Wednesday, 27 May 2015

My Wedding Journey - Wedding Planner

I know this blog is more towards food and travel, but since this is once in a lifetime, I think it would be nice for every girl to share their own experiences. After all, you can't go back and re-do it.

We were contemplating whether we should have a wedding planner because it is extra costs added to the wedding. After discussion, because of our busy schedules, it would be very helpful to have a wedding planner to bounce off ideas and help plan the whole thing. Also, everything just seems very overwhelming. I was browsing the Weddingful website, which I recommend bride-to-be should sign up, there were just too many vendors. I have no idea who is actually good and I don't have time to corresponds to each of them. So the wedding planner would be able to let me know from their experiences, which vendors are better and actually helps me narrow down my voices by a lot.

Because we are one of the first couples to get married amongst our friends, we couldn't ask our friends for recommendations. I depended on Weddingful and a friend's connection with two wedding planner potentials. I found Melanie Leung from Keepsake Event on Weddingful and Hasti from La Vista Events through a friend. We bother offered free consultation and to be honest they were both great. Both of them seemed very knowledgeable and very into the wedding industry. They both seemed very enthusiastic as well. At the end, I decided to go with Keepsake because of the cultural background and she has experience with the tea ceremony. Although Hasti hasn't had experience with the tea ceremony, I don't doubt her expertise to do her own research, at the end, I think I just feel more comfortable with someone who has done it just because both of our parents can be very demanding. I would recommend both of them to either of my friends actually.

Since I started working with Mel, she has been very organized and quite on top of it. I know she has quite a few couples she is working on at the same time so I don't expect her to reply my email the same day. Her emails are very detailed and offered many suggestions in terms of the venue selection. She listened to what I want in the venue and been able to provided suggestions based on that. At this stage, we have a few venues in mind but we still have to set a time to visit the sites. Because of our messed up schedules, it's very hard to come up with a time where my fiance and I can go.

Just for your information, a wedding planner can range from $2000 - $4000+ depending on what you are looking for. The average I saw was around $2500 - $3000. That is the price for full planning. You can also choose partial planner if you already got some stuff done and need help with a few more things as well as the day of coordination. If not, you can also choose to have the month of wedding planning or the day of wedding coordination. Even if you are not planning to get a wedding planner for the whole planning process, I would highly recommend getting one for the day of to help to take care of inquiries and vendor payments. The last thing you want to do is to stress one of your friends or family member by putting them in charge of this role and they won't be able to enjoy the wedding as much unless they have experience doing stuff like this.

I will update more later on.

Sardine Can - Vancouver, BC

We walked by this place last time when we were waiting for a seat at another restaurant. It's a small unique restaurant. The seating capacity is about 20 people. The place is more for appetizers and drinks and not really meant to be for full meals. I am not sure if they take reservations. We got there at around 6:30pm or so and got seated right away at the bar. 

There was still lots of items to choose from on the menu. The decor is quite casual. The servers were super friendly. Because it was our first time there, we asked him what's popular or what is the best item on the menu and he said everything on the menu was good. That makes our decision even more difficult. We ended up ordering smoked ham wrapped prunes, the mushroom in sherry sauce and the fresh herb and garlic cheese toast. 

First came the wrapped prune. It wasn't how I imagined the dish would look but it was delicious. I didn't think the prune and smoked ham would go that well together. The sweetness of the prune balances the saltiness of the smoked ham. It was placed in the oven/broiler so the ham was quite crispy.

The fresh herb and garlic cheese toast was the dish at the back and it wasn't that unique. Everything was super fresh and tasted everything like it said. It wasn't too special. I feel like I could make something similar at home. 

This was the best dish for the night. We had no idea that sherry wine and mushroom were so well together. The mushroom was cooked to perfection. The mushroom was really soft but not too soggy. The sauce was well-balanced, very creamy. The sherry wine flavour was definitely there but it wasn't overpowering. We couldn't resist but have the sauce with all the bread we ordered. 

We really enjoyed ourselves at The Sardine Can. I don't think it will be a place for dinner but definitely a great place for drinks and small dishes.

Sardine Can on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Shishinori - Vancouver, BC

This is not your ordinary Japanese food but rather a even more healthy twist. We saw the this restaurant was the talk of the town so we decided to go try it. How the cafe works is that you would go to the cashier to order your food first and then find a place to sit. 

I ordered the Wild Salmon Paradise bowl and Calvin ordered the Spicy Chicken cha siu bowl. We made it a meal with a drink and soup or dessert for $2.50.  

We get individual teapots for our teas. The decor and atmosphere was very relaxing. They have a projector playing Japanese anime on a wall. There are around 6 tables so I can imagine during lunch times, it would be harder to get a table. 

