with left over ingredients, our amuse bouche was actually available for ordering off the regular menu, but in a more compact size for sampling. Instead of the “Smoked BC salmon plate, this was a bite each of smoked BC salmon served over a crostini with dill cream cheese spread. This was a great treat, a crowd pleaser elevated with the inclusion of red onions, crispy capers, and a sweet balsamic vinegar drizzle. All together a classic flavour that doesn’t disappoint. The balsamic lent sweetness to the assembly, the capers a sharp tanginess, and the radish some crunch.

Next we had the “Bison carpaccio” for our appetizer. Pink pepper corn crusted canadian bison, sliced thin as tracing paper, topped with shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, and crispy capers. This was a dish that had you choosing your own perfect bite. The truffle elevated it, and the freshness of the raw onion and the pepperiness in the greens came together, offering layered depth. Everything was wonderfully paired. Except I wanted a base with it, something to make this a heartier bite. Although at the same time, I didn’t want to dilute such an interesting flavour combination with a starch. In short, I wanted a meatier bite to the wafer thin bison I was enjoying so much.

For our vegetable course we had “Lamb lollipops and kale”. The perfectly prepared lamb made this salad a lot more approachable. Rosemary marinated, grilled lamb chops with charred radicchio, baby kale, and salsa verde. The lamb was good on its own, but the leaves it sat on offered freshness and a nice citrusy seasoning for the savoury meat. Alone, the kale salad had points of bitterness, and hints of mint.

The “West coast crab cakes” were declared a “Café tradition!”, so we had to give it a try. A blend of pacific rock crab, baby shrimp, and preserved citrus with fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. It was fragrant with the diced peppers, a notable taste paired with the sweet crab meat. As for the sauce you smear your crispy crab puck in to, it was mild enough that it doesn’t over power, but rather accented the lot with notes of marmalade on the tongue and in the nose.

And for our entree we had the “16oz Ribeye steak and frites.” A grilled 16oz bone in AAA canadian ribeye, prepared medium rare. Smothered in a three peppercorn mushroom sauce and served with cajun seasoned frites on the side. We well received this classic. The perfect amount of fat to lean beef, with a pink centre. Easy to slice through with a peppery sauce that perks it and the fries up. Fully satisfied with this one. No complaints.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In conclusion this was an amazing night. Everything was on point from the one or a kind view, to the cozy interior decorated with Christmas flourishes, to the live music surprising and delighting. And most importantly the food that was amazing, a classic menu prepared well and as expected on what typically isn’t a peak night. “Water St.” did not disappoint! Don’t deny your cravings.

WATER ST. Cafe
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

Pacific Yacht Charters, Holiday Catering

With the holidays just around two corner, it is time to start looking for that perfect Christmas party locale.

For something other than a hotel conference room or a popular restaurant rented, look no further than Vancouver Harbour. I have been on a handful of commercial yachts and attended my fair share of dinners once aboard. So I can confidently say, by far one of your best options for a yacht party is to go with “Pacific Yacht Charters”. Not only is a good looking vessel, with a more luxurious lower deck, but the food that is served on it is terrific.

The yacht has three levels and each one equipped with its own bar. The first floor was more like a lounge with couches meant for more relaxed seating. The second floor was outfitted with high tops, white table cloths and succulents in pots. And the third let you up and outside for a roof top party vibe.

The former two were made festive with winter wreaths, candy canes, and a Christmas tree. And today we were getting a sneak peak of what you can expect when booking with them, which included a traditional Christmas dinner.

While we sipped on our choice of mimosas or house red or white wine, small bites were rotated around the room.

The Brie crostini with stone fruits was delicious. Creamy, salty cheese perfectly paired with caramelized apricots and plums.

And the yam profiterole with candied bacon was like having candied yams in a whole new way. I liked the flavour, but just wished the profiterole was a little softer, to better pair with the whipped yam spread.

Our on-ship chefs carved up turkey asking our preference for white or dark meat. But both were so tender and succulent that it didn’t really matter what piece you got. Drizzled in their rich runny gravy, this was perfection.

