New Additions to Happy Planet

In my last post, I touched on Happy Planet’s new products and flavours at the Gluten-Free Expo.

In this post, I’m going a little deeper – having had the opportunity of tasting most of them now! And at different moments throughout the week which helped me test out how convenient they really can be.

Happy Planet

Fresh Soups to Go

The variety of these soups is great. They come in 5 different flavours – 3 being organic!

I have to admit, I don’t own a microwave so when it was time to give one of these soups a try in the comfort of my own home I was a little out of luck.

I first played with the idea of pouring it in a pot and stir but figured, that’s not really grab-and-go so I did the next best thing from a microwave (which I SO don’t recommend!). I put it in my toaster oven!

Yeah, BAD idea! The containers are most definitely made for a microwave.

I was pleased with the taste and texture of the Organic French Lentil Soup that I enjoyed with a slice of whole wheat toast – toasted right in that same toaster oven :) It looks homemade. It has little chunks of cauliflower, red pepper and thyme.

Happy Planet

The next day, I gave the Organic Portuguese Kale and White Bean Soup a go. It’s hearty and so tasty when it’s warm on a rainy, cold afternoon. I think this one could really go well with a little teaspoon of sour cream!

The last, but definitely not least, I took with me the West African Squash & Cashew Soup to work. Just the name makes my mouth water! It was pretty great waking up in the morning and grabbing one of these containers and putting it in my bag. Once lunchtime hit, I removed the seal and voilá!

Happy Planet

I like that they’re single serve so that you can customize it depending on how you feel on that particular day. A little bit of grated cheese for a richer feel or warm it up as is for a little something simple!

Nut Smoothies

Smoothies are my thang – I can’t get away with saying ‘thang’, can I? Anyway, they’re what I do and love to live on!

So when I saw these new additions to the Happy Planet family, I was a curious.

They’re made with almonds and cashews – dairy AND soy free.

The flavours are: chocolate (which I couldn’t personally taste – I’m allergic to chocolate!), coffee (which I just had), vanilla chai (need I say more?), and salted caramel (yuh huh!).

I’ve enjoyed them solo as well as in my smoothie recipes.

Nut Smoothie Happy Planet

My favorite has got to be the Salted Caramel. It has this defining hint of caramel that’s not too overpowering. It’s SO good on its own!

The mix I made with it was adding two stems of kale, a banana, and little protein powder for a fuller feel.

The second of my faves would be the Vanilla Chai. I like chai in general so I was pretty happy to learn about this flavour – you can really taste the chai.

With this one, I added a few frozen blueberries and blended it all together!

The other two landed in third for me – but again, I’m allergic to one so I didn’t get the chance to taste it myself.

Though a friendly neighbour gave it thumbs up!

I’m happy with Happy Planet’s new additions. I really am. At first, I thought I’d taste too much sugar in the smoothies but no, not really. I mean, you can taste they’re sweet but not yucky sweet – if you know what I mean.

And the soups, they do taste homemade!

Give them a go – they are available now at retailers throughout the Lower Mainland.

Eating and Drinking my way through a Brunch Crawl

Having brunch became a popular thing to do in this part of the world in the 1930’s, but back then in was primarily done buffet style. The next incarnation may just be in the form of a brunch crawl, which is what I did last weekend thanks to Vancouver Foodster‘s latest initiative as part of the Tourism Vancouver Dine Out Festival. The concept is simple (and the same as their previous Tasting Plates events): you get a map with 5 or 6 places in the area (a different neighbourhood is featured each time) and you have a 4 hours to spend visiting each place and sampling items they’ve chosen to feature from their menu.

The one I went to was located in Olympic Village and featured a variety of food and drink samples from 5 venues that were all within about a 6 block radius.

Whole FoodsWe started at the Whole Foods on Cambie where we picked up our menu (to find out what we’d be sampling) and tasting map cards (so we knew where to go and could only sample each place once). Here we were treated to West coast smoked salmon mousse with candied salmon bacon on a potato tuile and Asian braised hoisin beef on a Bellini.

Solly's BagelryNext we headed over to Solly’s Bagelry where we were treated to a great little assortment of Jewish treats including mini latkes with apple sauce and sour cream, a mini potato knish, and a mini cottage muffin. They made everything fresh so there was a wait at this location, but it was definitely worth it – and we bought some chewy spelt bagels while we were waiting to take home!

Milano CoffeeAfter that we got a bit of an energy boost (much needed on this rainy Sunday morning) by stopping in at Milano Coffee where we got Cognac Macchiatos, locally made granola made by Granola Girl (served with house made almond milk), and some Nectar cold press juice. They even gave us a cup of Cognac Stovetop to take away so we were sufficiently buzzed!

