A plant-based extravaganza with House of Boateng and YAM!

Ian and I were incredibly fortunate to win a fantastic 10-course tasting experience with Chef Castro at House of Boateng, thanks to YAM Magazine!

A great event!

It was a few weeks ago, but things have been SUUUPER nuts lately, so only now I am able to sit down and write all about it- it was lovely!

I bought us a few drinks (glasses of wine, that we both turned out to be incredibly allergic to unfortunately and made for a very challenging next day, ugh) and the dinner was set!

We started with a simple riff on caprese salad with tomatoes, and moved on to a tasty soup (was supposed to be served chilled, but it was served warm- which I was thankful for, I was absolutely FREEZING for the night, hah).

Roasted chilled white beets were good, but I was kind of getting concerned…so small…and I was so hungry!

The jalapeno that was stuffed was hilarious- apparently there is a lot of variability, mine was fine so I chowed down, while almost everyone sitting at the long table with us was freaking out it was so hot!! HAHAH.

The mushroom wrap was lovely, kind of like a green taco?

And who doesn’t like a hot dog (vegan!)

The squash noodles were lovely as well…

But the real standouts were the roasted white yam- AMAZING and complex flavours. Fantastic! A depth I never thought was possible with plant based!

And so was the finale- the King Oyster mushroom- very steak-like, tons of umami flavour. Delish!

Dessert was hilarious- literally carrots?! Not sweet at all- but worked with the cashew cream and balanced the sweet meringue nicely. A great way to end the (super long, omg we got home after 11am!) night. 🙂

Am I now a plant-based convert? Nope. It was very fun and an amazing way to try a huge variety of chef-specialties, but I did find myself missing the mouthfeel of cheese or meat. I did think the menu ‘built up’ better in vegan than meat-based, but it also leaves you hungrier, hah. We had to definitely eat all of the 10 courses to feel full.

Thank you to Chef Castro and YAM- amazing opportunity!!

I only drink when I’m drunk

Saw this on a Spotify playlist yesterday and man, I’m hooked.

100% worth it

Actually, I am not really drinking intentionally right now (trying to take a break, for health and you know, those reasons) but I have been very much enjoying my weekends, boozy or not 😉

We have had so many fun times, where to begin…We went to the Cobble Hill the other weekend and now it costs $10 to get in (not worth it) and it was a freaking ZOO with the most ill-behaved little monsters running around. I couldn’t handle it, ughh. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t manage to be in the same outdoors space as all of these little assholes running wild. NO THANKS. Yuck.

Where is the hay seed sticking out of his teeth?

We didn’t stay that long, thankfully (and I cancelled my ideas to go to the Saanich Fair. Do that again? NOPE!). We then had approximately 100 errands to run, haha. Pick up a sweater I forgot at the horse show site, visit a cidery (Valley Cider, it was lovely!), go to Merridale too, and best of all- I bought the most insane Caesar possible. Friends, you haven’t lived until you have eaten the Coast Caesar!

Feast your eyes… And it did cost a cool $40, so maybe make it a once-in-a-lifetime treat eh?

A thing of beauty. It was also a triple, so that meant the rest of my day was very fuzzy…

And then on the Sunday, Ian and I did a long run of 24k and I got changed quickly and went to the James Bay BBQ with my friend Amaka. We listened to live music, I brought Gidget and we ate and ate and ate. Man! The BBQ was incredibly generous- as many jumbo dogs as you can eat (so, like I saved half of mine b/c i was too full), ice cream, freezies, bananas, cake, chocolate chip cookies. It was a feast!! What a great day 🙂

Fun day in the sun with a friend!
Gidget got a lot of treats that day.
Gidget also likes friends 🙂

Ian and I also caught Phillips ‘Dino Sour’ patio party on a random Thursday. I got back early from my lesson and saw a biiiggg lineup…And almost bailed. But then we got in, and while it was busy, we ordered our drinks and got in, and out pretty quick. I had the Dino sour slushy and bought a few sleeves of the other random ‘dino sour’ flavours. One was a very hideous swampy-green cask-conditioned salted plum sour and wow did it look horrible! Tasted ok though.

Dino Sour night!

Snacktime!

So yeah, things are completely insane and getting worse by the day but in the meantime…I went to check out Cinnaholic’s vegan bakery for some cinnamon bun fun and they did not disappoint!

Yeah I eat healthy..??

I ordered the Cookie Monster cinnamon bun and it was very tasty, came topped with cookie dough, frosting and choco chips. They are not very big though, which in this case I guess is a good thing lol?!

And the cookie dough. Interesting concept but weird.

