Saturday, December 31, 2011

G is for Gingerbread!

Run, run, as fast as you can. 
You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!

'Tis the season for all things peppermint, cranberry, eggnog and other fantastic festive flavourings.  For me, personally, it's gingerbread that gets my Yuletide taste buds rolling. And what happens when I suddenly become obsessed with trying all things gingerbread? Why, I go on a gingerbread hunt of course!

The first ever gingerbread hunt proved to be a bit of a...disappointment.  The prevalence of gingerbread-y goodies out there, in the edible market, just wasn't very...prevalent.  Needless to say, it didn't go very well.  But ah well, you win some, you lose some.  Moving on to my next ingredient obsession!

Gingerbread Macaron, Thierry

Gingerbread Timbit, Tim Hortons

Gingerbread chocolate covered s'mores, Hagensborg Chocolates

Gingerbread frozen yogurt, Yogen Fruz

 Iced Gingerbread Latte, Starbucks

 and last but not least, my first ever Gingerbread Barn!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Sweet Sisterly Seattle Weekend

Seven, nine, two hundred and twenty-six point five.  These were respectively, the number of gastro-locales visited, hours spent in the wonderful Emerald City, as well as the accumulated number of kilometers traveled.  We strolled (the wonderful streets of downtown Seattle), we ate (more accurately, gorged) and we conquered (the surprisingly short border waits).

top row (from left to right):

1 - Our wonderful Trader Joe's haul
2 - Coconut Cream Pie Bites, Dahlia Bakery
3- Beef and Onion Piroshky, Piroshky Piroshky
4 - Top Pot doughnuts
5 - The ever lovable Pike Place Market

bottom row (from left to right): 

6 - Combo vermicelli with grilled pork, chicken, shrimp, spring rolls, Green Leaf
7 - Macarons, Le Panier Very French Bakery
8 - 'World's Best Mac n Cheese', Beecher's Handmade Cheese
9 - Flagship, basil and tomato grilled cheese, Beecher's Handmade Cheese
10 - Pizza with sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers, provolone, Serious Pie

** I apologize for the inconveniently small photos as the layout of my template would not allow for bigger photos! Sorry!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ensemble (CLOSED)

Oh, that ginger cocktail...

Living in a city with such an enriched and vibrant culinary scene, the buzz surrounding restaurant openings, closings and visits from renowned food personalities (hello, Guy Fieri!) travel faster than you can say, "..what already?" It's most definitely an increasingly competitive industry out there - kudos to those who have been able to sustain and succumb to Vancouver culinary standards while my most sincerest condolences are sent to those who weren't so lucky, so to speak...!

On this Friday night, I, along with a few other dining companions, ventured to one of the newest and hottest dining spots in town - Ensemble.  The mastermind behind this relatively newly-opened restaurant is none other than Dale MacKay, Canada's first Top Chef Canada winner.  He has quite the impressive culinary background having previously worked as the Executive Chef of the late Lumiere and db bistro moderne, as well as working alongside celebrity chef and renown television personality Chef Gordon Ramsay.  Perhaps a product of his winnings, here, Dale aims to showcase his ability to utilize classic French techniques of cooking to Pacific Northwest ingredients.


Cornmeal Crusted Scallops
- accompanied with a tamarind date puree and topped with cauliflower
- I thoroughly enjoyed the delicate and unique pairings of this dish - although I wish the scallops were a bit bigger but they were, nonetheless, very fresh and juicy

Pulled Pork Sandwich (Top Chef winner)
- for the $10 price tag, and given the size of the other plates - this burger had great value!
- it was generously filled with tender, saucy, pulled pork (how a pulled pork sandwich ought to be) with quite a pronounced smokey flavour and aroma
-sided with a deep fried pickle and a piece of very sweet watermelon - this was quite satisfying!

