There is something simple but nice about the traditional types of bagels, including the Sesame Bagel from Tim Hortons. Just a regular bagel with sesame seeds on top, the texture and taste were both right now. It was dense, chewy, but not hard. The flavour was light and doughy, with a hint of sweetness and of course, the aroma from the sesame seeds. Honestly, sometimes the plain flavours are better than the fancy ones. I really enjoyed the simplicity and slight sweetness; it makes for a comforting staple good for anytime of the day.
July 30, 2012
Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver BC
[Bread and Butter]
Butter Lettuce Leaves with Toasted Almonds, Raspberry Vinaigrette
Fines Herbes WIld Pacific Salmon Filet, Grape Tomato Red Wine Butter, Tricolor Linguini, Fresh Market Vegetables
A surprise as I got into the office this morning led me to the Vancouver Convention Centre. Originally only supposed to stay for a while, it gradually turned into the majority of lunch as the reception sort of blended in with the food. What a nice surprise that was. Once I got home, I checked up the menu online. You just have got to love the incredible amount of information that can be found online nowadays. All you need is Google and you are good to go.
We started off with complimentary dinner rolls and butter. One basket per table was served with a small dish of generic balls of butter. I saw at least three types: plain, oat, and pumpkin seed. I had a pumpkin seed one. It was soft on the inside and chewy with a slight hardening on the outside, making the texture a lovely one, especially with the addition of the pumpkin seeds. I really enjoyed the seeds and wished they were mixed into the dough as well instead of just on the surface. The inside was orange, which made me think it was some sort of special grain dough. It would have been better had it been warm but at least it was not bad.
The appetizer course was Butter Lettuce Leaves with Toasted Almonds, Raspberry Vinaigrette. There were only three butter lettuce leaves, some almonds, four raspberries, and some edible flowers that gave the salad a nice aroma. The almonds were crunchy but there was not enough for me. The leaves were chilled and the vinaigrette sweet and tangy at the same time. It was a rather thick vinaigrette and slightly on the oily side, but the taste was good.
The main dish was Fines Herbes Wild Pacific Salmon Filet, Grape Tomato Red Wine Butter, Tricolor Linguini, Fresh Market Vegetables. The salmon was by far the highlight of the entire meal. It was pink, succulent, moist, and juicy, sprinkled with flavourful herbs and baked to utter perfection. It was definitely one of the best salmon filets I have had. The herbs offered enough flavour so that it did not taste bland or overly fishy. I also loved the grape tomatoes and red wine butter. Despite the somewhat revolting purplish hue of the butter sauce, it was slightly sweet and tart, not bland at all. It matched the salmon perfectly and was delicious! The linguini was al dente, but I had a few strands that were stuck together. There was not enough of that delicious butter sauce for me to finish the linguini; without it, the pasta was bland. It was definitely pleasing to the eye though. Finally, I loved the roasted red bell pepper slice and the baby broccoli. The baby broccoli was crunchy and the pepper soft and flavourful. I wish I had a whole plate of the brightly coloured vegetables.
Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to stay for dessert, which would have been a Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake “Sevigné”, Crispy Meringue, with Raspberry Coulis. That would have been delicious, I am sure. However, I am already thankful we got a great lunch. For hotel catering services, this is definitely one of the better ones I have had. I really appreciate having salmon instead of the generic chicken breast, especially since it was baked so nicely.
To avoid insane border lineups, we left very early and by noon, we were done most of the shopping and ready for lunch. Instead of lining up to go south of the border, we lined up at Costco’s line for food. There were not even that many people lining up to pay for items but everyone there seemed to want lunch from the extremely affordable food services offering comparatively high quality fast food to all the shoppers.
For $1.50, we got the Polish, a Polish sausage in a hot dog bun, and a drink. We had the Hot Dog last time so decided to try something a little different this time around. The Polish sausage, made of all beef I believe, had more spices and flavouring than the regular Hot Dog. It was extremely tender and had a lovely seasoning taste. The bun was soft, fluffy, and slightly gummy, just the way I like it. Due to the moisture, it sort of stuck onto the Polish sausage, which was fine by me. We added all the fixings to it, including ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, and sauerkraut. I love their sweet and tangy relish and the sauerkraut was crunchy, sour, and added another layer of flavour. I really appreciate a good hot dog once in a while!
Next, we got my favourite Costco item – the Chicken Bake. It is chicken, bacon, cheese, and Caesar dressing rolled inside regular dough that is topped with cheese and baked. Today, it was baked to perfection. The chicken breast chunks were tender, the bacon slightly chewy, and the dressing and cheese melted and perfectly gooey. It was even stringy at times. The dough was slightly underdone and quite moist on the inside but had a nice crunch on the outside and an excellent chewy texture overall. It was so chewy I could not get enough of the dough! Mix that with the tangy sauce and cheese, it was bite after bite of deliciousness!
