Archive | travel

Hiking Like a Rockstar: Eating North Vancouver Edition

How do food-loving friends enjoy the outdoors and get active? I’ll give you a hint: it includes food stops. This shouldn’t be any surprise considering that our nom-noming group plan their travels around food and restaurants. Dining is that big of a deal. I love the outdoors and hiking, and while our two-some hikes are fun, it’s been a while since I’ve gone with friends. So I decided to organize a group hike with a promise of delectable food stops before and after the hike. Calorically, this makes the least sense, but no one is counting.

My email invitation included the following details:

10:30am Brunch at Tour de Feast – 319 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver, BC

Hike at Quarry Rock (we ended up at Lynn Valley Headwaters)

Post-hike treats at Thomas Haas – 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver, BC, V7P 3T2

Due to busy summer schedules, only five of us made it out that day. We met up for brunch, with most of us eating “light” meals. Read: no meat. The wine-braised beef was enticing (and one of our friends ordered it), but I opted for a more sensible grilled cheese. It hit the spot and I like the token fruit (blueberries). Woohoo! J got his salmon, eggs, salad and potatoes. Another friend had the watermelon salad. J and I have been here before and the food has always been good. The feedback on review sites are stellar. I keep the place in my North Van brunch rotation for its fresh and exciting contemporary food that belies its location and building’s facade.

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In anticipation of the challenging parking situation at Deep Cove given the brilliant sunny skies, we consolidated into one car and drove off. Oh, boy, did we ever (or *I*, the planner,  did) underestimate how busy things would get at noon. I completely forgot to take into account that it’s not only the hiking and picnic crowds we were up against, but the sailing and kayaking folks as well. After a frustrating parking spot hunt from one end of the neighborhood to the other, and in between briefly lamenting about getting some Honey’s Donuts, we moved on to another hiking area with a relatively easy trail, the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, which hopefully had parking. We got lucky and then went on the Varley Trail and Lynn Loop Trail for a little over two hours. [Download the Lynn Headwaters Park Map here.]

We finished all the sweaty uphill walk during the first half of our hike and we were welcomed with the crystal clear waters of Lynn Creek after the switchback and descent. That was good planning on J’s part.

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On our way back, we ordered some well-deserved treats at Thomas Haas: sour cherry turnover, vanilla rhubarb tart, macarons (do yourself a favor and get the apple pie one), croissants, and a slew of other pastries with zero calories. I’m sure of it. All in all, it was a good day to be out and be with friends, doing what we love to do together: try to be active and eat. I’m ready to plan the next one. :)

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Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycling Weekend in Chilliwack

It’s that time of the year again when bicycles are getting their fair amount of use. For most casual riders, it’s the perfect time to go on leisurely rides after work or during the weekend (farmers market trips, anyone?).

Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you would have noticed that I’ve caught the cycling bug, thanks to the beau. He gifted me with a city bike two years ago and then talked me into investing in a good road bike last year.  One of the fun things we did after I picked up my new road bike (yay, much better on hills!) last summer was going on the Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycling Tour.

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Cherry Blossom Festival in Vancouver

I keep saying this, but it’s true: it’s been a busy 12 months. So busy that it’s been a year and 2 days later that I’m posting about the Cherry Blossom Festival from 2011. What better time to play catch up on this event than on the day the festival starts again: Today. I couldn’t be more excited, to tell you the truth. Family friends are visiting and I’m bringing one of them later to VanDusen Botanical Garden, amidst high hopes for some sunshine.

Sakura Days Japan Fair, a family-friendly Japanese festival, is happening this weekend at VanDusen to celebrate the start of spring and the blooming of these gorgeous trees that line many of our streets in Vancouver. [You can check here for various locations in bloom.]

And what’s a fair without some good food? Many Japanese restaurants around Vancouver are participating with their own Sakura menus.

There are lots of other things to do during the festival that runs through the 28th of April:

Cherry Jam Downtown (April 5, 11am to 1:30pm) at the Burrard Skytrain Station
Tree Talks & Walks (April 5, 7, 8, 14, 15 & 21)
Plen-Air Blossom Painting (April 7, 14, 21 & 28 11am-2pm) – open for registration
Cherry Blossom Umbrella Dance Flash Mob (April 14)
Bike the Blossoms (April 28)

Visit the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website for more info.