I was also able to sample some of my dining companion's (who likes to go by the initials of J.B) Sweet and Sour Eggplant,Vancouver Island Mussels, as well as the Potato Gnocchi.  The Eggplant was quite the aesthetic pleaser and fared quite well on the taste buds, too.  The baba ghanoush, yogurt and tomato complemented the sweet Asian flavours of the eggplant, which was also cooked perfectly.  The Mussels were the least favourite and devoid of any praise.  There was barely any broth and I expected a more prominent curry flavour.  Although the portion was generous, the mussels were teeny tiny.  The fries were good, but the Mussels were definitely an overall letdown.  Of the three things sampled from what J.B had ordered, the Potato Gnocchi was most satisfying.  Paired with a tomato butter sauce and olives, the Gnocchi was perfectly seared, chewy and executed very well.

I also strongly enjoyed their Ginger Gimlet (so much that I had 2, for the night).  It's a cocktail composed of tanqueray gin, house ginger lime cordial, and topped with a kaffir lime leaf.  It was wonderfully refreshing with just the right proportions of ingredients and bursting with a soothing gingery taste. 

the amazing Ginger Gimlet

Prompt and informative




The decor is modern and contemporary, the room was actually quite dark while the noise level was louder than expected, especially given that every table was occupied.

Overall: 7.7/10

Yay: Come here for a little taste of Dale MacKay's inventive winning creations...and that ginger cocktail! Mmm! The portion sizes are perfect for sampling a variety of dishes.

Nay: The place didn't "wow" me as much as I thought it would but for some reason, it was what I had expected.  There is definitely room for improvement.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Return of the Pumpkin Hunt!

'Tis the season to bid farewell to the long, warm days of summer while welcoming the crisp and cool arrival of autumn. I feel extremely blessed to be able to live in one of the most greatest cities in the world - where seasonal change is so beautifully apparent in many parts of Vancouver.  To the foodie, specifically, the arrival of fall conjures up images and wonderful tastes of freshly pressed apple cider, warm pumpkin pie, and a bowl of hearty, homemade butternut squash tickle your Autumn taste buds :)

As you may recall, my first pumpkin hunt was quite successful where all sorts of pumpkin-based gems were tried, tested and true (oy, effective marketing car slogans does wonders).  From gelato to lattes to creampuffs - this seasonal squash did not disappoint at all! I enjoyed it so much that I decided to venture out again, with my pumpkin spectacles and all, in hopes of finding what other pumpkin goodies may await me...alas, here were some of my findings. 

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake, Trees Organic Coffee:
 -light and pillowy soft interior of the cheesecake
-nice thin graham-cracker crust
-top cinnamon layer
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake (left)
Pumpkin Cheesecake, Max's Deli Bakery:
-a little dense but still quite good
-not overly sweet

 Pumpkin Creme Brulee, Suika
-mini size ($3), seasonal feature
-perfect amount of sweetness
-less custard-y in texture, more pumpkin puree based, but still very smooth

Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake, Sweet Obsessions
-best of the pumpkin cheesecakes tried so far
-the girl at the store described it along the lines of a "pumpkie pie coated in cheesecake"
-smooth and not too dense with a perfect balance of spices
-absolutely loved the nutty exterior coating!

added a touch of whipped cream for pleasure purposes :)
Pumpkin Spice Loaf, East Village Bakery
-incredibly moist 
-topped with icing sugar drizzles & walnuts

Pumpkin Spice Donut, Tim Horton's
-seasonal item
-a little too doughy, would've preferred a more cake donut texture

Pumpkin Braided Bread, Hyggelig
-topped with a brown sugar glazed
-tasted really fresh and soft but we all agreed that it was lacking the pumpkin flavour

Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cactus Club
-topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream (cheese?) and drizzled with sticky toffee sauce
-served incredibly warm and infused with nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin
-it was to die for and an excellent conclusion to the dinner

Pumpkin Macaron, French Made Baking
-named "Le Cendrillon" (Cinderella in French)
-filling: made with a white chocolate ganache mixed with an organic pumpkin puree made from scratch
-size was more bite size and smaller to the macarons from Thierry
-crunchy and delicate on the outside (though I found it a taaad too sweet) but a perfectly smooth tasting interior

the pumpkin ones were the only 2 that cracked, out of the 6 :(
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin and Pumpkin Spice Latte, Starbucks
-thoughts on the Pumpkin Spice Latte can be found on my first Pumpkin Hunt post 
-the muffin was good enough albeit a little plastic-y tasting, lol
          -I didn't expect the muffin to be very fresh tasting, though boasting with pumpkin flavour
          - the cream cheese was rather boring, could've been enhanced but not quite sure