After a while, we went back for snacks. I tried Auntie’s Berry Smoothie. It was just the right mix of sweet and sour, with a very nice berry taste. The slush was perfect for a summer afternoon but the sweetness made it not the most refreshing beverage ever. It definitely tasted kind of artificial but in a good way. For $1.45, this is the best smoothie when considering price and quality.
The Churro, priced at $1, is always a nice, warm treat. They sell for at least $3.50 in places like Disney so it is always a nice reminder of the theme parks when I have this at Costco. It was not overly oily from the frying and the dough inside was still soft and chewy. The outside had an appreciated crunch and it was rolled in plenty of cinnamon sugar. The sugar is what makes the Churro so delicious for me when paired with the chewiness of the dough. I could have used even more cinnamon and sugar but at least it was not lacking.
- Finally, we also tried the Swirl Nonfat Yogurt. I appreciate the fact that it is nonfat, and yet the texture was thick, rich, and creamy. The vanilla was light and sweet, tasting much like soft serve ice cream with a slight tartness. The chocolate was more of a dark chocolate or cocoa flavour, like most chocolate ice cream. It tasted like ice cream but was a lot smoother in texture. There was more chocolate than vanilla, much to my displeasure. It also melted very quickly so I did not get much vanilla since with the slightest bit of chocolate being melted; it covered the rest of the vanilla and made the whole thing chocolate. I usually do not like chocolate ice cream because it is not sweet enough for me, and instead, prefer chocolate bits or sauce mixed into vanilla soft serve or frozen yogurt. At $1.35 though, I am not complaining at all. It was such a large serving at such an affordable price.
Every menu item at Costco is so cheap compared to literally everywhere else. They clearly are not using their food services to make huge profits. The quality is very good as far as fast food goes, and the servings are huge for such inexpensive prices. I think I will stick with the Polish from now on and the Vanilla Nonfat Yogurt to avoid the chocolate flavour ‘contamination’ – vanilla will always beat out chocolate when it comes to ice cream and frozen yogurt for me.
The celebration for National Blueberry Month continues with the Blueberry Cupcake with Earl Grey Buttercream from Bell’s Bake Shop. One of the best things about summer is all of the sweet and ripe blueberries among an array of other fruits. July just happens to be celebrating blueberries.
This Blueberry Cupcake with Earl Grey Buttercream serves as a sweet afternoon snack for a summer day. It is not your refreshing and cold beverage for the times spent under the burning sun. Instead, it has a soft but quite dense and sweet cake base with mixed in blueberries. It is not as fluffy as most of their cupcakes that I have had in the past. I think this one was made the day before, as there were only four left when I went in around late morning. Despite the fact that the outside of the cake was starting to get the slightest bit dry, the inside was still soft and moist. The blueberry aroma was quite strong, as was the earl grey in the buttercream, which is again sugary and very sweet. It is not oily, but just the gritty sugary kind of frosting. There was a good ratio, about half frosting and half cake. It was sweet on sweet but not the rich, overwhelming kind. On top was an orange flower made of hard candy and with a slight orange tang. I am not sure how this goes well with the blueberry and the earl grey but it was sure pretty to look at!
As I was reading my newsfeed on Facebook this morning, a little update from Hog Shack Cook House caught my eye and notified me that Burnt Ends were available today. That made me super excited, as I still had a Groupon voucher I was saving just for when they have this off-the-menu dish, since so many online reviewers claim it is a must-try at this restaurant. After phoning in at night to confirm they still had it, we went down to Steveston on this very sunny and warm evening.
Burnt Ends are seriously burnt and VERY smoky. The meat was succulent and the smokiness was incredibly strong. The BBQ flavour was not too overwhelming, especially in the larger pieces. The smaller pieces of meat were very delicious and melted in my mouth. However, some pieces were mostly fat, which none of us ate. A few of the bigger pieces were slightly on the dry side and the sauce had not seeped into it as nicely, leaving it a little bland and just plain smoky. When the pieces were nice and juicy though, the flavour was that of a fine smoky BBQ sauce. I was a little surprised how the meat can be so smoky yet not completely charred. The portion size was very decent as well. For $16, the platter came with the choice of two sides. We selected the Yam Fries and Corn Bread. The Yam Fries were sweet and delicious. They were more of a flatter, wider cut but were quite large yet still crispy on the outside. Well, after a while, they got soggy and they were not served piping hot to begin with. While they had the crunch, they were good. The chipotle mayo served alongside for dipping was full of flavour and had quite some heat to it, which I really appreciated. The one piece of Corn Bread was decent in size and had the sweet aroma of corn and butter. However, I found it to be on the dry side even though the flavour was good.
