Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

That Tiramisu! – Al Porto Ristorante

May 11, 2013
Al Porto Ristorante, Vancouver BC
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[Bread Basket]
Linguine Pescatore
Calamari
Mussels
Tiramisu
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ImageFor a long-time friend’s 20th birthday party, we went to Al Porto Ristorante in the lovely, historic Gastown. While sunny weather is always nice, there is a certain magical feel to Gastown in the drizzly rain. The restaurant was large, with great friendly servers and traditional decorations. 

We started with a complimentary Bread Basket that I thought could have been better to match the sophistication of the restaurant. The bread was not exactly fresh out of the oven, although it had a nice crust and a soft, airy inside. However, I loved the focaccia. It was so soft and a little chewy.Image

The Linguine Pescatore was a common dish amongst our group. The seafood was fresh and nicely done: mussels, clams, prawns, squid, scallops, salmon, and halibut. Unfortunately, there was only one scallop, which is my favourite seafood… ever. The fish added a nice touch since you eat it with the pasta unlike the shellfish, which you usually eat separately. The linguine was al dente and the tomato sauce very flavourful with a touch of cream.Image

The Calamari was served with a chili aioli and a red onion bruschetta. The squid had a thin but crispy batter with the chewy seafood nicely done on the inside. I liked the chili aioli but would prefer the bruschetta. I thought it was an interesting touch for calamari.Image

The Mussels were steamed with garlic, shallot, and Italian parsley in a tomato broth. The broth had a decent herb flavour but could have been thicker with more seasoning. The mussels were okay, nothing outstanding.Image

Finally, since it was a birthday night, we all had a small bite of Tiramisu. It was a lovely bite. Coffee, liquer, lady fingers, sponge cake, cocoa powder, and most importantly, mascarpone. It was fresh, sweet, soft, moist, and absolutely scrumptious!

It was a really nice dinner, at a nice, fancy, but not over the top restaurant. I think a seat by the window would be a lot nicer and would actually be a great place to enjoy an upscale brunch of light dinner in the glow of the setting sun. 

Al Porto Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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Quick and Casual Sonata – Allegro Pizza & Grill

March 11, 2013
Allegro Pizza & Grill, Philadelphia PA
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Vegetable Panini
Spanish Omelette
Tiramisu
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ImageAfter endless dinners of cheese, pepperoni, and vegetable pizzas from Allegro during club meetings and various events, it was time I tried some other dishes at the ever so popular casual diner on campus. 

ImageThe Vegetable Panini was not bad. I did like the variety of grilled vegetables inside as they were not too greasy: broccoli, spinach, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I asked for mozzarella but it was neither gooey nor flavourful, too processed I guess. The home-made focaccia was a little thin and not soft enough for me. It was almost like flatbread. The fries that came with it were at least cooked to a good texture.

ImageThe Spanish Omelette, which I got with egg whites, was decent but slightly greasy. I did like the vegetables but egg whites are supposed to be light and not have too much oil on it. The server was nice enough to allow me to substitute home fries for fruit salad without additional charges since I had fries with my panini already. The toast was not the right texture, though. One was too crispy, almost burnt, and the other not crispy enough. Image

Finally, the Tiramisu was obviously not homemade. However, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The creamy texture was light and it did have soaked lady finger-like cake at the bottom with a strong coffee flavour.

For a quick meal, students are usually satisfied with what can be found here. It is relatively clean and not too expensive, with an extensive menu beyond just pizzas. 

Allegro Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Sweet and Fresh – Artisserie Chocolate Café

ImageNovember 10, 2012
Artisserie Chocolate Café, Philadelphia PA
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Vanilla Cupcake
Turtle Cupcake
Marble Cupcake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake
Tiramisu
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Still craving something sweet, I decided to call up a friend and split some desserts from Artisserie Chocolate Café. It was National Vanilla Cupcake Day after all. What better way to celebrate than to visit the overpriced dessert café on campus?

