Saturday, 12 October 2019

Potter's House of Horrors Scare-ific Haunted Houses

With Hallowe'en fast approaching, scare-tastic shenanigans have been taking place all across the Lower Mainland. Now I must admit, I am an absolute scaredy-cat and tend to gravitate towards non-frightening activities like going to the pumpkin patch or celebrating my birthday - I am an October baby!!! Anything that causes my heart to leap out of my chest is not my thing, so I am shocked that I loved Potter's House of Horrors

Potter's House of Horrors has been scaring those who dare to venture in since 2003. I only learnt of Potter's House of Horrors because they reached out to me and invited me to experience their frightening attraction. 

For your enjoyment, Potter's House of Horrors has two ultra-scary haunted houses. They have brought back Devil's Descent for its third and debuted their newest creepy creation, Death Valley Motor Inn. They have been featuring two haunted houses for several years now and the themes are changed every few years. I did a quick Google search and found some of the previous storylines: 2016 (#1 Monstrosity, #2 The Swampin' Slaughterhouse) 2018 (#1 Monstrosity 2.0 #2 Devil's Descent). 

The haunted houses are a labyrinth of tight winding corridors, creepy sounds, foul smells, animatronics and of course, live actors! For me, the talented team of actors is what brought the entire experience together. It takes an astounding team of 40 actors to bring the haunted houses to life...or kill. The cast is diverse and each of them brings a unique perspective to a character. 

An 18 year old college student full of energy might play a rotted zombie as a high-energy character, thumping and smashing and destroying. A 55 year old stage actor might play that role much more subtle and creepy. Both are effective in their own way and we appreciate the different ideas that an actor can bring to a role.                            
                                -Chris Pershick from the Potter’s House of Horrors team

With so much talent, it is understandable why Potter's haunted houses are considered Live Theatre Haunted Events. The planning phase for the haunted houses begins in January and fabrication can start as early as June. With four months of construction, you can imagine the insane level of detail that has gone into constructing the structure. The two haunted houses sprawl out across 15,000 square feet making each haunted house over 15 minutes of fright. 

I do not want to give too much away in terms of the scare factors, but I will touch upon the themes for this year's two haunted houses. Devil's Descent is set in the depths of a mine shaft with rotting wood, menacing-looking machines and lots of gory bloody goodness. In my mind, it was a mix of Mad Max machinery/mutations and The Walking Dead's realistic guts galore. Throw in a smattering of deep earth dwelling monsters and rotting zombies and we have a recipe for a haunted house that even makes the Devil himself quiver in fear...or grin with satisfaction. 

New for this year and in my opinion the scarier of the two is Death Valley Motor Inn. The haunted house is designed to be a grimy motel from the 70's which draws inspiration from several horror movies. Because where else would serial killers and bat shit crazy people stay why the Death Valley Motor Inn of course! There are far more actors involved in the story for Death Valley Motor Inn making for a truly immersive and downright terrifying experience. Like I said earlier, the cast KILLED it - pun intended - making you feel like you have legitimately checked into a secluded creepy motel and you are screaming down the halls trying to find your way out only to come face to face with another killer finishing off another motel guest. The worst part, they intentionally made some of the corridors super narrow forcing you to brush past the frightening characters. 


Of the two haunted houses, Death Motor Valley Inn was my favourite and in my opinion, the far more frightening one since it did not rely on gore and guts, but instead used clever scares. I did manage to make complete both haunted houses, albeit with my face buried in my friends arm for 50% of the attraction. However, if you just cannot bare to go any further, the haunted houses are strategically built with an exit always just a few short steps away. This also means you will be adding to the "Chicken Counter" which is honestly comical and they hilariously announce when someone chickens out and exits a house part way through. 

I wish I could tell you about some of my favourite parts, but it would ruin the experience. What I can tell you is that outside of the haunted houses they have several creepy frightening characters walking around who just love to sneak up on you. My favourite was the manic axe-wielding man that gave me Beetle Juice crossed with Harley Quinn. 

