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Category: Kitsilano Page 1 of 7

Uno Gelato, gelato making class

I have always wondered how ice cream parlours stay afloat during their off season. How do they attract bodies in, and customers by, to enjoy their cold treats when the weather doesn’t drive the craving? This one local ice cream parlour is diversifying, in a clever way. They are offering gelato making classes to supplement their sales. Not only does this get customers through the door, but for all who attend the class, they walk away with a new found appreciation for their product, and a willingness to come back for more in the future. This was also my first time visiting the newer ice cream shoppe, and what a great first introduction this was to it.

Located on West Broadway the shop is marked with their very own, branded, portal ice cream caddy. I have experienced their gelato when this popped up at a handful of events I attended. Past it is their all glass store front. The space is brightly lit, simple in only their use of their logo to decorate the white walls. Our class was held on the table upfront. Behind it is their gelato counter. You look up for their current menu, 12 flavours on rotation. 12 that we would later try as part of the class. I especially liked the saying that was splashed across the back of their open kitchen, it spoke to their gelato being, “simply divine”. They pride themselves on serving a “Cow to cone” product, working with local farmers and suppliers when they can, a fact that sets them apart. For example, the lemon in their lemon sorbet can’t be grown in BC, so these they import.

The class takes places every Thursday, and will run through to February 2020. And if it is popular enough, it might run through into spring. The cost is $50 per person and the class is kept as an intimate 8, the smaller class size allows for a more hands on experience. As much as possible student participation is encouraged. You help measure, pour, stir, and churn. Playing a hand in making next day’s batch. Tonight we would get a behind the scenes look at the making of their yuzu sorbet and a chocolate brownie with burnt caramel sauce. For the full run down of the class, check out my vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Or continue reading for the highlight reel.

After a few introductions to our seasoned chefs with over 10 years of gelato-making experience, our group of 8 was led to the recesses of their kitchen to learn a little more about what goes into their gelato. We got to look at and to try some of the premium ingredients that went into their gelato. We sampled various sugars, syrups, and even their homemade burnt caramel sauce. They use organic and local as much as possible, in order to guarantee that you can taste the freshness. For example, the hazelnuts for their hazelnut gelato comes from a local farmer who roasts each himself, and then send the nuts to “Uno Gelato” the very next day.

As a unit of helping hands we began by measuring the necessary ingredients, with accuracy using an electric scale. They all went into a large plastic bucket to be blended together with an electric drill-like apparatus. 60 litres per batch is made, which are considered “Micro batches”.

This liquid then gets poured into a mixer that not only churns the “batter”, but freezes it into the gelato we know. It looked like magic as the liquid turned to solid, and it built up on the sides of the stainless steel vat. And then when it was at the desired consistency we helped our chefs scoop it up with a giant spatula. Here they are either kept cool, or finished off with additional ribbons of caramel, and/or chunks of chocolate stirred in.

And while we waited we were treated to a gelato tasting, a scooped sample of each of their offerings in cups over a special placemat; much like you would see at a wine tasting.

• There was the tart “Passion fruit” sorbet with fruit from Columbia.
• The “Very cherry” was slightly sour with its namesake fruit and almost bitter with 70% chocolate from Italy.
• “Akbar Mashti” is a popular flavour amongst the Persian community, who have given the feed back that “Uno’s” rendition of this Persian dessert is exactly as they remember it to be. Complex with flavours of rose water, saffron, and pistachio.
• The “Mint chocolate chip” is made with real mint leaves. The ones that are bright green uses artificial flavouring. I liked the way the
Stracciatella chocolate melts so nicely into the gelato and the freshness of the mint balances out the sweetness.
• The “Salted caramel” was their most popular flavour. Having tasted our way through what goes into a batch of it, I can see why.
• The “Pumpkin pecan cheese cake with crumble” was their seasonal flavour, next month’s will be a tahitian vanilla with pistachio. The pumpkins used for this pecan cheesecake are from the Fraser Valley, and the crumble within it is made from scratch.
• “White coffee” is the one I liked the most, enough to take a pint home with me. I don’t drink coffee, but love its flavour in ice cream. They have partnered with “Milan coffee” to use their local roasted beans, which are infused for 24 hours to extract their flavour. And despite a stronger coffee nuance, there is very little caffeine in this. Overall this was a more mild coffee ice cream with the addition of milk to dilute it, much like what creamer does to a black cup of coffee.
• The “Chocolate banana” was made with organic banana from Ecuador and Dutch chocolate shavings. It tasted spot on.
• The “New fashion chocolate” is made with Dutch cocoa powder. It tasted like a fudgesicle, and gave me flashbacks of my childhood.
• The “Midnight chocolate sorbet” is vegan friendly. It is made with water, but is so creamy that you think it could be made with milk and cream. It contains 4 kinds of chocolate for extra richness.