The Hot Prawn & Mushroom Salad was decent in size for $14. There were about eight prawns and quite a bit of mushrooms on top of a bed of romaine with a few tomato chunks. The prawns were tender and the mushrooms somewhat flavourful after being sautéed. I just found the mushrooms and prawns to be on the oily side, which is not necessary for simply sautéing. The oil also collected on the bottom of the dish, which made the greens on the bottom too oily to eat. The cheddar cheese strips were large and slightly melted due to the heat from the prawns and mushrooms but did not add much flavour to the dish. For a restaurant besides the harbour, I expected fresh ingredients when it comes to seafood, but I think the ones we got were frozen tiger prawns.
Finally, deciding two dishes were not enough for the three of us since we were all really hungry, we ordered the Black And Blue, blackened blue cod fillet served with sautéed vegetables and Spanish rice pilaf. Mom wanted to try the rice because it looked appetizing in the online photos. I was also in the mood for sautéed vegetables, since so many reviewers said Hog Shack made them really tasty. The cod was nicely blackened while still succulent and somewhat moist inside. The char made it crispy and slightly chewy. The tomato sauce was bland and without much seasoning to flavour it. The Spanish rice was mediocre and I have had better. There were actually a few chunks of rice that were stuck together, which made me wonder when it was made. The vegetables were great though. They were still on the raw side, especially the zucchini since it was not at all mushy yet. The carrots were sweet and the broccoli soaked up the flavour. They were slightly buttered but not much and were a nice, crunchy treat for me.
The servers were nice and the ambiance casual and relaxing. The windows made way for a lot of light and it was a typical little restaurant by the water. This to me will make me want to go back, because the food alone will probably not urge for a return trip if the atmosphere was not something special.
Finally, my favourite Blueberry Muffin was available this morning at the office and I got to celebrate National Blueberry Month! How exciting! Blueberries are just ripening and when they are sweet and aromatic, they can be such addicting little things. I have been waiting for a while for this flavour as it is always the first to disappear. Clearly, it is a favourite among everyone, and is no different for me. Out of all the ones I have had over the past few weeks – and there were quite a few of them – this is definitely my favourite. Considering how I have made quite a dent in their muffin menu, I think that is saying something. It was filled with lots of sweet blueberries. The muffin was moist and soft, not overly greasy, and perfectly sweet. The muffin base was quite a lot sweeter than a few of the other ones that I thought were bland. This certainly was not. Instead, in addition to the awesome, sugary cake base, there was the fresh aroma of summery blueberries. The muffin really had a good and fluffy texture, except for the top. Once again, I am disappointed by the moist instead of crispy top. That crunch would have made it so much better.
Mom and I made a trip to Walmart to pick up some garlic. Like most Walmart stores, this one had a McDonald’s inside. Since it was turning into a beautiful, sunny afternoon, we decided to go in and chill with a drink. There were not many people inside and the lighting was good. The benches we sat on were kind of soft so it was certainly a decent place to relax a little after a day of work.
Mom also wanted a smoothie so I persuaded her to get the final of the four flavours – the Strawberry Banana Real Fruit Smoothie. Like the mango pineapple one, we have tried this flavour before but it had been so long ago the precise taste escapes our memory. Clearly, it was not memorable. The strawberry tartness was quite strong, as was the tropical aroma of bananas. Not the biggest fan of banana smoothies, this one did not appeal to me as much as the other three. Sure, it was still tart, slightly sweet, slushy, cold, and certainly refreshing, but I would pick any of the other flavours over this simply because it has bananas and it is so… ordinary. This is perhaps the most common smoothie flavour around. To be fair, it was still a nice beverage on a hot afternoon, even though it was neither mine nor Mom’s favourite. That honor goes to the mango pineapple flavour.
Apparently, the muffins from Tim Hortons that are available in the office every morning is not day-old treats. Instead, someone brings them in in the morning for everyone to share, especially the people who are here extremely early. If this is the case, then there is really no excuse for poor quality. In that case, I am extremely disappointed with the soft topping on all the muffins. Even though the insides have always been soft and moist, even along the paper cup and edges, the tops should be crisp. Instead, these are moist like the rest of the muffin, which is why I would prefer McDonald’s muffins anyday for something that is similar in price and quality.
The Fruit Explosion Muffin was even more bland. With the same, not-very-sweet muffin base, it had cranberries, blueberries, and what I thought were mini apple bits. The cranberries were tart, the blueberries a little sweeter, and the apple bits did not taste like much since they were so small and only on the top layer. At first, I thought they were bananas, but they were chewy rather than mushy. The fruits did not offer much in the way of flavour, since all three did not have strong aromas. It was certainly pretty to look at, but the taste was just extremely bland. Yes, it was soft, but again, it did not have a crisp top. Where was the ‘explosion’? Perhaps they should have named it the Fruit Anti-explosion Muffin because not only was there no bold flavours, there was barely any taste to it at all. Maybe fruits and muffins just do not mix well, but in that case, at least include more sugar and sweet blueberries.
