April 7, 2013: Foodly Matters! And a Supermovie of the Week Club reminder!

The other night, Akemi and I checked out one of the buzziest Taiwanese restaurants in Vancouver, the well-reviewed, foodie favorite: Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant.  Akemi has a couple of Taiwanese friends who swear by the place and so, more than a little intrigued, we headed out to Victoria Street to see (and taste) for ourselves.

The restaurant is notoriously busy.  Reservations are recommended. And arriving promptly for your reservations is also strongly advised. Not wishing to take any chances, we booked a table for 5:30 p.m. and arrived early – only to realize it doesn’t open until 5:30 p.m.  And so, after a stroll through the neighborhood, we were at the door – then at our table – on time for our reservations.

It didn’t get busy until 6:00 p.m. or so at which point the tiny room was packed, mostly with – from what I could tell – regulars.  Prior to that, however, we had the place – and the staff – more or less to ourselves.  The service was attentive, friendly, and downright warm. We placed our orders and our dishes arrived sooner after, all bold, wonderfully balanced flavors.  Some of the highlights included…

Pig ear
Spicy pig’s ear.

Not for everyone but I love the texture – crunchy and chewy – and Kalvin’s version is, by far, the best I’ve ever had.  We were asked to specify a spice level and we elected to go medium, which packed a nice little kick.  Next time, I think I might hazard the hot.

Diced chicken and peanuts with chili peppers

The restaurant offers many traditional Taiwanese dishes but, as the name implies, some Szechuan fare as well – like the above dish, Akemi’s favorite.  A robust and, yes, fiery dish.  Despite their size, the chicken morsels are moist and tender, a step above the tougher, drier versions I’ve had elsewhere.

Shredded pork with garlic and chili sauce

This one came highly recommended on a couple of the foodie blogs and I wasn’t disappointed.  Also spicy but possessed of an aromatic spice I couldn’t quite place that simply wowed.

We rounded things out with a hearty, slightly sweet corn soup, 5-spice beef rolls, and a spring roll.  Throughout our meal, Chef and Owner Kalvin himself popped out of the kitchen – when it wasn’t too busy – to see how we were enjoying what we’d ordered.  And then, as more customers filed in, he broke off to greet them – most by name.  I felt like I was in the Cheers of Taiwanese restaurants.

According to Kalvin, his restaurant will celebrate 30 years in business this year.  30 years!  Given my first-time experience – and the obvious loyalty of his cliente – I’m not at all surprised.

Chef Kalvin and (I believe) his wife.

Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant (604-321-2888)

Open for lunch and dinner daily (except Wednesdays)

5225 Victoria Dr

Then, on Saturday, Akemi and I paid a return visit to the Bakers Market.  This time, Bubba stayed home so Akemi was free to take her time and roam the aisles.  Like last weekend, we loaded up on a variety of treats –

First stop was Mamaz Sweetz N’ Treatz where I picked up –
Red velvet chocolate chip cookie
Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies.  Surprisingly, this was the first time I’d had red velvet in cookie form.  A winner.

Last week, I picked up chocolate biscotti from home baker Giada Vacca’s Treats and Blossoms.  On this visit, these caught my eye –

Amaretti – crunchy AND chewy, a tough balance to pull off.

A return visit to my friend at Life’s Lemons…

Last weekend, I was their first sale ever.  This weekend, they apparently sold out.  I’m clearly a trendsetter.
This time out, it was the Apple Pie shortbread cookies that tasted…yes, amazingly like apple pie!
[in the oven] offers assorted caramels and a killer salted caramel sauce.
The owner recognized me from last weekend and asked how I enjoyed the caramel sauce.  I admitted that I hadn’t tried it yet because I’d run out of ice cream.  “You can eat it right out of the jar,”she assured me. “I won’t judge you.”  Well, I forgot to pick up ice cream on the way back home so I did end up trying it right of out of the jar after all.  And it was unbelievable.

Don’t judge me!

The gals from Sweet Talk, bakers of my surprise favorite on last weekend’s visit: the lemon poppyseed cake.  And, this weekend, I discovered they bake a pretty mean chocolate salted caramel tart.
And a return visit to Sweet Lily, this time for –
Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and lime cornmeal cookies.
Maple bourbon pecan brioche.
The ladies of (my favorite cupcakes) Vivi’s cupcakes, sweets and treats
Chocolate cupcake, red velvet cupcake, and cheesecake brownie.
The plan was to just sample a bit (so we could try a bit of everything) and have the rest after dinner.  Well, that WAS the plan.