When our ice cream was ready we were then taught how to hand curl cones to go within it. The premade batter gets pressed in a waffle maker, the resulting sheet of waffle gets curled into a cone using a twist handle tool. Their cones are available in original, a black charcoal, and a brown sugar cone. The class ends with everyone having one each, and enjoying a scoop of their choosing with it.

In short, this is a fun event for any gelato enthusiast and a different activity to take part in, if you are looking for something to do on a Thursday night. For additional details on how you can sign up for the next class, visit “Uno Gelato’s” link below.

UNO GELATO
2579 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K 3T3
(604) 733-5884
https://www.unogelato.com/

O5 Tea Tasting, ft. A Toi Gourmet Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Leaf Sushi

Today I was at the “Green Leaf” located in Kits, based off of a recommendation. And seeing how many people were waiting to enter right when they open at 5pm, alongside with me, it seems like I made the right decision. Here, it was nice they had benches around their exterior to seat those waiting.

We grabbed a couple of seats by the window bar. The space is maximized with short, narrow tables, a necessity given how they all quickly filled 15minutes after they opened. And throughout our stay, the restaurant saw a continuous turn of people sitting, eating, and leaving. Not including all the take out and food delivery orders.

As for the decor, it is more about what materials they used and where, as apposed to a collection of artifacts or art. Tile floors, panelled walls, wood block features, and wooden table and chairs. What didn’t seem to fit was the type of music being played. I found the classic styling of Frank Sinatra a little too jazzy for this causal, fast food, sushi and Japanese shoppe.

When it came to the meal, I liked the option of having either hot or warm tea. I choose the ready to drink room temperature version.

As for the food we shared a collection of items that jumped out at us. The “Aburi tobiko roll” is filled with wild sockeye salmon, cucumber, crab meat, and tobiko; topped with oshi sauce and green sauce. It was a tasty roll, especially with the crunch from the toasted tobiko, and the warming heat from the jalapeño. I would order this one again.

But I would skip the “Kani-ume oshi sushi” the next time around. Real Dungeness crab, tiger prawn, ume oshi sauce, and crispy capers with ume dressing. You could taste the quality of the crab, but the amount of mayo used was overwhelming. It needed more tang to cut into it, and I didn’t find the salted plum or the capers complimentary or effective in this regard.

Our server mentioned having uni in today, so I took advantage, by adding $6 a piece to the “Uni meshi ishiyaki” rice bowl. I ordered two pieces and they gave me two smaller ones when the second piece didn’t measure up. I ended up enjoying them as is, to not take away from their creamy flavour.

As for the mushroom bowl base it was shiitake and shimeji with rice in a hot stone bowl, served with a seaweed sauce. It also comes with a side of miso soup. It was like a Japanese style risotto with the sweetness of the shiitake mushroom coming through. The green onion added freshness and any excess uni acted like a creamy fermented egg to help sauce up the rice.

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.
Based on the what we had, and all the creative menu items we considered, I would definitely like to return to try more. Don’t deny your cravings.

GREEN LEAF
3416 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6R 2B3
604-568-9406
greenleafcafebc.ca

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.

Kokomo

This was another meatless Monday with my vegetarian friend. When looking for a spot near by “Kokomo” came up. I liked the photos of its peachy exterior and the quote that was splashed a-crossed its front window. Both beckoned for warmer weather and sunnier days, that and it’s colourful menu were enough to peak my curiosity.

The interior matched the exterior with its peach coloured tiled counter that separated the open space between kitchen and eating area. The colour then begins to pattern with white, striping the cushioned seats that surrounded the rest of the room. Sections were punctuated with a similarly coral coloured throw pillow. It was fun and flirty, but was easy to get dirty. The whites of the cushion and the floor showed the cafe’s age with stains and smudges.

