Thursday, 14 February 2019

Meaningful Gifts for Valentine's Day


Valentine's, Galentine's, the day of love or whatever you may call it, February 14th is universally recognized as the day we all express our love to the special people in our lives. It does not necessarily need to be your bae or boo, it can be your best friend or mom because you love them unconditionally and you want to show them that. 

Unfortunately, like many holidays, Valentine's Day has fallen prey to commercialization. I am guilty of being materialistic, but personally, when it comes to gifts, I prefer thoughtful presents that have a lot of special meaning behind it. Because those are the types of presents I cannot go and just buy for myself! 

Here are my gift ideas that anyone would cherish for life! 

Cards

There have been so many instances where I have received a gift with no card to accompany it! I absolutely love receiving cards with handwritten notes inside. There are so many fabulous cards to choose from. Cards may seem like a no brainer and often an afterthought, but for me, they are my favorite part. My favourite places to shop for cards in Vancouver are Gastown and Main Street because boutiques in these areas carry cards designed by local artists! 

Photographs

I love the advancements cameras have undergone because they allow me to take unlimited pictures and I can store them all on my computer for infinity! However, digital copies will never be able to replace a tangible printed photograph. There is something indescribable about printed photographs. I love how I can hold them in my hand and display them on my wall so I can walk by and be reminded of that particular moment every single day. Print out your favourite memories and adventures so they can relive them every single day! In Vancouver, I love printing my pictures at the BOFT terminals that are conveniently located in several malls across the Lower Mainland. 

Adventures

Speaking of adventures, plan one! Materialistic objects come and go, but memories are forever. Create new memories that you can reminisce about for years to come. You can attend a cooking class together or go do a crafting class. In Vancouver I recommend the Dirty Apron for cooking classes and 4Cats for art workshops. 

Spa Day

Spa experiences do not come cheap, especially if you are wanting to get more than one treatment. I also prefer visiting the higher end spas as they tend to follow stricter sterilization procedures and use amazing products. In Vancouver, I am obsessed with Miraj Hammam Spa, a Middle Eastern spa like no other! 



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Sunday, 13 January 2019

2018 Year in Review #2018BestNine


2018 is already old news, but before I dive into my adventures of 2019, this is a look back at the fun I had last year. 2018 Best Nine has put @PinkTeaLatte Instagram account through its algorithm and it looks like you love sweets and colour as much as I do! 

The rainbow is well represented and so is my obsession with sweet baked goods and hot cocoa. Prominently centred in the middle is the cutest pink Unicorn-themed hot chocolate from Soirrette. How fitting considering my blog has the colour pink in it! 

Beverages were a big part of 2018 for me and not limited to the three in the #2018TopNine. The pink unicorn might be cute, but True Confections' Torched Devil Hot Chocolate was badass! A massive slice of their rich dark chocolate devil's food cake sat on top of the gorgeously toasted meringue and to finish, another generous swirl of meringue. There is something about piped meringue torched to a caramel brown. It just accentuates the sexy folds and ridges of the pillowy white marshmallowy goodness. Top right you will see a particularly fascinating drink, a Pink Tea Latte! Prado Cafe allowed me to celebrate my blog's third birthday at their Fraser location and to my surprise, they featured a beet Pink Tea Latte!

The only savoury item to make it into the #2018TopNine are the salmon crab cakes from Wedgewood Hotel's restaurant Bacchus. I got to go not once, but TWICE for a private tasting at Bacchus in 2018. However, I was more fascinated by their drinks, specifically Singapore Sling because the garnish for the drink is two strawberries carefully carved into luscious red roses. 

My favourite Beta 5 cream puffs seemed to have made the cut. The Mandarin Cream Puff make their annual appearance for Lunar New Years. The puff shells are filled with a mandarin orange curd that encases an almond financier. Rice pudding mousse domes the puff that is then given the perfect mandarin orange colour and a chocolate stem and leaf for garnish! 

On the other end are Noms By Mon's mini fruit tartlets which are made entirely from scratch, from the shell to the silky custard inside it. I have yet to meet a single person who has not fallen in love with these fresh fruit tartlets. Just below is Butter Baked Good's iconic Birthday Cake that is flecked with sprinkles all throughout in the vanilla sponge and vanilla buttercream! 