This post is getting so long, but I had such a great time at Potter's House of Horrors that I want to tell you all about it. Aside from Thanksgiving Monday, Potter's House of Horrors is upon every day in October. Adult tickets are $15.99; however, the ticket only grants you access to a SINGLE haunted house. If you wish to visit both, you will need to PURCHASE TWO tickets. And if you want the scariest experience, give them a visit on Hallowe'en as the actors like to amp up the scare factor. It is after all the night of haunting. 

BYES

12530 72nd Avenue, Surrey 
Disclaimer: Media Invite.  All opinions and content are original and my own.



Thursday, 26 September 2019

Pampering myself with a pedicure from Onyx Aesthetics


I am drained, exhausted and overworked, so it was high time that I treated myself to something nice. I booked myself in for a pedicure at my favourite nail salon in Gastown: Onyx AestheticsI love getting my nails buffed, shaped and painted, but if I had to pick between a manicure or pedicure, I will always choose the latter. 



For pedicures, you get to sit in a comfy chair with lots of cute cushions and have a technician massage and scrub your feet until they are supple and smooth. Plus lets be real, pedicures last forever. I swear the polish on my toes will last for months, never chipping, just grows out. 


The technicians at Onyx Aesthetics are experts so your toes are in good hands. All pedicures include cuticle care, scrub, filing and polish. 



I have had pedicures at numerous salons, yet I find myself returning to Onyx Aesthetics because they prioritize hygiene and cleanliness:


• Water baths are lined with plastic and are discarded after each client

• Tools are sanitized in a medical-grade autoclave
• Disposable grit strips are used to remove the dead skin from your feet. 
• Chairs are sanitized after each client


No pedicure is truly complete without a good foot scrub. Onyx Aesthetics is the ONLY place that I have been to in Vancouver that uses disposable grit strips. I cannot believe other salons just "clean" foot files because there is no way all the dead skin can be removed from the grit. The other nice thing about disposable strips is that they have various grits, so the technician can select the most appropriate level of grit. My feet are quite soft to begin with so for me, the technician generally uses the polishing grit as the stronger grits are far too abrasive for my feet. 


It has taken me years to realize that I rather spend a little extra to receive a service from a trained professional with sanitized instruments because foot fungus is not a joke! If I really think about it, Onyx Aesthetics is quite competitively priced. Their regular polish pedicure is a 45-minute service for $50. Not to mention the peace of mind knowing Onyx Aesthetics is serious about hygiene is priceless. 



My go-to colour for my toes is a light sky blue, but I thought I would change things up a bit and go for this lilac. The lilac is cute, but I think I am going to stick to sky blue in the future. At Onyx Aesthetics, their polish is primarily from CND. I did not know about CND until I started getting my nails done at Onyx, but it turns out, CND is the company that first engineered and sold the "shellac" system. Since the polish on my toes hardly ever chips, I usually just opt for the cheaper air dry normal polish aka CND Vinylux. More and more salons in Vancouver are beginning to carry the CND brand, but Onyx Aesthetics is proud to be the first salon as well as official CND partner which means they have every colour imaginable from CND. 


I am open to checking out other salons too. Sometimes it is fun to change things up - but toes will be returning to blue! - so if there is a salon in the Lower Mainland that has skilled technicians, competitive pricing and is serious about hygiene, let me know in the comments below!



BYES

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Fufú Café is putting the wobble in Soufflé Pancakes in Vancouver

Fufú Café | dress - Aritzia shoes- Steve Madden

Fufú Café is finally open which means we can all get our fill of wobbly Soufflé Pancake goodness!!! A few Fridays back, August 30th, I was spoiled with a private tasting of their menu and I must admit, do not let the light airy texture of the pancakes fool you because they are deceptively filling. 

