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!!

My reviews: A superlative ranking of ice creams!

Superlative ice cream rankings as we say goodbye to summer and I only have FIVE WEEKS LEFT!!! (and boy, I am so over everything ).

A few weeks ago I was telling my husband that I probably shouldn’t be the one to go to the grocery store, because no matter what, I come home with like three ice creams, two bags of marshmallows, yogurt, Cheetos Flaming Hot, and Funyuns. And no actual food, because I am a garbage person??

He agreed but also hinted that someone has to be the junk food buyer and someone has to be the responsible buyer, and it looks like that is now my role sooo…. I bring to you the best ice creams I have tried this summer, and likely all bought at the same time, hah. Hey, the freezer is there for a reason- ice cream and frozen pizza. You may be shocked, even surprised to learn: the winner was NOT chocolate peanut butter!! I know, blasphemy! BUT stay with me.

The winner of this year’s best grocery store ice cream is…. Western Family’s Signature Double Chocolate Cupcake!

I know, I was surprised myself but this ice cream is so incredibly rich and it has these lovely little sprinkles providing fun pops of colour throughout without being trite or tired, kind of like the Americans weird love of sprinkles called ‘Funfetti??’

Plus unlike peanut butter cup, the flavour appears to be evenly dispersed soooo to all of you mining for a rich vein of peanut butter cups, or peanut butter…You don’t need to! The taste is all in it, you don’t need to dig through half of the container seeking the one interesting chunk. That, to me, is priceless. Friends, get yourself this ice cream. You will NOT regret it.

I love product innovations and will seek them out because I think companies should be trying harder. On that note, bear with me on this rant but: I hate buying shards of pretzels jazzed up to make it seem like ‘hey great new product!!’ NO. I am buying YOUR mistake. Bring back the whole pretzel, you cheap bastards!

In other news, I still buy them because I like pretzels and they don’t seem to make whole ones in the fun new flavours these days.

Moving on to second place is Ian’s favourite and a pretty fun new flavour buuttt the quality is very much of the ‘frozen dessert’ mediocrity that is Breyer’s and the like. (I see they are calling it ‘light ice cream’ which is a pretty nice spin there, Breyers. Want a job at GCPE?) Try out the Nanaimo Bar ice cream as one of their ‘taste of Canada’ flavours and prepare for an interesting textural but still very on-the-note of Nanaimo bars.

It has flakes of coconut, mixed in with a fairly rich and delicious ice cream base that is marbled yellow/chocolate just like a good ol’ fashioned Nanaimo bar. Now, it’s not punching above its weight at all- that is reserved for actual ice cream, not a fakey one, however it’s a really nice take on something Canadian and a fun eating experience. Give it a try!

Third place (I couldn’t give this ranking to peanut butter cup- I just couldn’t do it to my truest love) so I am springing on you a new ice cream altogether. Enter the dairy-free offering from Coconut Bliss. I tried the Madagascar Vanilla Bean (by accident, thought I was buying chocolate peanut butter), and the Sea-Salt Caramel Chocolate. I actually really enjoyed the Madagascar Vanilla Bean once I got over the fact it wasn’t chocolate but it does have a pronounced and unsurprisingly heavy coconut flavour, so if that’s not your gig steer clear. The Sea-Salt Caramel Chocolate I like a bit less, and that did surprise me a bit, possibly because it still have a very heavy coconut base flavour that doesn’t mingle amazingly well with predominantly caramel flavouring? And I also expected it to be chocolately with caramel, but it’s the other way around- caramel with chocolate bits. So…yeah. Not a big hit but not bad either. If they go on sale (I found them for 2.97 a pint at Country Grocer) then give them a go!

As we bid adieu to a summer that seemed so very short, I also have a message to the ‘mother’ that got in my face to yell at me after her child ran into me when I was jogging on the Breakwater: I hope you NEVER get to enjoy another ice cream again, you ass. Also when you yell at a person about ‘why would anyone think they can run here’ and ‘this is a PUBLIC place’ I guess to cover her poor parenting, when there are about four other runners also enjoying a lunchtime run on the Breakwater, well hate to break it to you but die mad about it.

End scene.

