Thursday, February 29, 2024

Carnitas Enchiladas from Patrón Tacos & Cantina

Today was a doozy! It was a triple whammy: Leap Day, Moving Day, and free company lunch!

The morning started with a quick email catch-up at our beloved Gastown office. But then, things took a turn! We traded our laptops for muscles, transforming into a human conveyor belt of office supplies, plants, and, yes, even our precious pantry snacks (chocolates!). Bags piled high in the lobby; we're halfway there!

Next stop: our new office! We Ubered our way to the heart of Downtown Vancouver, settling into our swanky new space at the corner of West Georgia and Homer. We unpacked a handful of the bags, then off to lunch.

Originally, pizza was on the menu. But fate (and our rumbling tummies) had other plans. Strolling down Robson Street, we couldn't resist the allure of Patrón Tacos & Cantina. Ditching the dough, we dove headfirst into a delicious Mexican fiesta.

My Mexican colleague and I decided to try the enchiladas. Imagine two warm corn tortillas swimming in a vibrant salsa verde (green sauce) filled with savoury carnitas (slow-cooked pork). Gooey mozzarella, feta cheese, cool sour cream, and fresh cilantro completed this flavour explosion. Each bite was a party in my mouth!

Carnitas Enchiladas from Patrón Tacos & Cantina
The corn tortillas are covered with salsa verde. Garnished with mozzarella & feta cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. Served with a side of pork beans and rice.

The lunch deal also included a heartwarming tortilla soup. Picture a rich veggie guajillo broth brimming with crispy tortilla strips, creamy avocado, tangy sour cream, and salty feta cheese. It was the perfect way to warm up on a chilly day.

Tortilla Soup from Patrón Tacos & Cantina
Veggie guajillo broth served with corn tortilla strips, avocado, sour cream, and feta cheese.

I returned to the old office with full bellies and happy hearts. But before officially saying goodbye, I had one last task: returning the keys. It was a bittersweet moment.

And just like that, our Leap Day adventure came to a close. A whirlwind of moving boxes, delicious food, and heartfelt goodbyes. It definitely wasn't your average Thursday, but hey, that's what makes life interesting, right?

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Spicy Korean-Style Ramen from Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress

Gastown, Vancouver's historic district, is known for its cobblestone streets, trendy shops, and lively atmosphere. But when the rain falls and you're seeking a warm, comforting, and affordable meal, look no further than Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress.

This hidden gem, tucked away in the heart of Gastown, offers a delightful combination of simplicity and deliciousness. Unlike the fancy, often overpriced sushi joints, Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress focuses on simple delicious food and unpretentious charm.

For lunch today, I went there and got the Spicy Korean-Style Ramen. The light and comforting spicy broth, perfectly cooked noodles, and egg is a soul-warming experience. It is bliss during a temporary break from work.

Spicy Korean-Style Ramen from Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress

While the ramen is perfect for a rainy day, Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress offers a diverse menu featuring classic sushi rolls, bento boxes, curry dishes, and more. Don't let the "express" fool you. The friendly staff provides attentive service without compromising on speed. Enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal without breaking the bank.

California Roll from Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress

Whether you're a local resident or just exploring Gastown, Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress is a must-try. So next time you're craving comfort food on a rainy day, head to Hiro Japan Sushi Xpress and experience the perfect blend of simplicity, flavor, and affordability.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Deep Fried Chicken from Masa Japanese Restaurant

After our coffee date at Bean Around The World, I need to satify my cravings for crispy and comforting fried chicken. I decided that we should have dinner at Masa Japanese Restaurant for their Korean deep fried chicken.

Deep Fried Chicken from Masa Japanese Restaurant

For reference, since the beginning of 2024 below are our fried chicken adventure:

As we stepped into the cozy restaurant, the sound of music and lively chatter echoes. We received the menu and it changed in format, but the fried chicken is still there. Meanwhile, my husband went for the consistent Teriyaki Bento Box.

Deep Fried Chicken from Masa Japanese Restaurant

Our food arrived! My fried chicken craving was satisfied with the perfect golden crust, giving way to succulent tender meat.