Pumpkin bread, nine bunnies baking company
-incredibly moist and not too sweet
-served with mascarpone cream and blueberries

 Pumpkin Pie Gelato, Bella Gelateria
-pumpkin pie was peeled, cooked, spice - all made from scratch and turned into gelato by the owner and gelato-enthusiast himself, James (he even holds a Masters in gelato making and attended Gelato university - take that!)
-amazingly refreshing gelato with perfect texture and taste

Pumpkin Ale Sorbetto, Bella Gelateria
-made from Granville Island Brewing Co.'s Pumpkin Ale (see below)
-unbelievable flavour - tasted just like it!

Kobacha (Japanese pumpkin) Waffle Sando, Miura
-kobacha custard cream with cranberry compote (seasonal Thanksgiving feature)
-the custard cream was good though I thought it could've been a little more sweet and thick
-I get the wanting-to-mix-two-seasonal ingredients here (pumpkin + cranberry) but together, it doesn't complement each other as much
-still tasty regardless - the kobacha custard cream would've paired well with something less tangy (though I don't know what? Any suggestions?)

Roasted Pumpkin Benny, Aphrodite's Organic Cafe
-with Goat Chevre & Goat Feta, served with home fries and garden greens
-eggs were nicely poached though the benny itself tasted a little bland
-skimpy potato portion, def. could've used a little more taters

Pumpkin and Pulled Pork taco, Off the Taco Wagon (food truck)
-seasonal feature
-pulled pork was nice and tender, adequately sauced and I thought it paired well with the roasted chunks of pumpkin

Phoenix roll, Kadoya 
-pumpkin tempura, salmon, imitation shark fin
-though the combination of these ingredients may sound seemingly bizarre, it wasn't so bad!
       - i enjoyed the sweetness of the pumpkin (it was most likely the Japanese kobacha pumpkin that was used) topped with the raw salmon and sweet and silky strands of the imitation shark fin 

 Smoothie, Aphrodite's Organic Cafe
-made with frozen berries, ginger, mint, OJ, pumpkin seed protein powder
-perfect consistency and thickness of how a smoothie should be 
-perfect proportions of ingredients and a great start to the morning!

 Pumpkin Ale, Granville Island Brewing Company
-brewed  with real pumpkin puree and a blend of various spices
-light aroma and taste
-some say it tastes just like pumpkin pie but I actually think the pumpkin taste is very minimal

Welps! That wraps up "Pumpkin Hunt pt. II"! All in all, a successful `Pumpkin Hunt`, I must say! I think I`m all pumpkin-ed out now and rightfully so! Lol...would`ve liked to try the Pumpkin Donut from Lee`s donuts (at Granville Island), as suggested by the food blogger: Greedy Guts.  Also was meaning to try the Pumpkin Spice Donuts, from Joeys, with the Dulce Leche Caramel Sauce pairing but one can only consume so many pumpkin things...until next Fall, it is!

Thinking of going on a 'Gingerbread' or 'Peppermint Hunt' for the upcoming holiday season...what do you all think? Any other festive ingredients that I should consider?

Saturday, October 1, 2011


suh-weeeet ka - my new fave izakaya...right behind Guu :)


Tuna takaki - Gently and perfectly seared.  I quite enjoyed the accompaniment of the homemade chili oil as it definitely boosted the dish's pizzazz factor!

Sashimi 'Shake' salad - This was initially brought to the table in a glass canister, then shaken vigorously for a few seconds by the server, and served on a plate.  I like the unique 'shake' aspect of the salad for it really ensures that it has been thoroughly dressed. Served with the fresh sashimi of the day, this is a guaranteed starter to any Suika meal!