Bao Down GastropubThe next location was actually one of the newest restaurants in the area. This is Bao Down Gastropub‘s second location and they gave us the choice of either their Morning Glory Bao with sausage, bacon, chive omelette, cheese, banana ketchup, mayo, hashbrowns and scallions – or beignets (we each chose a different one so we could sample both)

Glory Juice CoAnd finally, we ended the crawl at Glory Juice Co (this being one of three locations they have in Vancouver) where we got to finish off with their healthy house-made seed bar and a couple samples of their juices. It was a nice, light way to end off the morning (well, now afternoon at this point) before we went off for the rest of our rainy Sunday activities!

Everything we had on this crawl was honestly so delicious. I enjoyed everything we had – my only complaint would be the size of the portions. My friends had been on the brunch crawl in Gastown the previous day and weren’t even able to finish everything whereas myself and my date weren’t exactly hungry, but we weren’t stuffed either. Bigger samples or one more location would have certainly done that for us. What the restaurants provide though is up to them so you just never know what you’ll get, other than really tasty food and drink – that’s always on the menu regardless of the portion size. And often there are 6 spots to visit so even if the samples aren’t huge, there’s more of them. Regardless, it’s a great way to sample a vast variety of brunch items from all kinds of venues in a popular neighbourhood, so check out what’s still available for the rest of the month and enjoy your brunch!

Happy Planet Foods at the Gluten-Free Expo

The Gluten-Free Expo is happening right now at Canada Place. It happens every year and, seriously, this year it was filled with new brands and the popular oldies.

Happy Planet falling in BOTH those categories!

Happy Planet Gluten-Free Expo

You may know Happy Planet for their ready-to-go smoothies and soups found at most grocery stores. You know, the ones found next to the produce or deli section.

Well, today I was introduced to a new line of nut-based smoothies from them AND a line of convenient soups to go!

Go Nuts Over These

Yeah! You read right. A NEW line with four different flavours that come in both 325mL and 900mL: Cold-brewed Coffee, Vanilla Chai, Salted Caramel and Chocolate.

Nut Smoothie Happy Planet

Made with all the goodness of almonds and cashews and free from dairy, soy and any preservatives, I’ve been told you’re sure to go nuts over this exciting, innovative addition to their smoothie category.

Only thing is that you’ll have to wait a few months before you can get them at your fave store. They’ll be making their debut nationwide in October.

BUT…

Grab & Go

Their delicious, healthy and convenient meals when you’re on the go will be available much sooner!

These are your favourite two flavours: Thai Coconut* and Tuscan Tomato*. Plus, three new varieties: West African Squash & Cashew*, Portuguese Kale & White Bean* and French Lentil.

Happy Planet Soups

Their gluten free soups come in a convenient single serve microwavable container! Which can really be the perfect solution for a delicious, healthy and convenient meal when you’re running around all day.

Specially noting that most people tend to go to their nearest coffee place and grab whatever bread item they can get their hands on to sustain them ’till dinner!

Made without any preservatives, you may want to add these to your shopping list.

*Also available in larger 500 or 650mL pouches.

Stay tuned for more posts about the expo!

New restaurant opening: Chew Restaurant, Burnaby

Taking over the Tea Wok Asian Cuisine, new restaurant Chew Restaurant establishes its presence on Kingsway as a new go-to Taiwanese bubble tea joint. Its unique decor, including artsy graffitti on the walls, and a dark colour scheme with neon pops of colour, as well as spacious seating welcomes any and all gatherings of couples, friends, or family.

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Thanks to Raymond of ChineseBites, I was invited to a private tasting event earlier this week to sample their new menu. To celebrate their grand opening, Chew Restaurant presented a full roasted pig!

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We started off the evening with a fresh watermelon juice and pineapple slush. Full points for presentation – it came with the pineapple and mini watermelon carved out and served on the tray along with dry ice. And dry ice always looks cool! This was a fun throwback to warmer summer days – fresh, frothy juice that refreshed the palate.

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Just look at these beautiful colours of this roast pork – deliciously moist and tender, with the signature crispy pork skin. I wish I had more!

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Next up with a share platter (on an Ikea tray), with various Taiwanese bites. These snack foods always bring me back to the hustle and bustle of street cart vendors on the streets of Taiwan.

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From top left, clockwise: Deep fried chicken nuggets, lotus root chips, Taiwanese-style kimchi, marinated pig ears, and deep fried squid.

