Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Flying Pig: Gastown

On a nice Sunday afternoon, I found myself exploring gas town with my girlfriend and her school mate from China. Okay, so, exploring may be a liberal term to use, as I've already seen and done pretty much everything that can be seen and done in gas town. A better way to put it would be 'guiding' the school mate.

Being in the area sparked a craving of The Flying Pig's shortrib macaroni. I'd been there before on an anniversary dinner with the girlfriend, and would definitely rank it quite high on my list of places to go. The macaroni is quite honestly the best pasta dish I've ever had. And that's saying a lot.

Arriving at around 2:30, we saw an opening for a patio table and took it. They were still serving brunch, an I have to admit I was a bit disappointed at the number of breakfast items in comparison to lunch items. A lot of the things that were on the lunch portion of the menu felt more like breakfast items, or snacketizers. While I understand that this is a common concept for lunch - being snack time - I was expecting more variety, especially having had a taste of their dinner menu.

Aside from the complimentary banana bread, we ordered the macaroni once again, and the croque Madame. The latter choice was difficult as we weren't really looking for a breakfast item - I had made salmon bennies for breakfast that morning. The problem was, we just didn't see anything we wanted other than the macaroni, yet, we had the pressing issue of feeding three people.

Like I said earlier, the macaroni did not disappoint. It was still amazing, and while I could describe it all day, I suggest you either go taste it, or try your own version at home. It's a perfect blend; large hollow noodles of some sort, braised short rib and some sort of rich (but not thick) gravy. Delicious!

The croque was... Well. It was a croque. What more can I say? It was good, but I wouldn't say it was the brunch order of a lifetime. The salad it came with in the other hand was very fresh and tasty. All in all the croque was a safe order, but I would stick to the macaroni in the future. As for the restaurant itself; I'll stick to the macaroni for brunch, and bring my visiting guests here at dinner, in the future.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sciue Melville

Having visited Sciue: Italian Bakery Caffe numerous times, it was only inevitable before I reviewed some of their products. Truth is, I have had a taste of pretty much everything available. My girlfriend works there , and today is her last day.

One of the things the Sciue 'brand' prides itself on are the in-house Italiab style pizzas that you can purchase by weight. The concept is quite different when compared to other coffee shops or pizza places in Vancouver. And well, "different" is a thing that sells in Vancouver. 

So how are the pizzas anyway? Honestly, they're pretty average. They do rotate and try new pizzas routinely - which is a good thing - but there isn't anything special here. Your best bet is the smoked salmon pizza if you're looking for something different, or pancetta bacon if you're a fan of the classics; because bacon just rocks.

The coffee at Sciue is great. They only provide organic coffee, and their espressos are 'made in the style of Rome'. I'm not really sure what makes Roman espressos different, but what I do know is that Sciue doesn't used sweetened chocolate in their mochas. For me, this is a good thing as it marks a better foundation for making the drink you want; need I say, unsweetened mocha is a good alternate to a latte?

The real seller for me isn't necessarily the products that Sciue carries; for the most part you can get the exact same thing at any other coffee shop, and more places keep going organic and fee trade to keep up with the competition. The seller is the concept. The idea here is that you can go to a coffee shop and get Italian baking - pizza, sandwich, soup and pasta. It's a nice alternate to 'fast food coffee shops'.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blog status: New schedule

After the first couple of weeks of blogging, I've made the 'executive' decision to do scheduled blog posts. What this means is that I'll only be blogging on Mondays and Thursdays at this time. While its also true that I have a backlist of blog articles yet to be written, I've decided that by concentrating on only blogging at certain times I can put out more quality articles, and the rest of the time I can spend collecting photos, and such for my articles.

Additionally, this doesn't just mean two posts per week. I've also made the decision that I'll likely batch and release articles throughout the day. Depending on the time involved, I could put out only one article, or as many as three per scheduled blogging day.

Lastly, I'll try to make regular updates - similar to this one. Which I will post on weekends. The purpose of this last point is simply to update readers on the status of my blog; should there be any changes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pepsi wings; a Chinese thing?