[There is an egg hunt for the kids at VanDusen tomorrow but it's sold out, and so is the SakuraB Bento Box Lunch today.]

Whatever you decide to do this month, I’m sure you won’t miss the cherry blossoms around the city. Enjoy them while they last. :-)

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Back From A Mini-Vacation and Breakfast at Rendezvous

It’s been three days since we returned from Salt Spring Island and the novelty of hanging the housekeeping tag on the door had worn off. And as much as I would like to see  this sign left and right (and do our best to practice it):

Stickers you can find on Salt Spring Island

There’s no denying we’ve resumed our “(more) WORK — you’re not on the island anymore” mode.

We didn’t wake up in the morning with the trivial decision of where to eat and which cheesery or winery to visit after finishing some work (sadly, we are conjoined with it). Instead, we grabbed our respective iPhones, turned off the alarm, and scrolled through the emails, and quickly replied to urgent ones. This is our life on the Mainland.

It’s good to be back. Bake on a whim. Whip up some cranberry and vanilla bean scones for a quick breakfast…

Cranberry-Vanilla Scones

One of the first things I did after coming back: BAKE. It's good for the soul. It helps me return to my routines, too.

But I have to say, it really was nice to roll out of bed and walk down the hill from the hotel to this little French patisserie and get our fix of freshly baked goods. Rendezvous — French patisserie at Harbour’s End has that charming allure that makes you want to stay for a while. Adorable party tables with checkered pastel table cloths, painted wrought iron chairs, whimsical streamers and a generous amount of sunshine through its front glass door and windows will welcome you. There’s a French radio talk show in the background. Right outside the door is a wooden bench with square cushions if you just need a quick bite.

Rendezvous - French patisserie at Harbour's End (Ganges BC)

There was still a good selection left even though we arrived later in the morning. Oops. Vacation time.

Rendezvous - French patisserie at Harbour's End (Ganges BC)

We ordered a sizable loot:

French pastries from Rendezvous Cafe at Salt Spring Island

And make no mistake: we left no calorie unconsumed. Still unburned, yes, but consumed? To our hearts’ content! The raspberry frangipane tart stole the show for both of us. The golden crust and almond filling with a hint of sourness from the sunken fresh raspberries hit these hungry tourists’ sweet spots. Amen.

If you’re ever on the island, this is one stop you shouldn’t miss. It was a treat to have it so close to where we stayed.

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Rendezvous
126-4 Upper Ganges Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2S2
Phone : 250. 53. 8400

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P.S. While searching for their address online, I chanced upon the owner, Brigitte Gonzalez’s video recipe for Cannelés de Bordeaux. Maybe, just maybe, I will try my hand at that. I just need to find some copper molds!

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Wordless Wednessday | Punk Metal

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Wordless Wednesday

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Staple & Fancy with Friends

A few Sundays ago, Denise, Dana, Megan, Kristina and I headed out to Chef Ethan Stowell’s new restaurant: Staple & Fancy Mercantile.

Set in one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods, Ballard Avenue, one wouldn’t expect to find such a fancy restaurant when driving through that particular block. Walking along the sidewalk at night, the brick walls of this industrial area give way to faint amber lights, peeking through Staple & Fancy‘s glass-walled entrance.

We arrived early and gave in to the lure of the adjacent shop first. It was closed, but what we saw through the display window was enough to have us dreaming of cute old-style bicycles and a breath of Europe. We wanted to take them home if it weren’t for the price tag. Hah.

De La Louisianne: Rye, Benedictine, Pastis

Still in dreamland, we meandered back into the sea of tungsten lights, greeted by the host and…

Hello, bar!

We sidled into it, were offered the cocktail menu, and do what sensible gals do and order a different drink each to entertain us while we wait for our other partner in crime, Megan.

Mine was called De La Louisianne, which I picked for its Benedictine ingredient (a toast to my high school alma mater — odd reasoning, I know). It tasted faintly of Jägermeister. Yum.

I loved the cherry in it, which was smaller and darker than the usual bright red maraschinos. It tasted so much better than those, I couldn’t help but ask the bartender what kind it was.

“They’re from a brand called Toschi,” he said, and gave more for the whole gang to try. I inquired further, and the only things he could tell me was that they come in a big jar, and procured through their supplier. Of course.

We are wee alcohol minions, but I will get my hands on them at some point, you’ll see. That’s what the Internet is for. I’m just not sure if it was the amarena or vignola, but I’m betting on the former. Help.

