Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot Pot Heaven

     Thanks to my "girls", I had the most amazing meal on Friday night! When I was asked to come around to hang out, I assumed we were going to order takeaway. I already had my stomach set on some sushi, possibly even some pizza! Good thing I wasn't fashionably late because as soon as I walked through the door, dinner was served! And by dinner, I mean a hot pot with the most luscious array of ingredients fit for princesses like us!

     I kept gasping in excitement as the "girls" brought forth one surprising dish after another. Highlights included fresh lobster (which David thinks he killed humanely), fresh oysters, sea cucumber, cuttlefish paste, cuttlefish, chanterelle mushrooms, fish balls, lamb fillets, beef slices, a seafood mix with clams and mussels and loads of assorted veggies. My favourite was definitely the lobster brains and cuttlefish paste. The sea cucumber, I was not a massive fan.

     I still can't stop thinking about that meal. I only wished I had a second stomach that night to eat all the leftover bits we couldn't finish!

Lobster brains:

Thanks for a wonderful night :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cupcakes Galore!

     What is a better thing to do on a semi-dreary day in Vancouver than to go to the first annual Cupcake Challenge at the Yaletown Roundhouse put on by Follow Me Foodie and Nicole Marie Events! Nothing!

     With the increase of interest in food propelled by the great new shows on the Food Network, I'm not surprised at the turnout of this event. It seems nowadays, everyone considers themselves a budding foodie with me as no exception. From spending countless hours on the couch absorbing every word Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay have to say, I now think I am a food critic when I am dining out. What makes the experience more fun is foodie friends like my friend Catherine and my boyfriend. Neither of them are afraid to try anything once, albeit if you put a fried cockroach in front of me, I may vomit before I actually ingest it! One of my favourite foodie experiences was the night my boyfriend and I went to Archipelago in London by Warren Street Station. In the span of an hour and a half, we tried a crocodile fillet, seared zebra, and kangaroo! Since then, we've also had kudo, springbok, escargots, and some other off-the-beaten-path delights.

     I'm getting incredibly off topic. This is what food does to me! Ah, yes, cupcakes! After a full stroll around the Roundhouse community centre due to lack of signage, we approached a wee table managed by Mijune of Follow Me Foodie. She was absolutely lovely and told us several vendors already ran out of cupcakes because some 800 people have already been through the doors. The Cupcake Challenge started at 11am, we arrived at 1:30pm. When we walked out an hour later, I'm sure I heard someone say 1000 people had been there!

     Armed with a ballot and an empty stomach, we made our rounds to all the vendors. While some only had their cards and portfolios left, some still had cupcake samples. My favourite flavour was the Caramel Crunch by Frostings Cupcakery

Here are the results (From Follow Me Foodie):

Congratulations to the 2010 Winners of Vancouver’s 1st Cupcake Challenge:

  • Vancouver’s Best Cupcake Food Bloggers’ Choice – Big City Cupcakes
  • Vancouver’s Best Cupcake People’s Choice – Frostings Cupcakery
  • Vancouver’s Best Cupcake Judge’s Choice – Frostings Cupcakery for Neopolitan Cupcake
Bon Gateau was another front runner for me. Although they didn't come away with any awards :(

Big City Cupcakes was very knowledgeable and friendly. Their samples were divine too!

Overall, I deem the first annual Cupcake Challenge a tremendous success. Everyone on my Facebook had some sort of status update about going. I know for the vendors, a lot of people showed up for free cupcake samples. Although that motivated me to go, now I'm aware of cupcake/cakeries I would have otherwise never have found. As the event was promoted on Blogs and websites targeted to my deomographic, it will surely result in increased sales for weddings, birthdays and births! I know I spotted a certain cupcake I'd want at my own wedding ;)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Robert Randolph & the Family Band - Live @ The Commodore

     Last week, Livenation was giving out tickets as part of their #tickettuesday competition on Twitter. The gig? Saturday June 15th, Robert Randolph and The Family Band at The Commodore. My first instinct? Ask the boyfriend who Robert Randolph is because he's my go-to music man. Without hesitation, he spoke highly of Randolph and his band, raved that all of them were great musicians. That was all the motivation I needed to enter the competition for these tickets, and I won!

    As most of my Vancouver friends don't see "gigging" as a regular activity, it was difficult to find a gig buddy. Especially when none of my friends had heard of this American funk and soul band fronted by who some call a master of the pedal steel guitar. He also suspiciously looked like a younger version of LL Cool J. Brenda ended up being game for a night of new music. After all, tickets would have been $40 each (in other words, too good to give up!)

