Monday 16 October 2017

Gurly's Life | Seattle Adventure Day 1

This post is going to be a block of writing followed by a photo story of my time in Seattle. So do not fret, there are pictures, just past the written portion.

5:00 PM | In My Car

I am so happy that I mustered up the courage and went down to Seattle without my parents. Driving long distances and outside of the Lower Mainland petrifies me and also very uncomfortable for my injured neck and back. Driving down to Seattle was awful! There was a blown re-tread tire from a semi-truck laying in the middle of the highway that I hit head-on with my car. So that has now increased my anxiety related to driving and also I am absolutely livid that it smashed one of my headlights. Aside from that, the drive was good.

I ended up staying at the Marriot Courtyard in Bellevue Downtown which was located just off the highway and directly across from this huge luxury complex that included Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton! I was so confused because I expected luxury fashion houses to be located only in downtown Seattle, but I later learned Bellevue is an upscale city. The reason why I ended up staying in Bellevue and not Seattle was that most of Seattle was sold out, but our hotel in Bellevue was only a 15-minute drive from downtown Seattle.

8:30AM | Pike Place Market

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm, is generally the case for any major tourist attraction regardless of city or location. Getting to Pike Place early in the morning - for a Saturday - meant we did not have to shuffle behind hoards of crowds or wait in never-ending lines. Starbucks originated in Seattle and its very first location is in Pike Place. From every blogpost that I read, they all said the line stretches up and around the block, so unless you have an hour to spare, better to just take a look at it from outside. There was a line, but it was very small and we waited less than 15 minutes before reaching the cashier. The shop is narrow and long and has some really neat pictures on display. I skipped the drink and snagged myself an exclusive Pike Place Starbucks Mug. Beechers cheese was just a few shops down and they had ZERO line, so I had their warm rich mac n cheese for breakfast. Their cheese sauce was strong and bold, but after a few bites, I was living for it.

My favourite part of Pike Place was the flower market and seeing it stretch on forever. I was in dahlia heaven! Every colour and variety you could imagine was there and at ridiculously cheap prices. I picked up several bouquets, one of them being 12 stems for $5! That is unheard of in Vancouver considering the amazing quality these flowers. I probably spent a good 20 minutes walking down the lane of flowers until I found the perfect bouquet for me.

We wondered all through the market and stumbled across some interesting shops and some cute shops as well as the rooftop urban garden from which you could see the pier. Before leaving Pike Place, we had to make a stop at the Crumpet Shop. It was getting close to mid-morning and the infamous long lines at Pike Place had formed. After a good 20 to 30 minutes we got our crumpets. This was probably my first time having one and I just fell in love. Go with the Pesto, Cheese & Tomato! Trust me, go to the Crumpet Shop.

11:30 AM | Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is only a few blocks from Pike Place, so since it was a beautiful day, we walked there. The streets and shops in that area are reminiscent of Gastown. On the way to the square, I stumbled across the most gorgeous bus stop ever. I also popped into E. Smith Mercantile & Back Bar, a quirky general store with a cocktail bar in the back - regretfully closed in the morning. I also popped into Velouria and really loved the clothing and knick knacks at this boutique. They had these really sweet crewnecks, but unfortunately they were over $100 and converting it to Canadian dollars just made it a little out of my budget.

Pioneer Square is stunning and astonishingly HUGE! I had been dying to eat at the London Plane Shoppe as it is part florist shop and part cafe - well I thought, but it turned out to be a sit down restaurant. We managed to get seats at the bar without a reservation, but I highly recommend reservations for the weekend as the place was packed.

We had a small lunch and shared the Merguez Scramble with Chickpeas & Toast as well as the Pistachio, Coconut & fresh Apricot granola with their house made yogurt. The scramble was delicious and very fragrant as it had a lot of fresh herbs like dill and parsley. The egg yolk made the dish rich and decadent and who does not love spiced chickpeas! You can never go wrong with a granola and their house made yogurt was dense and tangy - just the way I like my yogurts.