Calvin ordered miso soup while I got dessert instead. The miso soup is not like the typical miso soup made from powder. It has a stronger miso soup taste. Normally, with the miso soup from powder, it's more watery. I also enjoyed the fact that they put shinoki mushroom. 

This is the spicy chicken cha siu bowl. They had mandarin slices, unpeeled carrots slices. The spicy sauce of the chicken is similar to Korean spicy soybean sauce. It has a little sweetness to it. The sauce for the veggies is similar to Japanese vinaigrette with some sweetness and acidity. Then there's the brown rice at the bottom.

My Salmon Paradise bowl came with salmon, avocado, boiled egg, sprouts, raddish, edamame. Salmon and avocado was a great combo. All the ingredients were really fresh. I think I would've enjoyed it more if it was just a salad, without the rice.  The carrots were not peeled giving it a more raw feel. The vinaigrette was a little sour and sweet, like the yuzu vinaigrette which had a more subtle acidity.  

I personally do not like hard boiled egg and this egg was more on the hard boiled side than soft so I didn't like it.

My dessert was the green tea mini waffle. It was kind of bland. Nothing like the belgian waffles I've had before. It was a bit too soft as in like it was microwaved for too long and didn't retain the lightness and fluffiness of the dessert. 

Overall, this is not the restaurant you would enjoy if you are looking for traditional Japanese food. It's definitely a healthy option although I find Japanese is already quite healthy already. The price is reasonable and the atmosphere is quite soothing. However, I wouldn't go back for the food because I prefer more traditional Japanese food. It's a good choice for those who would want vegan option as well as healthier option as their food is really fresh. 

Shishinori on Urbanspoon

Ramen Butcher - Vancouver, BC

Being a ramen lover, after hearing a new ramen shop opened up, we had to go try it. Given that we went on a stat holiday, we expected a line. We waited around 40 min. What caught our eyes was that the first Kaedama, which mean extra noodles was free. Every ramen shop charges at least $1.25 for more noodles.

They seem to have a very organized system going. As soon as we were seated, water and menu were immediately brought to us. There were five different styles of noodles. Other than the classic one, there's green, black, orange and red. There's also chicken ramen and vegetarian ramen. It was very overwhelming and took us a while to order. I ordered the black because I love garlic and he ordered the red because he likes spicy.

We also ordered original gyoza.

The decor is very chic, not the layout of a typical Japanese ramen shop. It has its own character.

The gyoza came shortly after. I definitely would prefer this gyoza over the gyoza from Gyoza Bar. Not only is the skin much thinner, the ratio of the meat and vegetable was more even. They've minced everything very finely so the flavours were very packed. It was a little under seasoned but with the sauce, it was very delicious.

I tried the broth without mixing it with the black garlic oil and it had a very interesting taste. I could taste the pork flavour but it was more mild than Kintaro. Mixing the black garlic oil with the broth definitely tasted much better. The garlic oil blended very well with the broth and it enhanced the broth, adding more flavour and complexity. Calvin said mine was too garlic-y but I didn't think so. I could still taste the pork flavour but the garlic flavour was also definitely there. I especially liked their cha siu. There are not a lot of Ramen places in Vancouver where I like their fatty cha siu but this was an exception. I was glad I ordered the fat. We've noticed they torch the pork at the end to add smokiness to the pork. That's why it wasn't dry and yet a very distinct smoky flavour. I regret they only have one slice, although customers can always order extra.

Their egg wasn't one of my favourite but it was still soft boiled and marinated. It was just slightly overcooked and a bit harder than a soft boiled egg.

Their noodles were not the type I like either. Their noodles are on the softer side. I enjoy noodles which are al dente. The noodles were bad but just not as al dente as I wanted them to be.

Overall, this was decent ramen, but I don't know if I would go all the way to Chinatown and wait that long for a bowl.
The Ramen Butcher on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Farmer's Apprentice - Vancouver, BC

We made reserevation to this place basically like 2 months ahead to get a reasonable time for dinner. we looked at the menu online ahead of time but was not aware that there is Sunday Cookbook Series. Sunday Cookbook Series is a day where the chefs can have a lot of fun. They pick a cookbook from the shleves in the restaurant and pick out recipes they want to try out. They then would create a menu with inspirations from the recipes they tried out from the cookbook. It's such a great idea. It's great that the chefs can get creative every week. It definitely keep them motivated I think. This was the menu when we went on Novemer 9th, based on the book "Heritage". 

For starters, there's the Pimento cheese dip with house-made wheat thin crackers. I really enjoyed the different ingredients in the dip and being a cheese lover, I really like that they used this dish as a starter. The crackers were crunchy. This was a really good dish. Only thing to criticize is I wish they gave us more crackers to finish the dip.   