Banana Bread and Lemon Loaf from Bean Around The World Coffee

With Anecdote Cafe and Bakehouse bidding adieu at 4:00 PM, we found ourselves on a serendipitous journey searching for our next coffee shop. Our first stop led us to Trees Cheesecake and Organic Coffee, but alas, it was abuzz with patrons. Undeterred, we ventured south to Bean Around The World Coffee. With available tables beckoning us inside, we eagerly stepped in, greeted by the comforting aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the gentle hum of conversation and music.

Having already indulged in a hearty lunch and beverages earlier, we decided to satisfy our sweet cravings this time around. My gaze fell upon the tantalizing display of baked goods, and without hesitation, I chose the banana bread and lemon loaf.

Banana Bread and Lemon Loaf from Bean Around The World Coffee

The first bite of the lemon loaf is a perfect harmony of sweetness and tartness, each crumb bursting with citrusy goodness. It was as if the sunshine had been captured in baked form, brightening our rainy afternoon with its refreshing flavours.

Meanwhile, the banana bread with chocolate chips nestled within was surprisingly not cloyingly sweet but rather a delightful marriage of moist banana goodness and rich chocolate decadence.

Do you have any coffee shop suggestions? Comment below!

Sandwiches and Latte from Anecdote Cafe & Bakehouse

On a leisurely slow Saturday afternoon, my husband and I found solace in the welcoming ambiance of Cafe Anecdote, nestled in the heart of our neighbourhood. It was our second time here, quickly becoming our haven away from home. We settled into a cozy corner.

I'm looking forward to the culinary delights while my husband is ready to do some work.

I ordered a matcha latte with its vibrant green hue and subtle bitterness, which is perfect comfort. Meanwhile, I chose the classic comfort of steaming hot chocolate for my husband.

Matcha Latte from Anecdote Cafe & Bakehouse

Hot Chocolate from Anecdote Cafe & Bakehouse

For late lunch, I decided to sample the cafe's culinary offerings. The grilled cheese sandwich oozed with melted goodness. With each bite, the creamy cheese harmonized beautifully with the crispiness of the toasted bread.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Anecdote Cafe and Bakehouse

Equally enticing was the vegetarian sandwich, a medley of fresh tomatoes, spinach, and a mouthwatering basil sauce. I love basil and couldn't help but marvel at how the fragrant herb elevated the sandwich to new heights.

Vegetarian Sandwich from Anecdote Cafe & Bakehouse

As we savoured our meal and sipped our drinks, the gentle hum of conversation and the soft strains of background music enveloped us, cocooning us in a bubble of unexpected peace.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Gyoza Pulled Pork Sandwich from Meat & Bread

I'll say it. Meat & Bread makes the finest sandwiches in Vancouver. It's Thursday, and you know what that means: company-paid team lunch. The theme for the week is bagels, and we decided to go to Meat & Bread, just around the corner from our office, for sandwiches.

I have tried most of the sandwiches on their menu. From the crowd-favourite Porchetta Sandwich, boasting savoury and crunchy perfection, to the tantalizingly messy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, every bite is an explosion of flavour. Have a penchant for classics? The Meatball Sandwich is a winner with its timeless appeal.

As a seasoned Meat & Bread connoisseur, I have savoured through their menu, enjoying each unique creation. But today, a new adventure awaits in the form of the Gyoza Pulled Pork sandwich. Tender pulled pork nestled between perfectly toasted ciabatta bread, adorned with crispy wontons, scallions, and a drizzle of ponzu sauce – a symphony of flavours that dances on the palate with every bite. As I relish this culinary masterpiece, surrounded by the laughter and camaraderie of my colleagues, I realized that Meat & Bread isn't just a place to eat; it's a place to create memories.