Deep fried chicken nuggets – This was the one thing I ordered all the time when in Taiwan. The chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces, marinated in spices, and then deep-fried. I love the contrast of the crunchy of the outside and the moist chicken on the insude.

Marinated spicy pig ears – For those not accustomed to Asian foods, this might sounds strange. It usually triggers one of two reactions: “Are those pig ears?!” or “Pig ears, yum!”. I am part of the latter – they are quite tasty! They are usually served cold, thinly spiced, and marinated in black vinegar, spices, and white sesame oil. It becomes gelatinous and chewy, with a sweet, rich porkiness flavour. As a non-spicy eater, I appreciated that it wasn’t overly spicy, but still had a good kick to it.

Deep-fried lotus root chips – I’ve had other chips made from non-potato foods, like apple and kale, but I have to admit I’ve never tried lotus root before. And I like it! It’s crispy and crunchy, with a hint of sweetness that keeps your hand dipping into the bowl for more.

This was just a small sample of all the appetizers they offer, many of which are the traditional deep-fried goodness, such as deep fried chicken knee and deep fried squid balls, as well as the always-popular spareribs, onion cake, and beef wrap.

In addition, Chew Restaurant offers a wide variety of different teas – various flavours of milk tea, black tea, and green tea. Love the tapioca pearls – they are smaller than usual, but they are tender and chewy, giving a pleasant roundness to the drink over all. It looks like they have a “heart jelly” and “teddy bear jelly” on the menu as an add-on, I’m curious as to what those taste like!

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Three spice stewed chicken is a popular dish in Taiwanese cuisine. The traditional recipe calls for a cup of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, and a bit of ginger and basil. It’s cooked thoroughly until all the sauce has been absorbed by the chicken, allowing each bite to be rich and flavourful. This is the Asian version of “finger-lickin’ good”!

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This was my favourite dish of the night – from the beautiful presentation of individual spoons (or whatever you call them), to the circular arragement, to the contrast of colours. The skin on the dumpling was just delectable – thin yet chewing, a protective case for the fat morsel of pork inside that I demolish in a matter of seconds.

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One item I would love to try next time I visit is their Taiwan “Koah-Pao”, paired with different meats, such as pork belly (delicious!), Taiwanese sausage, pork, chicken steak, or BBQ pork belly.

Their full menu is available on Chew Restaurant’s Facebook page, and they are now open at Kingsway & Macpherson Ave in Burnaby. Check it out!

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Chew restaurant  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oodles of Noodles at Noodle Mania YVR

The 3rd noodle tasting extravaganza Noodle Mania, presented by Vancouver Foodster earlier this week, took us in an adventure all over the map, introducing six  delicious establishments featuring their own noodle tasting plate.

We started off at Platform 7, a beautiful coffeehouse that is inspired by a Victorian-era London train setting. The first thinsg I noticed were the curved, lighted ceiling and the clock hanging above, that created a sense of being whisked away to a magical world of amazing coffee.

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Along with offering Stumptown Coffee Roasters as their flagship coffee roaster, Platform 7 also offers a selection of baked goods from locally-sourced artisan bakeries.

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We sampled an Americano and Cortado as our brew of choice, and for our treats – a Organic Peanut Butter Cookie, and a Cranberry Pecan Cookie.

Our second stop was Grotto Italian, a beautiful, romantic Italian restaurant tucked away at Davie and Denman. Their Squash Ravioli with sage and brown butter was simply divine on the tastebuds, and their Housemade Gnocchi on a smoked chicken and mushroom ragout tasted absolutely delicious. These tasting plates speak to the brilliance of Vancouver Foodster’s events – small, but amazing bites that make you crave for more.

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After Grotto Italian, we walked over to Che-Licious, a Vietnamese restaurant that specializes in banh mi (gourmet viet subs), as well as fun desserts and drinks. Their Noodle Mania feature was a Zen Salad Roll, packed full with marinated tofu, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, pickled daikon, and red pepper, as well as a beef pho with rare beef, brisket, and beef balls. Slurp slurp – and yum!

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Just over our halfway point, the next stop was Bubble Waffle Café in Kerrisdale. As an Asian person, I love my fair share of bubble waffles, noodle soups and Hong Kong style milk teas. We tasted two of their specialty soups – a House Special, a fish soup with rice noodle, beef, fish balls, ham, and veggies, and a spicy Singaporean Laksa with fish fillet, mushrooms, ham, and veggies.

