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Taste of Yaletown is back! Running from October 18-28, 2018, restaurants in the Yaletown neighbourhood will offer innovative pairings and special menus at set prices of $25, $35, and $45.

The Yaletown Business Improvement Association, the event organizer, just released the list of participating restaurants. They are:

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West Oak recently celebrated its 5th anniversary in the Yaletown neighbourhood. As a follow-up, Areta, Alice (Double A!) and I were invited to a hosted dinner at the restaurant. I’ve been here a couple of times beforehand, one of which was an evening out with a few of my girlfriends a few years ago.

Disclosure: This meal was provided to me complimentary of the restaurant. However, the views and opinions are my own.

Food

We got a sneak peek of some of their new cocktails (from left):

New Cocktails at West Oak

The Aperol Spritzer Mimosa is their new take on the classic brunch cocktail. This is available only during brunch, but the restaurant made one for us to try. Aperol, prosecco, fresh juice (orange, grapefruit, etc.) — it was juicy, citrusy, fizzy, refreshing. Great for a patio brunch. There’s no reason a mimosa fan wouldn’t enjoy this.

Tiffany Blue could become a local IG sensation. The Ciroc Apple came through and gave it some tartness, almost face puckering. You can really taste the apple here. The addition of edible silver makes it sparkle like a precious piece of jewelry.

Tiffany Blue

The last cocktail, at the time this was written, hasn’t been named. It just had a nickname “Green Thumb“. It had gin, elderflower liquer, basil, cucumber. It reminded me a bit of mojito – it’s light and crisp, and herbaceous.

Then, we dove into dinner, with a couple of appies to share. (more…)

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Matcha lovers rejoice! Considered the Starbucks in Japan, Nana’s Green Tea has arrived in North America. In fact, their first ever North American location will be right here in Vancouver! On June 6, their Kerrisdale location will open its door to the public.

Established around 10 years ago in Japan, Nana’s Green Tea was brought to us by Kazuto Kutami. He was inspired by the Starbucks concept while wanting to preserve the history and tradition of Japanese tea culture. Their matcha is sourced solely from Uji, Kyoto. To-date, there are more 80 Nana’s locations around the globe.

Food

Lucky for me, I was invited to a media preview of their menu. Here are a few items we’ve tasted:

(From left) Hoji-cha Shiratama Float, Matcha Chocolate Latte, Azuki Strawberry Latte

These are only taster size. Of the three beverages, my favourite was the Hoji-cha Shiratama Float. Shiratama in this case means sticky rice, which means there are mochi (aka sticky rice) balls in them. Hoji-cha is roasted green tea, so there’s some nutty flavour in the drink, as well as in the Hoji-cha ice cream. It’s quite unique and I don’t think I’ve seen something like this in Vancouver yet.

Azuki (red bean) Strawberry Latte is on the sweeter side, but not overly sweet. There is red bean paste and small pieces of strawberry in the drink so it’s quite fun to drink. It kind of reminds me of the HK style Iced Red Bean Drink 紅豆冰.

Although tasty, relatively the Matcha Chocolate Latte wasn’t super interesting. That being said, the matcha flavour was very strong, with just a hint of sweetness from the chocolate.

Hoji-cha Shiratama Float, Matcha Chocolate Latte, Azuki Strawberry Latte

I should note that there are many other options for beverages on the menu. There are 12 matcha options, 5 for hoji-cha, 5 azuki, and 5 options for just green tea.

Fresh Tuna with Curry Tartar Sauce Donburi

The only savoury dish we tried. This donburi was very good. Tuna was flavourful; the curry tartar (think curry mayo egg salad) was fragrant with a hint of spices.

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This year, Vancouver International Wine Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary with feature countries Spain and Portugal. Just like previous years, I drank my way through the big tasting room. But this year my focus was on the Ports.

2018 Vancouver International Wine Festival

What is Port Wine?

Port Wine (“Vinho do Porto” in Portuguese) is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in Portugal. It is a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine. Although you may find fortified wines outside Portugal (e.g. Vista D’oro makes an awesome walnut port-style wine), only the product from Portugal may be labelled as Port or Porto.

Through the tasting and in talking with the wine reps, I’ve learned about the different styles of port:

Ruby Port is the most extensively produced type. It’s usually stored in stainless steel tanks to prevent oxidation and preserve its bright red colour and full-bodied fruitiness.

Tawny Ports are aged in wooden barrels, exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. They turn into a golden-brown colour and the oxidation gives the wine nutty, caramel, and/or prune, raisin notes. If there isn’t any indication of age, it’s just a generalization that the wine has spent time in wooden barrels.

Late Bottled Vintage (often referred to simply as LBV) is typically bottled between four and six years after the vintage, with similar quality like a Vintage Port. If the LBV is filtered, it’s not meant to be aged.

Vintage Port is made entirely from grapes of the same vintage year. They may be aged in barrels for 2-3 years before bottling. You can drink it right away but it’s meant to be cellared for decades as it improves with age.

Here is what I tried:

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On March 21, Jugo Juice launched a revamped food menu with 4 new sandwiches and 5 new wraps.

The new sandwiches are served on heritage sourdough from local bakery Terra Breads or a brand new natural and preservative free artisan bun from Ace Bakery called schiacciata.

I was invited to a media tasting of the new items and got to try the 4 sandwiches:

Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable on schiacciata bread

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable

Philly Cheesesteak on schiacciata bread

Philly Cheesesteak

Chicken Caprese on schiacciata bread (more…)

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Earlier this month, as media, I was invited to attend the 3rd annual Science of Cocktails event at the Science World. It was the perfect venue as the Science World was transformed into a giant lab where drinks were changing from blue to pink, bananas being sous vide in honey, popcorn was frozen with liquid nitrogen, a “toothpaste” palate cleanser, smoking herbs, vaporized gin & tonic, fermentation, a sniffing station, foodies pulling themselves up a lift… the list goes on!

Science of Cocktails 2018

Science of Cocktails 2018Science of Cocktails 2018

Science of Cocktails 2018

Science of Cocktails 2018Science of Cocktails 2018

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Does the snowy weather just make you want to cuddle up and sit around the fireplace all day? Us Chinese have another way to fight the cold weather — hotpot.

While we usually have hotpot at home, we do go out for it sometimes. There are many hotpot places in Vancouver, with a mix of all-you-can-eat and a la carte options. Recently, I was invited to check out one of the a la carte hotpot places called Liuyishou Hotpot. It’s a worldwide chain, with a few locations in the Lower Mainland in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby.

At the Burnaby location, one thing that caught my eyes right away was the Sauce Bar. It’s probably the largest in BC, if not Canada. You can choose from minced garlic, cilantro and sesame oil, to mushroom paste, spiced vinegar and preserved bean curd. They have even posted some suggested “recipes” of sauces to pair with different soup bases they offer.

Sauce Bar

Sauce recipes

Making sauces

Of course, the more important part is the menu items. Do they offer a lot of options? Are the ingredients fresh? Any interesting items worthy of note? Let’s break it down.

First of all, the soup base. We had half and half Original Chongqing Spicy Soup and Special Pork Rib Soup. The spicy soup base was molded solid into a cattle shape, and it was melted down in front of our own eyes as the server poured hot broth into the pot. I was told that there’s no extra charge for the cattle shaped soup base, but there’s limited quantity everyday so it’s first come, first served.

Pouring broth to melt the cattle shaped soup base

At medium spicy level, I was still worried that the Original Chongqing Spicy Soup would be too spicy. (more…)

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