The Vanilla Cupcake was very simple but nice. The cake was dense but moist and lightly sweetened. It was actually quite good. The icing could be a little less buttery but it was by no means overly greasy. This simple cupcake would satisfy anyone’s craving for something sweet and light.Image

The Turtle Cupcake was their special Cupcake du Jour. It was actually very scrumptious, one of their best cupcakes. The vanilla cake was soft, dense, and sweet. Actually, the cake and icing is the same as the vanilla cupcake, which was good to begin with. What made it so much better are the chocolate and vanilla drizzle, crushed pecans, and the sticky caramel filling in the center. I love rich caramel; it goes well with everything.Image

The Marble Cupcake was also a decent one. The swirl of chocolate and vanilla cake and vanilla frosting was simple yet of decent quality. It was not too sweet but very light and soft. I loved the shaved chocolate and the mini stick on top of the frosting. They are always one of my favorite toppings on cakes.Image

The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake was the most disappointing out of the four. The chocolate cake had great texture but the frosting was a little bland and greasy. It also did not taste very strongly of peanut butter. The mini peanut butter cup on top was nice and crunchy but not enough to make every bite better.Image

Finally, I decided to try a Tiramisu. It was cold and so the soaked cake and ladyfingers was a little hard. However, the flavor was great. There was that slight hint of coffee amidst the mascarpone, liqueur, and cocoa powder. It was finely made but I just wished it were fresher. The dollop of whip cream on top was not great but the chocolate straw was. Overall, it was at least somewhat justified dishing out $5.

Desserts at Artisserie are definitely hit and miss. I would definitely go back sometime soon to try their truffles and humongous cookies and biscotti. Or maybe it is the jars that magnify them to make them so huge. We shall see.

Artisserie Chocolate Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Asian Coffee Delicacies – 安娜饼屋-Anna’s Cake House

ImageMay 25, 2012
安娜饼屋 – Anna’s Cake House, Richmond BC
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黑森林蛋糕 (Black Forest)
栗子蛋糕 (Chestnut Slice)

意大利芝士蛋糕 (Tiramisu with Coffee Cake)
咖啡蛋糕 (Coffee Cake)
咖啡挞 (Cappuccino Tart)
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Finally, after a long first day of interning, I got back to Richmond, met up with Mom and shopped at Lansdowne until 6:30, when Anna’s Cake House offered their usual Wednesday-Friday discount. It is 20% off everything and 30% if purchasing more than $15 worth of Asian pastries and cakes. There was a huge line up and we even had to get numbers to avoid problems. So many people just started grabbing buns when the sale started, and the cake display cases were almost invisible. Luckily, we were near the front of the line so we got everything we wanted.

First, the 黑森林蛋糕 (Black Forest) was quite a large piece. The chocolate shavings on top were quite decent – a mix of milk and white chocolate. The cream was not overly sweet and the chocolate sprinkles were plentiful on the side. The chocolate cake was soft and moist. It was wonderfully spongy like the usual Asian cake. Light and fluffy, it tasted very fresh despite being in the display case probably all day. The only big disappointment for this was the cherry filling layer in the middle. For a regular black forest cake, it should be soaked cherries. I know it is the off season and cherries are only starting to be sold in grocery stores – and that they are very expensive right now – but I was more than a little take aback when I discovered two measly cherries in my cake. The rest of the red cubes in the filling were coloured jello. It was chewy and sweet – a lovely jello – but in a black forest cake? That is almost ridiculous, especially when the cake is already $3. I expected better.

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The 栗子蛋糕 (Chestnut Slice) is a childhood favourite. I love chestnuts and I love chestnut paste. They actually had two varieties today – one a triangular slice with only cream on top and the other one (the one I got) a round cake with half a strawberry. The triangle slices were bigger but the lady in front of us bought all six slices that they had left so I had to get the round cake. The strawberry on top was not very fresh as it had marks of being squished in the box on top. It was not glazed either, which would have made it look like it was a better quality. The cream was light and the white Asian cake soft and spongy. The chestnut paste was actually quite decent. It was a thicker paste than usual, more dense with a higher ratio of chestnuts I believe. It also had a less smooth texture than most chestnut pastes I have had so you can really taste the little ground chestnut bits. It was decently sweetened but like all Asian desserts, remained nice and light.