Now at this point, something very tragic happened... my camera battery died because I forgot to charge it the night before and I also happened to not bring my charger with me.... Oh my gawd I cannot believe I made such a big rookie mistake.

At this point I had two options, spend an unnecessary amount of money on Uber to go back to my hotel in Bellevue to grab my charger OR find a camera store in Seattle, so I can buy a new battery charger. Since I am someone who likes to be efficient and back pedalling to Bellevue in the middle of the day was out of the question, I settled with finding the nearest camera store. It was a bit of a fail as the first two we visited were fails - one had gone out of business the other had no chargers. Since I could not survive without documenting my adventures, I decided to take an Uber to Glazer's Camera Store.

The charger was $14, but what I was not prepared for was the amazing Glazer's photography dreamland. It was two giant floors of everything photography. I am talking about lights, flashes, cameras, lenses, tripods, camera bags and everything and anything you could imagine! Even high quality printers that used a ridiculous number of colour cartridges for the ultimate printed image. I was in heaven and I frankly had not anticipated spending nearly an hour exploring the store.

If you like anything related to photography, GO TO GLAZER'S!

4:30 PM Capitol Hill

We had dinner reservations at a restaurant in Capitol Hill and since we were nearing dinner time, we decided to head to the area. I would say Capitol Hill is a cross between Yaletown's upscale restaurant scene and the fun atmosphere on Davie Street. I had wanted to go to Porpoise Doughnuts, but it closed mid-afternoon, so I was a little bummed. However, there was a lot more to check out and we actually got the last slice of Peach Cream Cake from Amandine Bakeshop. Needless to say, I was happy because I got sweets.

Amandine bakeshop was part of this interconnected plaza of restaurants and shops. I really do not know how to describe it, but basically the shops and restaurants were not completely separate from one another as in if you keep walking down the hall, you popped into a completely different shop. My favourite part had to be the marble patio tables that looked like mermaid scales! SO GORGEOUS and I need one in my life. Of course I shamelessly took a million flat-lay pictures.

Also in Capitol Hill is the ginormous Starbucks Reserve which is a huge tourist spot. Not as cool as the original Starbucks in my opinion. Other amazing cute shops that I would say are a must visit are Glasswing, Marmite, Bait, Likelihood, Retail Therapy, Nube, Standard Goods, Retrofit and Cupcake Royale.

7:30PM | Spinasse 

I had been saving my money to splurge at Spinasse, an Italian restaurant ranked top 5 amongst the best in America. This restaurant was tiny, yet still intimate and cozy. The dining room had a soft glow from the candles lit at all of the tables and of course it smelt heavenly in there.

We shared the Gnocchi di Patate and the Tamarin al Ragu. The Gnocchi was a hand-formed potato gnocchi cooked in a sweet lobster mushroom rage with fresh rosemary. I loved the soft texture of the potato gnocchi with the meatier lobster mushrooms. We thought it was going to be lobster meat AND mushrooms, but it was actually a type of mushroom called lobster mushroom. None the less, this dish was delicious and I really enjoyed the sweetness of the sauce.

The Tamarin al Ragu was a traditional beef and pork ragu, but what really made it unique for me was the hand cut pasta. This pasta was finer than spaghetti or linguini, so I could not believe it was cut by hand! As well, the pasta was long and knotted together, yet when you bit into a forkful, the pasta was not a big gloopy clump. All the strands of pasta were distinct!

It is hard to compare the two dishes since the ragu was savoury and rich while the gnocchi was a delicate sweet sauce.

I skipped dessert at Spinasse - HUGE REGRETS because I bet it would have been amazing, but it was only because I needed to keep some room for what we had planned next.

Probably the single biggest reason for my Seattle trip was HOT CAKES! I literally used to sit at home - and still do - drool over their instagram pictures. Warm gooey rich chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There literally is nothing better and no dessert I love more than a basic chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream washed down with a tall glass of cold 2% milk.