Before I get into the main event - the soufflé  pancakes - I want to highlight Fufú Café's interior which drew inspiration from Art Deco Architecture. Royal navy blues, gold Calcutta marble and dusty rose pinks serve as the backdrop for the café. My favourite detail is the geometric molding that moves from the wall up onto the ceiling. Also the full-length mirror with a rounded top is everything and I want it for my room. To summarize, I am living for Fufú Café's aesthetic! 

Fufú Café specializes in the ever-popular Japanese-style Fluffy/Soufflé Pancake. Their menu is dedicated to these light and airy pancakes which gained popularity over the past couple of years. The airy melt in your mouth cloud-like texture is achieved from expertly folding in whipped egg whites into the pale yellow batter. Patience is of the utmost importance as they take 15 to 20 minutes to execute. Truly a labour of love. It is tough to describe the delicate texture that has made this style of pancake so sought after, so you really just need to go try the soufflé pancakes in person yourself. 

Monday, 9 September 2019

21.1 KM SeaWheeze 2019 Complete


My body hurts, my ankle is swollen, but I finished the SeaWheeze Half Marathon and I would do it again! This was my second time running a half marathon. I had done the Seawheeze in 2017 and it still remains a fabulous half marathon experience for non-runners and runners alike. Just do not let the Yoga - Fun - Party - tagline fool you because 21.1 Kilometers is no easy feat.

Lululemon goes out of their way to make the SeaWheeze a 3-day event which is completely free and open to registered runners. The energy that surrounds it is positive and everyone is in amazing spirits. This and many more reasons are why the SeaWheeze will probably remain the only half marathon that I am willing to my body through this much pain. 

For the two days leading up to race day, Jack Poole Plaza and the Convention Center are given a glorious makeover and are the site for pre-race events. There are lots of free swag up for grabs and complimentary services like massage and hair braiding. Not to mention lots and lots of yoga! 

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

First Time at Diner en Blanc Vancouver

Fleurs De Villes: Gorgeous floral sculpture in the background at Diner en Blanc Vancouver 2019
I have been wanting to attend Diner en Blanc for a couple of years now. In fact, I actually purchased tickets for Diner en Blanc Vancouver 2017, but since I was a student with a part-time job, additional costs of attending Diner en Blanc were not feasible for me, so I ended up giving them to a friend. Now that I have a full-time job, I can finally attend and have an amazing time!  

Diner en Blanc's history is quite interesting. The original - Le Diner en Blanc de Paris - was held by a small group of friends in 1988. They decided to set up a dinner in the midst of Parc do Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. The once small and "illegal" has grown into a massive must-attend night that has thousands of guests descending upon a secret location for a night of fun, laughter and great food. Currently, Diner en Blanc takes place in 30 different countries in over 80 major cities. The main attributes to Diner en Blanc are that everyone must be dressed in white, you must bring your own table, chairs and food and the location is kept completely a secret until you board the chartered bus. 

This year, Diner en Blanc 2019 was held on Thursday, August 8th at George Wainburn Park, which overlooks the gorgeous Yaletown Marina. Technically my friend and I were part of the "charter bus" group that was going to board a bus at David Lam Park, but we were massively duped because as it happens, the secret location was only a block over. Our "charter bus" group just ended up walking five minutes over to George Wainborn Park in Yaletown. 

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Vancouver's Hidden Lounge: Key Party


Local restauranteur Rachel Zottenberg, recently named one of Western Living's 2019 Foodies of the Year, is bring some much-needed excitement and thrills to Vancouver. Let's face it, Vancouver has a bit of a "no fun" reputation and a non-existent nightlife. The half-block on Granville Street basically sums it up! Sure, bubble tea and chic hipster cafes are yummy, but sometimes I just crave something more thrilling than the newest insta-worthy latte. 

Key Party is the newest addition to Zottenberg's already impressive portfolio of restaurants and lounges. Hidden behind the facade of Zottenberg & Son's Accounting is the most bougiee 1970's inspired cocktail lounge in Vancouver. Do not let the dusty facade of the boring accounting office that has been plucked straight from 70's fool you because the two spaces could not be more of a juxtaposition of one another! 