Speaking of rainbows, my all-time favourite mural in Vancouver along South Granville is the final picture. I saw this mural being painted a few summers back and since then it has become an integral part of Vancouver's urban art scene. I only hope to own a piece of Kristofir's work. Great art incites emotion and this mural brings me pure joy. 

2018 was a great year despite its rocky ending for me. I am glad it is over because now I can start making 2019 the best year yet! 

BYES

Friday, 4 January 2019

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald


The holidays and Harry Potter go hand in hand. With the exception of three movies,Harry Potter movies have made their debut in theatres mid November. Not to mention when I was a kid, the CBC and CTV would run Harry Potter marathons during winter break. Harry Potter is practically a new holiday tradition! 

This year was no exception as Potterheads were given their second glimpse into the latest Harry Potter trilogy, Fantastic Beasts. I made certain to carve out some time in my absurdly busy work schedule to catch a showing. After all, it would be a crime in itself to not watch Harry Potter in theatres. As I rarely go to the movies, I like to spoil myself by getting tickets to Cineplex’s VIP Theatres. The seats are massive and are upholstered in a plush faux leather and an extraordinary amount of legroom. You can also order food and drinks (alcohol too!) from the comfort of your seat. If you are worried about spilling things on yourself, you will be happy to know that every seat comes with their own retractable tables. 


SPOILERS AHEAD

Speaking of crimes, the second instalment of Fantastic Beasts explores the atrocities committed by the infamous wizard Grindelwald. The beasts definitely take a backseat in this movie; however, we are still introduced to fabulous new magical creatures. My favourite happens to remain the Niffler, this time though we meet three adorable little baby Nifflers who continue to snatch everything glittery and shiny in sight. On the not so cute end are the Matagots, black eerie cats with massive glowing eyes. The Matagots are protectors of the Ministry of Magic in France. The most captivating creature was the elephant-sized giant Zouwu. At first it looks like a ferocious wild cat, but then you notice its massive tail that moves with the fluidity of a ribbon and reminiscent of a  Chinese dragon. 

The CGI work on the beasts was top notch and blended seamlessly with the actors. A far cry from when the first few Harry Potter movies were released. CGI was in its infancy. It is hard to forget the blue flying car in the second movie and how it stood out atrociously against the background. 

As mentioned earlier, the beasts were not the primary focus of this movie. Grindelwald spends the movie rallying purebloods together with the goal of taking over the no magics. He was specifically interested in recruiting one wizard, Credence. Oh yah, turns out, Credence did not perish in the last movie with the obscurial engulfing him into a menacing black ball of smoke. 

Now I do not want to give too much away, but you also get to learn the origins of several key characters in the original Harry Potter series. My favourite happens to do with the darkening of the Lestrange lineage. Yes, the very family from which my favourite dealer hails from, Bellatrix Lestrage. 

My primary critique of this movie is that it felt drawn out. By the end of the movie, it becomes apparent that the writers were focused on setting up the story for the third and final movie of the Fantastic Beasts trilogy. Perhaps Crimes of Grindelwald simply fell victim to the second movie curse. I think what made the original Harry Potter movies such a success was that each movie had its own clear storyline and focus. There always was the overarching storyline of Voldemort, but it did not detract from the core story in each instalment. Needless to say, I tend to not gravitate towards trilogies. 

To sum up Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, it is a movie that dives into the past and lineage of some of our favourite Harry Potter characters and how they came to be. Would I re-watch it, probably so I can soak up more details. Is it going to become as revered as the original 8 Harry Potter movies? I doubt it. 

Curious to know what your thoughts are on the movie in the comments below!


BYES

Monday, 17 December 2018

Grounds For Coffee Cinnamon Bun Madness


Media preview for review consideration; all opinions are my own. 

When you are craving a cinnamon bun, there is no other place to go, but to Grounds For Coffee in Vancouver. Their cinnamon buns are iconic and are still made fresh to this day at their adorable little shop on 10th and Alma. If you are not on the West End of Vancouver, not to fret because you can still get your cinnamon bun fix at other cafes too. These swirly buns of goodness are available across the Lower Mainland and shockingly in Alberta too. Unfortunately they do not have a list of purveyors on their site, but maybe in the future they will compile a list. 