For something sweeter and heavier, the honey glazed ham was a show stopper. Presented whole as a hoc, this too was craved to order, down to the bone.

The two meats above were well paired with their homemade cranberry sauce, buttered buns, and chunky stuffing with dried fruit and chopped nuts. All together this made for complete Christmas dinner platter.

And for dessert there were miniature pumpkin pie tartlets and buttery short bread cookies. The latter was decorated with chocolate details like Santa in red and white, tiny gingerbread men, and snowflake and pine tree cutouts.

For a sweet beverage to end on they had self serve hot chocolate and a chilled egg nog that was more sugar and cream.

In conclusion, make “Pacific Yacht” your choice for a party on the sea. No other vessels offers delicious food and a good time with a roving backdrop when they set sail. For more on their catering services visit the link below. And for those who want to be on the yacht, but don’t want to reserve the entire vessel; this year, “Pacific Yacht” is featuring dockside table reservations for the holiday season. Guests may reserve a table of 10 (or more) for a luncheon or dinner buffet. Great for families, small companies, groups of friends, or associations who would like a warm, festive and unique venue to celebrate the season.

PACIFIC YACHT CHARTERS
1601 Bayshore Drive, Suite 35, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-689-1227
https://pacificyachtcharters.com/

Tandoori Kona, FEAST: Asian Dining Festival

I wouldn’t necessarily travel to Richmond for Indian cuisine, but thanks to the “Feast Dining Festival” I had a reason to. This is the 2nd year of the “Asian Dining festival”, where a discounted price and a special menu invites diners down to Richmond to check out restaurants that they might otherwise know about, or think to visit. With over 30 different restaurants to try, there is something for everyone including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Indian cuisine. The festival is running from now until November 18th.

And in order to get me to Richmond and around the island city, I had the use of the 2020 “Subaru Ascent” for the week. And although Richmond is convenient to get to via the Canada skytrain, nothing beats a comfortable ride in a well build vehicle.

I was excited to see how busy the restaurant was on a Tuesday. I figured majority of the patrons were here for the festival. However, there wasn’t a sign of this menu in sight. I had to ask for one to be able to order the following.

For $36 you got you choice of 4 dishes in their customizable set meal. And with plenty of rice and naan as sides, this feeds two with leftovers. For your appetizer and entree you get a choice of two from a list of 5-6 items. The following is what we had.

To start, we had some drinks. My guest enjoyed his strong chai tea. However, I was less enthusiastic with my “mango lassi”. As the first taste of the night, it really set the tone for everything else to follow. Despite the chilled temperature of the glass, the beverage itself was room temperature warm. I have never had lassi like this, and would imagine that a yogurt-based drink would be refrigerated. I brought my concern up to one of the two young servers, and her solution was to put the glass in the fridge to chill it. This did little and I missed not having it to sip on for half my meal. As for the drink itself it was thick and tart, not fresh, creamy, and chilled like I wanted.

Similarly, a lot of the food came at the wrong temperature. I took little photos and was quick to allow my hungry guest to eat, so sadly this was a miss on the kitchen’s part.

The “vegetarian pakora” was warm on the outside, but room temperature within. The batter heated, the cauliflower and eggplant not. I am guessing that a microwave was used to reheat it? The pakora was also overwhelmingly salty, with a dry and floury coating. I wanted to dip it in the sauce for some flavour and moisture, but it only made things saltier. The green sauce was a spicy and tangy green chilli. And the red, a sweet and sour blend with a low burn.

The “Chicken samosa” had a similar dry and oily exterior to it, but at least it was warmed throughout. As for the flavour, it fell a little flat with the curry spices. I needed more depth, though the same dipping sauces above helped. I would have also preferred the chicken meat shredded, instead of ground and mealy, and more peas to freshen each bundle up.

Both of the deep fried dishes together was a little too much, a little too greasy, leaving me wanting a green salad for some balance in the set.

