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I like stone fruits: peaches, plums, cherries and mangoes. What are stone fruits, you ask? Also called drupes, they are fruit that have a large stone, often mistaken as seed, inside. Think about what a peach looks like when you cut it open, or a plum, or even a cherry. What we usually call a pit is actually the stone, and the seed is inside the stone. I love the juicy flesh of stone fruits and they are so good, and so sweet, just on their own. However, I’m always curious about finding savoury ways to enjoy them. And now, I have one idea.

Did you know:
…plums are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as several antioxidants?
…there are only 46 calories in a 100g serving of plums?

Recently I got my hands on some Chilean pluots. Pluot is a hybrid fruit, part plum and part apricot. It’s nicknamed “Dinosaur Eggs” in Chinese because of its spotted skin. The fruit is in a beautiful red colour. I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich with them. Now I don’t think plum and cheddar, the typical choice of cheese for grilled cheese, go together, so I’ve substituted it with brie. And to elevate it, I opted for sourdough for a chewy texture and some tang in flavours.

Fun fact: Chilean plum season is from mid-November until April, which is the opposite of local fruit season in BC.

The beauty of a grilled cheese is that you can build it in however way you want, so I’m only providing a guideline here in terms of ingredients.

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Life has been busy so I didn’t really look into Dine Out Vancouver until there were only 2 weeks left. There were a few interesting, attractive menus but many came from restaurants that I’ve been before. Since I don’t dine out very much these days, I wanted to use the opportunity to try some place new. Then I spotted a good deal at Social on Commercial Drive. Social has only been open for a few months, back in October 2020 in midst of the second wave of COVID.

Social offers a 3-course menu for only $25, and it’s available for lunch or dinner. Sure, you don’t get to choose your appetizer or dessert, but there are 4 options for entrees, including trout and 8oz sirloin baseball steak. I thought that’s really good value for your money. On their regular menu, the trout would be $28 and sirloin baseball steak costs $36. I decided to take Mama Lam there for lunch.

Food

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Dine Out Vancouver is back and reimagined! Running from February 5 to March 7, 2021, 366 restaurants are offering prix fixe menus for dine-in or take-out priced between $15 and $54. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has been tough for the restaurant industry. I was glad to see the return of the iconic food festival, while it’s made some adjustments to accommodate the current situation. For one, the festival has been extended to run for 31 days, to allow more opportunities for diners to participate while restaurants are offering lower capacity and limited seating. Also, there’s flexibility in how each restaurant prices their menu so it’s no longer just the 3-4 price points in the past.

Even though the festival is well underway, restaurants are still open for reservations and there’s always room to accept take-out orders. I took the time to review the menus and here are what caught my eyes, based on past experiences (Dine Out or not) as well as menu attractiveness (e.g. value for the money, choice of ingredients, creativity in the menu, enough options for two people, etc.). Also keep in mind that I curated the list based on my preference (as you know, I’m a meat lover and I’m biased against chicken and salmon), my way of thinking, so it may not all suit your taste. But hopefully this gives you a place to start.

Because the prices vary a lot this year, I can’t break them down by price point like previous years. Instead, I organized my list into Lunch, Dinner, Take Out, and Special Offer. And my recommendations are for that specific menu only, even though the restaurant may offer other menu options, after weighing in my preference and my perceived value of the menus. I’ve also included links to the menu to make it easier for you.

Lunch

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Just a week ago we celebrated Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Ox. And like every other CNY, it’s the perfect the opportunity for us to cook and eat a lot of good food and observe our cultural traditions.

This year, Mama Lam made a Poon Choi / Pancai / Big Bowl Feast / 盤菜. According to Mama Lam, the concept of this giant feast was originated from the late Song Dynasty when Emperor Bing fled to Hong Kong to escape the attack of Mongolians. The villagers in HK hosting the emperor pulled together everything they could find and cook, and due to the lack of serving vessels, they resorted to washing basins to be able to hold all the food. And this village tradition has been passed on and modified to the current form, typically being served for celebrations and special occasions.

How many layers do you think there are in this Poon Choi that Mama Lam made?

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Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival is back! Given the global COVID-19 pandemic and Public Health Order restrictions in BC, most participating vendors not only offer dine-in hot chocolates, but also to-go options and DIY kits. On the top of my list to try was Mon Paris Patisserie because both flavours on the menu sound so good!

On an almost snow day this weekend, we went to Mon Paris for a taste. I was hoping to sit inside the patisserie actually, but both tables were occupied so we could only take them to-go and enjoy them in our car ride.

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