This was our least favorite dish because it was way too salty. There were too much much mustard as the dressing. What we did like was the green strawberry and onions. We never had green strawberries before and the sourness of the strawberry balanced out the saltiness a little bit. The same goes for the onion. It helped to balance the saltiness of the dish. Because the dish was already too salty, having the pork there didn't help. If the dish wasn't too salty, I would difinitely enjoyed the pork better. Not that the pork wasn't good, but I just couldn't enjoy it that much on its own. 

Next was the Trout Jacob beans. We had no idea what that was when we saw it on the menu and though it was fish with beans. It turned out to be another type of bean similar to kidney beans. This dish was well balanced but I enjoyed the cornbread even more. I don't recall eating cornbread before but I didn't imagine it tasting like that. The top was crispy and the inside was really fluffly. It went really well with the beans or just eating it on its down. I can eat a whole loaf probably. I would definitely order cornbread on the side next time if they make it. 

First of all, we really like the fact that this wasn't another fish and green pea puree. We've seen so many dishes in the past at fancy restaurants servicing fish with green pea puree. All the components went really well together and we could tell the chef really took the time to make sure the flavours go together. The roasted hazelnut made such a different on the dish. It brought it to another level. The only thing with the dish was the fish was not cooked perfectly. It was a bit overcooked. 

I really enjoyed this dish. The game hen was quite juicy. The farroto was cooked perfectly. This type of grain added chewiness to the dish. The squash added creaminess and The sauce was well balanced.  I would definitely order the Farroto again. 

I was disappointed at the dessert. It wasn't anything spectacular. I didn't feel like all the components went that well together. There were a lot of blackberries which were sour. The brown butter flavour wasn't that strong. The ice cream wasn't sweet enough to offset the sourness of the blackberries. The ice cream melted really fast and before I know it, I just eating blackberries with brown butter sauce. 

Overall, I think Farmer's apprentice is one of the better restaurants in Vancouver with creative dishes. I would be interested in trying their other Sunday cookbook series as well as their regular menu. I would recommend to go to the restaurant on Sunday for the Sunday cookbook series. 

Farmer's Apprentice on Urbanspoon

Taishoken - Vancouver, BC

We went to Taishoken on Rememberance day and we were glad we didn't drive as a lot of the roads were blocked due to the parade. When we got there, there was a lineup, but not too long. We got seated in probably around 15 mins. The place itself isn't very big. There were around 4 small tables with a big communal table and 5 seats at the bar. Taishoken is famous for their Tsukemen which is noodles and soup separated. I decided to get just the regular Shoyu Tonkatsu though as every ramen place has that and it would be easier to compare. Calvin got the Kimchi Tonkatsu Ramen. We get a choice of pork shoulder or pork belly for the chasiu. I chose half and half and Calvin chose pork belly because he likes his fat. 

The soup was super rich. It tasted different than other soup base. There was an interesting after-taste which I couldn't seem to figure out what it was. The soup definitely had a good proportion of fat as you could tell with the oils in the soup. When I drank the soup, it seemed as though the soup and the oil kind of separated in my mouth. It was very interesting but I did like the soup. I really liked the noodles as well. It was very al dente and tasted like what ramen noodle should taste like. Between the pork shoulder and the pork belly, I would also pick the pork belly next time because there were more taste and because of the fat, the meat was softer. The pork shoulder still tasted better than the ones I've had in Vancouver before. It was marinaded well and the taste came through. It wasn't tough like rubber. The egg was pretty good too. It was boiled property with a soft yolk although the yolk wasn't oozing out. 

Calvin did enjoy his kimchi noodle too especially when that day was super cold. The kimchi wasn't too overpowering or spicy that he couldn't taste the soup base. He really enjoyed his pork belly. It was done quite well. 

The pork shoulder on the left and pork belly beside it. You can tell after one bite, the meat didn't look tough and hard to separate as the meat around bite mark was cut off nicely. 

You can tell how clear the soup looked and that the oil sits above the soup base. 

So I went back to Taishoken another day to try their famous Tsukemen. Tsukemen basically mean soup and noodles served separately. I ordered the original with cold noodles.

The soup was really rich, served with the noodles was perfect. I don't like that the soup is not hot enough though. From our friends who lived in Japan for a few years, he said the soup is supposed to be super hot and so the temperature would be perfect when you order old noodles. 

The soup was too rich to drink on its own. The noodles was the right texture. It was very al dente and and the egg taste of the noodle tasted very wel with the soup.

I ordered the a pork shoulder and pork belly to see how each of them tasted. Without a doubt, the broth goes better with the pork belly.

In Japanese culture, you are supposed to finish the soup when you eat ramen as a sign of respect for chef. With tsukemen, the soup is too rich to finish. So you should ask for the unseasoned broth to finish drinking the soup. The unseasoned broth was also not hot enough so we didn't enjoy drinking the soup.

Overall, this is a really good noodle place and I think I'm in love with tsukemen. Just wish the soup is hot enough next time.

Taishoken Ramen 大勝軒 on Urbanspoon