Gyoza Pulled Pork from Meat & Bread
Pulled pork, crispy wontons, ponzu sauce, scallions

So, come hungry, come curious, and prepare to be enchanted by the magic of Meat & Bread – where every sandwich tells a story, and every bite is a revelation.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Authentic Vietnamese Coffee in Vancouver at Pure Delight Café

Happy Sunday! Since indulging in the rich flavours of Turkish coffee at The Golden Horn Turkish Bakery and Cafe in Downtown Vancouver, my husband and I have been on a quest to explore unique coffee experiences from around the globe. Inspired by an article showcasing 10 coffees from different corners of the world, we've set out to sample as many as we can right here in Vancouver.

Today, after attending Mass, our curiosity led us to explore the authentic Vietnamese coffee scene in the city. A quick search on Google Maps pointed us to Pure Delight Café, which boasted authentic Vietnamese coffee that piqued our interest. We boarded a 6-minute bus ride to Kitsilano without hesitation to embark on this caffeinated adventure.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by an extensive menu that exceeded the usual offerings at typical pho establishments. Excitedly, my husband ordered the Vietnamese Drip Coffee with Condensed Milk, served over ice. He noted that while it wasn't as robust as the French coffee we had sampled previously, it still possessed a delightful strength that surpassed his expectations. As a non-coffee drinker, I found the brew a bit too bitter despite the addition of condensed milk.

Vietnamese Drip Coffee with Condensed Milk Iced from Pure Delight Café 

To complement our coffee experience, we decided to indulge in some appetizers. The fried spring rolls we selected were exceptional, with a crispy exterior giving way to a savoury interior bursting with flavour.

Fried Spring Rolls from Pue Delight Café

For our main courses, my husband opted for the House Special Noodle Soup, a comforting bowl featuring various cuts of meat immersed in a clear beef broth. From rare eye round steak to rich beef brisket and tender, soft tendon, each spoonful offered a symphony of flavours that warmed him on this chilly winter day.

House Special Noodle Soup from Pure Delight Café
With various slim cuts of meat bathing in a clear mahogany beef broth, our Phở Dặc Biệt is packed with rare eye round steak, well-done skirt flank, rich beef brisket, soft tendon, well-done lean beef, omasum tripe, and lush Vietnamese styled meatballs. The broth can further be enhanced with various items and ingredients such as bean sprouts, cilantro, and jalapenos with additional enrichment of different sauces and a bite of lime juice.

Meanwhile, I savoured my favourite Vietnamese-style beef stew with rice. The tender beef, swimming in a thick, savoury sauce, paired perfectly with the steamed rice, creating a comforting and satisfying meal I thoroughly enjoyed.

Vietnamese-style Beef Stew with Rice from Pure Delight Café

With our bellies warm and spirits lifted, we embarked on a leisurely 3-kilometre walk home, reflecting on the delightful flavours and experiences we had just shared.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Filipino Birthday Fiesta from Little Ongpin and LA Chicken

Another year older, another reason to celebrate! This week, my husband turned another year wiser, and I wanted to make his birthday extra special, especially considering he's away from his family in the Philippines.

Remember when I first worried he might feel lonely after moving here? Well, this year's celebration was all about proving otherwise! It was a Filipino fiesta filled with family, laughter, and, of course, delicious food.

Filipino Birthday Fiesta in Vancouver from my mom, Little Ongpin, and LA Chicken

Staying true to our roots, I enlisted the help of my mom. Her home-cooked Filipino-style spaghetti, bursting with sweet and savory flavors, was the centerpiece of the table. To complement it, we ordered classic party favorites: crispy lumpiang shanghai and savory pork BBQ skewers from Little Ongpin, and juicy fried chicken from LA Chicken (satisfying my chicken craving), all from Little Ongpin, a taste of home right here in Canada.

Fried Chicken from LA Chicken

Looking back on my own childhood birthday parties in the Philippines, these were the exact same dishes that brought everyone together. Food isn't just sustenance; it's a language of love and tradition, and having these familiar flavors on the table instantly transported us back to happy memories.

60 pieces of Lumpiang Shanghai from Little Ongpin

14 pieces Filipino-style pork BBQ in skewer from Little Ongpin

Of course, there were more than just culinary delights. We captured the moment with laughter-filled photos, sang a heartfelt rendition of "Happy Birthday", and watched as my husband blew out the candles on his cake.