The only thing that felt out of place was their choice in music. Not that I minded, as I liked their rotation of hip hop. A playlist I assume was off of a staff member’s phone. Although up beat and catchy, we did find the juxtaposition of light food versus hard hip hop hard to swallow. Given how lighthearted our serving below was and how airy the space felt, you expect something more calming to play, the music to be more zen. Something you can mediate to, maybe something with some chanting.

You order at the podium by the door. They only have one printed menu for viewing, it has a little more information then what is on the wall menu, like what goes into the named bowls, salad, and noodle dishes. But given that many of their customers this afternoon, didn’t need to reference it or the wall, I can safely assume they had a well established following of regulars. And I can see why. They were not trying to fool the diner with meat friendly substitutes, their dishes fully celebrated being vegan with its use of colourful vegetables to highlight the flavour of other rich veggies.

Although I recently read that several vegetables like lettuce and avocado aren’t actually vegan given the need for and use of bees in their pollination, therefore no bees no avocado. Other vegetables on this list includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, muskmelon, mustard, okra, parsley, peppers, pumpkins, rutabaga, squash and watermelon.

Being an omnivore I good either way, and was just happy to have found this new and tasty way to eat healthy and be happy doing so. Not that I would crave any of it again, but it’s nice to know that when my body craves green I can offer it another option and a full menu’s worth of variety.

Vegan food typically has a lot of fillers to add textures and flavours, but here everything is made to order using whole foods.

To start with I ordered one of their smoothies, mistaking it for a juice to accompany my lunch with, instead of its intended meal replacing beverage. The “lush greens” was recommend to me as being the easier to drink of all their green based juices. Banana, kale, mango, apple, lemon, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, coconut oil, and coconut water. It was as savoury as it sounds, where I should have mentioned I wanted something sweet and juicy… I guess I actually wanted a pressed juice and not a thick smoothie to hard swallow. This would be better suited as a meal on the go.

For a full meal you get one of their bowls. The “coastal macro” was another recommended to me, this was majority of their customer’s favourite bowl. Brown rice layered with greens, marinated tempeh, roasted squash, cucumber, ginger pickled cabbage, and a edamame hummus. All drizzled in a Thai turmeric sunflower seed dressing, and eaten like a salad. The rice was present to make you feel full with the starch your body craves. I liked the fulsome assembly, with the varying combinations of textures and tastes, they offered a new squish, crunch, or chew as random surprises. Overall it had a crunchy feel with a tangy pickled flavour. I could have used a rich element or spread to create a dense chew, and  with some more cucumber for balance. Towards the bottom of the bowl, the rice became really salty, so much so that I couldn’t finish in full. Though this was a large serving, that many wouldn’t be able to finish half of, let alone get to the bottom of the bowl. It at least helped to change the taste and keep the bowl interesting from the first scoop to last grain. Whereas the highly anticipated noodle dish below, we found boring.

This was their interpretation of laksa, without most of the noodle’s trademark heat and/or spices. It tasted toned down and made bland for anyone who has had the authentic South East Asian noodle dish before. “Golden laksa”, a coconut and turmeric broth with rice noodles, zucchini spirals, sliced cucumber, ginger ferment carrot, green onion, cilantro, and sunflower cracker croutons. I should have known that this would be far from authentic, having read the inclusion of croutons in their laksa. It certainly tasted healthy, but I just couldn’t get behind it, as the broth lacked punch, and some heat would have greatly helped to flavour. Some tomato would have also been a welcomed tradition. The noodle dish was good as a side, but not the main and the only thing on the plate.

We were smart enough to order and pay for our dessert when we did so our mains. Ours was the last of their “cocowhips”, which I am thankful for. Because honestly this is one of the best ice cream-like desserts I have ever had, and it’s surprisingly it is void of any milk or cream. This is their coconut milk based soft serve. And unlike other vegan ice creams, it doesn’t over power with a coconut flavour. It tasted fresh and light, like a sorbet but actually creamy instead of icy. It also had the perfect amount of mild sweetness to it. It is available topped in either a berry mix or our chocolatey explosion version. Raw brownie chunks, cacao nibs, hemp hearts, and a dark chocolate sauce. Those who know me, know that I am not a fan of chocolate, but here, found myself appreciating the flavour it added, and the chew the brownie chunks offered. The nibs and seeds provided the crunch you like in your desserts.