Only one muffin was left by the time the box was moved to the lunchroom today, so lucky me still managed to grab a sweet treat on this drizzling, drowsy afternoon that is as far from summer as you can possibly get in July. Whoever it is that keeps on bringing in goodies from Tim Hortons, you will make some of my days just that much better. The one left today was a Banana Nut Muffin. The muffin was still perfectly moist, slightly buttery, and incredibly soft even on the edges. However, the moisture has made the muffin top soft and slightly mushy as well. I like a crisp top but since it is day-old, I cannot really complain. I am sure when it was still fresh out of the oven, it was nice and crisp. The banana aroma was light and thus, the muffin was not too sweet. The chopped walnuts were plentiful, embedded in the muffin and were wonderfully crunchy, providing a nice contrast to the otherwise soft texture. This muffin was nowhere near as sweet as most banana breads get so for someone looking for a lighter but still sweet treat, this muffin would certainly do the trick!
July 22, 2012
苏杭人家 – Suhang Restaurant, Richmond BC
香干马兰头 (Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables)
上海两面黄 (Shrimps with Clear Sauce in Crispy Yellow Noodles)
上素蒸饺 (Steamed Vegetable Dumplings)
椰子糕 (Coconut Pudding)
After taking an extremely long time to decide where to go for lunch, we picked Suhang Restaurant because we thought two combos would have been too much from Kyung Bok Palace. I would have preferred Alleluia Café or some other Hong Kong-style café, but Mom is just not one for cheap eats or extremely casual dining. The restaurant was full when we arrived and we requested to be switched to a bigger table after they gave us one stuck in between two larger tables that did not even have enough room for the two people to be facing each other. It also took us a long time to decide what to order, since they had both dim sum and regular lunch options. Our server was slightly put up with us because we were so slow, but I think he could have been nicer about it and maybe made a few suggestions since we were clearly not being very decisive.
I was badly craving 香干马兰头 (Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables) so we ordered that to begin. It is chopped Indian aster mixed with finely diced marinated bean curd. The vegetables were as fresh as you can get them in Vancouver and the bean curd bits had a nice, tender, yet firm texture. This dish was surprisingly sweet, more so than I have had. However, loving sweet dishes even when I am not eating desserts, it suited my palate perfectly. The texture was great and the cold vegetables and bean curd mix was satisfyingly refreshing.
Since we wanted something hot and stir-fried, we went with the traditional 上海两面黄 (Shrimps with Clear Sauce in Crispy Yellow Noodles). We have had this twice before and it was not good the second time because the noodles were not fried enough. This is basically vegetables, shrimp, and pork in a thick, light sauce poured over crispy pan-fried noodles. The noodles need to be crunchy for it to be good, otherwise it is just a lot of mushy noodles with a slightly bland sauce. This time, however, the noodles were extra crispy, much to our delight. Most of the noodles were crunchy and not yet soggy, since it was served piping hot. That just immediately made the dish delicious. The shrimp were succulent and tender. The pork strips did not taste very fresh, with just the slightest hint of sour meat. Perhaps it was just because it had been marinated. The vegetables consisted of carrots, bamboo, sliced button mushrooms, water chestnuts, black wood ear, and golden needle vegetable. My favourites were the chewy and succulent black wood ear, bamboo, and golden needle vegetable. Along with the crispy noodles, this very popular Shanghai dish was certainly well executed here.
Loving steamed buns and dumplings that do not have much meat or is too oily, I went with the 上素蒸饺 (Steamed Vegetable Dumplings). Five huge dumplings for $5.95 was not a bad deal. The dumpling wrappers were nice, just thick enough to be incredibly chewy. I loved that texture. The filling was a mix of diced bean curd and shredded bok choy. It was slightly sweet, similar to the taste of the Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables. I loved that sweetness, as well as the blend of aromas and seasoning. It is definitely one of the best steamed dumplings I have ever had, simple yet delicious.
Finally, they offered us complimentary dessert, the 椰子糕 (Coconut Pudding). It was slightly sweet, with a strong taste of coconut milk. The texture was soft and tender, and also quite ‘bouncy’ for lack of a better word. Too much of it would not be good, as the taste gets quite monotone after a while, but the small square they offered was a nice finish to the meal.
Depending on the chef, this restaurant has been hit and miss in the past. Today, it was definitely a ‘hit.’ All three dishes were well made and the complimentary dessert added a refreshing ending. I would certainly recommend all three dishes to others. The price is not outrageous and the service is okay. The restaurant is not extremely loud, as some Chinese eateries can get, so the atmosphere is certainly decent as well.