Assorted Cheese Tart from Pablo

My mom even surprised him with biko and a refreshing Filipino fruit salad. And, as a sweet ending, my sister's boyfriend brought in a box of mouthwatering Japanese cheese tarts from Pablo. It was a day filled with love, laughter, and delicious surprises. Plus, I got to play Overcooked with my siblings.

Blueberry Fritter from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is celebrating its 60th anniversary in style, bringing back four classic donuts from their past! As a relatively new Canadian (almost 10 years strong!), I dove headfirst into this nostalgic experience, eager to try these legendary treats. Spoiler alert: it was a journey of discovery, with some hits and misses along the way.

Today's star? The Blueberry Fritter. Stepping up to the counter, I couldn't help but be drawn to its sugary-glazed exterior, promising a sweet reward. And soft it was! Biting into the donut, I was surprised by its pillowy texture.

Blueberry Fritter from Tim Hortons

Now, the filling. Here's where things got interesting. Generous dollops of blueberry jam awaited, bursting with sweetness. But, and this is a big "but," there was a distinct aroma that reminded me, unfortunately, of children's cough syrup. While the taste wasn't identical, the association lingered, casting a bittersweet shadow over the experience.

Blueberry Fritter from Tim Hortons

After trying all four retro donuts, the winner for me is the Cinnamon Sugar Twist. Its simple elegance and classic sugar-cinnamon combo resonated more with my personal preferences. The Dutchie was delicious, and the Walnut Crunch offered a satisfyingly different texture, but the Blueberry Fritter, although intriguing, could have hit better for me.

Remember, taste is subjective! While this newcomer wasn't swept away by the Blueberry Fritter, I encourage you to try it and see if it sparks your sweet memories (or childhood cough syrup associations!). What are your thoughts on the retro donuts? Share your favourites in the comments below!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Birthday Dinner at The Keg

Guess what? I actually left work at 5 PM sharp yesterday! Crazy, right? Usually, I'm stuck there another 15-30 minutes wrapping things up. But hey, it was hubby's birthday, and Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral at 5:10 PM wasn't going to wait!

After some prayers and reflection, I asked him where he wanted to celebrate. His answer? The Keg? Now, you gotta understand, my hubby lost his full-time job last year, and finances have been tight. Thank goodness I still have my job, and thankfully, our emergency fund helped ease his mind (and mine!).

The Keg, oh man, it had been years since our last visit! Menus in hand, we started planning our feast, excitement crackling in the air.

Loaded Nachos with Braised Beef from The Keg
Cheddar, jack, olives, jalapeños, tomatoes, and green onions

First up, their legendary warm bread with chives butter. I could already feel my tummy rumbling! Speaking of rumbling, I couldn't resist their Loaded Nachos with Braised Beef. This ain't your average nacho pile, folks. Chunky, juicy beef pieces nestled amongst the usual suspects – cheddar, jack, olives, the whole shebang – it was a flavor explosion! We munched and chatted, catching up and enjoying the moment.

Warm soft bread with chives butter

Then came the main event. I went for a medium Top Sirloin, while hubby treated himself to the medium-rare Peppercorn New York. His was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the peppery crust adding a delicious crunch. I was curious to compare to the sirloin I had at Cactus Club last month, but honestly? The Keg held its own!

Top Sirloin with Twice Baked Potatoes from The Keg

But the real surprise was the seasonal side of beets and broccoli. Who knew beets and steak could be such a perfect match? The sweetness of the beets balanced the richness of the meat beautifully. My twice-baked potato, with its crispy skin and soft, fluffy interior, was pure heaven, and hubby's garlic mashed potato was classic comfort food at its finest.

Peppercorn New York with Garlic Mashed Potatoes from The Keg
Crusted striploin, whisky sauce

For dessert, we shared a light and creamy crème brûlée, the perfect ending to a seriously indulgent feast.

Crème Brûlée from The Keg
Creamy vanilla custard and caramelized sugar crust

Walking out hand-in-hand, bellies full and hearts happy, I knew this wasn't just a birthday dinner. It was a celebration of love, resilience, and shared moments. Even small gestures, good food, and laughter can create memories that last a lifetime.