 

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.
Given my appetites, I don’t think I will find myself here again, or anytime soon. I wouldn’t travel for anything in particular, but if roaming around west 4th I could see myself stopping by for a smoothie. And if they were open later, back again for dessert after dinner. I prefer them to their neighbourhood ice cream purveyors. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KOKOMO
611 Gore Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6A 2Z8
604-428-6599
heykokomo.ca

Red Beef Noodle Kitchen

Today I visited a beef noodle place on West 4th, one that my guest has been meaning try. She has heard good things about the place and only recently have they completed their renovations. So here we were for an earlier dinner with no wait.

I haven’t visited before today, but I can confirm that the interior is lovely. It now has a very modern appeal with all black cushioned chairs, and booth seats facing white tables, stocked with a caddy of condiments. The featured wall appears to be papered in snippets from their menu, scrawled in cursive lettering. I was delighted that the hostess allowed us to occupy a large and spacious booth that could sit six, or eight if you tried, for just us two. This was the preferred seating for me, as the other group tables with chairs facing benches were taken; and I don’t particularly enjoy parking myself at one of those tables that is centred by an aisle on either side. This large booth felt more intimate, and it allowed us to relax more.

The menu was an easy read. High definition photos of each item. It didn’t do more to tell you what you would be getting, than offering a brief but precise description of the dish. But I was preoccupied with the smell of spicy broth that sat in the air. It had me salivating with familiar taste memories. This was a good sign of things to come, and enviable when they are known for laying meat and noodles in a bowl, then pouring their piping hot soup broth over it all: right at your table, right before your very eyes. The heat of the steaming broth helped to cook the serving we had below.

The restaurant prides themselves on the finest beef noodle soups, so naturally we had to get their “Premium red beef noodle soup” as our first taste. For twelve hours they slow boil beef bones with Chinese spices, resulting in a deeply flavourful soup that promises to be “complex and balanced” in taste. You have the option of enjoying said broth clear or spicy, I went for the former out of preference, and to be able to really taste the meatiness in the soup, as it was intended. This was one of the most full bodied, yet lightest broths I have ever enjoyed. It tasted healthy, but delicious; flavourful, but not salty.

The restaurant is called “Red Beef” because the beef from their signature noodle dish, (the one we enjoyed) comes raw. This is certified angus beef, it was tender, but lacked flavour when not enjoyed with mouthfuls of broth. The noodles are prepared tender to match, with a slightly firm and perfectly chewy mouthfeel in mind.

This was definitely the most refined beef noodle that I have ever had. It tasted premium, feeling like the almost $20 I spent on it was worth it. Especially as this was a large serving, there was a lot more noodles than we first thought. You couldn’t finish this serving alone based on size and the linger desire to have a change of taste after a few bites. The broth consumed and left you wanting something to freshened things up with. I don’t eat wilted greens due to a strong dislike of its texture, and there wasn’t enough corn kernels to go around. Though the corn’s presence was not missed as it injected its sweetness fully into the serving.

For their regular beef noodle soups they use beef shins and cook it in a wok, set over high temperatures, then dial it down to a lower temperature when it comes time to braise the meat. This ensures that the meat is delicately soft in texture. This was the beef noodle that I am familiar with, the one I would love to come back and try it.

To break up the heavy flavours of the soup, we shared a serving of “Wontons in chilli oil”. They were cooked to order, with the piping hot centres to prove it. The spiciness defined the dumplings, hiding any depth I would have gotten from its well seasoned centre. The textures were perfect: soften dough over chewy balls of meat.

 

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.
This was good beef noodle and a good meal, but it is not a beef noodle soup that I would crave of. It wasn’t warming enough, or cozy like what I envision beef noodle to be, or like the servings from bubble tea houses that I am most familiar with. But still delicious, and worth returning to soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RED BEEF
1947 W 4th Ave, Vancouver BC, V6J 1M7
604-558-1237
redbeef.ca

Sencha Tea Lounge

Today Vancouver Foodster’s Ice Tea Challenge brought me down to “Sencha”, a bubble tea house on West Broadway, also offering small bites.

On this warm day, the doors and front of the cafe was opened wide and inviting. It had a stone bar that crept up the wall, we would grab a couple of the wooden chairs by it, adjacent to the mirror on the wall.

