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!


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


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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Thursday 6 December 2018

Gift Guide for HER

It is the holidays which means there is a whole lot of shopping ahead for all of your loved ones, special someones and mandatory workplace gift exchanges. I love giving gifts. I actually spend a long time picking out the perfect present tailored to the individual, but what I really look forward to is actually seeing their reaction after tearing off the wrappings. Oh and did I mention I am a huge wrapping paper fanatic and probably take just as much time wrapping the gift as I did purchasing it. 

For 2018 I wanted to really focus on giving meaningful gifts. Items that the individual will use or cherish. I always try to avoid novelty gifts as they inevitably wind up in the trash can. 

I often like to pick up items that I know my friends would never get for themselves as it would be a big splurge, but secretly they want it super badly. I would say Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks are just that! These lipsticks are phenomenal. They are comfortable to wear all day long and the colour pigmentation is superb. But these copper-toned tubes are a hefty $55 a piece, so why not splurge for them! 

I know a calendar is a weird present, but this is great for those who are big stationary lovers and enjoy journaling. I have used two Rifle Paper Co calendars and I am definitely going to be picking up this one for 2019. You can pair it with nice pens like the fine felted Le Pens and include some nice stickers. Another weird present are boardgames and you are probably wondering why would you get an adult Monopoly or Life or Uno? It is nostalgic is why! Not to mention do you not miss sitting around the coffee table and spending the evening laughing with your friends and family as you play a boardgames. 

The hanging sloth planter is equal parts adorable and functional. This is the present for the plant lady in your life. Be sure to give the sloth a succulent buddy. The Llama also fits into the functional and cute category as this cuddly plush houses a heat/cold pack. It is a great snuggle buddy and can be soothing for those extra brutal cramps or the hot summers. 

Everyone needs a blanket cape in their lives. Last winter I was gifted the owl-themed blanket cape and it ranks pretty darn high on the greatest gifts I have ever received. This year they have a beaver that gives me serious Canadian vibes. The cape is a blanket with a hood and features a couple of buttons on the front which ensures the blanket does not fall off. 

Gucci is my BAE and will always remain my favourite luxury brand. When in doubt, gift Gucci because everyone deserves a little bit of gucci in their lives. 

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Tuesday 4 December 2018

Shattered Beauty: I get artsy with my photography

A month ago I received a gorgeous bouquet from Amy, the owner of Garden Party Flowers, for my 25th birthday! White ivory avalanche roses and deep mauve roses were framed by various greenery like dollar eucalyptus and sedum, but the real piece de resistance of this arrangement was the massive dinner plate sized cafe au lait dahlia! 

However to my complete and utter dismay, I managed to knock over the entire bouquet and with it shattering my favourite tall hobnob clear glass vase. This happened within the first 30 minutes that I brought the flowers home. I usually am not the most clumsy person, but this fall, I have managed to knock over, bang into and break a lot of things. 

For the first fifteen minutes I sat on the floor staring at all the broken glass and crushed flowers. Most of the roses survived; however, the massive cafe au lait dahlia did not fair too well. The arrangement had toppled over dahlia first. So the glorious $10 per stem cafe au lait dahlia was absolutely destroyed!

I did not want to let the flowers go to waste, so I decided to get artsy fartsy with my camera. I think they turned out really well! In the words of the legendary Rob Ross: Happy Accidents! 

Now I just need to replace my hobnob vase. I had originally purchased it and two shorter ones from another Main Street floral boutique, Flower Factory, but they have since stopped stocking hobnob glass vases. If you have seen these vases in Vancouver, could you please let me know in the comments below as I am bummed that it broke. 

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Monday 3 December 2018

Testing Oh Sweet Day!: A Celebration Cookbook

I never imagined making so many lovely new friends because of my blog. I am so glad that I started blogging because if it were not for Pink Tea Latte, I would have never met Fanny Lam. I first came across Fanny's baking company, Oh Sweet Day, on Instagram. I would not meet Fanny in person until a year later. This fall, I finally met the lovely Fanny at the New Westminster Farmer's Market. The effervescent mother of two took that as her opportunity to invite me to the launch of her very first cookbook! 

I am a huge believer of mystical energies and joojoo powers, so it had to be no coincidence that our in person meeting coincided with her book launch. I am so glad Fanny traded in her high-stress marketing job for oven mitts and cookies because she is a truly talented women. 

Fun Fact: Fanny was actually approached by the publishers and was pitched the cookbook to HER! 

The cookbook has several sections like cakes, cookies and tarts. I decided to give the molten chocolate lava cake a try as the recipe is fairly simple and I am always looking for a great chocolate cake recipe. The only thing I had to go out and purchase were the ramekins. If I am totally real, any excuse to go to Crate & Barrel, I am all in! 

What really drew me to the chocolate lava cake recipe was the little tip Fanny had included. The batter can be made a day or two in advance until you are ready to bake and eat them! Fanny has included lovely tidbits and advice with most of her recipes in the book. 

As I had mentioned earlier, the recipe is very easy, but I still managed to completely screw it up! So the recipe called for 2/3 cups of white granulated sugar. Well using the 1/3 measuring cup, I added in 3 of them in .... so I put a total of 1 cup of white granulated sugar, not 2/3 cups like the recipe called for. Now my mixing bowl had a bunch of eggs and a cup of sugar. To remedy the situation, I dumped half the mixture out and added in a couple more eggs and hoped for the best. Thankfully this recipe is super forgiving because the cakes still turned out fabulous. 

Also another pro tip from Fanny, you can purchase bars of dark chocolate from Ikea for 99 cents! 

The recipe yielded 6 lava cakes. As per the recommendation in the cookbook, you can refrigerate the batter and bake it at a later date. To test it out, I baked two cakes on the day of, two the next and the remaining two on the following day. All 6 cakes baked perfectly and had a rich chocolatey molten centre. This recipe is also great for when you just want to treat yourself to something sweet. 

If you are wanting to make these lava cakes, guess you will need to go out and get your hands on Oh Sweet Day's cookbook! 

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Molten Chocolate Lava Cake that I made from Oh Sweet Day's Cookbook

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake that I made from Oh Sweet Day's Cookbook. I dressed it up with macerated strawberries