A few minutes later, we were led to our table with the menus. The note on the rightmost column says:

“Thanks for joining us at Staple & Fancy Mercantile. Please feel free to order as much or as little food as you like. And, if you would like to avoid the trouble of ordering altogether, please feel free to hand your menu back to your server and let the kitchen prepare you a family style supper served in four courses for $45 per person. Participation by the entire table is required. We would also like to inform you that you really should do this.

It was the last evening of our girls retreat, and frankly, the less we have to think, the better. Chef’s tasting menu FTW (for the win)!

And boy did S&F not disappoint.

Let me just begin by saying we had a ton of food. Was it 10 courses? More. I can’t remember. We did pay over the cost stated above**, but really who wants to count? I wouldn’t be able to get all of that this side of the border. We were in dinner heaven.

[** I just want to clarify that in case you went there and wondered why you didn't get as much food as we did!]

The lights were dim and the tables glowed in candlelight. It was relaxing. We were having fun, and when the food started coming to our table, we were in for a treat.

Deep fried clams

Liver paté...offalbulous!

The pretty vegetarian fare had us meat-eaters drooling

The pretty vegetarian fare had us meat-eaters drooling

Kari Brunson, formerly of Anticiplate.com., briefly left the kitchen and came by our table to bring an appetizer. At that point, we were bulging our eyes out with food. Kari, who some of you food bloggers know, retired from professional ballet to pursue her passion for cooking. Now that’s balls.

Deep fried peppers, which I was able to eat in spite of my low capsaicin.

Spotted prawns

What happens at S&FM, stays at S&FM. Or did not stay, I suppose. :D My lips are sealed.

Blue fish crostini

More vegetarian dishes

Green beans

Burrata

Chef Ethan Stowell was there, and so was his lovely wife and business partner, Angela, both of whom we’ve met the previous evening at the IFBC dinner. It’s always nice when the chef/owners take a moment to say Hi.

Chef Ethan Stowell

Chef Ethan Stowell

I’ll tell you now that my short term memory fails me, and that I enjoyed myself too much. Between talking and laughing our bellies off, my brain turned to mush and I fully relied on photos to help me recall the evening of food. So instead of trying to refresh a blurred memory of all the names of the dishes that we ate, I’ll let you be a spectator, a voyeur at the next table, and enjoy the photos. They’re not well lit, but I did my best. And hopefully I did their food justice.

Panna cotta with peaches

People watching at Staple & Fancy Mercantile

There’s a story behind this photo of Denise and Dana, and forgive me, but I honestly forgot. Refresh my memory, ladies! ;-)

Denise and Dana

I can’t wait to hang out with my Seattle IFBC crew again. And go back to Staple & Fancy. Mmm…good food, good friends, good memories. Now that’s a wonderful dinner.

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Girls Re{treat} at Hotel Dana Treat and a Weekend of Eating

As hinted previously in my IFBC recap and blogging conference comparison, I’ll be posting next about the other part of my IFBC weekend — our re{treat}.

Since last year, a group of us who all met at BlogHer Food ’09 dreamed of going on a girls retreat. We’ve brainstormed places and time, but nothing really came out of it and sadly, the idea slipped through the cracks. Two months ago, by some stroke of luck, a girls re{treat} organically sprung from our friend Dana‘s generous offer to have us stay at her house. We’re not the same big group from last year, and in fact I’ve never met 2 of the girls, but we all love food — everything should be completely fine, right? I was excited and anxious, and the night before–sleepless for Seattle.

You might not be interested at all to read the rest of this post, but before you leave, at least consider this: make time for a fun weekend with just your girl friends (or guy friends). It doesn’t have to be a far away destination or be planned to the last minute. Just commit to have fun and promise yourselves to be in your best behavior. [We are the worst with the ones we love sometimes, and that is not the goal here. ;-)] From the past weekend, I can’t tell you enough how invigorating, exhilarating, fulfilling and refreshing it is! It’s just the shot of tequila my soul needed. Yeah, it comes with a hangover, but the good kind. Don’t get me wrong, family is great, but a girls re{treat} has its own sanity-saving merits, too.