To my surprise, a few nights ago my girlfriend suggested we have wings for dinner. And so, she busted out the cutting board to begin preparing the sides - garlic toast and stir fried veggies - while I busted out a beer (we actually drink quite light, so the one beer was split between the two of us.)

As I waited for the wings to "marinate" in the Pepsi, I wondered what kind of wings we were going to have. At first I suspected plain, with just salt and pepper, as I had not seen any sauce in the kitchen. But I figured, perhaps she bought the sauce while I was waiting outside the grocery store with the dog.

Once I tried the wings, I thought they tasted quite similar to my great aunt Sandy's sweet and sour wings. It was quite tangy, and the sauce was viscous and sticky. When she told me she used Pepsi, I thought she was joking at first.

After a bit o joking around I saw that she was serious, and then she reminded me that she had mentioned this type of thig before. Pepsi chicken wings are supposedly quite well known in China. Who'd have guessed?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The American Cheesteak Co.

One thing that doesn't immediately come to mind in the world of Vancouver cuisine are Philly Cheesesteaks. While its true that Phillies are a staple of any pub or dive bar menu, that environment is considerably underdeveloped in Vancouver. While its true that groups such as Donnelly and Browns public houses try to have the essence of being a pub, they are still more like a mishmash that takes the best of pubs and casual fine dining; and mashing them altogether.

But this still doesn't answer the question of representation for the Philly. Well, if you like Phillies as much as any other self respecting human being, you may be please to know that there is a Philly Cheesesteak deli on Davie, offering nothing but different variations on the Philly. It's actual been there for almost two years, but who's counting?

As for myself, I love Phillies and I've partaken in the greasy sandwich many times since moving to Vancouver. The most recent time, I tried the Davie Bird - a strange version of the Philly, featuring chicken. While I'm a fan of chicken over red meat, and while it wasn't that bad, I'd suggest you to steer more toward their higher fat options. If you want a Philly, stick with the classics. The chicken option is still loaded up with sauce, cheese and bread, so you won't really be cutting back on calories.

The quality of the Phillies here are great, but there are a few downsides. Firstly, its not a pub atmosphere at all. Although, they do sell beer, the place is more akin to a sandwich deli or fast food joint. The price is also steep. It can easily be a 20 dollar ordeal, for what boils down to a sandwich, fries and a drink. That said, if these things aren't much of a hang-up for you, then you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pizza and a... tea shandy?

On Wednesday we had some guests over for dinner. On the menu: homemade pizza. Melody (my girlfriend) and I are quite fond of making pizza dough from scratch and throwing unconventional pizza toppings on, for a custom made meal. I mean really, what's the point of eating at home if you just make all the same things you would buy at restaurants?

The toppings of choice were broccoli, fettuccine, fish balls, shrimp, feta and cheddar cheese. We used an out of the container basil tomato sauce as the paste, and checked google for the highest rated homemade dough options. 
40 minutes later, we were eating deliciousness.

My girlfriend also made some iced tea using pomegranate tea, and strawberries. Quite refreshing, but, at a later point she got the idea of adding it to some Budweiser and making a tea shandy of sorts. The shandy was also surprisingly tasty.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blue Microphones: the Snowball

On the off chance that any of my readers aren't aware - sarcasm - I run a Let's Play channel on YouTube. If per chance, you have viewed me in action, you'll notice that the videos aren't really of the highest quality. The biggest offender being sound.

Some of you may also know that I produce music as another hobby. What you probably don't know is that I've always been unable to record my own audio because the internal mic on my computer pics up too much interference from the computer.

These concerns are now a thing if the past. Having purchased Blue Microphones' Snowball, I'm no longer plagued by audio with the same consistency as a fart.

Originally I had intend to get the Yeti Pro. But the steep price and 4 star user ratings online led me to rethink that possibility. Having seen that the Snowball was 200 dollars cheaper, used by successful producers and also held a 5 star rating average from users, the decision to get a Snowball became obvious.

So how does the Snowball stack up to user ratings?

Well to be honest, quite good. The one complaint I have about it is that I have to be closer than I'd like to be to get the kind of recording volume I like, but that is a small problem, easily fixed by changing my computer's volume settings.