I have been treating myself to Grounds for Coffee's cinnamon buns since high school and I have yet to come across a comparable bun. Unlike other cinnamon buns that will be dry in areas, Grounds for Coffee buns are moist and soft throughout. Layer after layer you get the most scrumptious ooey-gooey cinnamon filling. It is sticky yet not overtly sweet. Their cinnamon buns are practically perfection as they have honed their bun making skills for over 25 years! Did I mention Grounds for Coffee sources the majority of their ingredients locally and their buns are devoid of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, bleached flour or preservatives. That essentially makes them a healthy snack right? 



Cream cheese frosting is the ultimate frosting and I can practically eat it with anything. In fact, I could eat cream cheese frosting straight out of the tub with a spoon because it is that good. So you bet I always have my cinnamon buns at Grounds For Coffee with their vanilla-bean cream cheese icing! It seriously takes the cinnamon bun to a whole new level and gives it an amazing creamy tanginess. 


Throughout the year Grounds for Coffee releases specialty seasonal buns. For Christmas this year, Grounds did a Chocolate Candy Cane Bun. The cinnamon buns are iced with a chocolate frosting and finished with peppermint bits. Personally I prefer their original bun with the classic cream cheese frosting. 


It baffles me that bakeries think flavour just means a different garnish. Swapping food colours or a handful of toppings really just not do it for me because those are garnishes and though they are integral to the overall dish, they should not be the only ingredient that makes the dish special. 



The Chocolate Candy Cane Bun could have been done far better than just chocolate flavoured frosting and crushed up candy canes on their original cinnamon bun. Cocoa powder could be added to the dough to create a chocolate bun and it could be finished with a sassy dollop of meringue peppermint frosting that is given a quick torch before receiving a dusting of pulverized peppermint candies. Now that would have been exciting to try! 

I am curious to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

BYES

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Exploring the 9th Annual Vancouver Christmas Market


The holidays are in full swing and so is the iconic Vancouver Christmas Market. The 9th annual Vancouver Christmas Market continues to transform Jack Poole Plaza into a magical European-inspired holiday village complete with a towering Christmas tree, Christmas Pyramid and piping hot cups of mulled wine. 

I started attending the market back when it was at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, but it has since outgrown that space. Nestled in the middle of the market is Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Cauldron. The holidays for me are just not complete unless I attend the Vancouver Christmas Market. It is honestly just a lovely way to spend an evening with a couple of friends. It is a few hours that I get to be immersed in a world of pure holiday spirit. 

There are over 80 wooden huts, each offering up unique gifts and food. All of the huts are adorned with a Herrnhuter Sterne, a star that families in Germany decorate their homes with. Some of my favourite stalls at the market are Crystallize Home, Provence en Couleur and 4 Cats Art Studio. Now the last one is not very Euro-esque, but I have always loved going to 4 Cats. They have brought along a huge variety of clay figure kits and at $15 a box, these make really cute gifts. Provence en Couleur featured stunning olive wood bowls and dinnerware. Now the most festive of the three is Crystallize Home. Nestled inside clear baubles are Red Robyns, Owls and even little squirrels. Just a really unique and pretty ornament for any tree. 

Unlike previous years, there is now a cozy little bar hidden away in the corner of the market called the WunderBar. Honestly, you will want to pay a visit to the WunderBar because it is heated and will give you a chance to sit down and relax. The cozy ski lodge themed bar also has a small cocktail menu as well as a sweet and savoury board. Also, you can get the market's Gl├╝hwein (mulled wine) in a limited edition black santa boot shaped mug. Between the Charcuterie and the Dessert Board, I would hands down pick the dessert. The Charcuterie is very minimal and comes with one type of cracker and cheese. On the other hand, the sweet platter features an assortment of cookies, but the real star is the miniature black forrest cake. The authentic German-style black forrest cake has layers of moist chocolate sponge with fresh chantilly and sweetened cherries. Now if you keep an eye out in the market, you will actually spot this exact cake at the Das Kuchen Haus along with their other delicious treats like apple strudel and bienenstich, also known as bee-sting cake. It is recommended to make a reservation online prior to, but from what I saw, you can also walk-in and order a la carte. 

