Weekend in Vancouver

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Before I forget, some of you emailed me asking the iPhone photo filter app I use.
With an iPhone 5, I primarily use the KitCam app to edit photos (which unfortunately, has been bought by Yahoo/Flickr and the app is no longer available for purchase.) I also use Instagram, InstaCollage, Moldiv, and Line Camera apps.

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So what’s with the recent week long of 100F weather? Heat waves = no cooking in the kitchen. Our AC is working overtime and I’m not about to turn on the stove or oven to raise the temperature even more, needless to say, we’ve been eating out a lot. But when we are not, it’s a constant snacking on granola, watermelon, tuna artichoke quinoa salad and make-ahead mason jar salads. Oh and I’ve been making chocolate dipped frozen bananas due to our recent Arrested Development marathons.

So here we are, reminiscing about our recent 5-day trip to Vancouver, where it was a nice and cool high-60s. We were there to attend a family wedding but were able to squeeze in a couple days of sightseeing to Victoria and Whistler.

Besides tracking down some good and obligatory poutine, we had some authentic Taiwanese food and copious amounts of fresh seafood. I was amazed at how many Chinese restaurants there are in Vancouver and many specializes in regional cuisine versus the general Chinese food one would find in the States.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning, the casinos there are all smoke-free, something to do with public work place and employee health. Such a big and great change from the typical Vegas scene I’m used to.

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Belgian Fries
1885 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC V5N 4A6

belgian fries

This place was close to where we were staying and was seen on several best poutine lists. I have never gotten a good poutine in the States (they all tasted like soggy cheese fries) so this was an eyeopener for me. Crispy fries with the perfect squeaky cheese curds, gravy, and topped with some Montreal smoked meat. Now I may not know how “authentic” this poutine was, but it was definitely the best I’ve ever had.

belgian fries smoked meat poutine

Huge portions! This was the smaller size, too! Joe and I shared and couldn’t finish the last few fries. While the poutine was pretty darn tasty, the burgers were mediocre. We washed everything down with a Granville Island Brewing IPA. Now this was good!

belgian fries_granville island IPA

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And being a donut lover, I had to stop by Tim Hortons every chance I get to satisfy my sugar crave. Tim Hortons is like the McDonald’s or Starbucks chain, it mainly sells coffee and donuts and is at every street corner. Aren’t these Timbits adorable? They are essentially miniature donuts or donut holes (some are even filled with jam), and you pick your assortment in a box of 10, 20, or 40.

timbits box

timbits

On the way to Whistler, we stopped by the epic Shannon Falls. Only the bottom 1/3 was visible that day due to the fog, but how grand is this sight!?

shannon fall

There were berry bushes everywhere we went. We found salmon berries while walking towards Shannon Falls, which I supposed got its name from the close resemblance to salmon roe. It was quite good! Very tart and seedy like pomegranate seeds.

salmonberry

Found this in a gift shop at the Whistler Village, monster wheeler school bus.

whistler_school bus

Enjoyed a Whistler Bear Paw honey lager while watching daredevil dirt bikers racing down the hills. In the summer time, the slopes of this popular ski town turn into bike trails and ziplines.

whistler_bear paw honey lager

Crossing the train tracks and on our way to see the awesome Brandywine Falls.

brandywine falls train tracks

Here it is! It was pretty exciting to see the majestic falls from above. Our guide also taught us a cool optical illusion – Stare at the falls for 15-20 seconds and then look at either the concave rocky wall or the trees next to it, the eyes work hard to keep up with all the movements of the falls, so once switching to view still objects like the wall or the trees, they would appear to be moving. Really trippy!

brandywine falls

We also saw a baby bear just hanging out and eating by the side of the road.

bear in whistler

At the Olympic plaza in the Whistler Village, home of the 2010 winter Olympics.

olympic plaza whistler village

After spending a day in a cooler region, I was craving a hot bowl of noodle soup. We stopped by the No. 1 Beef Noodle House in Burnaby to get some yummy Taiwanese food. I’m always on a quest to find good Taiwanese food as it’s hard to come across that authentic and old timey taste. This place was pretty great, friendly and quick service, fairly clean too. With the TV playing music videos of current Mandarin hits, I had the chance to catch up with the newest and the latest. However, it is located at a tiny plaza and sharing a lot with a couple other restaurants. Parking can be a problem as the spots run out quickly and people start to double park their cars.

Below, a favorite of mine – Crispy and flaky scallion pancake wraps with Hoisin sauce, more scallions, and slices of five-spiced beef.

no1 beef noodle beef pancake

marinated seaweed and dried tofu. Topped with delicious garlic soy sauce.

no1 beef noodle_seawood tofu plate

Jasmine green milk tea with a big block of grass jelly, and lychee slushie.

no1 beef noodle grass jelly milk teano1 beef noodle lychee slushie

A big bowl of very satisfying Taiwanese beef noodle soup. My mom is an expert at making beef noodle soup so I’m often quite critical when it comes to tasting others’. This was a very good one, I didn’t have much to critique on except it needed more tendon instead of the lean meat, but the noodle texture was perfect.

no1 beef noodle_BNS

Below, stinky tofu and pork hot pot with rice. Okay stinky tofu has a bad rep and is always considered to be quite foul on those travel shows. I think only people who grew up in Taiwan will truly appreciate its greatness.

no1 beef noodle_stinky tofu hot pot

For dessert, we all shared a big serving of mango shaved ice. Icy desserts = the best way to end any meal.

no1 beef noodle_mango shaved ice

The next day, we hopped on the 10am Ferry and headed over to Victoria, located on the beautiful Vancouver Island. Here we are, eating breakfast in the cafeteria and enjoying a nice scenic view.