Negitoro Battera - I love press (box) sushi. Love the regular circular pieces of sushi too but there's just something about the rectangular shape of sushi that makes is just a little more visually..and well, in taste as well (of course).  The tuna belly was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Kakuni Bibimbap - Stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp, scallions on rice served in a hot hot hot (!) stone bowl and mixed well upon arrival by server. Most def. one of the favourites of the night. Really enjoyed the tender adequate pieces of pork belly and the fiery smokiness from the concoction altogether. Yum!

Tako Karaage - the last dish that was ordered and also meant to be a 'filler' item.  The meaning of 'tako' totally bypassed me as I had pictured, and expected, ika (squid) karaage.  Tako (octopus) is a lot more chewier in texture and imo, less favourable.  Still, the batter was enjoyable but we could've done without it.

 (Mini) Pumpkin Creme Brulee - A seasonal feature (and one of the reasons for my return visit here! Stay tuned for an upcoming Return of the Pumpkin Hunt post!).  Most creme brulees are usually custard-y in texture. This was a little less so, perhaps due to the the freshness of the pumpkin? Still all-around solid. It wasn't too sweet and a great ending to our fabulous meal!


Another reason why I praise Suika so much is for their wonderful alcoholic (and non-alcoholic creations). Their Fresh Ginger Ale is exxxcellent! So thirst quenching with just the perfect proportions of club soda and fresh ginger and what other ingredients it may be comprised of.  Their Suika Soda (vodka, fresh watermelon puree, calpico, soda, lime) was also very satisfying.  Reason number 2 for my visit here was to try their Neo Caesar - a twist on the original Caesar cocktail but with kimchi! Definitely a hit.  Hope to see it on their permanent menu!


Nice, genuine service but service was a little hard to flag down as it was super busy


Our bill was a little over $70 for the 2 of us which actually isn't too bad for an izakaya! Prices are a little more affordable than their sibling restaurant, Kingyo, which I liked.


Quite the 'happenin' place-to-be (think typical izakaya ambience) with wooden chairs, tables, pillars all around, an open kitchen, a spacious bar, a party room in the back (I heard it's quite the show when a birthday takes place here).  They've got quite a nicely-equipped washroom too with mouthwash, tooth picks, and other handy washroom necessities!

Overall: 8.5/10

Yay: Come here for great Japanese 'bar style' (izakaya) offerings - food and drinks - and a definite grand ol' time!

Nay: Be sure to make resos, especially towards the end of the week - highly recommended!

**Interesting fact'Suika' means 'watermelon' in Japanese. Also, Suika is a sibling restaurant to the popular Kingyo, located in Downtown Vancouver (although I prefer Suika more) 

Suika on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nu Greek

Nu's gone Greek..and a good Greek, too!


Chicken Souvlaki Pita - It was definitely a really really good pita sandwich, so to speak. It was served warm, perfectly grilled and what really got me sold was the incredibly soft texture of the pita.  In addition, the chicken was perfectly seasoned, tender and juicy.  Toss in a nice amount of local diced tomatoes and onions, and top it with a very generous amount of nice, garlicky tzaziki sauce - I can strongly state that I would prefer this over any donair any day...


friendly, quick


$6.50 for the Chicken Souvlaki Pita - It might not look that big in the picture, but it is quite the hefty portion!


Order, grab and go kind of place although there are a few stools and tables available

Overall: 8/10

Yay: Love the pita, love the chicken, love the tzaziki sauce. A definite 'bang for your buck' pita!

Nay: Downtown - parking. Limited menu options but perhaps there will be more in the future?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Calabash Bistro

Calabash, jamaican me bananas...


Delicious, authentic, hearty and affordable.  So glad a 'Reef' contender has finally popped up into Vancouver's mainstream restaurant scene.  My dining companions and I were thoroughly impressed with the wonderful food and ambience experienced on our first visit - so much that we decided to embark on another Calabash adventure a few weeks later.

We arrived to a full house on a Friday night, sans reservation.  Somehow the thought of calling to see if they took reservations had somehow bypassed me (for some reason, I thought they didn't take resos).  We were told it would be a 45 minute to an hour wait and thus, trekked a few blocks north to Vera's for some drinks to pass time.  An hour later, I still had not received a call from Calabash and so we decided to walk back to check up on our pending table.  After another half hour wait, we were finally seated. Though tummies were grumbling and moods were mostly dissatisfied, we were happy to hear that old school music (my fave) would be playing later on that night.