     Robert Randolph and his band did not disappoint. Neither did the pot-smoking Vancouver hipsters who always conglomerate on the Commodore ballroom floor. As I noted in my review of The Temper Trap a few weeks back, also at The Commodore, it always amazes me the precise timing of the lighting of the first joint. I would estimate it to be at the 1.5 minute mark of the first song. Just enough time for someone to scope out his/her surroundings but no later because the room-wide synchronisation would be ruined. I should note that this gig was not sold out, so there were a lot of gaps on the floor. Nevertheless, joints were lit all around me, and soon enough, extinguished by security around me! It made for a good laugh ... fools! There goes your $40!

     Although Robert Randolph and his band were clearly leaders in their genre, slow soulful melodies drained me on this Saturday night. We left on a high note (for me anyway!); after a cover of Lady Gaga's Poker face, souled-out style!

     We grabbed a coffee (both of us were driving) and did our traditional stroll down Granville Street. A lot has changed since I've been gone but I don't go to many places on the strip anyway so it doesn't affect me. If anything, the pedestrianisation of the area is a brilliant idea and should have been done ages ago.

     I do want to point out that the old Buffalo Bar (I won't even get into the crazy times we've had there!) is now The Forum Sports Bar. We were invited in for a looky-loo and it turns out Brenda new the doorman there. We also thought the host looked incredibly familiar and after a few questions, we realised we recognised him from the Wild Coyote days! We had a good laugh ... and he invited us back for lots of World Cup fun and food. $10 for all you can eat hot breakfast served all mornings with big screen TVs for the World Cup matches. I'll definitely be heading down there for that!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Typical Day of an Unemployed Woman

     At 10:55am, Brenda and I tried the doors to the Yaletown Milestones but to no avail. Once again, just like in Victoria, we were a bit too eager to order their luscious prime rib hash! Bang on 11am, the hostess unlocked the doors (super slow just to torture us). Runny poached eggs, perfect bite-sized pieces of prime rib and plenty of hollandaise sauce; you are my weakness!

     With a full tummy and visions of the next prime rib hash floating happily in my mind, I headed down the street to Skoah at 1011 Hamilton Street. I received a voucher for a free sweet skin facial ($35) from the Obakki fashion show goody bag. I opted not to upgrade because I am a firm believer that if something is meant to be free, it should be free!
      I never really understood how women can afford to go to facials every 6-8 weeks as recommended by the spas. Sure, if you have the money, it's a great way to relax and get pampered. Yet a lot of the creams and things applied during the treatment can be done at home. Personally I can't justify spending $75-100 every two months so someone can massage my face with sweet sweet lotions! But to each their own.
     Overall, I would rate Skoah slightly above average. The rooms and treatment were standard. Their products (natural and alcohol free) smelled wonderful and I'm sure with commitment, would do wonders for my skin. I was shamed for not using a toner (balances out the pH in your skin after striping everything off with the cleanser) and not wearing SPF. The last bit I understand! Maybe I should have horrified the lady and told her that I actually don't even wash my face before bed or take off my makeup.
     The downfall was that throughout my entire 20min facial, the facialist just kept pushing their products. She crossed the line between educating the client to making one feel a bit obligated. I also felt like she thought I was there just to take advantage of a free offer. Fair enough but that's what the vouchers are for!
    Funnily after my rant, not only did I come out with a $20 toner I didn't need but I was a hair shy of succumbing to their re-booking offer. If you book a treatment $75 within 8 weeks, you get $10 towards product or $100 and $20 respectively. Not too bad! Honestly though, I love my drugstore Organic Surge products from Boots. Rachel and I scored a whole bunch of their products during a promo they did involving a girls night out and SATC at a cinema near Baker Street. They GAVE me the products and it left me wanting more!
     Despite my mediocre experience, I would recommend this spa based on its atmosphere and professionalism. Maybe if you actually drop some hard cash, they will treat you what you are worth ... Sorry, do I sound bitter? Oh yah, I had to clear space in my bathroom for my Tonik and I didn't even need it in the first place!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Life is Complete!

Yes! Apparently this could be my lucky day! I've been offered a Travel Exclusive of a lifetime! Wow, thanks Spam filter for flagging such an important email for me. Imagine how distraught I would have been if I had missed it ...

I had a thought today. My friend Carlie was bird-shatted on twice this week so everyone suggested she buy a lottery ticket. Apparently, it was also one of the best weeks of her life. Figures. So here is my dilemma: Do I buy a lottery ticket anyway or should I wait until I get a sign from above. I always say, "You gotta be innit to winnit!" (with thick Cockney accent...) but then I'm guilty of saying I always want to win the Lottery but not ever actually buying a ticket.

What would you do if someone gave you a lottery ticket for your birthday as a card stuffer, then you ended up winning millions of dollars? Does that person technically get the cash because he/she can prove he/she bought it? Or would you just be expected to throw a few consulation dollars his/her way?