Baker’s Market – Bakers Market – The Sweetest Event in Vancouver

Treats and Blossoms | Facebook

Life’s Lemons- sweet treats baking co. – Vancouver, BC – Community …

[in the oven]


Sweet Lily Bakery – Vancouver, BC – Food & Grocery | Facebook

Vivi’s cupcakes, sweets & treats – Vancouver, BC … – Facebook

Finally, what sweet Saturday would be complete without a visit to Vancouver’s premiere chocolate shop: Beta 5.  Their selection changes monthly and, this weekend, they kicked off their April Union Pack with an outdoor theme: “On the Forest Floor”.  Among the offerings are “deer droppings” (a mix of 63% dark chocolate covered raisins, and 39% milk chocolate covered peanuts), melt-in-your-mouth “candy cap caramels” (earthy, sweet Candy Cap mushrooms captured in a buttery, caramel bite with a flavor reminiscent of maple syrup)…

French Toast Toadstools: house made brioche soaked in a ganache of “blonde” chocolate maple syrup, cinnamon and rum, then paired with a dollop of spiced apple butter.  Unbelievable.
Chocolate twigs: 45% milk chocolate and 63%, 72% and 85% dark chocolate sticks dusted with cocoa powder and presented on a bed of matcha white chocolate.  Akemi’s favorite!
Bark: olive oil and salt roasted Marcona almond, blended with 50% milk chocolate from Madagascar, and finished with a touch of flaked sea salt.  Nearly impossible to stop eating once you start.

They ship!  http://beta-5.com/

Our Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes tomorrow with guest film reviewer, Cookie Monster, weighing in on his latest superhero-themed screening: Super Capers.  If you haven’t already seen it in preparation for tomorrow’s discussion – spoiler alert! – it’s beyond awful.  Don’t bother.  But do stop in to check out monster’s thoughts on what could arguable be the worst superhero movie yet.

For Cookie’s previous supermovie reviews (as well as his opinion on Snakes on a Plane and There Will Be Blood), head on over here: http://cookiemonstermovereviews.wordpress.com/ 

March 30, 2013: Support your local bakers! And umbrella dancers!


Every Saturday morning (and Sunday morning during the summer), Akemi and I head down to the farmers market to support our local growers.  Starting this weekend, we can now head down to the bakers market and support our local bakers as well.  And so, today, after swinging by Nat Bailey stadium, we headed over to the Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre to check out the sweets.

Sadly, because it was held indoors, Bubba – who had joined us for the trip – had to wait outside…which meant that Akemi and I had to take turns browsing.  She was a quick in and out, spending all of five minutes inside before returning empty handed.  I, on the other, went a little crazy.  Like I said, I was there to support my local bakers/entrepreneurs.  Their kids gotta eat!

And so do I!

Today’s haul…

My first purchase was from this animated entrepreneur who informed me that I was her first sale.  Ever.  It was maybe five minutes after the market opened, so I have no doubt she did a brisk business.
I had a choice between chocolate and orange but elected to go with orange for Akemi.
Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread cookies.
A trio from Sweet Lily: super buttery crisp palmiers, brown butter blondies, and soft chocolate chunk cookies.
Speaking of buttery, these lemon poppyseed friands from Yummy Workshop were that – and moist, and delicious.
Akemi is a big fan of marshmallow desserts, so I picked up a bag of these matcha gimauve.  She eyed them suspiciously, took a small bite, slowly chewed - then popped the rest into her mouth.  And another.
Akemi is a big fan of marshmallow desserts, so I picked up a bag of these matcha gimauve. She eyed them suspiciously, took a small bite, slowly chewed – then popped the rest into her mouth. And then another.
Akemi is also a big fan of biscotti.  I figure you can’t go wrong with chocolate.
This place offered a selection of ice cream sandwiches – and samples!
I went with the Affogato.  I’m not a huge coffee guy but the espresso flavor was great and the soft cookie was a perfect accompaniment.
I only picked up one cupcake from Vivi Cupcakes and Treats and ended up regretting the fact I didn’t get more.
They specialize in caramels, but I picked up the salted caramel sauce.  Looking forward to trying it with a scoop of vanilla.
Yuzu biscuits.  Subtle in citrus flavor yet no less tasty.
A foursome from Geek Sweets.  Clockwise from upper left: the Hello Kitty, the Easter Cream Egg, PB&J, and Red Velvet.  The owner strongly recommends I check out Battlestar Galactica.
And Akemi’s favorite – the red velvet cheesecake.  She prefers the corner piece.  I’m more of a middle kind of guy.

We returned home, dropped off Bubba, took Jelly for a walk, then headed downtown for a walk with Lulu.  Akemi was eager to check out the cherry blossoms.

1Lulu too, but for completely different reasons.

I never realized the number of cherry blossom trees in Vancouver. They line almost every suburban street.

IMG_4152Akemi – along with most of the city’s Japanese population – are anxiously looking forward to Vancouver’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival that kicks off next week and runs through most of April. Highlights will include umbrella dances, haiku, and blossom viewing. My buddy Carl has, I’m sure, already made plans to attend.  No one appreciates a good haiku like Carl.