As for what I liked; the quality of the audio. The recordings are very high quality, and exactly what I was hoping for. No interference. Crisp sounding vocal audio. Nice.

I also liked that its not particularly directional. I know that directional is what a lot of people are looking for, but considering that I intend to soon do co-op and competitive Let's Plays, it's very much what I want. Also - though, I've yet to try it - that aspect should make recording sound effects easier as well.

I wouldn't give the Snowball the generous 5 star rating... But perhaps, 4.5 stars would be suitable.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pita Bite the story of a shwarma

Since its a beautiful rainy day, it seemed like a natural opportunity for me to take a hop on out into the great outdoors, and explore some food cart options. So, there are lots of food carts in Vancouver; mostly in the area of Robson Square. And as luck would have it, I picked a day where my options were limited to four different pita carts. Awesome.

And so, perhaps feeling a bit adventurous, I selected the one cart across the street, on Robson and Hornby. Having no line ups, it felt like a natural choice. Initially I was greeted with a friendly Lebanese fellow. I ordered my chicken shwarma and waited.

On inspection, I noticed the food cart was impeccably clean, and that the food was visible from the front of the cart an kept covered. This is appealing to me, as I can see the quality of the food I'm about to eat.

So how does it stack up to other pitas? Well it was pretty average. There isn't really anything negative I could say about it, and I think the quality was quite good for street food. 

Now the one thing I have to mention is that there was a small piece of bone in the chicken. I'm not sure what the frequency of bone occurrences is, but its something I have to mention, if, for no other reason, out of honesty. I would definitely give it a second chance as the price and quality was alright.

And of course, there is the lingering curiosity of whether my experience was the norm, or just a careless and slow rainy day.

Lunch At Ikea

A trip to Ikea is an interesting phenomena. While Tina Fey made fun of it in 30 Rock for being a relationship trial, and Stephen Colbert likewise made fun of it for the horse meat scare in Europe. The reality is, the experience of Ikea is just good marketing.

The furniture works because you can mix and match any product with any other product, and come up with an original and affordable living space. The food works because its similarly cheap and simple.

The Ikea restaurant is at its core, fast food. That is, it's fast food, in a furniture store. Unlike McDonalds, they aren't hastily slapped together sandwiches in greasy bags or boxes. Ikea restaurant has welcoming interior colours (white) and everything comes on a plate.

Eating there is part of the process of building up the excitement levels before customizing your home. So how is the food then? It's actually pretty good. There's not a lot o variety, which works in their favour. Ikea is not a restaraunt. It's a furniture store. As far as food goes, they stick to a few things which they can do quickly, easily and quite well.

So what would I recommend? Well, I only ever get the fish 'n chips. It seems harmless enough - re: impossible to screw up. The horse meat scare thing is actually a little much for me though; especially considering I don't much care for beef to begin with. 

As for desert I'd point you towards anything. The almond cake was particularly satisfying this time around, though.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Soho Nites at the Bayside Lounge

I Dropped into the Bayside Lounge with some coworkers after work tonight. unfortunately I couldn't stay long enough to try more than one drink. And so I chose the first drink to catch my eye on their signature cocktail menu. Soho Nites.

To be honest, I don't really know why it's called Soho Nites. Perhaps it's an inside story, or maybe the creator simply thought the name fit the atmosphere of the bar - which, if you've never been, has the modest demure of a 60s drug lounge in Miami. It feels vaguely like some of the sets used in Scarface.

Atmosphere aside, the drink itself feels like a Shirley Temple with vodka in it. In all honesty, it isn't much more than that. Personally I don't think it the kind of thing that I would expect as a signature cocktail, let alone the first one on the list of martinis. At the same time, I can't say I'm surprised. It is what it is. A best attempt.

Soho Nites
- Citrus Vodka
- Lychee liqueur
- Grapefruit juice
- Grenadine

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dim sum at Hon's

Living in Vancouver, sometimes you just get the urge to go out for a dim sum brunch. Like many people before you, you may have discovered that having dim sum at establishments like Kirin or Dinesty can leave your pockets feeling a little light. On the other end of the spectrum, you may find yourself in Chinatown's Floata, bewildered by bad food quality and clueless service. And still there's that bill....

