Cafes and Bakeries, Dessert, Drinks, Food, Travel, Vancouver, Vancouver

Around this time, not only is Dine Out Vancouver happening, but the annual Hot Chocolate Festival is here. Designated dessert shops, cafes and bakeries around Vancouver have crafted and prepared their special cup of hot chocolate to beat the winter to spring transition. I didn’t get to try a lot last year, but I have to say that this year’s list looks much more attractive than last year’s. Don’t forget to try at least one before the festival ends on Feb 14!

In between classes, Christina Guan of Hello Guanster and I decided to check out Mink because I had a very positive verdict from last year. Little did I know that they got a little bit more creative and “down to earth” with their hot chocolate with crickets garnished on top. Yes, that’s right, as in the insect. Our other option was the chocolate in syringe and since there were two of us, I got the crickets and she got the syringe. The other reason why we went was to prove that we’re adventurous and not wimps.

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I thought the crickets would be covered in chocolate, but nope. These little buggers were fresh looking, dead and dried and sprinkled on top of my hot chocolate. I was reading some of the comments I have received on my Instagram account and my friend wrote “It’s kinda like they’re jacuzzi-ing”, and yes, it indeed did look they were having a good time. Also, you should follow me on Instagram for more food pictures.

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Flu Shot

What’s in it: Baileys infused warm white chocolate ganache served in a large syringe.

I’m not sure if you remember what Mink had last year, but let’s just say that they’re pretty good at thick chocolate desserts.

Take your time with the flu shot because it does become overwhelming if you decide to squeeze all of the ganache into your mouth at one go. This was rich, creamy, thick and every chocolate lover’s dream. I would also highly recommend this if you need an energy boost.

Don’t Bug Me

What’s in it: Coconut milk 38% milk hot chocolate garnished with free-range dried crickets.

When my friends saw what I ordered, they asked “Okay these are crickets. Why the hell are they in hot chocolate?” Fantastic question because I’m clueless.

Compared to the flu shot and last year’s drink, “Don’t Bug Me” was not very chocolatey. The coconut milk overpowers the chocolate and to start off, this was only 38% milk hot chocolate.

The whipped cream was delicious and it tasted like the marshmallows in Lucky Charms.

Now I bet all of you want to know what the crickets taste like. To be honest, I only ate two of the crickets. They didn’t taste like anything but it’s that “crunch” you get when you bite into the little bug that makes you cringe. They get stuck in your teeth too so that’s pretty gross.

What’s really really tip top disgusting is when the whipped cream melts into the hot chocolate and the crickets are literally just floating on the surface of the drink. After that, I took them out with a spoon and finished my drink.

Final verdict: Just try it. Yes it is gross and just not idealistic, but be adventurous!

Mink Chocolates on Urbanspoon

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Contemporary Western, Food, Travel, Vancouver

When it comes to Dine Out Vancouver, I’m not exactly a keener. You would think that DOVF would be every Vancouver foodie’s dream, but no. To me, DOVF means rushed service, booking issues and loud crowds. This year, my Dine Out Vancouver summary was volunteering at 6 Course Discourse by Follow Me Foodie again and having a dinner at Pidgin. I always feel that the food is never as good in DOVF compared to a normal day.

Pidgin has always been on my wishlist and since their DOVF menu looked really attractive this year, the three of us decided to go. We made reservations one week before Dine Out began and we were already very lucky to get a 6pm table on a Friday. The biggest problem we had with Pidgin was the location. Walking there was slightly sketchy and it wasn’t exactly convenient.

When we arrived, some tables were already pretty full but no more than a quarter of the restaurant was filled up. We got a small round table right across the entrance at the corner of the restaurant. All menus were on a metal clipboard stuck to the magnet wall just behind the sofa seats.

You might be slightly confused with how Pidgin does there DOVF, so let me explain. All of their dishes are sharing portions and you don’t really need to order. When you tell a server that you’re there for DOVF, everything on the Pidgin DOVF menu will be served. You can also choose to order a drink (I highly recommend that) or anything off the a la carte menu as well.

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For a restaurant located in Downtown East Vancouver, this is quite a fancy place.

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One Eyed Samurai

Concocted out of: Watermelon Infused Tequila, Sake, Lemon, and Watermelon Granite.

I was recommended by Wing Hei from The Camera Eats First that if I had to splurge on one thing at Pidgin, it must be their cocktails, in specifically, their One Eye Samurai.

The presentation was pretty stellar, with a small spoon with watermelon granite on top. Instead of eating it by the spoonful, I stirred it into my drink.

The taste was like a spiked watermelon juice with a hint of sourness to it. Slightly watered down and it needed a bit more booziness, but I would still recommend it.

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Appetizer 1 – Onsen Egg, Ikura (salmon roe), Pickled Kombacha, Lap Cheong Oil and Chicharron.

I was really looked forward to this! There’s nothing better than a rich egg yolk soup and the simple joy in poking into the egg and letting the yolk ooze out.

The chicharron was a good texture addition to the dish while the ikura just does what it always does – giving that fishy taste to everything.