On a side note, some of you may know about my hobby of winning random things. This week, there was a Brylcreem men's hair set, a 50quid M&S voucher and a Cowshed lipbalm. Blame it on my Chinese genes. I don't see it as hoarding ... I see it as preparing for the future ;)

Like I said, You have to be innit to winnit ... You don't try, you don't get. Let me leave you with that to ponder ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Eating Our Way Through Victoria BC

I don't know about you, but my favourite thing to do on any holiday is to eat my way through it! Although our mid-week trip to Victoria wasn't so much a holiday as my friend Catherine was there for work, we spent the majority of her downtime seeking our next foodie conquest! While some of our choices were uninspired (ie chain restaurants), we did hunt down some local specialities. Since Victoria is a harbour-side city, seafood was at the top of our list.

We stayed at the Fairmont Empress hotel, an icon in downtown Victoria. Although I was tempted to experience their traditional afternoon tea, a walk through the lobby where they serve it one afternoon was enough to quash my idea. I'm sure the tea, cakes and sandwiches were fantastic but the ambiance was a bit too mellow for my liking. Especially on a gorgeous day out, it seemed like a shame to spend $45-$55 indoors sipping on hot tea! Will add it only my list of things to do in the future.

On the topic of tea, my favourites in London are at Laduree at Harrods and at Bob Bob Ricard in Soho. My favourite treat at Laduree has always been the Le Saint HonorĂ© Rose-Framboise. Their macaroons, are to die for as well! They come in the cutest collectible boxes.

Wow, cake fantasy over! What was I going on about before that departure? Oh yes, food. Without a doubt, the first place we dined at was The Keg Steakhouse on 500 Fort Street. The exterior gave the restaurant an outdated appearance yet the interior proved warm and inviting. We stuck to our old favourites: Mushrooms Neptune, Escargot, and rare Prime Rib. Mine was a regular cut, rare, with an all-dressed baked potato. No point in messing around!

Prime Rib

Craving a sweet ending to our meat feast, we came across The Soda Shoppe on the corner of Government and Humboldt Street only to see that it was closing. After a stroll through the Empress, we decided to get cakes via Room Service along with a cheesy chick flick on Pay-Per-View (When in Rome). Our last Room Service experience ended up with us spending $100 on chicken fingers, pizza, nachos and "two of everything!" so we were more careful this time. Even with this pricey experience as a caution, we still ended up spending about $45 on two pieces of cake! ($14 per cake, delivery fee, taxes and gratituity included AND we gave an additional $5 tip in cash!) Another lesson: check the bill to see if gratuity is included before handing anyone a tip!

Our second foodie day began with breakfast at Milestones. I had the Prime Rib hash, an utter saucey feast in my mouth! They are smart to incorporate last night's left over prime rib into a truly meaty breakfast. Topped with two oozy poached eggs and (not enough!) hollandaise sauce, I knew I made the right choice when the other girls dug into my plate before theirs.

Prime Rib Hash Brunch at Milestones

We reunited at 4:30pm at The Oyster Bar on Humboldt Street for Buck-A-Shuck oysters. We rounded out our 7 Fanny Bay oysters each with a Steamer of mussels and clams in a Pernod cream. An absolute delight for little damage to our wallets!


The Oyster Bar - Victoria

As if that wasn't enough food, we reconvened a few hours later to hit The Soda Shoppe for an old fashioned ice-cream dessert. I had a Capital City banana split all to myself to the amusement of a few patrons. For some reason, we were still hungry after this, though I'm not sure how it was possible. After much debate, we ended up at the trusty Earls at which I ordered some hot wings. This was my first "OMG it's Wing Wednesday!" moment in two years. I had to indulge!

Earls Hot Wings

Last but not least, I capped off my visit with the discovery of Red Fish Blue Fish. I expected a casual dine-in restaurant but strolled down a ramp to find a delightful little fish shack. It had just opened 5 minutes prior but the queue was already growing. For good reason! We had their BBQ Fanny Bay Oyster Tacones, Tempura Cod Tacones and curry fries. Simply delectable street food! If I had a few more days in Victoria, I would have definitely returned to try their fish and chips.

Red Fish Blue Fish Tacones

This pic is just a representation of the Tacones ...

Finally, I must have to add that the highlight of this trip was not just the food, but my visit with my old friend Melissa and her cutey-pie Kole. It's amazing how time flies yet when two friends are together, it's as if nothing's really changed (other than maybe the fact there is now a toddler on the loose!)

Me, Mel and Kole

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Fight Erupts at My Doc's Office ... Just another day at the office!

Now before anyone gets all excited, by fight, I don't mean a physical one. Although, I was so frustrated with the reason for the verbal fight, I had to resist the urge to step in and play mediator. A woman showed up late for her appointment and expected to be slotted in right away. She wasn't expecting to have to wait like a walk-in patient. After an hour, she erupted and accused the receptionists of shady operations. Long story short, she kept yelling while walking around the large waiting area, hoping someone would support her plight. To no avail.