The under the radar lounge has no signage, so only those "in the know" actually know about it, but despite being incognito, Key Party is filled with patrons sipping cocktails. The lounge is gorgeous. Thick red velvet drapes cover the walls and flank a massive hand-painted mural of a woman trying to look demure while she casually drapes her naked body over a tiger. In the background, two other red-haired women are also nonchalantly hanging out in the nude and completely unfazed by the giant wild cat. If not for anything else, just go for the naked ladies in the mural! I also loved the Himalayan salt votives that covered the space making for a delightful glow and cozy atmosphere. Not to mention the crystal cut barware was stunning so no matter the drink, you are going to feel special sipping from those glasses. Even the spouted pitcher used for mixing cocktails was crystal! Definitely made me feel like I was at an opulent Great Gatsby party. 

The interior is a throwback to retro vintage vegas vibes. For atmosphere, I wanted to create a space where people could relax and meet new people. A place where you can just let go and have a good time.  
                                                                                          Rachel Zottenberg, Co-Owner of Key Party

Monday, 29 July 2019

Bear's Blooms Brings Local Flowers to Vancouverites

Bear's Blooms: Delivering BC-grown flowers to the door's of Vancouverites
There are a lot of amazing floral shops in Vancouver; however, the majority of flowers used by the florists are flown in from around the globe. This came as a shock to me considering the numerous flower farmers in BC. Bear's Blooms recognized this and is helping Vancouverites connect with local growers. 

Bear's Blooms is challenging both consumers and florists to think local. By using flowers that are grown within the province - many of them come from within the Lower Mainland! - Bear's Blooms' carbon footprint is significantly smaller than the traditional florist as none of their flowers or greens are flown in from across the world. 

Bear's Blooms is a bit of a different business model as they offer a weekly subscription floral delivery service. The subscription model allows Bear's Blooms to be more accurate in the number of flowers they need for the week, so they can significantly minimize their weekly flower waste. Florists, on the other hand, can only estimate the number of flowers they will need for the week. On average, a florist typically discards 40% of their floral inventory. 

Friday, 19 July 2019

H Tasting Lounge Summer Patio Party



You know what the best part about spring and summer is? Patio Season! It is finally hot and sunny in Vancouver and I try to soak in every second of it. If I am going out to eat, I am getting a table on the patio because every minute spent indoors is a minute of summer wasted.

L to R: Christina Kaspercyk (Lumin Pictures), ME in the middle, Ruby Gillett (@rubygillett)
H Tasting Lounge is just off of Vancouver's Seawall inside the luxurious Westin Bayshore Hotel. From the patio, you get a clear view of Coal Harbour and the Northshore mountains. Before I get into the food and drinks, I cannot resist mentioning the Art Deco design of H Tasting Lounge. Art Deco has always captivated me with its bold geometric shapes and jewel tones crossed with rich yellow gold. H Tasting Lounge has gone with a contemporary take on art deco and breaks up the rich royal blue and gold with soft lilacs and white marble. I also love the amount of natural sunlight that drenches the space from the skylights and massive windows. Needless to say, H Tasting Lounge is a stunning space that embodies effortless luxury.

The Harbourside Patio is very spacious, and the distance from the seawall gives patrons still a sense of privacy. Not to mention the hotel is nestled away in a quiet neighbourhood, so there is no sound of traffic and roaring cars to kill the mood. 



During the media event, H Tasting Lounge had re-arranged their indoor dining room to accommodate a massive three table length charcuterie spread. There were luscious cheeses, salty crackers, beautifully arranged meats and spreads for days. I surely made a couple of laps around that table with my equally food-obsessed and new friend Ruby Gillet. My favourites from the table was the caramelized Goat Cheese Brulee which I paired with Rainforest Crips! So darn good!

