Wednesday 29 November 2017

Cactus Club Cafe saying Goodbye to the Old and Hello to the New

Cactus Club and I go way back - way way back - all the way back to when I was still in elementary school. In particular, Cactus Club Cafe on Lansdowne and 3 Road in Richmond has been mine and my family's main location. I have celebrated numerous birthdays, my high school and undergrad graduation and milestones big or small with a meal at Cactus' Richmond location. 

It goes without saying that I was devastated - traumatized even! - when I had heard my beloved restaurant location was closing. I may not remember the so called "flying cows" or "red checkered table spreads," but the interior I remember is MY CACTUS! I also acknowledge that I struggle with change. Big or small, any change is extremely tough for me. I think it comes down to the emotional attachments I make and more importantly, the memories. 

I think Cactus Club realized that I am their number 1 obsessive super fan, so they invited me to their closing party. I missed it as I had work - boo, but I heard there was a COW - not a real one - at the closing party as an homage to their original decor. None the less, though I missed the closing party, I did make it a point to have dinner at the location just a few more times before the doors closed permanently. 

I got to attend the opening party for their new location in Richmond Centre (RC). As I am a frequent shopper at RC, I have gone past the construction site countless times, so it was really exciting to finally get a peak inside. The entrance faces 3 Road and for the time being, there is a red carpet lined with red velvet ropes leading to the entrance. 

The interior is very different from the original Richmond location. There is a juxtaposition in every element between the two interiors. The quirky weird gaudy in a good way gold framed paintings have been replaced with simple modern paintings. The wrought iron embellishments from the doors to the heat lamps have been replaced with walnut wood furnishings. The restaurant itself as a whole has brighter lighting and increased seating space. A stunning restaurant with clean lines and well thought out details. 

My biggest concern about the location being in a mall was the patio... because I ALWAYS sat in the covered patio area. They managed to keep the covered patio concept at this new location; however, it is a bit cramped for my liking considering how spacious the previous location was, but I appreciate Cactus working to include it in the new location as best as possible. 

The restaurant layout is different from a "normal" restaurant floor plan. There are very clear partitions between the patio, bar and dining room. By having the dining room its own entity, Cactus Club now feels more friendly for families with young children (My parents still took me when I was young haha). There are television screens in the patio area and it really bothers me as I go out for lunch to disconnect from electronics and focus on the people around me and the food. 

I really love the new bar as it is located in the centre of the restaurant and is constructed as an oval. I really appreciate not having to stare at a wall or kind of pushed to an end of the restaurant. It also makes the space feel much bigger. Plus the deep blues and aqua green blown glass pendant lights above the bar are stunning! 

Cactus Club Lansdowne was one of the few standalone restaurants that was not attached to a mall, hotel, or shopping plaza. I feel that is why I really loved the old location because when I went to eat there, I was solely going for Cactus Club and not businesses attached to the space. But, there are two locations downtown that are detached - Coal Harbour & English Bay - which are also newer locations, so I know I can still get a similar experience at those locations. 

Aside from the massive moose head and neon Bellini Tuesday sign over looking the entrance to the bathrooms and the naked man painting with impressive chest hair, I will miss most is the black gargoyle fountain! I loved the dark dramatic look of the water fountain in the midst of the bright sun lit patio. Going to miss those winged demons and secretly hoping Cactus Club Cafe kept the fountain and might casually drop it off at my door step. I promise to give it a good home! 

To coincide with the re-opening of Cactus Richmond were two new cocktails: Late Harvest Daiquiri and Whiskey Ginger Smash. I love cocktails and prefer fruity flavours, so the Late Harvest Daiquiri was perfect for me! A blackberry Saskatoon berry cassis was poured over the Bacardi white rum slush and finished with lime, elderflower and a frozen blackberry for garnish. The flavours were balanced and everyone at my table enjoyed it. The second drink, Whiskey Ginger Smash, was very strong since it was Virginia black whiskey, ginger, rosemary, lemon and soda. 

Owner Richard Jaffray was also present at the opening party and he teased us about some upcoming additions to the menu. One of them is going to be a dessert and I am so ready to try it because we all know I love desserts.  Locations and decor can change, but if the food is on point, that is all that matters. Really looking forward to that and I am just happy that Cactus Club is serving up its delicious food once again in Richmond.


Original Richmond Cactus Club Location | Black Gargoyle Fountain centre of patio
Original Richmond Cactus Club Location | Black Gargoyle statue on fountain
Original Richmond Cactus Club Location | Stone fireplaces in patio area
Original Richmond Cactus Club Location | 1992 to 2017 !!!
Appetizer Potato Skins | Bacon bits, green onion, cheese, chipotle aioli 
Entree Jambalaya Rice Bowl | shrimp, chicken, chorizo sausage, vegetables, bacon, spicy tomato sauce, black bean salsa, crème fraîche
Entree Jambalaya Rice Bowl | shrimp, chicken, chorizo sausage, vegetables, bacon, spicy tomato sauce, black bean salsa, crème fraîche
Entree The Feenie Burger | smashed certified angus beef®, sautéed mushrooms, aged cheddar, smoked bacon, red relish, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard
Cactus Club Richmond Centre | Opening Night!

