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Do you sometimes get this giddy feeling when you come across something new and unique, knowing that you’re among the firsts to know about it, and you can’t wait to tell people? I get that when I try a new restaurant, or spot a new product at grocery stores. And I just had a moment like this when I attended a food and beverage product trade show at the Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre in Gastown.

Named “A Flavourful Journey to Indonesia”, the purpose of the event was to provide Canadian businesses with a glimpse of the food and beverage products Indonesia offers, thus bringing these products to Canada and making them available at local retail stores. So naturally, many products I saw at this event are not yet available in Canada, but I had the opportunity to sample them and I seriously hope they will be available here soon.

Here are a few that got me really excited:

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Being Chinese, we celebrate Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節 every year. It is always on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, promising the roundest, fullest full moon of the year. Part of the tradition is to eat mooncakes月餅, a baked pastry with fillings. The most popular versions we used to get in HK are with lotus seed paste or mixed nuts filling, plus salted egg yolk(s). Over the years, mooncakes have evolved. Bakeries have introduced other flavours of fillings such as red bean and lava custard; and some places sell a version called “snow skin” where the exterior is not baked and is made with glutinous rice flour.

Origin of Mooncakes

Do you know the origin of mooncakes? The one version that is forever stuck in my head is that it was created by rebellions in the Yuan Dynasty, who hid secret messages inside baked pastries, and distributed them to plan a revolt to overthrow the ruling Mongols, leading to the fall of Yuan and the rise of Ming Dynasty.

Buying Mooncakes in Vancouver

This year, Mid Autumn Festival lands on September 21, 2021. If you are interested in making your own mooncakes, check out Mama Lam’s recipe for Baked Chinese Mooncake with Salted Egg Yolk Custard Filling that I shared last year. Otherwise, if you are looking to support local businesses and buy some at a store, here are some ideas for you.

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On one of the hottest days this summer, with the low hum of an espresso machine in the background, a tanned Italian man named Mario spoke animatedly. This was the setting that transported us to a cafe in Milan as we sipped espresso and discussed Italian style coffee at the Umbria Coffee Roasters’ warehouse in South Vancouver.

With passion and flair, Mario impressed upon us the Italian coffee culture that Umbria represents: an unpretentious experience that simply allows one to enjoy a cup of good quality coffee. He and his colleague Ricardo explained the importance of consistency and balance in the beans, and the science and art behind making a great cup of espresso — the correct ground, the perfect water temperature, the well-timed brew. In addition, the amount of effort their master roaster puts in to blend different beans from across the globe is shockingly similar to what a winemaker does to achieve consistent quality of wine year after year. Mr. and I tasted a variety of their coffee, learned about the philosophy of roasting Italian style coffee, and even had a chance to play barista with their commercial espresso machine.

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Mr. and I got a taste of our post-pandemic world while exploring Vancouver’s North Shore Ale Trail for three days in early July. That’s 16 long months after the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020! We checked out a total of 17 spots in North Vancouver, including 9 craft breweries.

On our trip, we made a stop at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, kayaked for 3 hours in Deep Cove, explored the Shipyards District, went for a waterfront stroll, and were basically in a constant food and beer coma.

I wrote a guest post on BC Ale Trail’s website detailing my 3-day trip. Here are some of the beer highlights for us:

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There are so many options in Greater Vancouver for craft beer lovers to find amazing food and beer pairings. You are probably familiar with gastropubs and bars such as Alibi Room, St. Augustine’s and O’Hare’s. If you are looking for a date night idea, or to try something different while still being able to enjoy a pint or two, I’ve put together a list of 8 restaurants ranging from Lebanese to pan-Asian cuisine, to Italian favourites and hidden gem fine-dining.

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