The theme of the night was #SippingSeaside and H Tasting Lounge's Bar Team delivered. Every drink was mixed to order with flair and attention to detail. I also must mention the men behind the bar were total hunks - a feast for the eyes indeed! 



There were several cocktails available that evening. I sipped on a couple but soon transitioned to virgin-cocktails as I am not the most seasoned drinker. Thinner Walls (Tequila, snow peas, suze, lemon, soda) captivated everyone's attention with its rich green colour and snow pea garnish. I would describe it as a healthy green juice with a kick. 

Out on the patio, they had two tea-infused alcoholic punches. The Rye Chai had strong undernotes of spice while the Late Blossom was a lighter sweeter punch featuring Vodka, nutcracker tea and lime soda. These spiked teas are served in beautiful Japanese teapots with matching blue and white bone china teacups. 

There were several small bites being served throughout the night. My favourite was the Morel Mushroom Tartine which came on toasted sourdough. In fact, it sort of ended up being the only thing I had that night as the remainder of the offerings were primarily raw seafood and beef tartare all of which I generally do not eat. I did, however, try the Lump Crab Cake, which had a satisfyingly crispy exterior and soft flakey centre paired with H Tasting Lounge's signature Old Bay Aioli. 



I do want to mention that the team at H Tasting Lounge did a stunning job at displaying the freshly shucked oysters, Crudo and carpaccio. Two massive "H" Tasting Lounge logos were carved from ice and the various fresh seafood was beautifully displayed on a table of crushed ice with fresh flower petal garnishes. Each Crudo and carpaccio was pre-portioned on tiny little white dishes for patrons to grab. I think this is the first event that I attended with an ice carving and it made me feel so boujee. 

To finish off the evening, I got to spoil myself with unlimited Salted Caramel Gelato and fresh Altulfo Mango Sorbet by Uno Gelato. The gelato was being scooped from an adorable bike drawn ice cream cart complete with a red canopy. Uno Gelato is owned by the internationally acclaimed gelato master, James Coleridge, so it goes without saying that the gelato and sorbet were magnificooo!



This was my first impression of H Tasting Lounge and they get two thumbs up from me. I probably will be returning to this patio very soon because of its location and privacy. Also, I just love the warmth of the sun on my skin and the cool sea breeze brushing my cheeks. Living in Vancouver means I have a short window of hot summer days, so I need to soak up every moment of it.

BYES 

H Tasting Lounge at the Westin Bayshore Hotel
A: 1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver, BC


Disclaimer: Media Invite. All opinions and content are original and my own. Certain pictures are courtesy of Denise Lin Photography. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Pangea Pod Hotel | A Night In Whistler


This is Part Two of my 24 hours in Whistler. Part Two is going to focus on accommodations: The Pangea Pod Hotel

The Pangea Pod Hotel is in the heart of Whistler Village. It had made quite the buzz last summer when it first opened its doors. It is no secret that hotel prices in Whistler are astronomical. During peak ski and snowboarding season, some hotel rooms can go for as much as $1000 per night! That is MADNESS! No wonder I keep my visits to Whistler to day trips. 

Unlike traditional hotels, husband and wife duo Russell and Jelena Kling, set out to create a boutique-hotel-like experience at an affordable price. (Weekdays range $85/1 person, $160/2 people; Weekends $170 /1 person, $280 /2 people). Honestly, the only time I am in my hotel room is when I am showering, getting ready and sleeping. It is a rarity for me to utilize hotel amenities like pools or gyms or whatever else they might offer because I want to spend my time exploring the city. 

THE PODS

When I heard we would be staying at a pod hotel, the first thing that crossed my mind was the Japanese Capsule Hotels. I hate small spaces and when it is enclosed - NOPE. The capsules in Japan are exactly that. Fortunately, Pangea Pod Hotel is the polar opposite and are surprisingly roomy. Purely a guestimation from me, but I would say the length is 8 feet, width 4 feet and a height of 3.5 feet?! I am 5 Feet 1 Inch tall, so use your own judgement from the pictures. But I definitely had ample room to sit up straight without knocking my head against the ceiling. 