Next were the mains, the “Lamb tikka” was exciting. Served sizzling of a hot plate, with tongs so large that it made scooping up the chunks of meat cumbersome. Once again the food felt reheated. The lamb was dry and over cooked, a noticeable contrast to the crispy seared green peppers and onions. The best part of this was the sauce on the side, much like the butter chicken one below, but fully heated.

The thick chunks of chicken in the “Butter chicken” weren’t heated throughout. It at least had a nice soften texture to it, and the sauce was plenty delicious. I especially enjoyed the butter chicken as a dip with the light and fluffy naan, or over the perfectly prepared basmati rice. Both of these sides with this sauce was my favourite part of this set.

Honestly, majority of what we had was tasty, and would be better if given another spin in the microwave. But how do you broach that conversation? “Can I please have this reheated?” Given their unwillingness to remake my lassi, I decided not to bother, and instead pack it all up for leftovers. Lunch or dinner the next day, where I would be able to heat everything up to an ideal temperature, myself.

Not to mention the two young women working the front of house lacked lustre. They didn’t make eye contact and seemed like they didn’t want to be here tonight. Almost like they were a teenage daughter and niece working for their family. Given the number of comfortable guests ordering so much, I expected more relationship building and small chat to foster a community. But I guess there aren’t many Indian restaurants in Richmond, and as the only one in the area with decent pricing, they are still the go-to.

The food was good, it’s just a shame that it wasn’t fresh and that there wasn’t any noise coming from out of the kitchen. For more restaurants to try as a part of the “Feast Asian Dining” event, visit their website link below. https://asianfeast.ca/

 

TANDOORI KONA
11700 Cambie Rd #170, Richmond, BC V6X 1L5
(604) 279-9259
tandoorikonarichmond.com

#asianfeast #subaru #subaruBC #richmondbc
@feast_asian, @docksteadersubaru, @subarucanada, @wolfesubaru @wolfesubaruonboundary @richmondsubaru_bc, @jpsubarunorthshore, @jpsubarucoquitlam, @jpsubarusouth

Foodie Field Trip: Seattle

For the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, four foodies and myself got into an SVU and travelled down to Seattle for a foodie field trip. Every two months we make an effort to get together over a meal. We visit a new restaurant that none of us have ever been to, and not only eat with like minds, but take notes and discuss what we are having for the individual blog posts we will each write in review.

And in this post we decided to kick it up a notch with 36 hours of dining at multiple restaurants. This took a month of planning, and back and forth messaging to figure out which restaurants we wanted to visit, on top of all the snacks in between. The below is the result.

We left early in the morning, and when we got into Everett we stopped for a quick snack at McDonalds. I enjoy visiting McDonalds outside of Canada, to see if what they have on their menus is any different than what we have available to us. Today that was a fried chicken and biscuit sandwich and a pumpkin pie.

The former was exactly as described, a crispy strip of peppery chicken, between two halves of a warm moist biscuit. Tasty enough, but dry. It would have been nice to have some mayonnaise, cheese, or barbecue sauce to go with it, a condiment to pull both together. Although this is meant to be a breakfast option, so something lighter is appropriate.

The pumpkin pie was heavy. A creamy mousse with strong spices, you could tell that the pumpkin paste came from a can. The taste was at least spot on, with plenty of cinnamon over its flaky crust.

Then it was straight to Seattle for brunch at “Stateside” restaurant, in the heart of Capital Hill. Inspired by tropical Asian cuisine, This fusion hot spot takes a lot of influences from Vietnamese and French cuisine. For our full 10 course meal visit the link below.

Stateside

From here it was a walk to dessert. However on the way to doughnuts, we stoped for some fried chicken at “Bok Bok”. One of us recognized the fried chicken joint from its appearance on Guy Fier’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. That was reason enough to have me lining up for some wings.

What threw us off was its pasty colouring, but don’t let it fool you, this chicken has plenty of flavour. It is “air dried, double dipped, and fried to order”, and I think I found my new favourite chicken wing. A mural on the wall to the right of the register warns you that this process takes some time, but it promises and delivers on “super juicy chicken with an unforgettable crunch”. And had we the stomach capacity, I probably would have gotten their house made biscuit as a side. I will have to come back for this one.