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The 意大利芝士蛋糕 (Tiramisu with Coffee Cake), though not very visually appealing, was actually not bad. There were no mascarpone cheese and coffee soaked lady fingers. I was glad two find several layers, though, of cream cheese cream and light coffee cake. Again, the cake was soft, spongy, and moist with a very fresh taste. The cream was also light but had enough cheese to distinguish it from a regular whipped cream. The cocoa dust layer on top gave it a slight cocoa aroma. I would have liked to see a better presentation, which it was very obviously lacking. There were no decorations of any sort. I am not sure why they put almond slices on the side, but it did add a nice crunch to it when you ate that part of the cake. Image

The 咖啡蛋糕 (Coffee Cake) was actually surprisingly decent. The plentiful almond slices on top added a really nice crunch to the ground nuts-coated cake. Each bite had that wonderful, nutty aroma. The coffee cake was so light and delicious, just sweet enough to be tasty and not hide the coffee flavour. Two thick layers of cake were sandwiched between very thin layers of cream, which provided a nice contrast. The softness of the cake needed that little creaminess to balance it out. At only $1.80, this, in my opinion, was the one that was most worth the money. 

Finally, I also tried the lovely 咖啡挞 (Cappuccino Tart). It was the most visually appealing out of all their cakes and buns, hands down. It was simple yet elegant. The chocolate shavings were great and that mini dollop of cream just looks very cute. The cappuccino-flavoured cream, or at least I think it was a cream, tasted sort of like a coffee mousse. Regardless of what it is, the cream-like filling was light in flavour as expected – not too sweet and with a light coffee aroma. It was very creamy and smooth but not at all heavy. The tart shell was also quite good. I do not like flaky shell and this was one I approved of. It was more of a shortbread cookie kind of shell that crumbled somewhat easily but still able to hold its shape. The tart shell was also lightly sweetened and did not taste heavily of fat or shortening or butter.

ImageOverall, Anna’s Cake House was not a huge disappointment and had some delights to offer. Nothing was particularly bad. It is only a question of whether each dessert was worth the price we paid for. With the discount though, I am not the least bit surprised to see so many people waiting for 6:30 to come. I might go back for some other treats although the choices are quite limited from here on. I still have three items for tomorrow that I have not yet tried. What I did not buy were the mousse cakes and cheesecakes as they looked just too ordinary. The buns also lacked variety and uniqueness, so I guess if I do go back, it won’t be any time soon. 

Anna's Cake House 安娜餅屋 (Lansdowne Centre) on Urbanspoon

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An Asian Twist on Raspberries and Tiramisu – 大统华面包坊-T&T Bakery

ImageMay 17, 2012
大统华面包坊 – T&T Bakery, Richmond BC
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北海道雪莓蛋糕 (Raspberry Cake)
提拉米酥蛋糕 (Tiramisu Cake)

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After coming home late from school, I finally got to go grocery shopping with Mom. Before heading to Costco – a place I have not yet been to since coming home for the summer – we met up at T&T since it was near the skytrain station. Mom got there earlier than I did so she had already scoured out quite a few things when I arrived.

She got extremely excited about the 北海道雪莓蛋糕 (Raspberry Cake) and kept on telling me that it was not always available, unlike some of the other cakes at T&T Bakery such as the various mousse and fruit cakes. I was planning on getting macarons from Faubourg but she called when I was on the bus. Then I was going to get the Strawberry Pie from McDonald’s but she finally managed to convince me and get this cake from T&T. It was actually extremely delicious. The chocolate garnishes on top were actually a decent milk and white chocolate blend. They were sweet and rich but not too overwhelming. The cake itself was light and lovely. The Asian white cake was hardly sweet at all, making the raspberry preserve quite distinct. The raspberry flavour was very fresh and very strong. It was certainly more of an Asian raspberry jam and tasted like it was newly made. The tartness balanced out the sweetness and the dusting sugar on top was not overpowering either. I am usually not a big fan of raspberries or raspberry flavours, but overall, I really enjoyed the light, spongy cake with the refreshing raspberries. Image