10:00 PM Bed

I am very proud of myself for exploring so much of Seattle in one single day. I was exhausted and basically passed out the moment I got into bed.

I will be sharing with you Day 2 soon!


Thursday 5 October 2017

Edible Obsession | Beta 5 Turns 6

Mint Chocolate Chip Sundae | Mint stracciatella ice cream, chocolate sorbet, mint macarons
mint aero, chocolate shards, and vanilla chantilly

It is that bittersweet time of the year again. Celebrating Beta 5 turning 6, but it also happens to mark the end of ice cream socials which we all know I live for! There were so many amazing sundaes this summer and I managed to miss a couple that I really wanted to attend like the Matcha one which happened to occur on the day that I woke up with a swollen face - allergen still unknown, but I do have an allergy specialist appointment booked!

Unlike last year for which they did a giant cake and were giving away slice of cream puff cake with purchase, this year there was no cake, but a purchasable birthday puff. Kind of bummed about that; however, the birthday puff called the Gin Rickey Mini Cream Puff Cake was amazing, so I forgive them for making me pay for it. 

Beta 5 Chocolates | Gin Ricky Mini Cream Puff Cake
The Gin Rickey was adorable! The limited edition puff cake was a base of honey mousse cake with an adorable mini black charcoal puff filled with a tangy gin & lime curd. The puff was finished with a perfect swirl of marshmallowy whipped meringue, a chocolate disc and flecks of edible gold leaf. The strong flavour of the gin & lime curd was balanced by the softer honey mousse cake. I ate the cake so fast, but I think there was a thin cake layer at between the mousse and the puff. I hope Beta5 will do more mini sized puffs in the future as I find their regular sized puffs to be too large for more and frankly contain way too much cream filling. They also tend to get soggy very fast as they contain so much filling. 

For their final Ice Cream Social, Beta 5 had a past winner choose the flavour and thus Mint Chocolate Chip Sundae made a second appearance. It was a scoop each of the mint stracciatella ice cream and chocolate sorbet. For toppings there were peppermint macarons, mint aero, dark chocolate shards, chocolate sauce and my personal favourite, vanilla chantilly. I have had chocolate sorbets in the past and each time have disliked them, so I had a second scoop of the mint stracciatella ice cream which happens to be one of my favourites at Beta 5. I love the texture Beta 5 is achieves with their stracciatellas, the chocolate bits are crisp when you bite into them and I really enjoy the crunch. I have yet to find anywhere else that does it as well. The macarons were divine and I believe also made with black charcoal and filled with a mint chocolate ganache. The mint aero was a bit of a miss for me. Unlike actual aero chocolate, Beta 5's mint aero did not melt very well, instead it was a bit of a weird waxy texture. Aside from that, I loved the mint flavours and toppings in this sundae. 

Garden Party Flowers | White floral arrangement
I always appreciate the little details and the fact that Beta 5 made a conscious effort to match the Gin Rickey, limited edition polygon bars and sundae was really cute. So I understand why they chose to use black charcoal in making the puff and macarons. Not only that, the three floral arrangements from Garden Party Flowers matched too! It was all white roses, dahlias and anemones. The anemones had a black center, so I it just tied everything together perfectly. 

Midway through the day Beta 5 decided to be sneaky and surprise patrons with a second sundae, a Strawberry Oatmeal. I was in Coquitlam at my friend's birthday party; however, I was already content with my mint chocolate chip sundae and did not need a second one. 

I am already looking forward to Ice Cream Socials in 2018 and cannot wait to see what new flavours the Beta 5 team comes up with. I am a big fruit person, so anything fruit based with fresh fruit as the topping is always a big hit with me. Less of the oat flavoured ice creams as I find them to be a bit too neutral for my liking. I would also be curious to try unsweetened fruit sorbets. Fruit is naturally sweet and I wonder if fruit and honey alone could make a sweet and tangy sorbet and not need the addition of sugar or artificial sweeteners. So if you are reading this Beta 5, that is my challenge to you for next year!