Happy birthday, my love! This year threw some curveballs, but our love, like that perfectly cooked steak, remains tender and full of flavor.

Special Vermicelli from Pholicious

Winter days in Vancouver demand comforting, soul-warming meals. And what better way to enjoy a company-sponsored weekly team lunch than with delicious Vietnamese cuisine? This week's theme couldn't have been more perfect, and our destination was the delightful Pholicious in Downtown Vancouver.

While my colleagues opted for the classic pho, the chill air had me craving something different. Intrigued by the Special Vermicelli, I decided to give it a try. Grilled chicken, savoury minced pork, and fresh spring rolls promised a flavour fiesta, perfectly nestled atop a bed of fluffy rice. As a proud Filipino, I couldn't resist requesting the customary rice swap, knowing it would complement the dish beautifully.

Special Vermicelli from Pholicious

Paired with freshly squeezed orange juice bursting with Vitamin C, my lunch was a delightful balance of sweet, savoury, and refreshing flavours. Each bite was a satisfying combination of textures – the tender meats, the crisp spring rolls, and the fluffy rice – providing a symphony of culinary joy.

As we savoured our meals and chatted amongst colleagues, the warmth of the food and the company created a cozy atmosphere, defying the winter chill outside. It was a reminder that even amidst busy work schedules, moments like these, filled with shared experiences and delicious food, are extraordinary.

Bacon, Sausage & Egg Wrap from Starbucks

Celebrating special occasions is always a treat, and my husband's birthday was no exception! But the morning started with a delightful surprise: a free birthday drink from Starbucks! A perfect excuse to indulge in something special, we opted for the Pistachio Latte, its sweet and nutty notes promising a delicious morning pick-me-up.

And as if the free drink wasn't enough, we decided to make it a complete breakfast date before work. Craving savoury goodness, we shared the Bacon, Sausage & Egg Wrap. The smoky bacon, tasty sausage, and fluffy eggs are nestled with melty cheddar cheese and potato chunks within a warm tortilla, creating a symphony of flavours and textures in every bite.

Bacon, Sausage, & Egg Wrap from Starbucks Canada
Double-smoked bacon, savoury pork sausage, and cage-free scrambled eggs combined with cheddar cheese and potatoes - all wrapped in a flour tortilla

Spending time with my husband, enjoying our delicious breakfast and sipping our warm drink, the morning felt extra special. These little moments, simple yet filled with love and shared enjoyment, truly make celebrations even more meaningful.

I love weekday before-work breakfast dates. I felt energized the whole day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Unagi Don and Dragon Roll from Sushivan Japanese Restaurant

Ash Wednesday's peaceful atmosphere lingers as I write this, reminding me of the blessings in life and the fleeting nature of our time. While the ashes on our foreheads serve as a sombre reminder, the evening offered a different kind of reflection – one filled with shared laughter, delicious food, and the joy of celebrating love.

Sushivan Japanese Restaurant in South Granville became our destination for dinner, opting for seafood in accordance with the Lenten tradition. Sharing the dragon roll, a California roll adorned with unagi, tobiko, and unagi sauce, was a delightful start. Each bite was a dance of textures and flavours, a perfect prelude to our individual choices.

Dragon Roll from Sushivan Japanese Restaurant
California roll with unagi, tobiko, and unagi sauce

Dragon Roll from Sushivan Japanese Restaurant

My husband indulged in the unagi don, inspired by our favourite anime, Detective Conan and its character Genta's love for unagi (eel). The spring mix served as a refreshing base for the flavorful BBQ eel, creating a satisfying and delicious experience. I can't believe how tender eel meat is.

Unagi Don from Sushivan Japanese Restaurant
Spring mix, BBQ eel

Meanwhile, my Salmon Teriyaki & Sashimi Box offered a variety of tastes and textures. The salmon teriyaki was perfectly glazed and cooked, the sashimi melt-in-your-mouth fresh, and the tempura provided a delightful crispy contrast. The California roll and rice complemented the other elements, making it a well-rounded and satisfying meal.