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Seeing as we were at a “bubble waffle” cafe, we opted to also order their original bubble waffle. Verdict? Best. bubble waffle. ever. Piping hot, creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, it was exactly how I enjoyed my bubble waffles!

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The last time I was at Linh Café in Kerridale, their brunch was amazing – their food is a unique mix of traditional French and modern Vietnamese cooking. For Noodle Mania, we tasted a Pho Bo, a beef noodle soup with braised beef flank and rice noodles, and a Pho Xao, a vegetarian stir fried rice noodles with greens, organic oyster mushrooms, marinated tofu and fresh herbs.

I absolutely loved the soup in the Pho Bo – it was so rich and flavourful from the beef, I just sat there spooning mouthfuls of broth into my mouth, enjoying every bit of it.

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The last stop on our list was U&I Thai, and as always, the restaurant was bustling with foodies slurping away with their tasting plates – a Spaghetti Kee Mao, and a Guay Tieow Tom Kha Gai, a chicken coconut noodle soup with rice noodles. Though service can be a challenge, I commend the servers fo staying ever friendly and ever smiley to all their guests.

The fun part of Noodle Mania, a themed Tasting Plates adventures, is to taste so many distinct flavours and characters of one kind of food, in this case – noodles. The Spaghetti Kee Mao was made with wheat spaghetti noodles, with a sweet Thai basil sauce, whereas the Guay Tieow Tom Kha Gai is a light, delicate-flavoured chicken soup made with coconut milk, lemon grass, and other spices.

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With oodles of noodles in one night, I was super stuffed and in a deep food coma by the end. A big thank you to Vancouver Foodster for again hosting such an amazing night at Noodle Mania.

If you’d like to join in with the next tasting adventure, check out this list of Brunch Crawls happening later this month during the upcoming Vancouver Dine Out Festival. Tickets are available now – get ’em before they sell out!

Gyu Kaku Japanese BBQ – Downtown

I’ve been meaning to try Gyu Kaku for awhile know. My friends rave about it.
Gyu-Kaku, meaning “Horn of the Bull” in Japanese is a Yakiniku – style restaurant.  Very popular in the US, the only two locations in Canada are located in Vancouver.

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The way it works is simple: Each table is equipped with a grill. You order your meats or vegetables from a menu and then you get to cook them to your liking. Gyu-Kaku offers a wide range of meats including Harami Skirt Steak in Miso marinade, and Certified Angus Kalbi Short Rib in Tare Soy marinade. Other popular items include pork, lamb, duck, chicken, shrimp and a variety of vegetables.

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This is very important: make sure you call ahead and make a reservation. This place is always packed! and I mean always.

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We decided to order from the “Meat Lovers Menu” for two – $55. Our set included: Angus beef ribs, New York steak, Bistro Hanger steak and spicy pork to name a few of the meats. We also got edamame, salad, rice and chicken Karaage. A lot of food for the price. I recommend this menu for your first experience here. I also recommend an ice-cold Sapporo beer to go with BBQ. Can’t go wrong with that.

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I was very impressed by the portion size and the quality of the meats, the cuts were perfectly marinated. The staff, even though the place was busy – were attentive and were always about.

My first dining experience here and I’m hooked. I will definitely come back again.

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If looking for a deal, make sure to visit them on Mondays, when they offer a happy hour discount all day. Also make sure to download their loyalty app – you’ll receive a $10 off coupon for your next visit!

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

New Year’s Eve Happenings – Vancouver Restaurants and Bars

Are you still looking for something to do tonight? Aside from the usual parties and events, some of Vancouver’s finest restaurants are offering unique dining experiences guaranteed to help you ring in the new year in style!

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UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar

UVA will show off its spunky side on December 31 when it transforms into Gotham City, a mainstay of DC Comics. Throughout the night, The James Danderfer Jazz Trio will perform their jazziest versions of cinematic tunes– because you can’t fight crime and party all night without a soundtrack. And as soon as the clock strikes midnight, UVA will unveil a massive surprise of Hulk-like proportions.

Tickets to UVA’s superhero NYE are $41.93 and include two complimentary drinks, food, entertainment and party favours. Shelve the self-consciousness and start dusting off that old Spiderman costume because prizes will be given out for best male and female superheroes (and yes, the UVA staff will be dressed as their favourite superheroes, too). Capacity is limited.