Their menu showed the struggle they had trying to identify themselves. From nachos and onion rings, to Thai salad and marinated pork belly. I didn’t understand their theme, if any. What did they specialize in and what would they be better known for: pasta or rice bowls? When I asked our server this thoughts, he admitted that they were trying hard to cater to the neighbourhood. Predicting what their customers wanted and providing it for them on this accordion folded sheet.

Seeing as their ice tea was a classic bubble tea, I thought it best we’d pair it with some Taiwanese snacks. I won’t be reviewing the ice tea challenge contestants here, you’ll have to wait for the contest to end in order to read my take on each, as I don’t want to ruin the surprise. This is the “Honey Camellia milk tea” that tasted floral, like jasmine. It is one of the milk teas that comes regularly on their menu, a drink that they felt was worth featuring in this competition.

The fried chicken pieces were delicious. Fried to a crisp that lasted, heavily coating the juicy nuggets of dark meat chicken.

I was surprised and delighted by their baos. They weren’t the regular white dough buns, but baos flavoured in black sesame with a grey and black speckled exterior. We tried two flavours and both came with a side salad of green drizzled in a miso dressing.

The “Classic Pork” bun was their most popular bun and my favourite of the two. It was fatty pork belly baked crispy in a sweet sauce, with fresh cabbage and cucumber, all dressed in a thick crunchy peanut sauce that ties it altogether.

The “Kimchi Beef” was spicy coleslaw, barbecue sauce, and pickles. The meat was chewy and plenty saucy, with a good amount of hot spice, and a nice texture.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This is just a little too far to go for okay food. I would recommend it for those who like “bao-wiches”, given the unique flavouring of theirs. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SENCHA
3468 W Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6R 2B3
604-779-2918
www.senchatealounge.com

La Quercia

A few of my more food focused (food for the sake of eating and tasting) friends and I convened at “La Quercia”. This was after setting a much debated on date. We have heard good things about the place, and all but one of our group of six has never been; so “La Quercia” it was.

The restaurant has a simple and rustic energy to it, casual and warming. Wood planks lined the walls, they matched the wooden tables and wood floors boards.

After looking at the menu, and not wanting to decide between us what to get, we took our server’s suggestion and opted for the $65 Venetian inspired set menu. In order to enjoy this, everyone at our table had to order it. Luckily none of us were all that picky, and no one wanted to make a decision (for fear of it being the wrong one, for a table food bloggers?).

The way it was laid out on their cursive menu, made it seem like you were getting a lot of food. In reality, they just seem to list all the ingredients assembled together. Although, all together it was an impressive collection of flavours and textures, some you have never had before, and many more you have never had paired the way they were here. (Speaking for my naive self, of course).

We started with “Cicchetti tapas”, which included ingredients foraged by their chef.

The endives were used as a vessel to hold a bite of egg salad and pickled asparagus with beet slice. It was a little watery, causing me to search for more flavour from the egg mixture, something to give it more spice.

The chicken pate was grainier than what I wanted from a meat spread. The crispy fried leaf of sage, helped to lighten the bite.

The fava bean and mint on crostini was a little flat. I liked the crispiness of the cracker, but the bean paste was bland, where I wanted some garlic, or some heat to have this morsel standing out.

I was expecting more meaty fattiness from the lardo on crostini; but instead it had the texture of butter, but without its taste. This had me wishing for the flavour of bacon grease and its meaty saltiness.

The peppers and anchovy had a good smokey flavour, but it left me wanting a base to balance it out. Something starchy to dull the natural saltiness of the fish.

The ling cod was sweet and sour glazed, with a soft and flaky middle. Topped with onions that were reduced to melt. It was interesting to learn that the way this piece of fish was prepared was how it was being done on fishing boats in the 11th century. Fish fermented in barrels of wine, sealed and allowed to set.

The humpback prawns was my favourite. Super tasty with a creamy sauce that cooled with a slight tang. It didn’t over power the natural sweetness of the prawn. Good to the last drop, which included sucking out the prawn’s guts through its head.

The morels and sausage was everyone’s favourite. This tasty fungus had the luscious texture and richness of meat. It paired well with the crisp asparagus spears that the Chef foraged for himself. The sausage didn’t overpower, it allowed the natural flavour of the mushroom to come through. But we all agreed that one morel each was a tease, and we should have ordered a plate each.