                                        (Some kind of Taro...)

Enter Hon's on Robson. Hon's does not have a very comfortable atmosphere, and the service leaves a lot to be desired, but food quality, speed and price are all spot on. And well, if we're thinking of saving money on our meals out, and also considering bad table service, it may not be much of a stretch to imagine how much you can save on the tip as well!

                                                                           (Chicken Feet... Nuff said)

As with most Chinese food, the naming of the dishes does not leave an impression, or picture in my mind. Strange adjectives like 'glutinous' pop up frequently, and the names of the dishes are simply descriptions of the contents... That said the menu does have visual aid for many of the items.

                                        (Some kind of flat noodle...)
Chicken feet and beef tendon are not my thing. However, when it comes to Chinese food, I try to partake. Truth is, I love most of what I try at Hon's, and their dim sum options are not displayed as an overwhelming menu of blank text. It's easy for me to wrap my head around. Perhaps easier yet because of my Chinese girlfriend, who usually knows what to order.

                                                             (Honestly, who can remember.  Very good though!)

So if you like dim sum, check out Hon's. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A fall inspired cocktail

With Summer well underway and September rolling around the corner, I've been thinking ahead to the fall season that awaits. The changing of the leaves and the long rainy period that is sure o come with it... The combination of Vancouver's natural beauty - the coastal mountains, the islands, and Stanley Park - with the terrible weather that is already looming in August. Both thoughts leave me with a desire for comfort food.

With fresh pie, warm coffee and Tim Horton's in mind, I've been working on a desert cocktail. I won't share the recipe till its in its final version, but here's a sneak peek.

The coloration and design is pretty much exactly what I want. The taste is spot on as well. Hinting of cinnamon buns, Terry's chocolate oranges, and mint chocolate chips. You may even find a bit of wine on your palette. The appearance and taste of this drink are deceiving. It is Very alcoholic, despite its warm bakery appearance.

The one thing I'm aiming to change is the consistency of the layers. When I get the final recipe down, it will be all of the interwebs to enjoy!

The Spanish Harlem at Espana

Cocktails reminiscent of the earlier part of the 20th century have been making a comeback. Whiskey, in its many forms have been introduced, and reintroduced in new and old cocktails alike.

The Spanish Harlem - a bourbon based cocktail at Espana - is one such drink that will leave you memories of a Saratoga, or perhaps a stiff Manhattan.

For the casual drinker, I would point you away. This is the kind of cocktail that you drink to enjoy the essence of the alcohols involved and not the mixture of flavours that come with the mixture of juices that you would find in a drink like a Cosmo.

So what's in it?

The Spanish Harlem
-Buffalo Trace Bourbon
-Punt e Mes
-Solera Cream Sherry
-Orange Twist

The constituent spirit and liquors involved give it an orange-amber hue. The colour matches quite well with the scent of orange, and the bitterness of Punt e Mes; as well as the bitters. Thinking back again of bourbon Manhattans, but less sweet, and more bitter.

How would I rate it? Not bad. A good wind down cocktail for those in hospitality jobs. Not a dessert drink, but more of a nightcap.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Drunk enough to...

Last night, the missus and myself went out for a few drinks after work. Suffice to say, a few beers in, along with a marijuana milkshake and prairie fire, I was a feeling a little woozy. So, after eating some bad fast food takeout, we inevitably ended up back home.
So what do drunk couples do when they get home after a night out? I can't speak for anyone else, but this is what we did:

So we've heard that people need to be drunk enough to dance, or sing karaoke. Apparently some of us just need to be drunk enough to pick up the damn paint brush. Not a masterpiece by any means, but I thought it may be of interest to some folks.
As for the shots we had, here's how we made them:
Marijuana Milkshake
1/2 oz Peppermint Schnapps
1/2 oz Baileys

Prairie Fire
1 oz Tequila (preferably gold)
1-5 drops of Tabasco Sauce (depending on how "brave" you are)
Now, I would add that this isn't the traditional way to make a Marijuana Milkshake, but it should be noted that most bars don't carry the traditional ingredients this side of the Rockies. So I came up with a new recipe. Personally, I like it better this way.

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