Date/Time: December 31 at 8:00 pm to Friday, January 1 at 1:45 am

Tickets: $41.93. All tickets need to be purchased on Eventbrite  http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nye-2016-cocktails-celebration-and-the-superhero-way-tickets-19698602049:

 

 Prohibition

Travel back to the 1920s with seasonal punches, traditional absinthe service and vintage cocktails. Guests with more exotic tastes can indulge in Prohibition’s ‘Rare Finds’ bottle selection – a collection of exclusive bottles from around the globe (including Canada’s only bottle of Glenfiddich 50-year-old single malt scotch whiskey), or sip their way through Gray and Stanton’s inventive new cocktail menu.

Date: Thursday, December 31st

Where: Prohibition, Rosewood Hotel Georgia

When: 7:30pm-2am

Entertainment: Emily Chambers until just after midnight, DJ to follow

Tickets include: Champagne coupe on arrival, hot and cold canapés and dessert throughout the evening.

Tickets are now available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/new-years-eve-at-prohibition-tickets-19734144357

General admission is $118 (plus tax and service fee). Seating is based on date of ticket purchased.

 

Cibo Trattoria

Cibo Trattoria will offer two dinner seatings on New Year’s Eve.

Guests can opt for either three or five courses, complemented by recommended wine pairings (at an additional cost). Prepared by Executive Chef Faizal Kassam, the menu’s palate-teasing delights include burrata with prosciutto, preserved cherry tomatoes and parmesan crisp; seared scallops with slow-cooked fennel, stinging nettle puree and elderflower brown butter; vanilla semifreddo with Maldon sea salt; and more.

Two seatings. Guests who join the first seating at 6:00 pm will enjoy a three-course menu ($79 per person), while the 9:00 pm seating will feature a five-course menu ($115 per person). Prepared by Executive Chef Faizal Kassam, the menus’ palate-teasing delights include burrata with prosciutto, preserved cherry tomatoes and parmesan crisp; seared scallops with slow-cooked fennel, stinging nettle puree and elderflower brown butter; vanilla semifreddo with Maldon sea salt; and more. Guests can also add oysters or seared foie gras to their feast, as well as carefully curated wine pairings.

 

L’ABATTOIR

On December 31, L’Abattoir invites revelers to an elegant evening that shows off the French-inspired dining destination at its finest. Party-goers keen to socialize with fellow guests can lounge in the main dining room, selecting from an á la carte menu featuring L’Abattoir’s flavourful France-meets-West-Coast fare.

Diners seeking a more intimate experience can reserve seats at the communal table in L’Abattoir’s 1,200-square-foot private dining room, which retains the restaurant’s ambiance without the hustle and bustle of the regular dining space. Led by Chef Lee Cooper the culinary team have pulled out all the stops to craft a four-course feast. Carefully curated wine pairings and cocktails will round out the tantalizing meal.

Time: Reservations for the communal table in the private dining room are available at 7:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Private dining room ticket price: The $175-per-person price includes a four-course dinner and beverage pairings, and is inclusive of all taxes. Tickets must be pre-sold in advance, and there will be an automatic gratuity of 18 percent added on the final bill. The menu is set, with no substitutions or special requests available and is not suitable for vegetarians. There are only 50 seats available, these pre-sold dinner tickets will surely sell out quickly!

 To reserve a table in the dining room or to book pre-sold tickets for the private dining room four-course menu, please call 604.568.1701 or email events@labattoir.ca. tax + fee = $262.56

 

Beach Bay Café and Patio

This New Year’s Eve, diners can choose from a four- or eight-course tasting menu (starting at $49 per person, wine pairings available at an additional cost), or order à la carte. Prepared by Executive Chef Felix Zhou, diners will experience a decadent feast that includes winter truffle chawanmushi with fresh roe; seared albacore tuna topped by carrot escabeche and saffron; and chocolate mousse pear compote, among other gastronomic delights. Guests craving extra luxury have the option of adding shaved winter truffle and Atlantic lobster tail to their meal, or off-the-cuff cocktails crafted by award-winning bartender Adrian Lindner. And because New Year’s isn’t complete without a soul-pumping soundtrack, DJ Gabriel will provide entertainment throughout the night so diners can ring in 2016 in style.

The last seating for NYE dinner is 9:00 pm. To book, call 604.685.7337 or email info@beachbaycafe.com (reservations are highly recommended). For more information, visit beachbaycafe.com.

 

Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio – Saber your own Champagne!

5 to 7pm seating: Enjoy Ancora’s a la carte menu.

7:30 to close seating: Tasting menu offered by Executive Chef, Ricardo Valverde (à la carte will be available as well). After dinner, sabre your own bottle of champagne with our expert team of sommeliers with live music to listen to starting at 9pm.

Contact Ancora to make your reservation today info@ancoradining.com or 604.681.1164. A $50 deposit per person to hold your table.