Salmon Teriyaki & Sashimi Box from Sushivan Japanese Restaurant
Salmon teriyaki, appy sashimi, appy tempura, salad, 4 pieces California roll, rice

While Valentine's Day often emphasizes romantic love, our celebration extends beyond that. It was a moment to appreciate the bond we share, the blessings in our lives, and the simple joy of a shared meal. It was a reminder that love comes in many forms, and even on a day set aside for reflection, there's space for appreciation, laughter, and delicious food.

Patate Gorgonzola from La Ruota

After work today, I hopped on a different bus for a more direct route to church for Ash Wednesday Mass. Midway through the ride, hunger pangs. When I got off the bus, I spotted La Ruota Pizza. I couldn't resist the chance for a quick pre-church refuel.

Since it's a day of abstinence, I opted for the vegetarian Patate Gorgonzola. Extra virgin olive oil, creamy fior di latte, pungent gorgonzola, rich grana padano, earthy baked potatoes, and sweet caramelized onions – how could I say no? The anticipation grew as I held the perfectly charred, thin-crust slice in my hands.

Patate Gorgonzola from La Ruota
Extra virgin olive oil, Fior di Latte, Gorgonzola Cheese, Granada Padano, baked potatoes, caramelized onions, and thyme

And let me tell you, the first bite was pure revelation. The crust was blistered, offering a delightful textural contrast to the smooth cheeses and creamy potatoes. The gorgonzola's sharp bite was beautifully balanced by the sweetness of the onions, creating a flavour symphony in every mouthful.

Feeling recharged, we walked to church and attended Ash Wednesday Mass. A reminder that life is beautiful and God has blessed us miraculously, even if sometimes we don't deserve it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Mocha Mini Sponge Cake from Cafe Monet

Happy Tuesday! Today, after work, I found myself at the Vancouver Public Library, arms laden with travel books. But as I exited the library, a different kind of craving surfaced: one for a sweet treat to share with my husband.

Now, we've agreed to forgo the traditional gift exchange for Valentine's. However, a little indulgence never hurt anyone, right? With a mischievous grin, I whipped out my phone and consulted the wisdom of Google Maps. My query? "Cake! Open now! Close by!"

Enter Cafe Monet, a Korean bakery cafe conveniently nestled between the library and my bus stop. Stepping inside, I was greeted by a delightful display of baked goods, each vying for my attention. Heart-shaped cookies, perfect for my Valentine, were a no-brainer. But for myself? The decision was agonizing!

Finally, my eyes landed on the Mocha Mini Sponge Cake. Balancing my purchase atop my already-heavy backpack, I embarked on my journey home.

Later that evening, after dinner, we unveiled our treats. My husband's face lit up at the sight of the heart-shaped cookies, while I dug into the delectable Mocha Mini Sponge Cake. As promised, it was luxuriously moist, the coffee flavor subtle yet satisfying. Each bite was pure bliss, a perfect ending to a long day at work.

Mocha Mini Sponge Cake from Cafe Monet

This unexpected stop at Cafe Monet left me eager to return with my husband and explore their vast selection together. Whether you're seeking a Valentine's Day treat or simply craving a delicious escape, I highly recommend giving this delightful Korean bakery cafe a try. Their dedication to quality ingredients and charming atmosphere are sure to win you over!

Have you discovered any gems like Cafe Monet in your city? Share your favorite local finds in the comments below!

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Watching the Super Bowl at Boston Pizza

Sunday Funday! After attending Sunday Mass, I indulged in a well-deserved nap before we decided to walk it off and head to Boston Pizza for their Super Bowl Sunday festivities.

Finding a seat with a perfect view of the action, we placed our orders: the Classic Nachos with Seasoned Ground Beef, a timeless favourite, and the intriguing Triple Play, a shareable platter featuring three crowd-pleasers.

The nachos delivered precisely what we expected - a mountain of crispy chips loaded with melty cheese, fresh veggies, and savoury ground beef.