I enjoy a mushy risotto, but unfortunately the rice here was a tad hard in this squid ink risotto. It could have done with more flavour as well, more salt and cheese to taste. Or maybe a side, or even a main to make this dish complete and not just a scoop of carbs. Ideally, a fried protein or some crispy vegetable.

The “Bigoli” is prepared in an anchovy and onion sauce that is gentle in flavour. It was nice, but for my tastes I wanted something richer, something more decadently worthy of this perfectly el dente spaghettini. The noodles were made in house, chewy and thick, a great feeling to have in your mouth.

The local lamb included all its parts, different cuts for each person. Two slices with cauliflower, beets, cauliflower purée, and jus. By far this was the most satisfying of all the bites before. It was lamb that tasted like duck; hearty and filling. All that was missing was a fresh component.

And thus ended our set menu meal. Dessert was extra, so we decided to get three to share between five.

The dark chocolate cake utilized quince on the side for some sweetness and for a change in taste.

Next was a rice pudding topped with syrupy peaches. The smooth peeled pears was a contrast to the lumpy rice pudding, and the crispy meringue topping both. As a whole, the dessert was comforting like warm porridge on a cold night.

The pudding was lip puckering sour, balanced by the sweetness of the peeled orange slices. It was thick like cream, yet watery like a soup you’d drink. A great palette refresher and a great way to end a heavier meal before.

Our last morsel was a complimentary melt in your mouth meringue ,that concluded our meal with the bill.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall a good enough meal, but it all felt very safe. Nothing stood out, there was nothing that would have you saying, “you have to try this!” And for adventurous diners such as ourselves, it all felt conservative, hence my review of most of it being bland. Ideal for those who like simple and clean flavours, without too much seasoning. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA QUERCIA
3689 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6R 1N8
604-676-1007
laquercia.ca
La Quercia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co., wild foraged foods

Today I was invited as the plus one of @pickydiner, tagging along with his invitation to a spring long table dinner at “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co”. The visit left me wondering why I have never visited any of their locations until today.

This dinner was created to showcase wild foraged foods and their natural health benefits. Vegetation found in BC’s wild that you can collect yourself and prepare yourself. A great bit of knowledge to have in survival situations. But why worry about what you can eat and how to prepare it, when you can simply head down to “Rocky Mountain” and take advantage of Chef Oliver Zaulauf’s expertise. Continue reading to see how he makes these foraged “weeds” more that just palette-able.

Course by course we were given a course on the following foraged foods by Carla Budd, Holistic Registered Nutritionist. Her explanation of the health benefits of the following wild foraged foods, was followed by a feast, showing how you can add them to everyday meals. This was a tasting “Rocky Mountain” pizzas, pastas, salads and cocktails featuring wild greens. Wild greens like catails, wood sorrel, fiddleheads, mustard greens, knotweed, green garlic, wild fennel, wild onion, miners lettuce, onion flowers, and spruce tips.

Carla and her husband own “West Coast Wild Foods”. A local home brewed company “providing quality fresh wild mushrooms, dried wild mushrooms, fresh wild greens, handcrafted BC maple syrup, morels, truffles and other foraged wild foods”. Dinner would feature their wild mushrooms and we would each walk away with a zip lock bag of their dried mushrooms to take home and prepare for ourselves. 

Before we get any further: the disclaimer. When it comes to a media tasting, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and hello the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

I liked the aesthetic of the restaurant. Like the offerings below, it all felt very natural and clean. Wooden tables, stone walls; and living plants providing the ideal backdrop for our long table, given our the theme of our dinner. A feature of luscious moss settled with boxes of dangling and feathered plants. Although there are many ways to dine with them, from their spacious patio up front, equipped with woolen blankets should the temperature turn cold to their family table, adjacent to their carpeted kid’s play area.

Our time was christened with some specialty cocktails. The pink sangria was refreshing and light, like a lemonade, this was easy to drink. This is a great one to have on their patio, out in the sun.

The second cocktail featured spruce tips simmered and strained into a syrup, and then mixed with gin and earl grey. This cocktail was a lot more herbaceous, almost medicinal by comparison. A warming glass, ideal for sipping on with a good book.