Each pod is equipped with a double memory-foam mattress, mirror, USB outlets, lights, small lockable cupboard, fan and storage space. For facilities like bathrooms and showers, Pangea's 88 pods are divided among 8 suites which each have two bathrooms, two showers, four sinks and two changing rooms. The suites, facilities and hotel was immaculate and very well maintained. Coming from someone who is very particular about cleanliness, I was quite impressed by Pangea's attention to detail. 


RFID ROOM PASS

Pangea Pod Hotel is the first hotel that I have stayed at that does not use a traditional room key card. During check-in, each Pangea Pod Guest is issued a fancy RFID Wristband. I found it be brilliant because not only can you add money to the RFID to spend at the hotel's restaurant and rooftop bar, but you will never lose your room key again! A few nights later, I was at a hotel in Victoria BC that used the standard room pass and yours truly lost hers within the hour. So RFID wristband room passes need to become the norm!!!


FOOD & DRINKS

On the main floor, Pangea Pod Hotel has a cafe and full-service bar called "The Living Room." On the second floor, they have an outdoor rooftop bar called "The Rooftop." The Living Room is a stunning mishmash of design featuring hexagonal mirrors on the ceiling, copper pipe detailing and the most beautiful coral pink, baby blue and grey Ola Volo mural. The Living Room also boasts an impressive collection of board games which gets two thumbs up from me because what better way to meet new people than over a fun board game. 

The night that I arrived at Pangea Pod, I sampled a number of their drinks from the Rooftop Patio Bar. The night began with their signature cocktail, the Dalmation. A splendid sweet and tangy combination of vodka, peppercorn syrup, grapefruit and lemon juice and a sprig of fresh rosemary. I am a cocktail girl and the Dalmation ticked all the boxes for me. The Espresso Martini is a bold concoction of vodka, coffee liqueur and Pangea espresso. This Espresso Martini is a serious beverage that is a double tap of alcohol and caffeine. As I am a lightweight, I ended the night with a virgin Rooftop Iced Tea which is a delicious hibiscus black tea that I can totally see myself sipping on a hot summers day. I think my Starbucks Black Tea Lemonade might just have some competition from the Rooftop Iced Tea. 


I tried a number of their Flatbread Pizzas and all of them were fabulous. Pangea Pod is about excitement and the pizza menu echos it. I had two favourites from the night, the first being their Caramelized Pear and Brie Cheese pizza which is paired with mozzarella, parmesan, blue cheese, chopped walnuts on a base of tomato sauce. The second was the Butternut Squash & Goat's Cheese which is finished with house-made green pesto and a sweet syrupy balsamic reduction. 

In the morning when I checked out, I had breakfast from The Living Room. I wanted something simple and fresh and to my delight, their menu is exactly that! The spinach eggs Benedict has a luscious hollandaise that is buttery and in the word's Julia Child: "whipped to submission." The real winner for me was the Pangea Power Smoothie which I am still dreaming about and wishing I could have every single morning. if I lived in Whistler, I probably would go and get a smoothie every day! 

OLA VOLO ART

I have always been drawn to large mural pieces and Ola Volo's work happens to be one of my favourites. I have talked about her work in the past, but for those of you who are not as familiar with her, Ola Volo is a Vancouver-based artist. She works with bold lines and simple shapes that are filled in with intricate little details. Her murals generally have a very limited colour palette which only amplifies the use of bold black lines. 

At Pangea Pod Hotel, Ola Volo was commissioned for two large wall murals. The first one greets you at the entrance of the hotel. For this piece, Ola Volo uses a metallic gold which is contrasted by a deep black. The image is of a hipster dude in a flat rimmed hat just lounging on his back with a sultry woman who has flowing curly hair floating above him. Between and around the two subjects are little details relating to road trips and the tree-topped mountains that surround whistler. 