Go south

After a kind of challenging Dec and a January that wasn’t improving….We took a trip to Mexico! Specifically Huatulaco. I had been there before, but not for a few years and after two years of going nowhere and doing nothing…I was beyond fed up, stressed out and unhappy and I WAS GOING DAMMIT.

The weather was beautiful EVERY DAY.

It was an extremely stressful lead up. In the days that preceded our trip, we had:

  • A tsunami warning
  • Crazy fog taking over everything and not lifting
  • Omicron variant taking over everything and overwhelming the health system, flights, work-staffing, ferries, buses, etc
  • One of my colleagues went missing and he is still missing three weeks later
  • No third booster shots (I just got mine this week!)

No joke. I was SO TENSE and freaked out going into the holiday. I had no idea what to expect, and how our testing worked to get home, what if we had tested positive and had to quarantine, what to do with the animals and Oats, etc etc etc.

And you know what? It went perfectly fine. Were there glitches, like not having a paper copy of our COVID neg test results and the airport demanding them, when we only had QR codes/apps? Yep! Was there uncertainty? Yep. Was it worth it? OMG YES 100%. For your mental health, go. Just go. Life is too short and too horrible most of the time. Do something nice for yourself, for once.

We swam, kayaked, went stand-up paddleboarding, went into town, snorkeled, went fishing, I did aqua fit and we drank a million crazy cocktails and generally just had an awesome time.

I needed it desperately and I firmly believe so does everyone else.

My reviews: Something weird for a weird year

And I am definitely remiss in my reviews but I have a good excuse- the lead up to the holidays/end of the year ended in a tragic and sad series of events and I didn’t feel it was appropriate to have something fun or bright to post about.

Tasty eh?

That being said, I also know that we need something interesting and exciting to look forward to, soooo here we go: I ate the tinned daggertooth eel!! As per the recommended display, I ate it with a fork. So daring! To be honest, it felt a bit anticlimactic. Kind of a mirror to the end of a holiday season, is it not?

Yummm

All the hype, bling and excitement and then poof! It’s over, and you’re left sitting on your sagging couch watching the ceiling stains from a slow leak in your roof grow larger, wondering what happened to all of the chocolate you got from Christmas. I listened to a podcast over the holidays (Dateline’s Too Fat to Kill) and I couldn’t help but feel like I identified in some way with it.

Also a curious title- was the person too fat to physically kill? Or too fat to muster the energy to kill someone? As it turns out, it was the latter, but hey, makes you think, right?

Anyways, the Christmas chocolate is gone because I ate a lot of it and also because Ian treaded into extremely dangerous territory by forgetting to buy me my half-pound Reese’s. HOW? A travesty!

To make up for it, he went and bought me more (non half pound but still ok Reeses) from Boxing Day sales and I already ate some. So, a partial redemption maybe but if I were Ian, I’d sleep with one eye open… So the daggertooth, looks slimy and unappetizing, also weirdly red?

But I’m here to tell you to be brave. The red is from a slightly sweet sauce, think that red sauce that you have on fried chicken balls from your best Western-Chinese takeout or buffet and the eels are slightly crunchy but stiffer than their similarly crunchy cousin- the sardine. I think the crunch comes from the spines?

I pulled out a spine or two for Gidget, but she has yet to crawl out of bed to try it… So they actually aren’t bad, and certainly don’t taste very adventurous. You know what is adventurous? Eating chapulines. Man, their little crickety legs got stuck in between my teeth every single damn time so I don’t eat them anymore, but you get it.I would compare daggertooth eel to a sort of crunchier, sweeter sardine. Not a tinned-fish favourite, but honestly not that bad!

I do prefer canned octopus, smoked oysters and mussels. YUM. Basically any fish out of a can is great, oh and don’t get me started on canned vegetables like mini corns, or mushrooms. YUMMM… I love the mushrooms, little button ones in a can. Amazing as a snack, and as a bonus, the eating experience takes me weirdly down memory lane to my grade 8 classmate, Constance Kaminiski, who told us her father died in a mushroom factory accident. We, as grade-eight prime assholes, thought it was the funniest thing. As an adult, I can fully recognize how terrible we were to poor Connie.

Maybe I enjoy mushrooms in particular in homage to her, in retrospect? Food as an experience links us to our past, and our future. Try going to Fairway and dig up a can of something strange yourself, really get out there. You only live once!

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.

Review time: Mega IKEA gummies AND sand in my chips?!