Now with any sort of festival or market, you know I am there for the food, so this time was no different! The one dish I look forward to enjoyed every single year are the kartoffelpuffers. Found at the Kartoffelhaus which also happens to sell another favourite potato snack, the rotato, these potato pancakes are griddled infront of you fresh and are served steaming hot with a side of sour cream and applesauce. I highly suggest asking for salt and pepper and are best enjoyed with big dollops of both the sour cream and applesauce! I love them so much that I had two plates of them! 

Freybe Brat Haus have brought their classic German Bratwurst smokies to the market which are grilled and nestled inside a bun with horseradish, ketchup and mustard. The brat is juicy and full of flavour, but the bun was stale and tough to bite. This past year the internet has blown up with videos and pictures of giant cheese wheels that are seared on one end before the melted gooey cheese is scraped onto the main dish. If you have been dying to try it for yourself, you are in luck because you can this melted Swiss cheese at the Cheese Me Raclette. Das Stollen Haus is offering up delectable German-style breads and cakes which are baked fresh everyday at their North Vancouver bakery. I brought home a slice of the Tiramisu cake with me and oh my, it is a must try! Words cannot describe the airy sponge and coffee infused filling. Another notable and favourite food outlet at the Vancouver Christmas Market are the Bavarian-style Pork Hocks at the Haxen Haus. The pork hocks literally filled the air with a rich meaty aroma that drew huge masses to their stall. Not to mention the hocks are being roasted out in the open, further tantalizing market goers. 

The Vancouver Christmas Market is going to be open up until Christmas day, so you still have time to check out all the yuletide cheer. I suggest purchasing entrance tickets online as they are $12 versus $15 at the door. 

For more information and pictures on The Vancouver Christmas Market, I recommend heading over to my beloved friend Maggie's blog: Vie a Maggi

BYES








Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Making My Own Pizza at Firecrust Pizzeria


Italian food is beloved by all and it is easy to understand why. Nothing is more revered and equally loved worldwide as their glorious pizza. It is delicious, simple and customizable to everyone's liking. Firecrust Pizzeria on Davie Street invited your girl to come and try her hand at making pizza. Of course I said yes! 

Firecrust Pizzeria is inspired by the Naples region of Italy aka the Neapolitan Pizza. We have all heard about the Neapolitan style pizza, in fact it is essentially a buzzword for pizzas. For a pizza to be considered a true Neapolitan, it needs to adhere to a strict set of rules. One of those rules being all Neapolitan pizzas must be cooked in a wood-fired oven and the toppings must be sourced from the Campania regions of Italy. These are two of the biggest rules that often disqualify pizzerias from the Neapolitan designation and to no one's surprise, essentially no pizzeria in Vancouver meets these rules. I really wanted to make this distinction clear; however, Firecrust Pizzeria has done a phenomenal job at paying homage to the Neapolitan Pizza. 

The dough at Firecrust is kneaded from a non-GMO 00 flour which is then given a luscious coating of their rich red sauce which is made with canned Italian tomatoes. I live for a good red sauce and Firecrust makes one heck of a tomato sauce and needs to sell that stuff in a jar. Hint hint - send me a jar of your sauce please!!! They do sell the canned san marzano tomatoes, their dough and extra virgin olive oil, basically all the essentials for a cute date night at home. If you are are gluten-free, you will be happy to know Firecrust has you covered too!

I did not have to knead the dough from scratch, but I was tasked with stretching and shaping the dough ball into a pizza. Not to brag, but I was actually pretty darn good at it. Some might even question my ethnicity because could it be that I am part Italian? I would say pizza dough is adult slime because I could have stood there all day stretching, pulling and shaping it. 

For my sauce I made a creamy tomato by mixing the alfredo with the red sauce. I soon regretted this because I did it to be different; however, I love red tomato sauce so why did I dilute it with the cream sauce. My need to always be weird and different gah. 

You might be thinking that I got to go toppings crazy only because I was there as part of a media event. Well you are wrong. I did get unlimited toppings, but so can you! Unlike most pizzerias where they charge you per topping and before you know it your pizza is costing an arm and a leg, so you are forced to settle for two toppings. 

Firecrust Pizzeria stands out for me amongst the other pizza parlours in Vancouver because at Firecrust you get unlimited toppings at an affordable fixed price of $11.95. The only exception is the prosciutto which is an additional $3. They also a variety of vegan "meats" such as sausage and chicken. I tasted them and I think its some sort of marinated tofu. I enjoyed it. 

