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.

BC Day Adventure!

We had FANTASTIC weather this August, so we headed up Island to visit my in-laws, and my new nephew too!

It was so warm we swam in the ocean, every day. It was heavenly, just divine 🙂

I also went on a 27-km run that was pretty miserable, as it was 30 deg, full sun, a long, hot day AND I hit the trails to escape some of the heat and ended up tripping and falling pretty dramatically, but hey- I didn’t even get hurt!

I wrapped up the run covered in dirt/dust, lol and Ian had to go looking for me because it took me forever to get back, those trails…Not fast!

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!

Happy Halloween!

So in typical me fashion, I very much overscheduled Ian and I for the Halloween weekend, it was nuts! Great, but nuttsss!

Shorts were a bad choice…

On Saturday we were doing a 5k fun run in a town nearby, as a fundraiser for the food bank. I signed us up on a whim, and when we got there I didn’t realize …it was FREEZING out. Like, 3-4 deg freezing. Wow, what a shock! So we weren’t really prepared to be that cold and we had to do a lot of waiting around at the start as it was a very small scale fun run. My muscles tightened up so much that when we started, my arms physically hurt from being so cold. I kept my toque on even?! I felt like I wasn’t wearing anything on my bottom half because my legs were so cold I couldn’t feel my shorts.

My sweet prize!

So we ran, and it was pretty brutal, ha. My lungs were DYING. It wasn’t very flat, I will say that lol and the turnaround had a lot of confusion there (ah, fun runs) but we made it to…4k and finished? So I guess we paid very little $$ and we get a 4k not five hahah. That’s more than fine with me, I was pretty much dying!!

On Friday we carved our pumpkins and of course, Tucker had to try mine…

When we finished (Ian was ahead of me, but there weren’t any other women near me) I was drooling incessantly and felt like my lungs were going to burst out of my chest- they hurt so much, wowza. That set us up for a nice strong emphysema coughing fit for the next two days, ickkk just what you want in a pandemic amirite?

I picked up my prize (which was really nice!) for being the first woman finisher 🙂 and we were off to task #2- ride Oats! I had a pretty ok ride, he was a touch resistant about doing shoulder-fore and I couldn’t quite capture the magic of our lesson, but that’s always the case, isn’t it??

Then we were home again for our next event: Beer tasting/tour with Hoyne Brewery, hosted by UVIC alumni society. It was a blast! I learned so much and Sean was the best storyteller ever. Plus the beer was good too, yessss!

Really nice to listen to!

And then it was time to get our costumes on and take the bus to our friend’s place- they bought a historical mansion and had the most AMAZING Halloween party at it. It was phenomenal!!!!!! Creepy coloured lights, pumpkins, snacks, candies, a great treasure hunt (one of the clues had an infrared camera?!!) that basically stymied us for the whole night, lol, and get this: Dry ice cocktails?!!! OMG. I was in heaven!

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A dry ice cocktail with champagne and absinthe!

We had such a nice time I didn’t want the night to end 😦

Until the next morning, when I was in hell….And had to get up for the barn’s Halloween fun show, that I promised I was going to do…Good lord why do I do this to myself?

to be continued…

A fun weekend despite it all!

The weather here has been pretty lousy- gale force winds, rainy/drizzly (not super rainy, just cold and grey) and very, very cold for May. Like a high of 12 degrees with insane wind every day. Yay… I am FREEZING in May. Coldest spring yet? Maybe??

But despite that, I had a nice time this weekend, and I wasn’t sure that I would. I have been struggling with the boring, endless stuck at home going nowhere fast cycle with no friends and boy it was really grating on me. I am still quite injured with my two leg stress fractures and it was just EATING at me.

This weekend went great!

I was out at the barn, didn’t have a good ride on Oats on Saturday and it was my fault- it was very chilly and windy and I felt quite on edge. I quit when we got a nice relaxed trot going (Sat is only w/t) and did a very long walk coolout. After our ride, the younger rider at the barn was taking his mini horse out for a cart ride but needed someone to come, and I didn’t have anything else going on so I went! It was really fun 🙂 and great to do something new eh?