On our first visit here, we had the Mango and Goat Cheese Salad, Fried Coconut Dumplings, Roti and dip, Ginger Plantain Gratin, and the Goat Curry.  I won't delve into the specifics of each but will say they were all delicious with the Ginger Plantain Gratin being the standout and most favourite of the night.

On this night, I had my eyes set on one thing and one thing only: the Chicken and Ribs.  It was a special for the week and a special it was!  I thoroughly savored the nicely charred and wonderful aromatic flavours of the jerk chicken and especially the guava, coco nib and Appleton rum glazed ribs.  The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tasty.  The chicken was soft and tender.  Accompanied with jerk fries and a mixed green salad, I had no complaints there!

Chicken and Ribs
Aside from the wonderful appetizers and entrees we had experienced on our first visit, the dessert was what really had us longing for more.  Conveniently titled the "Banoffee cake" (banana + toffee), I felt like I had gone to heaven and back after experiencing this indulgence the first time.  Fast forward a few weeks later and I find myself back here longing for that cake once again.  To our disappointment, it was served not as a slice, but rather in a ramekin (what creme brulees are usually served in).  The portion had certainly gotten smaller.  Not only that, but the crust was a lot more crunchier than what we had remembered.  So crunchy and hard that we could hardly break it into pieces!  I had expressed my disappointment with the server when asked how it was and thankfully, was compensated for the dessert.  Still, I'm hoping that the next time I come here, the dessert will be just as memorable as the first time.

the 'Banoffee' cake...*drools...


Pleasant and responsive




Very 'happenin' towards the end of the week.  Lounge downstairs. Live performances weekly

Overall: 8/10

Yay: Come here for great authentic Carribean food and drinks.  Relaxed and unpretentious environment.  Large rum selection.

Nay: Long waits come Fridays and Saturdays

Calabash Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hubbub Sandwiches

Sandwiches that make you go hubba bubba, indeed...


Meat and Bread. The Dirty Apron.  Hubbub. Big Lou's. And the list continues.  For the fellow lover of food and all things related, you would have to have been living under a rock if you had not realized that yes, there has indeed been a recent sandwich craze in Vancouver.  Sure, anybody can slap on two slices of bread, fill with desired ingredients, engulf and engorge.  But who would want to go to such great lengths (with the preparation, purchasing process, and all) especially when you're only looking to satisfy that, hopefully, one-time pulled pork sandwich craving?

Everybody loves a sandwich, although everybody loves a gourmet sandwich even more.  On this fine Monday afternoon, my dining companion and I decided to continue our gourmet sandwich quest with a visit to Hubbub (thank you Groupon, once again!)

My beloved Pulled Pork sandwich, Ginger Beer and Coleslaw
 ** I apologize for the absence of shots of the sandwich interior. My hands were really full and the sandwich was really oily. Plus, it didn't look that great on the inside, lol.

At first, we were both quite sound in our selection.  Hands down, we both wanted the Pork.  After a bit of contemplation and what not, we decided on the Pork and the Veggie.  We each also added a "sidekick". I opted for the Clean Slaw, while she chose the Quinoa Salad.  Our orders were ready in a jiffy!  As for the inital thought upon receiving the sandwiches: "Wow, these babies are heavy!"

Veggie sandwich with Quinoa Salad
 Sure, the sandwiches were messy but that doesn't stop me from enjoying every litle (big) bite.  What I loved most were the base ingredients added to every 'wich:  pickled jalapenos, creamy garlic sauce, romaine lettuce, cilantro, and caramelized onions.

Though the baguette lacked a soft interior, it still was very fresh, chewy on the exterior and was served warm and toasty.  The 24 hr-marinated and slow roasted pork was spicy and tender. I really liked the spices inherent in the pulled pork - it really gave the sandwich that zing!  The Veggie sandwich comprised of diced red peppers, eggplant and squash in a chili-lime marinade.  It was good, though not outstanding.  