The second piece is as I previously stated inside Pangea Pod's Cafe. The coral pink and baby blue is my favourite of the two and perhaps even my favourite Ola Volo Mural to date. A boho-chic woman daintily holds a martini with four olives while giving the most killer side-eye. A hip dude with a standard-issued hipster beanie is holding what I thought at first glance an espresso, but after closer inspection, he too is gingerly grasping a martini glass between two fingers. 


GEAR STORAGE

When in Whistler, you have to hit the slopes whether it is boarding in the winter or biking in the summer. Either way, you probably have some expensive gear with you that you want to store in a safe place. Pangea's "Toy Box" features specially designed storage for skis, snowboards, boots and bikes. They are all lockable so you can rest assured that they are safe. 



Pangea Pod is an affordable hotel option that Whistler desperately needed. I am glad Russell and Jelena have created this phenomenal space for anyone that wants a comfortable safe place to sleep that is not going to break the bank. The Pods are spacious and the food is delicious. The best part, Pangea Pod is smack dab in the middle of Whistler Village so you are in the thick of all the Whistler action. 

BYES

Disclaimer: Complimentary Media trip courtesy of Serena PRTourism WhistlerDestination BC and Pangea Pod Hotel. All opinions and content are original and my own. Certain pictures provided by the talented Christina Kaspercyk of Lumin Pictures Inc


Pangea Pod Hotel
A: 4333 Sunrise Alley, Whistler, BC  V8E 1M7
T: 1-844-726-4329




Saturday, 8 June 2019

Pastry Chef Extrodinare: Julien at Au Comptoir

Au Comptoir: The Pistachio Mille Feuille with fresh Raspberries
Most people pick restaurants based on what they want for their entree, but me on the otherhand, I make my decision solely based on the restaurant's dessert menu! Dessert is life and life is too short to not indulge yourself. Vancouver's dessert scene is phenomenal, but one restaurant has always caught my attention: Au Comptoir. 

Au Comptoir's Executive Pastry Chef, Julien, also noticed my infatuation of everything sweet. Before I knew it, I was seated across from the man himself with a sampling of his creations on the table between us. 

Chef Julien is a classically trained pastry chef from Paris, France and after working 2 years in Singapore, Chef Julien made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to Vancouver, BC, Canada! Despite only calling Vancouver home fo 2 years, Chef Julien has acclimated well and is barely indistinguishable from the local hipsters. He sports a classic dad hat, circular wire-framed glasses and an eclectic collection of tattoos that any hipster would be envious of. The only thing that gives Chef Julien away is his to die for French accent - in my opinion, the French accent only makes him more hip. 

Being the resident pastry chef at Au Comptoir, Chef Julien focuses on perfecting traditional French desserts. Truth be told, I have always gravitated towards desserts made by pastry chefs trained in France. 

"I think every desseert and cake has a beauty of their own, but for mine, I try to put all the love I can into them. But of course, its the details - Details is what makes the difference"

In France, the internships, for lack of another word, are ROUGH. It is long gruelling hours of endless work and nothing short of perfection is accepted. An example from Chef Julien's training is when he asked his mentor to teach him how to do chocolate lettering using a parchment paper cone: A Paper Cornet. His mentor agreed, but to no surprise, it would have to be on Chef Julien's own time. So every single day, Chef Julien would stay an extra 15 minutes to practice folding paper cornets and piping chocolate lettering. Chef Julien would even practice at home using toothpaste! Practice really does make for perfection! 

Now I could not leave Au Comptoir without actually trying some of Chef Julien's offerings and he did not disappoint bringing out his favourite four desserts. 

The Chocolate Fondant is a warm chocolate cake that is popped into the oven to order. 9 minutes later, the Chocolate Fondant arrives at your table with a molten centre of 70% dark bitter Tropillia Valrhona Chocolate. The gooey chocolatey goodness pairs perfectly with the big scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream and bitter caramel sauce. An excellent dessert for all the chocolate lovers at the table! 