I almost walked out. I was really hoping to use my two-hour wait to dent My Single Friend. This book reminds me of an episode of the Tyra Banks show. Girl lives with best friend who is a geeky boy she has known for years. She and 2 friends do a "Project Henry" on him and now she's in love with him. I bet they end up together!

Ah, back to the "fight". After a lot more yelling and overall, aggressive behaviour, the doctor even pulled the angry lady into her office to have a chat and apologise for any frustrations. So now she is wasting MY time too because she's taking up MY doctor's time. Ugh! She was eventually escorted out by 2 security dudes, but only after she called the Police who obviously knew she was not in a "big, big, BIG fight"!

The whole point of my doctor's appointment was because of a stupid thing I did to my ear. On the recommendation from my mother, I used an ear pick. You know what it's for! I hate to get into the gooey grossness of a description. Apparently it's very popular with Asians because of the type of ear wax we have. They even make Hello Kitty ear picks (apparently). So I was stupid, heavy handed and probably shoved the wax right up to my eardrum because not only is my ear in pain, I can HEAR this weird pulsing wave sound.

After 2 hours of waiting and the entertaining fiasco, my doctor told me I was an idiot, laughed at me, cracked a joke and sent me on my way with a prescription for antibiotic eardrops. I bet my easy to fix malady was the highlight of his day!

Click here to see a fascinating blog from a few years ago about Japan and its fascination with ear cleaning ...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Temper Trap - Live @ The Commodore June 1, 2010

A typical gig at The Commodore consists of long queues at the bar, dancing on a great bouncy floor and of course, the smell of weed when the headliner comes on. What's odd is, people light up not a second before the band plays its first chord. Then as if the smell of Vancouver wafting up onto the stage was an appropriate welcoming gesture, the room is filled with antsy blokes trying to "blend in". The dude beside me had obviously not seen any war movies. He didn't have the soldier smoking method down and I was sure he'd get busted. But alas, maybe even the bouncers were so entranced by The Temper Trap, they all became Aussies for one night and didn't give a shit ... just wanted to have a good time ;)

This is the fourth time I've seen The Temper Trap. The other times were all in London: Gibson Guitar Studio (Samsung Bebo Nights), Dingwalls and Field Day. Thanks to Russell Fawcus, we were able to get an overseas hook-up with free tickets for the night! He's been in Australia working with TTT on tracks for their second album. He's also worked on the Wild Beasts record Two Dancers which is simply amazing so everyone should give that a listen as well.

I didn't make it in time for the local opening act Elizabeth. I'm all for giving new bands a fair listen but judging from their last song, people were politely listening but waiting for TTT. Bless them ...

From the darkness, TTT emerged with a long melodic intro which warmed up the crowd better than Elizabeth. Given that most people in attendance were Aussies or knew TTT from their lead singles off Conditions, the intro wasn't so much a warm-up but more like a tease! Finally the band erupted into Rest with its undeniable hook. Dougie Mandagi adds a sharp soulfulness. His bassist added a blonde bun and a wicked polka dot shirt. But I kid! TTT created an energy in a usually chilled-out Vancouver crowd that I have never experienced before. People clapped along, people cheered, people longed for more! I finally didn't feel like an idiot singing loudly and dancing to my favourite songs: Down River, Sweet Disposition and Drum Song. Oh soz, I loved it all!

Vancouver setlist (includes new song):

Down River
Love Lost
Soldier On
Sweet Disposition
Drum Song
Rabbit Hole
Science of Fear

What sets TTT apart from a lot of man-fronted rock bands now is their unforgettable melodies. Some may cringe when I say its even almost pop, but there's nothing wrong with being "popular". With songs placed strategically in TV shows and adverts around the world, the band is gently creeping into our consciousness. I genuinely hope these guys do well. And I'm glad to dance happily and go along for the ride!

I've been having a few camera issues lately (i.e. I left my good one in London with the bf), so excuse the poor quality of this photo. I've stuck in photos from previous gig for good measure :)

Me and the CAN of wine that made me really really ill:

Two photos from the intimate show at Gibson Guitar Studio (July 2009):

Click here for an old review for the Samsung Bebo Nights gig. Yes I am on Bebo, but no I don't use it. I had to post my review on there since Bebo was the sponsor and they had me go cover the event ;)

And one from Field Day (August 2009):

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I blame the wine ... from a can?

Accidently had a bit of a rough night last night at The Temper Trap gig at The Commodore. Absolutely fantastic, have never seen Vancouverites so excited about anything more! The problem was this red wine in a can business. Since TTT are Aussies, it was almost funny I was handed Aussie wine in a can. Never. Again.

Will post a review of the gig tomorrow.

In the meantime, today is my 30th Birthday!!!!!

BillyRock Station Wine - I thought wine from a carton was bad, but a can is just plain weird!