That’s right, you have all been good people so a big review on offer!

Read on and find out why sand is NOT a good chip flavour… But first- the best gummies and jellies I have had in a very long time…

And a small digression on gummies VS jellies. I have lectured Ian on this more times than I can count, so I’m not sure what that says about me, or him… A jelly is made without gelatine, think harder shell and a softer, jelly-like chew- at its finest, it is a fruit pate. Gummies are made with gelatine typically and think about gummy worms, or gummy bears, you get it! A bouncy chew all the way through.

Now these beauties from IKEA are a mix of jellies AND gummies. My sister kindly sent them to me from Calgary!

The cola moose is a jelly- and wow, the flavour is very deep for a cola candy. It has almost a cuba libre spark of lemon in it, and the chew is stiff outside and very chewy inside- delicious! These are a big hit and I highly recommend, if you can get to an IKEA anytime in the next year or so….

The fruit stick that looks like a sour worm is a gummy candy but looks are deceiving- it is NOT sour. I was kind of put off by that?? I did feel a bit fooled, ha. It’s ok, a bit too sweet and the taste is indistinct ‘sweet’ rather than ‘has a flavour’…Not a fan fav here.

Next up- watermelon skulls! Now this is a gummy with a VERY strong bite/chew. It is also huge, so don’t try to cram it all in your mouth it’s a pretty big choking hazard, haha. Bite this one in half, and it is a juicy flavourful fun taste experience. I highly recommend this one- the only downside is that it is a big ass gummy so eat carefully.

Finally- two hearts! These are jellies again. A nice, bouncy chew but not as tough as the watermelon skulls, thankfully. I am not really sure what flavour those are, but they’re very pleasant and…bland. A bit dull in a way that the texture can’t save them. A bit reminiscent of the fruit sticks, really. Cute, fun to eat, and kind of dull… Maybe give these a miss? I think the flavour would be much improved if it was a stronger berry/cherry taste, with a zing to it. You can do it IKEA! If you of anyone can take the atrocities of horse meatballs and pivot to ‘plant balls’ then I have confidence that you can take a blah gummy and really amp it up- I’m not wrong here, am I?

And now, what you may have been waiting for….

Ian bought these new types of Takis from Thrifty’s the other week. The art on the cover is kind of ‘90’s…like it would impress me when I was also enjoying Viva Puffs and other favourites of my childhood. Also Jalapeno Typhoon? Seems like a strange flavour comparison to make, but I guess I have never been in a typhoon before, I guess they could go with jalapenos…It’s weird though. Ian is a big chip person, me not so much (my tastes run more to the candy/chocolate/peanutbutter/marshmallow variety) but I tried a few and what did I crunch on, to my dismay?? SAND.

Yeah, jalapeno- it’s a fine flavour- but SAND in my chips? The grinding, horrible crunch was just awful. It honestly reminded me of a camping trip my friends, Ian and I took to Port Renfrew where we camped on the beach (Pacheedat) and my friends made me a birthday cake over the campfire. So sweet right? Well it was up until the point it got dropped in the sand, and then everyone gamely crunched and gritted their way through a pretty horrible sand-and-chocolate cake. I felt like I could redeem that a bit because I also had a mini ‘Birthday Cake Vodka’ to enjoy that night…Except my poor, much-beleaguered teeth. God, no wonder I lose about half a tooth every goddamned year (ok well it couldn’t be the candy, because then there would be no god right??) 😉

Anyways, he kept eating them and I told him not to because I complained to Bimbo (who owns and distributes Takis) and they said they were going to pick them up to test where the sand came from, after asking me to describe it? It’s…sand? I don’t know where to go with a description, have YOU ever eaten sand? 10/10 do not recommend. And that, friends is the story of my life. I have had so many products with foreign contaminants, it feels like par for the course these days. Plastic in my chocolate, a red seed pod in a bottle of Pharmasave ibuprofen, gravel in my Planter’s peanut butter TWICE, and now sand in my chips??

I’m sure these are fine normally, but like… Nah. Also I don’t like the texture of the kettle-cooked chips anyways, I am a fan of the regular rolled Takis in flavours so eye-wateringly searing that I can only manage like, 1 or two chips, not a fistful like how I want to eat them. So, my suggestion is pass on this, and buy the rolled Fuego ones. Those are great with a beer 😉

Nelson is great in the summer!