Mini Chicken Tacos were delicious! | mexican-style braised chicken, avocado, lettuce, pickled radish, onions and jalapeños, feta, sour cream, cilantro, sea salted fries
Late Harvest Daiquiri | bacardi white rum, blackberry, saskatoon berry, cassis, lime and elderflower
Whiskey Ginger Smash | virginia black whiskey, ginger, rosemary, lemon and soda

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Chef Trevor Bird on Fable Kitchen & Fable Diner

Image curtesy of Chef Trevor Bird

I have been wanting to interview Chef Trevor Bird since I first saw him on Top Chef Canada All Stars. I have dined at his restaurants, Fable Kitchen and Fable Diner, a number of times, but it was only after seeing him on TV and reading Vancouver B.C. beside his name that I was like I need to interview him! Whenever there is a Vancouverite on a competition show, I automatically put my full support behind them. I just have HUGE Vancouver pride because Vancouver is my home.

After multiple emails and rescheduling of meetings with his assistant, I was finally seated across from Chef Bird. Before I could even get a word out, I was ambushed with the idea to live stream the interview on his social media outlets. Trevor probably saw all the colour dissipate from my face and the look of horror that flashed across my face because quickly reassured me that we do not have to do anything I am not comfortable doing.

Meeting Chef Bird in person was completely different from what I expected as my only impression of him is what I saw on the Food Network. Top Chef Canada portrayed Chef Bird to be a no nonsense serious individual with a constant look of anger. The real Trevor Bird wears a big smile and never misses an opportunity to throw in a joke. Really makes you question all of the reality tv shows currently airing.
"It's like a really messed social experiment"
Chef Bird opened the doors to his first restaurant, Fable Kitchen, shortly after his time on Top Chef Canada Season 2. His dedication for farm to table cooking extended into his second restaurant as well, Fable Diner, which opened its doors Summer 2016. Always one to be witty, Trevor could not resist picking a name that embodied his passion using locally sourced ingredients. But the smiliarities between the two restaurants stop at their names as they are completey different entities both in style and pricepoint.
FArm-to-taBLE  hence:    FA - BLE
Fable Diner was not something Chef Bird had anticipated doing; however, when a too good to be true opportunity comes to your door, you take it. I love the rich history that Vancouver has to offer - again huge Vancouverite here - so I find it super cool that Fable Diner resides in the same spot that previously also held a diner since 1949.

Unlike Fable Kitchen which showcases refined flavours, Fable Diner serves up favourite diner foods with a bold taste. The Roast Duck Pancake is Chef Bird's personal favourite from the diner menu. A large fluffy cornmeal pancake is piled high with succulent roasted duck, crispy rice, and spicy kimchi. It is finished with fresh green onion and Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise which brings a lovely sweetness to this savoury breakfast dish. I also highly recommend the much instagrammed Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake because the hype is REAL!
"Deceivingly simple, seasonally inspired technically driven"
From the Fable Kitchen menu, the Spaghetti and Meat Ball is his favourite. Perhaps one of the simpler menu items, but like all of his food, this dish is technically driven. Succulent duck meat balls and roasted mushrooms are poured over a bed of perfectly al dente tagliatelle. Another must try are the Chickpea Fritters that are served with pickled red onion, shoots and curry mayo.

If you are popping in for dinner, ask the hostess if you can be seated at the bar because you will be able to watch dance like synchronization that Chef Bird's team works behind the line. And if you are really lucky, you may catch Trevor plating your entrees at the pass.

Fable Kitchen and Diner have won the hearts of Vancouverite's, but Chef Bird worries about the future of Vancouver's food scene. Many beloved restaurants have shuttered since the beginning of the year and more will continue to do so. Farm-to-Table restaurants are some of the most challenging since food costs are so high, but the stiff competition forces menu prices to be lowered. Food is Chef Bird's life, but to get to where he is has required a huge amount of grit and thick skin. Part of being a successful chef and restauranteur is being able to problem solve - constantly! 

As we neared the end of our meeting, I got a peak at Trevor's new endeavour. Unfortunately I do not think Chef Bird wants me revealing the details just yet, but soon!

I just have one final question for you Chef Bird, will you teach me how to make your favourite burger: 2 thin beef patties cooked medium rare, pickles, tomato, Fable sauce on soft burger buns. Just do not forget, I want to live stream it!


Saturday 11 November 2017

Chic Finds | Farmacy Skincare

It is hard not to be tempted to pick up one of Farmacy Skincare's products because the packaging is gorgeous. How can you not love the chic hexagonal glass jars with wood caps. Also, I really just wanted the metal spatulas that come with a lot of their products because I have acne prone skin, so using the spatula in place of my fingers minimizes the amount of bacteria introduced into the jar. What I did not know until I got their products was that the caps have a magnet so the spatula will never go missing! YAY!

Aside from me being a sucker for pretty packaging, the New York-based skincare brand uses Echinacea GreenEnvy as the base in all of their products. The Echinacea GreenEnvy is a natural antioxidant that prevents enzymes from breaking down the collagen in your skin. 