Classic Nachos from Boston Pizza
Hand-cut tortilla chips topped with cheddar, pizza mozzarella, green peppers, olives, tomatoes, and green onions. Served with salsa, sour cream, and seasoned ground beef.

But the Triple Play surprised us both! The Bandera Bread with Santa Fe Ranch dip offered a warm, cheesy goodness, while the Thai Bites delivered a satisfyingly spicy kick. The Cactus Cut Potatoes with cactus dip were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and paired perfectly with the creamy dip. It was a delicious exploration of contrasting tastes and textures, keeping us engaged between plays.

NEW The Triple Play from Boston Pizza
A shareable portion of three guest favourites: Bandera Bread with Santa Fe ranch dip, signature Thai bites, and Cactus Cut Potatoes with cactus dip.

Confession: Although I primarily went for the food, I found myself surprisingly glued to the game! My husband enjoyed the unique ads, but even I got caught up in the excitement of the half-time show by Usher. People started dancing in Boston Pizza because of it. And the cherry on top? The game went to overtime!

Cinnamon Sugar Twist from Tim Hortons

As a relatively new arrival in Canada (less than 10 years!), I'm always eager to immerse myself in local traditions and flavours. This Sunday morning, following the classic pre-church Tim Hortons routine, we ordered one of the four retro donuts celebrating the brand's 60th anniversary!

We decided to try the Cinnamon Sugar Twist. And let me tell you, it was a delightful discovery! Soft, fluffy dough met generous coatings of sweet, fragrant cinnamon sugar in every bite. This wasn't just a donut; it was a flavour explosion that had me wanting more.

Cinnamon Sugar Twist from Tim Hortons

While I might not have personal childhood memories associated with this treat, I could understand why it's a nostalgic favourite for many Canadians. It embodies the essence of simple, comforting flavours and evokes a sense of shared history.

Cinnamon Sugar Twist from Tim Hortons

Have you tried the retro donuts? What are your favourite Tim Hortons treats? Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments below!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The Cookie Monster from Novella Coffee Bar | 2024 Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival

Our Taste of Chinatown adventure may have concluded, but our quest for delicious discoveries didn't stop there. On our way home, a quick bus transfer at Main Street and Broadway presented an irresistible opportunity: the Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival was still in full swing! With smiles wide and taste buds ready, we veered off our route and headed straight for the inviting warmth of Novella Coffee Bar.

Their menu boasted "The Cookie Monster," which is part of the 14th Annual Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival.

#132 - The Cookie Monster from Novella Coffee Bar
A Chicago-style Oreo cheesecake white hot chocolate topped with raspberry drizzle.

The first sip confirmed our suspicions: this wasn't just hot chocolate. It was like melted ice cream. The rich white chocolate base, infused with the subtle sweetness of cheesecake, was pure bliss. But the real stars of the show were the abundant Oreo crumbles, adding a delightful textural contrast and bursts of chocolatey goodness.

The raspberry drizzle was the perfect finishing touch, cutting through the sweetness with a delightful tartness and adding a vibrant pop of colour.

Novella Coffee Bar not only warmed our hands on a chilly afternoon but also reminded us that the best adventures are often found by taking a chance and indulging in a bit of sweetness.

Below is a list of all the hot chocolates we have tried this year.

  1. #11 - Chocolate Caliente from Artigiano
  2. #12 - S'morelicious Hot Chocolate from Artigiano
  3. #13 - Join the Dark Side from Beaucoup Bakery and Cafe
  4. #15 - Java the Hutt from Beaucoup Bakery and Cafe
  5. #30 - Violet's Berry Delight from Boba Run
  6. #31 - For the Love of Mint Chocolate from Boba Run
  7. #69 - Hot Choc'cuterie Board from Faubourg Bakery
  8. #71 - Tiramisu Au Chocolat Noir from Faubourg Bakery
  1. #77 - Unicorn Kisses from Fufú Café
  2. #92 - Snow-Coco from Honolulu Coffee
  3. #93 - Calli-Coco from Honolulu Coffee
  4. #132 - The Cookie Monster from Novella Coffee Bar
  5. #133 - Bear with Me from Nuttea
  6. #140 - Barrel of Chunky Monkeys from The Pie Hole
  7. #147 - Pala Siau Chocolat from Thierry Chocolates

Singapore Fried Noodles from Ming Fong Fast Food inside Chinatown Plaza

Our Taste of Chinatown adventure continued, with Lee Man's "Top 10 Dishes" list guiding our culinary compass. After indulging in the sweet delights of New Town Bakery, we set out to conquer another dish on the list. Unfortunately, a mischievous drizzle decided to join the party, forcing us to improvise.