victoria ferry 3

How gorgeous is this? This ferry ride to Victoria is the most beautiful one I’ve ever been on. The ferry passes by numerous small islands that are almost within reach.

victoria ferry 1

victoria ferry 2

Once arrived in Victoria, it took about another 20 minutes to reach our destination –  the Butchart Gardens!

buchart garden 4

I’ve been to lots of nice botanical gardens but this one really was outstanding and ranks high on my list. I believe being privately owned allows the great care that is given to every plant. Each individual’s placement was well thought out, and each garden has its own unique charm.

buchart garden 5  butchart garden 1

The well manicured lawn below made me feel like Alice in Wonderland.

butchart garden 2

My favorite was the rose garden.

butchart garden 3

After following the suggested route to tour the gardens, we finished our walk with a yummy maple walnut gelato cone (located in the Italian garden.)

buchart garden gelato

Another 20 minutes of car ride, we have arrived in downtown Victoria. This building below is the Fairmont Empress Hotel, where we had the lovely afternoon tea service.

fairmont empress

fairmont tea 7

The afternoon tea service has one set menu for adults, with a couple options of Princess Teas for the young ones. The menu doesn’t change often either. The service started off with fresh strawberries with Empress cream (which is essentially a chantilly cream).

fairmont tea 1

Here is the 3-tier tray with food for two.

fairmont tea 2

Flaky buttery scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

fairmont tea 3

Five different kinds of sandwiches. (egg salad, cucumber, smoked salmon, curry chicken, and cognac pate)

fairmont tea 4

The sweets: Parisian macarons, lemon meringue tart, pistachio cake with marzipan, cappuccino cups, and rose petal shortbread.

fairmont tea 5

A nice cup of their Empress blend. Loved the china!

fairmont tea 6

After the wonderful (but quite pricey) tea service, we took a nice stroll along the harbor and explored the downtown neighborhood shops. I really wanted to try the regional sweet treat called the Nanaimo bar but neither of us had stomach space for it.

victoria harbor

The Parliament of Victoria, located right across the street from the Fairmont Empress.

victoria parliament

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Sunday was wedding day! We searched for a place in the vicinity of the Church to have an early lunch. I came across Marulilu through Yelp, it’s a tiny eatery that serves both American and Japanese style breakfast and lunch.

First up, a couple nice big mug of drinks to warm up. This was a nice matcha latte. Most places make this drink very sweet but thank goodness this was not sweetened.

marulilu green tea latte

The royal milk tea latte. Slight lacking in flavor but a good hot drink to go with our meals.

marulilu royal millk tea

Rice burgers!!! I’m over the moon happy finding these. There is a Japanese chain in Asia called Moss Burger and it was one of my favorite growing up. Marulilu’s rice burgers tasted even better! One has sukiyaki beef, and the other has kimchi pork. The rice buns were grilled to the perfect crispness. The miso soup paired well with the burgers and was not overly salty.

marulilu rice burgers

Tonkatsu sandwich. A nice hearty sandwich with cabbage, tonkatsu (breaded pork that is fried), tomato, mayonnaise, and a tangy tonkatsu sauce.

marulilu tonkatsu sandwich

Takoyaki, a popular Japanese street snack made from a pancake-like batter with diced octopus, topped with bonito flakes, pickled ginger, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise.

marulilu takoyaki

After a lovely ceremony, we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with some relatives. Then we all headed over to Kirin restaurant for the wedding banquet, where we enjoyed a 12-course seafood-heavy dinner.

kirin_wedding_banquet

Lobstah lobstah! Just one of the many delicious seafood dishes we enjoyed at the wedding.

kirin lobster

The wedding cake. Simple yet elegant.

kirin_wedding_cake

The day after the wedding (also our last day in Vancouver), as if we didn’t have enough rich seafood the night before, we decided to go get some Alaskan king crab at a Chinese restaurant called Victory Seafood Restaurant,  which is located on the 2nd floor inside the Crystal Mall. In California, the king crab legs that are available for purchase in the grocery stores are all pre-boiled and taste like the salty seawater. This was the first time for me to see a live king crab in action, actually, I saw several! They are vicious looking and their prickly appearance definitely does not say “Eat me, I am delicious.”

We asked for the smallest one available that day, which turned out to be a 9 pounder. Just FYI, there were only three of us, and the suggested crab size for 3 is about 5-6 pound. Being overly ambitious, we even ordered several dim sum dishes. After lunch, our legs could barely support our heavy bellies let alone carrying all those boxes of leftovers. This meal ended up being the only meal I ate that day and I didn’t feel hungry until the next day around 11am…

victory seafood king crab

The restaurant usually prepares the crab 3 ways.

First course – The 9 pound crab yielded two exquisite plates of steamed legs and claws, topped with lots of fried garlic and scallions. This was our favorite dish out of the three simply because we’ve never tasted such sweet and flavorful crab meat before. And yeah, with all the claws and legs pre-cracked and cut in half for us, picking out the meat was no work at all. A girl could get used to this!

victory seafood king crab 1

Second course was pieces of crab battered and fried, topped with lots of black pepper, fried garlic slices and spicy chili. This was very tasty as well, but a bit hard to eat since the shells were still in tact. It took a while to figure out how to tackle this without chipping a tooth.

victory seafood king crab 2

The third course is usually a rice or noodle dish. The chef prepared for us a Cantonese-style gratin over rice. Huge pieces of crab meat mixed with an egg fried rice mixture, topped with cheesy bechamel-like sauce and briefly baked under a broiler. It was so creamy and delicious, but by this time our stomachs were about to explode due to excessive crab binging so we packed up most of this.

victory seafood king crab 3

Another trip filled with good eats! We’ll be going to Portland next, no doubt that itinerary will be food-centric! I would love to know some suggestions of food carts/trucks in Portland. Stay cool 🙂

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