Without further ado, here are the women who have collectively made that IFBC weekend so much more than just a trip to a conference (click on their names and check out their blogs):

  • Kristina, my BlogHer Food ’09 rockstar roommate, resource of all things tomato and leads this school of fish, flew in from Tennessee with 3 hours to make up for and a honking jar of Moonshine Cherries that will knock you out of your senses;
  • Denise, another sweet friend who I met (and also lives) in San Francisco, is half of ChezUs (say “cheez-us” only if you say “praise” first), organizes digital media workshops and heads an online video production company with her beau Lenny, baked and brought homemade cookies for us to try (that’s a food blogger for you);
  • Tracy, a cool bean with the hip haircut and adorable head accessories that hint at her Bay Area and artsy roots, will regale you with her quick wit and – get this — horoscope readings and analysis had us deep in conversation;
  • Cheryl, also from California, whose endearing candidness will stop you in your tracks, has a perfectly timed humor that could leave a roomful of tourists cracking up, is the kind of writer you wish you were; and
  • our hostess with the mostess, Dana, vegetarian personal chef extraordinaire who unknowingly broke her 20-plus years of vegetarianism with fine lard at Kate’s pie making class, and who showed us around Seattle, brought us to the city’s yummiest spots (with the time we have available), put us up in her gorgeous abode with warm beds, and kept us full (and punchy) with {dana} treats from her kitchen and cellar. [We're also grateful for Dana's husband who was a good sport about going to the island with their two adorable boys so we can have an estrogen-packed weekend.]

Ours is a kinship forged in car seat rotation program, good food and wine, laughter, cutting classes, hugs from (Dana’s) sweetest two boys (when they came back), and more laughter.

We headed to Matt’s in the Market after we skillfully arranged everybody’s luggage in the car, which was a movie-worthy feat in itself. Warmly greeted by their friendly staff, we couldn’t help but notice the outstretched arms of Seattle’s sunshine beckoning us through the restaurant’s half moon-shaped windows. It’s just the welcome weather we wanted. The deep honey-colored wooden tables, varnished with character, are the stuff of food bloggers wet (restaurant) dreams set in daylight. The usual lunch hour cacophony filled the relaxed and spacious nook on the third floor of the Corner Market Building. It’s a perfect place for casual first dates, drowning the awkward conversation in everyone’s blithe chatter–a sly hand to calm the nerves until dessert for two is served.

Each plate that passed through the open kitchen behind us made for a difficult choice after another. Should we order Pulled Pork? Banh Mi? Spicy Tuna Melt? Drinks and minutes later, salt-pepper chips – the common denominator of all our palate’s desires — crackled to eager synchronized bites, hushing our out-of-towner banter.

Stumptown BBQ pulled pork

Stumptown BBQ pulled pork

Before me was a mountain of super moist and tender pulled pork, topped with crunchy coleslaw, and nestled in crisp and light crusted soft brioche bun. And the Yukon gold potato salad that came with it? Moved me to reconsider my passive attitude towards potato salads.

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Potato Salad

We shared each others food, sufficing our own curiosities. Ours was a lively table where Oohs and Mmms staccato-ed in mid-sentence.

Having sandwich envy

Having sandwich envy

Our server, Chris the Wine Guy, was one of the highlights of this meal. He captivated us with his oratorical description of sandwiches, and random stories, like eating the most amazing sandwich during his friend’s Bachelor Party Trip. Every restaurant needs its own Chris.

That kick-start meal was (hopefully? hypothetically?) burned off by leisurely strolling through Pike Place Market and admiring the endless row of affordable really cheap, but good quality, fresh flowers, gliding through the aisles of The Spanish Table, prancing around the Paris Grocery through Lillet-colored glasses, and lingering last in the World Spice Markets, where the concept of shaving a sea salt block with salt shaver left us wondering what we’re missing.

We were chauffeured to Hotel Dana Treat by the gracious hostess herself. Let me tell you, we were heaps better off there than at a hotel, plus the company can’t be beat! We settled in our respective rooms, toasted to French aperitif, and made our pact with the 100-proof Ole Tennesee Moonshine Cherries with our first “shots”. Zaps your brain to Neverland in record time is what it does.

After getting our IFBC badges and goodies at Hotel Monaco, looping in and out the maze of food and sea of fellow bloggers, looking for familiar faces (Hi Susan, John, Carrie, Arnold, Alice, Lori!) — and finding new ones (Hello Deseree, Jun, Jennifer, Leann!), during our brief meet and greet, we hopped back into the Dana Treat Mobile to catch our 7:30pm dinner reservation at Delancey.