I also ordered the scoop of cookie dough, and in my opinion this is a non-repeat order- it’s just kind of odd. It’s literally just a scoop of cookie dough and I thought it would have a topping or something on it and it did not, soooo yeah. Too expensive and weird. Do not recommend. I mean, I will happily dig out cookie dough at home and eat it but buying it to eat felt odd.

Otherwise, it’s a fun place, quite pricey but nice to try as a treat. It does not replace my beloved Ladysmith bakery’s cinnamon buns though, those are THE BEST!! And literally half the price and much bigger and better 🙂 But you gotta drive for 1.5 hours sooooooo a limited treat 😉 which is probably a good idea hahah given how gluttonous I feel.

Nelson is great in the summer!

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After spending time in Kelowna, we headed up to Nelson to do a little exploring, trail running and eating/drinking. And it was fabulous! Very hot, sunny and gorgeous out. We stayed at a cool hotel downtown- the Adventure Hotel- which is pet friendly. Great because we had both critters with us 🙂

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We went on a trail run on the Trans Canada Trail, and there were SO many thimbleberries!! Very tempting, and I guess, tempting for bears as well…

Since it was quite hot in Nelson, we did the run in the morning, and did a little bushwacking and found an old railway (still had the ties), followed it down to the lake, while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. It was a gorgeous little interlude.

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Then we got back to the room and the sun was very intense. We grabbed a drink/shower, and went for a walk along the waterfront with Gidget. It turned out to be a pretty long walk and WOW I had a terrible headache by the end of it. Turns out Ian and I both got a bit of sunstroke that day….I felt awful for the entire day. Never shook it.

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We then went to a local brewery and enjoyed a beer, and by that time I was developing a miserable headache…

We chilled in the room for a bit, feeling like crap, haha. Then we went to this cool Hungarian restaurant and the food they had was pretty great! We only went out to eat at places that we could sit alone, nobody close by, and outdoors. This one fit the spot!

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The next day we had to pack up and begin the loooooooong drive back to the Island. Of course we had ferry drama- but we made the 6pm!! if you can believe it!! And we were all pretty darned tired, Gidget, Ian, Tucker and me. 🙂

My reviews: Reese’s Outrageous, and it is outrageous because this is the world we live in.

Not going to lie, I was drooling when I saw this beauty on my desk thanks to Jess, my gym sister!

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My absolute favourite chocolate ever is the Reese’s with mini Reese’s pieces embedded in it. AMAZING. Any shape- Xmas trees, the flying saucer, whatever. The best. Man. Ever eaten something that was so good, it felt like you were breathing for the first time? THAT.

But then every month (week, or hell, day…) I get in this weird existential crisis. A new day or month or whatever is a chance for a fresh start. Part of me wants to be ‘good’ and eat like, vegetables, fruit, water…And the other part of me is like, ha, no. Pass me the Reese’s! (Or Mars, or Snickers, or whatever. I don’t discriminate!). So, as I eat this fabulous bar, studded with mini Reese’s, draped with caramel…I think. How long do you really want to live? Plus, since I can’t really eat French fries, or apparently home-fried doughnuts anymore without puking…I figure I am falling deeper and deeper into the clutches of Big Sugar. And I like the sweet embrace. (my teeth however beg to differ).

So anyways, in the daily battle between ‘good’ me and ‘bad’ me…This bar is worth it! Is it better than the original Reese’s big cup with mini Reese’s pieces? No! Blasphemy! Nothing will match it. It is peerless! I think the caramel kind of ‘muddies’ the water a bit here, so to me, a low-quality chocolate purist (hah), it is delicious and worthy of being eaten, but NOT better than the originals. Not to be confused with Reese’s ‘Nutrageous’ which is…something different I guess?

My reviews: Brio hard soda in ‘Chinotto’ flavour! In honour of B.C.’s newest tax on sugary drinks…

So, what would be the taxes on this guy?

Brio-Chinotto-Hard

Ian bought me this a few weeks ago, and I was intrigued. It’s alcoholic, an Italian soda, but what on earth is it? What is it flavoured with?

Take this journey with me…

“Brio hard soda vodka flavoured with Chinotto”

Yes, I was puzzled. But ready to tackle this flavour! (though at this point, I kind of wonder if my teeth are)

A few months ago I had an epic tooth chip thanks to a freaking stealth piece of olive pit – I had discarded the actual pit, and then broke a chunk off a molar with the leftover shrapnel, and I had to get a filling to cap the broken section off. FML.