The side salads were a real standout, especially the Clean Slaw.  It was extremely refreshing with the finely chopped cabbage.  Really enjoyed the coconutty-minty-cilantroey vinaigrette dressing as well.  The Quinoa Salad came with black beans, corn and peppers - tasty and definitely a high protein "superfood"!




Prices may seem a bit steep at first but fear not, once you have the actual sandwich in your hand and allow gravity to take hold, one will mostly think: "Hey, 10 bucks for this sandwich isn't so bad after all..."


It sure can get very busy during peak lunch periods.  It was also quite bumpppin' with louder-than-usual music (for a sandwich joint!)

Overall: 8/10

Yay: Definitely a 'sandwich bliss' haven. Good value.  Nice "sidekicks". Nice slaw. They also serve beer here :) Had myself a nice ginger beer.

Nay: Downtown - parking. May be a bit too 'heavy' for some. You will also need to have several napkins handy - it can get realllly messy with those hubba bubbas!

 Hubbub Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Burgoo is burrrrgggGREAT! (in the voice of 'Tony the tiger')


As famous as Vancouver is for its beautiful scenery, people and attractions, our lovely city is also known for its incessant amount of...yes, you guessed it, rain.  Rain is definitely one of my personal dreads.  I am usually not in the mood for anything and typically just wanna stay at home and do nothing (cue: Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song).  By "nothing", of course I mean, do nothing but snuggle on the couch in my comfiest pair of sweatpants and oversized tee-shirt, while savouring a nice bowl of tomato soup (can of Wolfgang Puck's, preferably) with a side of a homemade grilled cheese sandwich...

Burgoo - the answer to your rainy day woes
 Of course if you can bring yourself to put on a (decent) pair of sweatpants and shirt, one should definitely venture out to one of the 3 (soon, 4!) Burgoo locations.  Burgoo (or should I say, Burgreat!) offers some of the best 'comfort' classics including mac'n'cheese, soups, stews...and yes, even a Kentucky burgoo!

On this gloomy July afternoon, my d.c and I decided to make use of another very value-worthy voucher that we had purchased (thanks, Groupon!).  I definitely knew I wanted the Dos Diablos (a killer grilled cheese sammy BUT with a 'spicy' flair) and decided upon a bowl of their Manhattan Clam Chowder.  My d.c was unsure of what she wanted.  After seeing the arrival of the Jambalaya to our neighbouring table, we both agreed upon that!

 My Dos Diablos - described as 'two grilled angle cut filone sandwiches with melted spicy cheddar, chunks of chorizo sausage and roasted red pepper' - was deeeelicious! Though a tad greasy (but who doesn't love a bit of grease? :)), it was buttery, crispy (love the burnt pieces dangling off the crust) and definitely satisfying to the tastebuds.  I heart a good grilled cheese sandwich, but when it's kicked up a notch with the pairing of melted spicy cheese, sausage and red really makes you life can be so grand :)

The 'Dos Diablos' - up close and personal :)

The Manhattan Clam Chowder arrived steaming hot, hot, hot! I generally don't really care for things to arrive super hot (of course, I wouldn't like my dishes arriving warm either).  But when it comes to soup, a hot soup is a must.  This concoction was pretty bang-on with a fine amount of vegetables and clams.  I believe this was my first time having a Manhattan Clam Chowder and quite enjoyed it for its striking similarity to a tomato soup.

The Jambalaya certainly did not disappoint, as well.  It bore quite a resemblance to the one that is offered at Cactus Club - taste and appearance-wise.  It, too, arrived steaming hot and with a generous amount of chorizo sausage to boot.  Great choices all around!




Soup & sandwich combo: $15. Jambalaya: $17.  A tad overpriced but with several groupons, it's not so bad :)


Cozy and comfy with wooden chairs, high tables, stools...and a fireplace in the midst of it all.  The bar by the front entrance adds to the 'coziness' factor ;)

Overall: 7.8/10

Yay:  Perfect lunch spot on a rainy day. Fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, and stews

Nay: Prices are a littttle high and unreasonable for certain dishes ($17 for a bowl of laksa? No thanks!)

Burgoo on Urbanspoon