When it came to the toppings, I did not hold back. Lots of roasted red peppers, garlic marinated mushrooms, pineapple, ham, fresh spinach and even some of their vegan chicken. I tried to arrange them artistically. I used the roasted red peppers to make a big "G" and a scalloped border and placed the other toppings accordingly; however, it did not really work out too well because the spinach covered my hard work. 

Up until now, making the pizza was fun and easy. Cooking the pizza in their massive tiled oven is when things got a bit tricky. The oven is VERY hot, so as soon as the pizza hits the surface, it begins to cook. It almost feels like a high-stakes game because the pizza is going to cook within 45 to 60 seconds. You need to really focus and pay attention to the bubbling and blistering of the dough. Burning the pizza was the least of my worries because I managed to tear the middle of my dough when I was trying to slide the pizza off of the paddle and into the oven. Luckily Firecrust's staff was standing by to help me out. Before pulling the pizza out, you want to lift the pie to the ceiling of the oven to give it a final cook on the top before pulling it out and onto a plate. 

Apart from the massive tear in the middle, my pizza tasted phenomenal. Also, you cannot even see the tear because all the toppings just covered it up. The crust was thin and great elasticity and chew. The red tomato sauce had bold flavour and the toppings were fresh. My pizza also cooks within a minute unlike the conventional pizza which takes on average 15 minutes to cook. 

I whole heartedly recommend Firecrust Pizzeria and it is not often that a restaurant or casual fast dining restaurant impresses me! My only complaint is that their closest location to me is in Downtown Vancouver. Firecrust you need to open up a pizzeria in Richmond immediately! 

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Sunday, 9 December 2018

Gift Guide for HIM


Men are some of the easiest; yet simultaneously difficult to shop for. Clothing is always a safe bet. My go to are cozy sweaters like Roots' Cabin Shawl Pullover, button up shirts, polos and the occasional leather belt. It may not be the most exciting gift, but like I said, you can never go wrong with clothing for guys. 

I know all the boys are going to be excited to see the Razer Keyboard on the gift guide. Gaming keyboards are definitely a male-centric gift, so I can guarantee you that they will love it. I too have fallen in love with Razer's keyboards as the mechanical keys make the most satisfying clicking sounds. Definitely a must for all the ASMR lovers. 

For some odd reason, my male friends often ask me for hand cream which they then proceed to smearing over their faces. Men may not want to admit it, but they too appreciate a good facial and hand cream. Male grooming products are still pretty underrated and mostly focused upon beard care and hair styling products. There are some really great unscented facial moisturizers that I am sure every man would secretly enjoy receiving. I love Kiehl's as it is moderately priced and is packaged in an unsuspecting white tub with plain text. I know Kiehl's has specific "male" focused products, but I really do not think there is much of a difference between this moisturizer and the creams in "male packaging." Do not forget the hand creams as men too hate having dry hands in the winter! I am currently lusting over this indie brand, Barr Co. The Sugar and Cream scented hand cream has a subtle sweetness to it. 

Every man should own a high-quality leather laptop case. I am talking about the zippered bags that have top handles and a shoulder strap. They are big enough to fit a laptop and work documents; yet are still compact that pair well with both business and casual outfits. Coach has stunning leather goods which includes an extensive men's collection. The Metropolitan Double Zipper Business Case from Coach is a splurge, but its craftsmanship and buttery soft leather speaks for itself. 

As an owner of two blunnies myself, I have only positive things to say about them. For over five years, Blundstones have kept my toes cozy warm and dry through Vancouver's rainy cold Fall/Winter and Spring! So if they do not own a pair, this is the perfect opportunity to give them the most amazing pair of boots ever. 

Guys tend to not buy theirselves accessories, so a nice pair of gloves, or scarf or toque for the winter or a tie, socks or belts for the summer. Lots of great options! Of course it definitely comes down to the individual and what they could do with. If it is not apparent already, I have always loved Roots' cabin collection. The gloves from the cabin collection are cozy warm and are going to serve them well for many winters. 
I am curious to hear what ideas you have for men in terms of presents. What are you thinking of gifting? Let me know in the comments below!


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