THIS weekend I chipped off a corner of my left front bottom canine eating popcorn. No major repairs needed but another filing down, but WTF>>

But I digress. This chinotto flavour was in an eye-catching tall boy can, and Ian got it from Cascadia Liquor store. It’s a super dark, almost murky beverage. You would mistake it for coke for sure. The flavour though? Undeniably NOT coke. Herby, with a subtle wintergreen tang or burn, or whatever makes root beer or sarsaparilla a thing… Makes this a thing also. It’s sweet- very sweet- and the vodka completely hidden within. It’s still fairly low alcohol and very much reminds me of an old-timey soda jerk (why did they call it that? Who is the jerk? I even went down the rabbit hole a few days ago of what an ‘egg cream’ was for a soda fountain and I was grossed out by it…), but anyways, this is pretty good!

It’s not great- funny enough I found myself missing the ‘sharpness’ and carbonation of cokes or maybe root beer, but this was worth a try for sure. It really isn’t highly carbonated, and I feel like that was really missing for me. I coincidentally have been drinking a lot of Bubly/carbonated water drinks..so…. Are those bad for teeth? Asking for a friend?!

And for those wondering what chinotto is? Well, it’s apparently a carbonated soft drink produced from the juice of the fruit of the myrtle-leaved orange tree. You would think it would taste like orange, but it doesn’t. Apparently the Italians also add quinine to their cocktails to achieve that ‘bitter’ flavour. I would say that piece was missing from this beverage as it was very sweet with only a minimal ‘otherness’ bite. I also learned that this drink was served as an alternative to orange juice (for people who got tired of only using the oranges off the myrtle-leaved orange tree???).

Interestingly, this brand – Brio- is actually known for being too sweet. Lesson learned! It is still miles ahead of the horrendous Pop Shoppe alcoholic drinks. I’m looking at you, disgusting swamp-thing nuclear waste green Lime Rickey!! GAG

I luv the valley, oh!

Finally I had a fun weekend!! After the hassle, stress, drama and fear of last weekend I had one that I truly deserved. It was an extremely challenging week- health issues, a snow storm with ice, plunging temperatures, family drama, and oh, we can’t forget work, now can we?

And then I drifted happily into a lovely weekend, I am happy to say! I had a ride on Friday night (it was FREEZING), and then a lesson on Saturday morning (went well! funny enough we were working on ‘wide hands’ because I was bracing my chicken-wing elbows against his neck, and my shoulders hurt the next day!), and then shopping and dinner at Fiamo for ‘Dine Around Victoria’ celebrations.

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I bought a bunch of stuff from the GAP that is closing out downtown, and then my friend Jess and I enjoyed an excellent seafood-based menu at Fiamo. We chose the $30 menu, and had a warm ‘salad’ that was more of a soup based meal that had char-grilled

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Seafood antipasti platter

squid, kale, feta and olives in broth, and a seafood antipasti consisting of grilled octopus, salmon, tuna tataki and vegetables. It was delicious! I had a glass of prosecco, and for dessert we had the chocolate ‘salami’ which was unusual but very tasty.

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Dessert: Chocolate salami

The next day I got up and went for a quick jog, because it was time for Sea Cider’s annual Wassail event! They did not have it last year, but I’m glad they brought it back for this year. The ticket prices did go up- $3, from $2, but you don’t pay for entrance fees (which are a TOTAL MONEY GRAB and I HATE THEM). So, it’s a win!

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Raise a glass!

We enjoyed a new cider- the Cherry!! I loved it! And the food was excellent. I had the chicken/cashew curry, the cornmeal-spiced apple cake/muffin thing with whipped cream topping, and the maple bread pudding with whip cream. Delicious! A great day with good company.

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Cornmeal muffin things. Good!

I then rode Oats, and headed home (at like 4:30. Whoops long day!).

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Sausage rolls- I didn’t try these but I heard they were good!

And best of all- good times with good friends, and the weather improved! It was like close to 10 deg yesterday! We’re back, baby!

All chocolate MEGA food reviews! Featuring chocolate you have never heard of!

That’s right people, buckle up because I have a mega-review coming down the pipes!

We start with a tour of Europe, where my dear friend Melissa generously procured for me an excellent variety of chocolate from both Romania (I know, I didn’t see that coming either!) and from Switzerland (a classic!!).

We will start with Romania. Melissa bought two bars for me, and I forgot to take photos of them and greatly regret it, but picture this below:

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It looked sort of like this?

And two flavours: Coffee, and Cherry. The nougat in the bars was very reminiscent of the nougat in a Snickers or something like a flatter, denser 3- Musketeers type of bar. The flavours were also much stronger- the cherry bar immediately had a marzipan-esque flavour to it, and I really liked it! It had an almond aftertaste (an aftertaste of which it shares with arsenic, if Forensic Files has taught me anything), and a bright, cheery-cherry top note. Tasty!