116220836_10101328128946966_4054055486274825598_o

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 🙂

115804512_10101328128927006_408031801846946430_o

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.

116274595_10101328129051756_8570976119212035830_o

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.

115902768_10101328129026806_4113343398078622254_o

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!

116156298_10101328128941976_118736374077625459_o

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: Fill that FOMO in your heart with food! I humbly suggest Cheeze-Its!

Times are tough around here, in our never ending April.
This might lend itself well to some well-placed emotional eating, which I personally define as when I eat the entire box of something and then …Feel better? Nah that can’t be right. But I guess it it’s wrong then I don’t want to be right! Also I think it staves off some of the ‘Michael Shannon-esque rage seething just under the surface’ that I fear might bubble up.
21214560_lrg_1_@1x
So on that note, understanding that food is kind of what I have going for me these days, I recently grabbed a box of Cheez-Its, which both confusingly had the term ‘new’ and also ‘original’ on the box. So which is it, Cheeze-Its? Are you new or original? I have never had them before so I figured that now is a good time to absolutely crush half a box before freaking out at my farrier about why my horse is lame again… (he is fine, thank god!!)
And I am here to say that unlike our American friend Nutter-Butter Fudge-Covered Disappointments, Cheeze-Its are the real deal! They smell pretty fake, like Hawkins Cheezies (no shame on those, they do a great job), but the taste is alllll sharp cheddar. No mean feat for food scientists I think! It’s very satisfying, and you get a lot of the cheese-flavour per cracker. I was like yeah these are fine…And then realized I’d eaten most of the box. More than fine then! And I am not really a cracker-eater, other than the occasional Triscuit. I did find out they had a bunch of different varieties, like spicy, later so I feel a bit cheated right now, hah.
One note of warning: If you are a total glutton, like me, and like to tilt the remainder of crumbs from the plastic bag straight into your mouth- DON’T. It’s basically big chunks of salt with orange powder. Yowza. And I like salty things!
Oh and one more note on this, might only apply to me though- I don’t recommend eating that many crackers and then running. Yikes. Cheeze-Its fueled heartburn for milessss…
But if you are experiencing a Summer of Constant Disappointments, like I am, then I give Cheeze-Its two thumbs up! Join me in our journey through food and alcohol… substituting itself for enjoyment and pleasure everyday!
Next review up- A plethora of seltzer waters with alcohol and some without! And I really didn’t like some of them!

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!

reeses-outrageous-bar

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?

It’s only a matter of time before I ruin his life: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ha, the title seems grim but totally isn’t- I found it and found it amusing! I don’t think I am out to ruin anyone’s life, unless they are really not into horses, rabbits, dogs or running. Then maybe I would be ruining their life!

IMG_1284

My friend Sarah made cupcakes- she is a professional eh?? 

Anyways, this Valentine’s Day sees me taking the day off the barn, to enjoy a movie with my husband. I was treated to a LOVELY Valentine’s day cupcake at work (yesss!). We had protestors outside this morning, which was fine. I respect the right to representation, and they were polite and calm.

Though it may not seem like it, I have also been doing a TON of riding. The vibe is still…Challenging…right now, and I was in full rant mode about some things I learned about my fellow riders (not my stablemates, other folks who I know), and the theme for this week is twofold:

  1. People do not learn.
  2. People do not change.

At least four people I know this week (god, if not MORE), are stuck in this weird hamster-wheel of logic. If you do the same thing all the time with the same people who are treating you badly, or it’s a negative environment, or whatever…You are going get the same results. Over and over. Rinse, repeat. And then complain/whine/etc loudly and repeatedly how you are the wronged party. HAH!

I would honestly laugh if I wasn’t also concerned about the animals involved. Jeesus.

Otherwise? Oats has been good, if a bit unremarkable this week. Last week felt pretty good, accomplished, this week…not so much. Not bad, he’s still my best baby, but just kind of lacklustre. His jumps last night- we moved our jump lesson to next Wed as my trainer was sick- was just ‘eh’ all around. Obviously I need lessons! Stat!!

IMG_1288

A red velvet cupcake at work. YUMMM

Long weekend coming up, and boy, I think I need it, and a lot of others too!

Happy V-Day 🙂