Delancey Seattle

Delancy Seattle

We were joined by Mardi, Megan, Jen, and Sarah, the birthday girl.

Happy birthday, Sarah!

This further solidifies my belief that every dining party should have a birthday person. It’s fun. You get to sing to them and perhaps divide a pavlova dessert among ten.

Burrata, prosciutto, arugula and olive oil

Burrata, prosciutto, arugula and olive oil

Yes, that makes 10 of us, drinking beer and wine, and ordering — brace yourselves, because I kid you not — nine pizzas. That’s all flavors divided among ten brave, we’re-ready-with-our-fat-jeans women.

Cheryl attacking the margherita pizza

Don't ever mess with Cheryl. The margherita pizza laid helpless under her calculating hands.

Brave is the keyword here, as our eyeballs just about popped out after the 5th pizza. We tried as many flavors we could possibly stuff our face with, like amateur runners who are in over their heads having signed up for a half-marathon.

Crimini mushroom pizza

Crimini mushroom pizza

I tried all 9 with room for dessert, I can’t lie. The crowd favorite is the white pizza with fresh arugula. The padron-laden pie comes a close second.

The majority voted for the White Pie as their favorite. A sublime combination of housemade ricotta, fresh and aged mozarella, garlic and arugula won us over.

The majority voted for the White Pie as their favorite. A sublime combination of housemade ricotta, fresh and aged mozarella, garlic and arugula won us over.

The crust is light and crispy, with bubbles I always tend to gravitate to when dissecting one. They are my personal joy. I have to tell you guys, Delancey makes really good thin crust pizza with fresh, flavorful ingredients, and that’s all a pizza lover really needs to know. The combination of ingredients is neither overkill nor pretentious, and they don’t try to put everything in one pie. You can taste each component, and you can linger with them for a while. I can honestly say that you don’t have to fly all the way down South to Pizzeria Bianco and line up for a good part of the day to eat the best pizza this side of the coast. That said, make reservations before going to Delancey. A great pizza comes with a good following, and you don’t want to be disappointed by coming hungry without calling in first.

The night was young, but we are not, so as much as we had wanted to pull an all-nighter to catch and drink up, we had to roll into bed for the first day of the conference. And this is just the first day.

To be continued with more food tales, and friends.

Here’s a quick reference of the places in Seattle I mentioned:

Matts in the Market
94 Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98101-2066, United States
(206) 467-7909

Delancey
1415 Northwest 70th Street
Seattle, WA 98117, United States
(206) 838-1960

Pike Place Market
(address to the parking garage:)
1531 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101

The Spanish Table
1426 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 682-2827

Paris Grocery
1418 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 682-0679

World Spice Markets
World Spice Merchants
1509 Western Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
206.682.7274

Posted in events, restaurants, shoppes, travel11 Comments

A Great Way to Spend Once’s Birthday

Head out to Deep Cove and start off the day with a breakfast of donuts and coffee from Honey Doughnuts. The donuts there are, quite frankly, my favorite of all donuts. If I remember it right, the family even went there during the dead of winter just to have some donuts. That’s how much we love them. Everything is right with the world when your first bite on your birthday is on crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-inside, dense, mmm-inducing donut dipped in dark chocolate.

I turned a year older last weekend. I requested that instead of throwing and catering my own party again (yes, I was insane), I wanted to just relax and have a picnic by the park.

Of course, it’s not all eating as I made my family “work out” by kayaking for a couple of hours before the feast. I mean, it’s not intentional that these days half the time one ends up doing some sort of physical activity when you see me. That’s a good thing, right? At least I don’t get blamed anymore for all the calories from my cooking and baking.

Say OHMMMMM. YOOOHHHMM.

Yeah, you’ll have to work for it, but it will be worth it! :-)

It was a super gorgeous day to be out. There were a lot of people in the park, in good spirits.

Back in Manila, my birthday always falls on days of inclement weather…typhoons, heavy rains, gusts of winds and hey, no school or work because the typhoon warning is off the charts! It’s great that there are no classes back when I was studying, but heck, I couldn’t do anything during the day either! Here in Vancouver, my birthday is almost always sunshiney. LOVE!

We really had a super fun day in the sun, and I really think all birthdays should be spent like this. ;-)

It will be another beautiful summer (long) weekend here, so cheers to that! Hope you’re having a great weekend where you are, too!

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Wordless Wednesday

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