Our first course featured a mix of the above mentioned wild mushrooms found within BC, courtesy of “West Coast Wild Foods”. The “Wild mushroom bruschetta” was hearty and filling. Stacked with plenty of ‘shrooms to chew through. Although I could have used something pickled to offset the otherwise one tone flavour. Carla explained how mushrooms are not a plant or an animal, yet they fall into a zone in between. Their presence in cooking helps to fulfill a void in the healthy foods catagory. They provide a great deal of vitamin D and serve as a stand out substitute for those who want more protein in their diet, but don’t want to get it from eating either meat or dairy.

The next course was an un-named salad, set to be released to their summer menu, mid June. Instead of the traditional loose leaves, this one featured mustard greens. According to Carla, mustard greens provide a great source of vitamin K, helpful in building bones. One cup provides 994% of your ideal daily intake, and it gives you more leafy greens goodness than kale. On top of the greens the salad included diced boiled eggs, cheddar cheese shards, cherry tomatoes cut in halves, carrot slices, cucumber chunks, and an edible garnish of wild flowers. The salad had a great mix of textures, all evenly coated in a tangy, orangey vinaigrette. It cools you down as you ate it in, and you felt good about eating it too. My only critique would be more tomatoes or some oranges or apple chunks to brighten up the plate.

By far, the pasta was my favourite dish of the night. Admittedly I don’t like eating greens, but with this dish I didn’t feel like I was getting my necessary, healthy dose. The pesto sauce was made from a grounded mix of knotweed, nettle, fennel fronds, and cattails. It evenly coated each perfectly cooked spiral of noodle and all the roasted vegatable seasoned in salt and pepper. The dish was saucy with a tangy mustardy quality. I couldn’t make out each individual green, but did note the flavours of lemon, mustard, dill, and licorice; and bit into a stem that had the texture of asparagus.

We learned that knotweed is one of the most evasive plants, similar to rhubarb. It grows, shooting up from 1 inch to 10. Consuming it helps to lower cholesterol, and it aids in fighting inflammation. Eating wild fennel gives you plenty of calcium. In appearance, it resembles the very bones and joints of the body that it helps to strengthen. I didn’t know until today that you can safely eat the entire cattail. There is an incredible about starch per acre of cattail. Its pollen is popularly used in pancake batter, offering up anti septic properties. Wood sorrels are known for their lemony flavour. Native tribes used it to make lemonade. Drinking this sour mix helped to tone the stomach, thus strengthening it. It also helps reduce ulcers, while building up your appetite.

The pesto sauce base in this pizza was similar to the pasta above. The herby spread with whole fiddleheads was furthered by the sharp and creamy goat cheese smeared atop. Overall, each slice was salty and herbaceous, with a hint of sweetness from the yellow peppers. A vegetarian offering made heartier with the use of wild mushrooms.

This was a retelling of one of their most popular pizza flavours. The “Reinvented Fig and Brie” featured locally sourced, fresh, cured ham. Its saltiness paired well with the sweetness of the figs, the pepperiness of the wild greens, and the richness of melty brie. We were the firsts to try this new creation, over hearing that their might be a quail egg added on, when it hits the menu mid summer. The dough for both pizzas was crispy and firm, its stiffness reminded me of a stone wheat thin.

Fiddleheads are a type of fern, they are only available in nature for a limited time out of the year. You have an 8 week window to harvest and eat them. Eating them gives you double the antioxidants of blueberries. Green garlic is good as an anti fungal and bacteria agent. And miners lettuce helps to spring clean the body by detoxifying it with vitamins A and B.

Since we have been eating so healthy up to this point, we all thought we deserved to indulge in one of “Rocky Mountain’s” popular chocolate brownies with in-house made vanilla ice cream. The above is only a half serving. This was a chocolate lover’s dream with the sweetness of the chocolate offset by a bit of bitterness. The vanilla bean ice cream was just as rich as the brownie itself. It was a nice cream that was more milky than sugary, as to not overwhelm the diner. Many come in just for this dessert.

 

We started with mushrooms, so it came full circle when we ended our feast with them. Here we rounded off our meal with some soothing mushroom tea. Offered up as a caffeine alternative using changa mushrooms that grow on birch trees. Apparently when you harvest them, they stiffens up, feeling as heavy as a rock. Many believe that the changa is the king of all mushrooms. Here it is brewed together with dandelion, chicory root, orange peel, and cinnamon. It smelled like apple cider with the use of cinnamon, but drank like black coffee in it herbal and dominating taste.