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Appetizer 2 – Miso Roasted Beet, Smoked Beet Purée and Dark Chocolate Crumble.

Beets and chocolate. What happened was that Jacky and Raissa ate most of the chocolate, and I ate almost all of the miso roasted beets.

You get the earthy flavours from the beets then a milky, sweet and slight bitterness from the chocolate. The uncanny flavour unison may not be for everyone but I enjoyed the bizarre blend of the two ingredients.

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Appetizer 3 – Albacore Tuna Mi-Cuit, Smoked Egg Purée, Shishito and Pear Salsa.

Mi-cuit means half cooked but to me, this leaned on more of the raw side. Actually, all three of us got some type of stomach pain after dinner so I’m assuming it might have been this. On the bright side, I have already contacted Pidgin about this issue and they’re working on figuring it out.

Regardless, this was actually delicious. The shishito and pear salsa had some sort of salt in it that gave it a saltiness boost but it balanced the flavours in the albacore tuna and the creaminess from the smoked egg purée.

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Entree 1 – Southeast Asian Bouillabaisse, Octopus Chips, Gochujang Rouille, and Softshell Crab.

In the entire Pidgin DOVF menu, this was the highlight because of the Southeast Asian Bouillabaisse and the crunchy octopus chip.

Bouillabaisse is a traditional fish stew but this actually tasted straight up like Thai yellow curry with a strong ginger essence. It doesn’t matter thought because all of us loved it.

The softshell crab was mouth watering with the juices kept in the meat and a crunchy external shell. I didn’t need to dip it in the bouillabaisse because it had all its flavours packed inside.

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Entree 2 – Striploin, Lobster Bisque Cabbage, Pickled Shimeji, and Roasted Potatoes.

Striploin is probably the most conventional thing on a menu, but since it came with the DOVF, I was more excited about the lobster bisque cabbage.

The striploin was cut finely like sashimi and cooked to a red brick wall centre. The presentation and taste of the striploin reminded me of beef tataki.

I was telling my dad about the lobster bisque cabbage and he responded “Why don’t they just give you a lobster bisque soup, instead of cabbage dipped into lobster bisque?” True fact but I’ll give them points that the cabbage did contain the creamy lobster flavours from the lobster bisque.

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Dessert – Carmalized White Chocolate Mousse, Persimmon and Black Sesame Crunch. 

I loved this dessert because it wasn’t too sweet but it was so milky and creamy like a panna cotta.

The black sesame crunch took me back home to the traditional Chinese desserts I would eat in Hong Kong and the persimmon gave a tartness to do the chocolate dessert.

PiDGin on Urbanspoon

Food, Italian, Travel, Vancouver

After watching all of the serious issues that could go wrong at an Italian Restaurant on Kitchen Nightmares, I have been very hesitant whenever someone would invite me to eat Italian food. Al Porto Ristorante is located in a large alleyway in Gastown with a very secretive vibe to it. The reason it being so “secretive” is because not only is it tucked away from Gastown, but when you go into the restaurant, a stair case leads down into the restaurant because it is a basement of an old Gastown building. The restaurant was dim lit with décor that reminded me of an Italian home in a vineyard pictured in a movie. To be honest, it spooked me out a little bit.

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Arancini Funghi

What’s in it: Wild mushroom risotto croquettes, stuffed with provolone, and basil tomato sauce.

I’ve never tried risotto croquettes so the waiter suggested that Jacky and I should order it because it was a popular choice.

When I bit into it, I couldn’t really tell that it was risotto nor could I taste any wild mushrooms. Everything was just overly cheesy and the texture was like barley.

The tomato sauce tasted like something I could get from a can of Ragu and it was extremely watered down.

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Seafood Risotto

What’s in it: Risotto, prawns, mussels, clams, scallops, salmon, and halibut.

If you want good risotto, Al Porto Ristorante is not the place to get it. This dish was probably their biggest failure, and you could tell by how this looks in  the photo.

For those of you who don’t know how risotto is like, it is a short grain white rice cooked in a broth until it is creamy with a consistency. This was not risotto rice, instead it was long grain rice. Therefore, it was not creamy or toothsome and it tasted like a cheesy and dry fried rice.

The process in perfecting a risotto dish is challenging because risotto takes a lot of stirring and it has to be cooked perfectly. I was incredibly disappointed when I took a bite and I observed that these were long grains and not risotto rice.

If you want to know what good risotto looks like, I have a recommendation in New York City.This restaurant boasts on their delicious, creamy and al dente risotto dishes.

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Linguine Pescatore

What’s in it: Prawns, mussels, clams, scallops, salmon, halibut, and tomato sauce.

This was probably the best thing about our dinner and Jacky was pretty smart to stick with the simple pasta. You cannot go wrong on pasta.

The tomato sauce for the Linguine Pescatore was not as watered down as the sauce for our Arancini Funghis, but it wasn’t also super creamy. The tomatoes were not sour and quite piquant.

There was a fair amount of seafood to linguine and the linguine was cooked just fine, but it was definitely not handmade.

Al Porto Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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