The 提拉米酥蛋糕 (Tiramisu Cake) was actually more of a disappointment. The traditional dessert is supposed to be layered, with the cake soaked and lady fingers embedded throughout. First, there was no lady fingers present at all. Second, the coffee flavoured cake was not soaked. Third, it was cake on the bottom and a mascarpone cream on top with a dusting of cocoa powder – where are the many layers that is supposed to give the dessert is balanced complexity? The cake was what was expected from an Asian bakery. The coffee flavour was extremely light, and the cake was soft and airy. It was fresh, no doubt, but just a regular, hardly sweetened cake. The mascarpone cream, when it comes in the size of half of a regular bomb cake, is a bit hard to swallow. Layering it would make such a big bite not required so that the cake can be enjoyed slowly. This version, however, required a big bite to include enough cake on the bottom and not make it overly creamy. The chocolate garnish on top was the same one so it tasted good. However, I prefer the more traditional espresso bean. I guess coming from an Asian bakery, this is as close as it is going to get with a real tiramisu. The shape is unique, which is good, but I would have liked stronger coffee and mascarpone cheese flavours with a soggier cake. Oh, and add some lady fingers please!

We were also going to get six macarons, but the lady working there was really slow-witted. She did not seem to understand what ‘one of each flavour’ meant and it took forever for her to even get the right flavours. When we asked her what the flavours were as there were no labels present, she said a few, guessed one, and said the others won’t taste bad regardless. As she took them out, some got crushed and I was not going to be satisfied with broken shells, no thanks. What made up my mind to not get them was that they were not even made by T&T. Instead, they were bought from somewhere. Without knowing where and what flavours, I was not about to dish out $6.99 for six of these mini confectioneries. I think I will stick with the extremely light cakes and the various buns from now on. 

Osaka Supermarket 大阪超級市場 on Urbanspoon

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A Little Bundle of Tiramisu – Starbucks

ImageApril 23, 2012
Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
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Tiramisu Cake Pop
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I bought this cake pop two days ago, but never had a chance to eat it over the weekend. At least it was still fresh, since the cake is inside the chocolate shell. My second time eating Starbucks’ Tiramisu Cake Pop tasted just as lovely as the first time. Seriously though, their cake pops are one of the best treats they have ever offered.

The coffee-flavoured chocolate bean on top was a little bland without a rich coffee or cocoa flavour. The white chocolate shell also did not taste like rich, pure chocolate. I would have really liked it to be made from a better chocolate, as I just love the white chocolate sweetness. However, the light taste did match the tiramisu aspect of the cake pop.

Tiramisu is not supposed to be sweet. Instead, the cake pop did reflect the light, refreshing aspect of the dessert. The cake pop certainly lacked the mascarpone cheese flavour but it mirrored the lightly sweetened coffee-soaked cake well. The inside of the cake pop was very dense and chewy. I love the sticky texture and the chewiness of the cake, as well as the moisture and light coffee flavour. The moisture and density that comes with mixing cake with frosting for the cake ball on the inside is for my taste buds a truly splendid texture. 

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One Part Italian, Six Parts French – Miel Patisserie

ImageApril 15, 2012
Miel Patisserie, Philadelphia PA
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Tiramisu
Chocolate Macaron
Rose Macaron
Raspberry Macaron
Pistachio Macaron
Coconut Chocolate Macaron
Banana Chocolate Macaron

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Early Sunday mornings are just not good for heavy desserts with too much cream or dense chocolate ganache. Therefore, I decided to go with the Italian classic of Tiramisu. The one at Miel Patisserie is certainly not the most elaborate and divine tiramisu visually. It is simply a square with each layer visible. On top was a coating of dark cocoa powder and a dark chocolate coffee bean. The presentation was simple that it matched the occasion.

The taste was quite light for a cake with layers of cheese. The ladyfinger cake layers were so soft it melted in my mouth. The mascarpone cheese layers were creamy but not overwhelmingly dense or rich. The coffee taste created a delicate contrast to the cake. That nice coffee bean aroma never ceases to amuse me. Some of the coffee soaked into the cake, making the cake even moister and fusing the flavours in a more harmonious way. The many layers gave the cake a nice blended taste and texture with each bite.