For those interested in tasting and learning more about wild foraged foods, I highly suggest stopping by any of the “Rocky Mountain” locations soon. This series of seasonal menu items does have a limited run.

 

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.
This was a fun way to learn about a new restaurant. A lecture with information that you can apply, with demos that you can sample. So impressed by their brand concept and restaurant culture that I made plans to revisit them again. Next time, bringing a large group of friends to attend one of their make your own pizza workshops. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD
1876 W 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J 1G5
604-730-0321
rockymountainflatbread.ca
#WildGreensWednesday
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Glory Juice

I own a juicer and can make my own fresh press juices, so I haven’t visited “Glory Juice” until today. This was the last stop in our morning work out sponsored by “Saucony”. Where I found out that “Glory Juice” is a great place for vegan friendly, healthy food, drink, and snacks. Nothing like continuing your healthy choice to exercise, by making another: a nutritional brunch that will start your day with some extra energy.

Their menu was hung on the wall across a series of boards. Along with their cold press juices they also offer a line of almond mylks and 11 organic smoothies. Each one also doubles with the possibilities to be made into one of their popular smoothie bowls. You pick a flavour, and too it they add their house made granola, bananas, honey and goji berries.

We had the “Creamy nutty”, the perfect description for their smoothie bowl of frozen açai berries, raspberries, blueberries, banana, almond mylk, maple syrup, and glory nut butter. This was my first time enjoying a smoothie like I would soup. But instead of it being warm like your brain thinks it should be, it turns out to be chilled. It was a little perplexing for my mouth and tongue. It is like yogurt, but in a drinkable texture, yet I am using a spoon to eat it, as if it is much thicker than it really is. That’s where the fruits and nuts come in. Both give the serving some crunch and a lot more filling substance. It surprisingly helped to fill me up. @pekopekolife enjoyed the bowl so much that she bought a bag of their coconut flavoured granola to be able to recreate a version of this in her own, at home. Overall a great snack, not substantial enough to replace a meal though.

The “Cauliflower and chickpea” bowl would be the one to get if you were hungry. It was extra filling with a bevy a vegetables. Quinoa, lentils, roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, red onion, smoked paprika, and tahini; all drizzled over with a light maple dressing. I was skeptical. I went in cautious and left surprising myself, learning that you can find healthy food that can be this tasty. It felt like you were eating salsa and guacamole with bean dip and were just missing some crunch. The lentils and quinoa added a heartiness, the avocado offered moisture, and the red onions some sweet tang. The only ingredient I would want in addition was some deep dried shallots or maybe some crispy coconut shards, once again for that crunch factor. I definitely would eat this again if it was more readily available. This would be the perfect work time lunch, if only it was more readily available to me. The ideal meal for when you get that feeling like you haven’t eaten enough vegetables.

They also offered the trendy “Avocado toast”, this would be my first taste of the combination. House made gluten free chia flatbread, spiced avocado, pickled red onions, and sunflower shoots. I liked how they included texture in this and an array of flavours. The crispy wafer, the creamy avocado mash that was spread over, the crispness of the thicker shoots, the tangy onions, and all the ground pepper that flavoured it. This made another great snack option.

For drinks we grabbed a couple of their cold pressed juice to go. I ordered the “Magic switchel” for its blue colour. It was ideal for after a workout, like the one we just completed. It helps to rehydrate, it aids in digestion, and boosts immunity. It was bitter and spicy, with ginger being the main ingredient. You can’t help but make a face after sipping it. You would think it would be somewhat sweet considering the cotton candy blue hue.

@pekopekolife wanted her drink to be the most healthiest of their green juices. She ordered it asking for the most bitter juices. The #1 has kale, celery, cucumber, parsley, ginger, and lemon. It was exactly as she wanted tart and strong. It was made with 3 pounds of fresh organic produce, and it tastes like it. It helps alkalize the body, it is good for cleansing blood and liver, and it helped to build her immunity.

 

 

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.
We had a super light meal that had us feeling good walking out. And as I mentioned earlier if given easier, daily access to any “Glory Juice” location, I would most definitely visit them regularly for lunch at work. I consider them a convenient stop, and not really one that I would go out of my way for. Because, to be honest, my body is so use to grease and carbs that it wanted ramen after all the above, although at the same time I always want ramen. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GLORY JUICE
2186 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6K 1N6
778-379-4511
gloryjuiceco.com
Glory Juice Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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