  1. 🗸 Duck Noodle Soup from Chinatown BBQ (130 East Pender Street)
  2. 🗸 Steamed Dai-Bao from New Town Bakery and Restaurant (148 E Pender Street)
  3. Bun Cha Hanoi from DD Mau (145 E Pender Street)
  4. Tajarin from Kissa Tanto (263 E Pender Street)
  5. Steamed BBQ Pork Rice Rolls from Sun Fresh Bakery (245 Keefer Street)
  6. Classic Omelette with Salted Radish from Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (163 Keefer Street)
  7. 🗸 Singapore Fried Noodles from Ming Fong Fast Food (180 Keefer Street)
  8. Chilled Tofu with Century Eggs from Fat Mao (217 E Georgia Street)
  9. Butter Beef from Phnom Penh (244 E Georgia Street)
  10. The Full Irish Breakfast from Irish Heather (248 E Georgia)

With umbrellas unfurled, we wandered the bustling streets of Chinatown. We suddenly found ourselves in front of Chinatown Plaza. It's our first time here. We spotted Ming Fong Fast Food inside the food court, and their Singapore Fried Noodles are included in Lee Man's Top 10 Dishes in Chinatown.

Singapore Fried Noodles from Ming Fong Fast Food inside Chinatown Plaza

The first three bites were a revelation! The noodles, cooked to order, held a delightful springiness, perfectly capturing the essence of wok-hei. Each mouthful was a burst of flavour: bean sprouts added a refreshing crunch, red and green peppers injected vibrant colours and sweetness, and slivers of BBQ pork offered savoury richness. But the star of the show was undoubtedly the yellow curry, its gentle warmth infusing every element with its aromatic embrace.

We were still full and decided to take the rest home for dinner. We packed food safely in our bag and walked to the bus stop.

Red Bean Bliss at New Town Bakery

Our Taste of Chinatown adventure continued! After indulging in the savoury delights of Chinatown BBQ, our stomachs weren't quite ready to say goodbye just yet. With a sweet tooth calling, we walked to the legendary New Town Bakery.

Red Bean Cake from New Town Bakery

The line snaking outside was a testament to the bakery's iconic status. While the lure of their famous bao buns, devoured during our Brinner celebration last week, was strong, we decided to explore the sweeter side of New Town Bakery this time.

Tempting displays of pastries and buns greeted us inside, each one vying for our attention. After much deliberation, I opted for the Chinese Red Beans Donut. I am biased toward Chinese Donuts, with my favourite from Kam Do Bakery in Richmond. My husband chose the Red Bean Cake.

Red Bean Donut from New Town Bakery

We found a spot just outside the bakery and eagerly dug in. My donut was everything I had hoped for: a cloud-like vessel filled with a smooth, flavorful red bean paste. The coating of sugar added a perfect touch of sweetness without being overpowering.

A peek inside Red Bean Cake from New Town Bakery

My husband's Red Bean Cake offered a textural delight. The thin, slightly crisp exterior gave way to a soft, warm interior where the red bean paste shone. Unlike the donut's sweetness, the cake had a more subtle sweetness, allowing the natural flavours of the beans to take center stage.

Inside a Red Bean Donut from New Town Bakery

As we savoured these delicious treats, people-watching and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere of Chinatown, we realized that sometimes, the sweetest discoveries are made by venturing beyond the tried-and-true. While the bao buns will be waiting for us the next time, exploring New Town Bakery's sweet selection was a delightful reminder that culinary adventures are always rewarding, especially when they lead to hidden gems like these red bean treats.

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