I tried four of their most popular products over the last few months and have shared my thoughts with

I have used lots of face masks and consider myself proficient at them, so I tossed aside the instructions. I scooped out a dollop of the shimmering gold product from the jar and began spreading it over my clean face. As I began smoothing it onto my skin, the semi-translucent gold mask started to turn opaque white. Not only that, it also got warm!Needless to say I scrambled for the instructions which confirmed that after working the mask on your skin, it will heat up and turn white in colour. 

I really enjoy this mask because with it warming up, it helps open up my pores; therefore, allowing the mask to sink in. It always leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth and I have found it very nourishing. I use it a few times a week and I still have a significant amount of the product to use, so you really do get quite a bit of use out of one jar. 

I am extremely picky when it comes to moisturizers, but Farmacy has really impressed me with their Honey Drop Lightweight Moisturizer. The cream is a good viscosity and is easy to apply over your face. It does not leave a greasy sticky feeling as it absorbs really well into your skin. There are also little tiny gold cupuaçu butter beads which is similar to cocoa butter. I also really love the overall colour of the cream, its a really lovely custard colour and I LOVE CUSTARD. I use the moisturizer twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. 

Since I do not wear makeup often, I enlisted the help of a friend to test out Farmacy's cleansing balm with me! She tested it out over the course of several weeks with a full face of makeup including waterproof eyeliner and mascara. 

Just like the moisturizer and mask, the cleansing balm came with a spatula which I always appreciate.  The product was an unexpected pale mint colour and has a subtle citrus scent. We both agreed that only a small amount is needed to remove a full face makeup. I do not use waterproof makeup, but my friend who does suggested letting the product sit for 30 seconds to reduce the amount of tugging on your skin. It does a splendid job at removing all of your makeup and does not dehydrate your skin. If you are looking for a new makeup remover, the green clean makeup meltaway is worth checking out. 

During the sunnier spring summer months, I use sunscreen daily, but get lazy in the fall and winter. I just have never been too keen on the feeling of sunscreen, so I use the dark dreary days as an excuse not to wear it. The Green Screen is rated a SPF 30 which is half of what I normally wear on my face. It has a thick consistency, but is easy to apply over your skin. Like all sunscreens, it does leave a slight sticky feeling. I mostly wear it on my body as I prefer to use a SPF 60+ on my face. 

I am really happy with Farmacy's skincare products and am really excited to try their other products. I will most definitely be keeping the jars as they are too beautiful to throw away. 


Products received as PR samples for review consideration; all opinions are my own.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Savvy Student | Free Birthday Treats on the Daily Hive

Mini Tiered Cake - Chiffon cake with fresh raspberry chantilly creme and fresh thinly sliced strawberries
Cake made by @monlovestobake

It was my birthday last week - Happy 24th Birthday to ME! - and my Daily Hive article could not have come at a better time. I did all the leg work for you and have compiled a list of restaurants, cafes, bars and ice cream parlours that give out free food and drinks on your special day.

A few of the birthday freebies I have known for years and it is almost like a tradition now for me to redeem my birthday treat. Others I had no clue about, but I am glad I know about them now because it just means more free birthday food for me!

Denny's | Free Grand Slam

Denny's is by far the best and the easiest to redeem. All you have to do is go into your closest Denny's on the day of your birthday and present a government issued photo ID to prove that the day is your birthday. No need to sign-up for emails, clubs and rewards programs! Denny's Grand Slam is a full meal and will 100% satisfy your hunger and the best part is that the Grand Slam is customizable. You get to pick four items from their Grand Slam list. 

Gurly's Grand Slam: shoe-string hash browns, two sausage links, two over-easy eggs, and a waffle with fresh fruit. 

Starbucks | Free Beverage

If you are a part of Starbucks' Star Rewards Program, you automatically receive a coupon for one free drink on your birthday. The coupon is only valid for the day of your birthday so do not forget to get your birthday drink. If I am buying my drink, I will always get a grande, but when its a free drink of any size, I always go for a Venti. 

Gurly's Starbucks Order: Venti Extra Hot, 2 Pumps Classic Green Tea Latte with Whip Cream

Pajo's Fish & Chips | Get free fish & chips with purchase

I was pleasantly surprised to learn Pajo's offers a a special coupon for a meal on your birthday. To obtain the voucher, you need to head over to their website and register for the Birthday Coupon. Purchase is required, but it is my friend who is going to do the buying right?? 

Craft Beer Market | Your age is the discount

I think the coolest birthday offer has to be from Craft Beer Market. If you are celebrating your birthday with your friends at Craft Beer, they give you a discount on your own bill. The percentage is the age you are turning, so if you are turning 25, you get 25% off your own bill! 

If you are out for dinner in celebration of your birthday, be sure to always let the server know. Most restaurants will give you a free dessert or special treat for your birthday. And if you are looking to embarrass your friend on their birthday, take them to Old Spaghetti Factory because all of the servers will wish your friend a happy birthday by singing extremely loudly which usually always results in an eruption of cheers from the other diners at the restaurant. 

I wonder how many of these free birthday treats you are able to get on your birthday? Let me know in the comments below if you go to any!