Miel Patisserie also sold macarons, which is the reason I decided to go there instead of Swiss Haus Bakery. These macarons were small, bite-sized ones. They were not made fresh in the morning since I saw them being taken out of packaging inside a box. However, I am sure they were recently made as they still had the right texture of the tradition French macaroons.Image

The Chocolate Macaron had a nice, strong chocolate flavour. It was not too sweet but it was not completely dark chocolate either. The filling was certainly a semi-sweet chocolate ganache that went well with the colour of the shell. The macaron melted in my mouth and tasted absolutely delicious!

The Rose Macaron looked light and refreshing with the pale pink shell and the white buttercream filling. However, I found the buttercream to be too much. The rose flavour came through but it is such a light aroma that the buttercream seemed heavy. I perhaps would have preferred a white chocolate ganache filling instead of using buttercream as the base.

The Raspberry Macaroon was one of my favourites of the bunch. The filling had a very strong raspberry flavour, nice and sweet. To me, it tasted very much like a lovely raspberry preserve or jam. However, this particular macaron was stale. A soft and moist cake centre did not accompany the crispy shell. If fresh, though, this macaron would have tasted amazing.

The Pistachio Macaron was certainly nice and nutty. The green looked very much like the natural shade of pistachios. I really liked the chopped pistachios on the shell. It was nice to have that added crunch. The buttercream filling also tasted distinctly of the pistachio paste. Overall, the nutty aroma came through very strong and I loved how it definitely tasted like pistachios.

I have to admit I had doubts at first of the Coconut Chocolate Macaroon. However, I found it quite to my liking, which is unusual as I have never been a fan of shredded coconut. The blend of coconut and chocolate was perfectly balanced, though, so that the coconut was not overwhelming. The sweetness and slight bitterness of the semi-sweet chocolate ganache went really well with the coconut shreds on the shell, creating a lovely, unique taste. It is not that common to see a coconut-flavoured French macaroon. Usually, it is the dense American version, perhaps with a chocolate centre or dipped in chocolate, with a lot of shredded coconut so that the texture is almost all coconut. This was a nice twist and for me, with the perfect amount of coconut.

Finally, the Banana Chocolate Macaroon did not taste like bananas to me. The chocolate ganache filling had a strange tartness to it that I do not associate with bananas. It also had a slight artificial flavouring to it – certainly not a nice, natural banana aroma. The colour was lovely though. I’ve always had a liking for banana-yellow desserts.

Overall, these macarons were quite decent. The shell was crisp on the outside and soft, moist, and slightly sticky on the inside. For the buttercream fillings, I would have preferred a white chocolate ganache one instead just because for me, buttercream can easily turn a dessert from light to heavy with too much cream. I may be biased, though, as I never liked buttercream or whipped cream much since it is not sweet but quite oily, making me not want to eat too much of it at once. I think the macarons were definitely hit and miss with the flavours, but when they were good, I really enjoyed them.

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A Taste of Sweet Italy – The Cheesecake Factory

June 21, 2011

The Cheesecake Factory, Las Vegas NV
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Tiramisu Cheesecake
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So I have decided to turn this blog into a food diary. Sounds delicious yes? Seeing friends’ posts of scrumptious platters on Facebook often makes my stomach growl. To save the rest from the same fate, instead of Facebook, I shall turn to my old Blogger. Well, here begins one tasty journey… with a slice of Tiramisu Cheesecake.
Mascarpone cheese in a cake sounds nice already. Add more cheese and it turns into a delicate slice of cheesecake. After sampling the Red Velvet and White Chocolate ones in Hawaii a few months earlier, this time, Mom and I decided to go to Italy. Why not? We had pasta for dinner so it was only fitting to end an Italian meal with Italian sweetness.
Sweetness it is. And creamy and smooth. I went light on the whip but the light hint coffee and cocoa, and cheese of course, was just about perfect.
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