With meat from bone picked clean, we eventually made it to our intended destination: “General Porpoise”, a local doughnut shop that I was already familiar with. However I recalled them selling more than the 5 doughnuts that they had available at the start of the day. By the time we got there they had sold down to only two options left. Both of which quickly sold out after we ordered ours.

I wasn’t overly excited for the flavours, I like the classics, but rather taste and write about something far more different, something you can’t get at other, like doughnut shops. Nonetheless these were fantastic doughnuts, the dough was light and spongy and the filling fluffy and creamy, without being too sweet. A slightly tart lemon curd and a luscious vanilla cream.

Though if you are looking for doughnuts with a little more character, I suggested endeavouring on the line up at “Dochi”, located in the Uwajimaya Seattle building. Which happed to be our next stop. This would be my first taste of these mochi meets doughnut hybrids. For more on these fusion treats with modern toppings, visit the dedicated blog post below.

Dochi, mochi donuts

From here it was time to check in at our hotel for the night, and take advantage of the complimentary happy hour that comes with it. We were staying at “The Maxwell”, better known as the “pineapple hotel” thanks to its cohesive theme. For the full review, including the decor and the good and bad of our stay, visit the link below.

The Maxwell Hotel, A Staypineapple hotel

We freshened up and headed to our next planned destination. We were invited down to “Best Wine” for a one of a kind wine tasting. Not just a matter of trying each of their labels, but finding the perfect wine to suit your “vino type”. Basically each person falls into one of four categories dependant on their taste buds, and they determined what types of wine you prefer. For more on this innovative way to choose your next vintage, visit the blog review below.

Great Wine Tasting Room

Next it was on to “Flintcreek & Co.” for a decadent dinner of tartare, hand made pasta, 48oz steaks, and molten chocolate desserts. Our idea was to indulge in rich salty foods to balance and best follow the generous wine tasting before. For all of the pricier eats, check out the review below.

FlintCreek Cattle Co.

We had additional plans to go drinking after dinner, but unanimously we were both too full and too tired. So it was time to head back to our hotel room to sleep it off and begin a whole new day of eating next morning. We were all pleasantly surprised by how well we all organized our time sharing one washroom with one toilet and one sink. We each had our routine and designated times and it worked. And through this success, we all decided for our text trip it will be more days together, and that we will need another room.

Then next morning it was brunch at another Asian fusion hot spot. “Super 6”. With its garage themed decor, this spacious restaurant serves up delicious Hawaiian favourites like spam musubi, ahi poke, and little doughnuts stuffed with coconut cream. For all the delicious and must try eats, visit the link below for the full run down.

Super Six

From here it was off to “Full Tilt” arcade and ice cream for a little of both. Classic joystick arcade games for 25 cents per play and the time needed to play off some calories before an ice cream dessert. For more this one of a kind ice cream parlour, click below.

Full Tilt ice cream

And then it was the four hour ride back home to Vancouver. We decided to leave earlier, in order to avoid the rest of the Thanksgiving long weekend traffic, also looking to cross the boarder that day. But between here and there we did some grocery store shopping. Grabbing limited edition snacks at “Walmart” and artisan eats from “Trader Joe’s”.

 

And lastly, we made a pit stop at the “Funko Headquarters” in Everett. “Funko” is the popular collectibles brand. Cute versions of your favourite pop culture icons from movies, tv, comic books, and anime. So many to look at, including life-size versions to take photos of, and the opportunity to make you own. They also sold key chains, plush dolls, broad games, make up, and wearable accessories. For a better recap of this visit, check out my latest vlog now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

In conclusion, this was a great trip and one that we were able to jam pack with plenty of food stops. So successful of a road trip that we went ahead and talked about our next being a few more days in Texas, for barbecue and warmer weather in 2020.

Hail Mary’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I like the edginess of the place and the all encompassing theme. Just wanted more value in the food menu and service that keeps you linger long after your food is done. Don’t deny your cravings.

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

VanDusen Glow in the Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I foresee the giant pumpkin being a popular backdrop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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