Fun!! Go Duffy

We did that, and then I zipped out to Greenhawk to buy Quest (vet is coming on Tuesday for dentist/shots/wormer) and I could get a good deal there rather than by the vet. I also had an ulterior motive- I wanted to stop by the cafe Politano, b/c the had megashakes and I HAD to try it!

Yummy, but I would try something new next time!

So I did!

I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t have any Reese’s Pieces, which was a bummer, but the shake itself was very tasty and boy, was I full afterwards 😉

So all in all, a decent Saturday for a pretty grey, blah month/year.

Review time! The lesson here is that nothing is as good as Planter’s peanut butter

I have let my review food items pile up, and I’m eager to get back at them, aside from my regularly scheduled content that includes complaining about the wind and comparing peanut butters against my favourite, Planters (they always lose to Planters!).

Let’s start with a win, shall we? Gummy bunnies!

My dear friend gave this to me for Christmas and the girl knows me- they are delicious! Lovely to look at in a little lucite cube, and you know Easter is my favourite holiday too 😊 And I have heard of Sugarfina (their website is SOOOO tempting. Anyone else almost buy $150 worth of gummies??).

The green is a very distinct ‘green apple’ taste, juicy, a bit tart even in a gummy, a very stiff and yet still marshmallowy chew, it is a true pleasure to eat. The other flavours are notable as well but don’t stand out as well as the green apple bunny. Not pictured because I ate all of them too quickly! 😉

Pink bunny- lightly floral taste, a bit of tartness but nothing really compared with the green bunny. I couldn’t really place this flavour either- strawberry? Cherry? What other red or pink fruit could it be? It is tasty, but indistinct.

Yellow bunny- now, in fairness to yellow bunny, I don’t like yellow candies- the citrus taste seems to be a mockery. The only real citrus-flavour I love are grapefruit, encapsulated in layers of Trident layers gum…Ah, now THAT’s a flavour! (would anyone be surprised that I have written to Trident about their Layers gum??) This one is a bit weak- I can’t really tell which citrus fruit it is supposed to be- lemon I guess? It’s mild, sweet and chewy- what more do we want I guess?

And here is the loser, well ok two losers:

But first, a word here on disappointment. I went out to brunch last weekend at Paglicacci’s, and I like that place. But when you order an extra side of fruit for your meal, and they bring you… a ramekin of sliced oranges, that are probably the second half of the sliced oranges already on your plate? What kind of mediocre half-assery is that? Gee, thanks guys. I really wanted to pay extra for maybe one whole orange. Sheeeeesh.

Almost as disappointing as the Dan-D-Pak peanut butter I bought and I HATE IT. Too dark and the texture is gritty??? and weirdly greasy at the same time. Why add palm oil in great quantities to a nut butter that is EXTREMELY OILY??? I promise I won’t cheat on my dearest Planters ever again after that mess. Uck!

Anyways, from the country that brought us Skwinkles Salsaghetti, comes…drumroll please…

Pulparindo!

It looks like fruit leather, and it smells pretty bizarre- like fruit leather that was made in a tanning factory?? Anyways, first impressions aside I like tamarind flavour, and this was ‘extra spicy’ with salt. Oooh! Ian bought it for me from the Mexican store downtown- a great place to get corn husks for tamales, and stuff like that.

So looks and smell aside, how did it taste? Well, the tanning factory whiff was kind of a red flag…The taste is very strange. Crunchy (who eats crunchy fruit leather??), the salt had a strong ammonia salt flavour, and the tamarind taste was lost in the muddle of quite offensive crunch/grit, which was in every single bite. I found it extremely unpleasant, and maybe I should have known..Skwinkles aren’t exactly top-grade stuff either.. Anyways, I strongly recommend you avoid on this one. Ian also got me the ‘mango’ flavour which I have not tried yet, and probably won’t since he ended up finishing this one for me. Oh and was it spicy? Yeah, in another really bizarre way- it tasted like ketchupy-salsa spice? Ick. Don’t go there people, there are plenty of really fun and pleasant snacks to be found- like Rancheritos, yummm.

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. 🙂