The coffee-nougat one was very in-your-face. I almost left it for Ian to eat, but remembered that I don’t share chocolate with someone who doesn’t appreciate it! It’s almost like espresso flavoured, and as someone with chronic insomnia, I had a moment of worry- would this chocolate bar keep me up at night? It’s so strong! (It didn’t, and I actually read the other day that sugar can cause insomnia or contribute to it, but whatever I plan on living my life as a normal human, soooo not giving that up!). It was great but I didn’t love it as much as the cherry bar. Go Romania!

I tried to find images of these bars, but all I got was a Ganong ‘Roma nougat’ bar instead. ??

Now we drift on to Switzerland, where Melissa picked up the most excellent Lindt bar du jour: The Lindt Creations melting chocolate cake bar. Think ‘lava-cake’ in bar form. Did it deliver? oh BOY did it! Mouth feel of a much more expensive bar, it was just delicious. Did I get a lava-cake taste? Hard to say- it was excellent all around, so that wasn’t really the sticking point for me. Think about those St. Moritz ‘Icy Squares’ but like…a million times better.

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Now we move on to Ottawa, where another lovely friend mailed me a CHOCOLATE POSTCARD!! Yes we are in 2020 people and this is a THING! I immediately checked out the chocolatier, Alicja’s Confections, and was blown away. Really sharp, classy packaging, unique and very out of the box flavours and a fun, novelty idea that got chocolate from my friend into my mailbox! What’s not to like? The flavour was peanut butter mixed with high quality milk chocolate- 33% chocolate, according to the packaging. The melt/mouthfeel was really high quality- smooth, flavourful and you can tell it is top-notch! The only quibble I had was for this to be a true ‘Tiger Butter’ bar, it has to have more peanut butter- as a PB aficionado, I need to be able to taste the impact of the peanut butter. People who are more chocoholics than PB-lovers will love this! On the whole, an excellent effort and a new chocolatier to keep an eye out for! Thanks Caitlin 🙂

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And now we go closer to home, I guess? Brent at work brought in a new After Eight offering: Limited Edition Chocolate Mint with Orange! Now I was puzzled by this- everyone knows about the dreaded ‘orange juice & toothpaste’ combo, sooooo how was this going to taste? The good news is that it tastes like 100% orange- not a hint of mint! So that’s good? But I kind of wanted to taste more subtlety, not just chocolate-orange (Terry’s does that one well already). It is also incredibly sweet, sort of mouth-burny sweet. Now, I like that but I also fully realize a lot of people don’t. So, this is is kind of a miss if you like the traditional After Eights (I certainly do!!), but also a fun novelty. Heavy on the orange, light on the mint.

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A two-time Nerds review!

I bought these at a small candy/ice cream shop in Cowichan Bay, so I am absolutely unsure of where you can find them anywhere else…But they sure are fun! They had such cute illustrations too, a Nerds tribute to the Mexican wrestlers ‘luchadores’ so maybe that’s where these were from??

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Approximately the size of a Halloween-sized package of Nerds, we picked up two flavours: Mango-Chile ‘El Mango Fuego’ and Guyaba (Guava) ‘Guyaba Solitaria’ Nerds. They were overpriced at .45 cents each but a novelty sooo…

So head-to-head, which ones were the best? Hands down the Mango-Chile Nerds. They were really good! The flavour was very close to the sweet, musky tang of a decent Ataulfo mango (get out of here with those Tommy or Fat Cats…I’m Ataulfo all the way!) and the chile was mild but enough of a zing to let you know it’s there and spicy! It was a bit spicier than the M&M Jalapeno, which I appreciated. And now that I think about it, spicy candy really was better suited to Nerds/sweet fruit than chocolate M&Ms.

And the Guayaba? Eh..It tasted like pink Nerds. You know what I mean, like how pink Starburst kind of taste like ‘pink’ but not really a remotely discernible flavour? That. I mean, it’s good but does it taste at all like guava? Nope!! And trust me, I have bought and eaten giant blocks of guava paste when we were on the San Blas Islands in Panama. The Nerds just tastes like a pink Nerds. Sweet, tangy and crunchy. I still enjoyed it but it doesn’t hold a candle to the vastly superior Mango-Chile. Yummm. Now I wish I had bought more, or I knew where to get them. I can’t be the only one concerned with the rapid lack of diversification in candy (I’m looking at you, Halloween!) that seems to be plaguing our store shelves these days. Where is the variety? Spice of life? Newness??

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Ah, the popcorn cake…

Also when I was looking at my food photos, I was reminded of a popcorn cake I made a few years ago. Man, that was great. I need to revisit this cake…