Au Comptoir Executive Pastry Chef Julien
The Tartelette Façon Tatin is filled with house-made crème fraîche and caramelized apples. Of the four desserts, this was my least favourite. I usually love caramelized spiced apple desserts, but this one was a little underwhelming in flavour when compared to the other desserts. The crème fraîche layer in it though was divine!

Of course, every French restaurant must have a Lemon Meringue tarttelette on their menu. Au Comptoir's version did not disappoint and dare I say perhaps even my favourite Lemon Meringue tart to date. Most places are unable to balance the tartness of lemon against the sugar, but Chef Julien really achieved the perfect play of sweet and sour. 

I saved my favourite dessert for last: The Pistachio Mille Feuille with fresh Raspberries. A decadent rich pistachio pastry cream is sandwiched between house made puff pastry and is finished with fresh raspberries and a coulis. I appreciated the fresh lightness of this dessert and it was on the less sweet end of the spectrum which I prefer. 

Despite being restrained to classic French desserts, Chef Julien has still managed to bring his own flair in terms of both flavour and presentation. The mille-feuille is served on its side, so the pastry cream faces upwards and he has opted for fresh fruit in place of the usual fondant glaze. The meringue on the lemon tartelette is expertly piped in a mesmerizing spiral before being hit with a blowtorch. The smallest change of presentation brings new excitement to classic French desserts we have all come to love and enjoy. 

Chef Julien is only just getting his start in Vancouver. He recently helped Au Comptoir secure silver in 2019 Van Magazine's best dessert category. 

Before I finished up my afternoon of desserts with Chef Julien, I wanted to know what flavour he really hopes to work with in the future. Perhaps we are meant to be best pals because he belted out:

" Matcha! I love matcha!" 

Thank you for having me over for a lazy afternoon of conversations over desserts. I am certain I will be seeing more of you in the future Chef Julien! 

BYES




Au Comptoir Desserts: Tartelette Façon Tatin on the left and the Lemon Meringue Tartelette on the right
Au Comptoir: Chocolate Fondant
Au Comptoir: Lemon Meringue Tartlette 
Au Comptoir: The Pistachio Mille Feuille with fresh Raspberries

Friday, 7 June 2019

Pods, Pines and Pools: 24-Hours in Whistler


Every now and then, we just need to escape our chaotic big city lives. Whistler might be best known for its Snowboarding and Ski Scene, but it also happens to be a spectacular spring and summer getaway. In my case, Whistler was perfect for my Girls Trip! The Ski and Snowboarding slopes are just 120 KMs North of Vancouver in the Sea-To-Ski Corridor. This trip up to the mountains came at the perfect time because I really needed to disconnect from my busy work life. Despite being a short 24-hour mini trip to Whistler, we were able to pack in several amazing activities. 

PINES - Get Outdoors

The first activity on our itinerary was a Forest Bathing Walk with Canadian Wilderness Adventures. Forest Bathing Therapy has been proven to be a powerful healing tool which can help alleviate stress, and boost happiness, energy and your immune system. In Japan, it is a revered form of preventative medicine on which several research studies have been conducted. 

Canadian Wilderness Adventures took us on a walk through Whistler's old growth forest in which trees have been estimated to be as old as 1,000 years old! Our guides, Mike and Allan, took us on the Medicine Trail, a spiritual part of the forest which has been blessed by the local indigenous elders. Forest Bathing Walks are not necessarily for everyone as it can be a little "hippie." 

We were encouraged to clear our heads and focus on our five senses: Touch, Smell, Hearing, Taste and Sight. To feel our lungs fill with fresh untainted air, hear the symphony of the rushing water and watch the subtle fluttering of the leaves in the air. It can be difficult to slow down and accept this invitation to be in the present. Thank you, Allan and Mike, for sharing the Medicine Trail and the untouched beauty of the old growth forest with me. 

If you desire adventures with more thrill, Canadian Wilderness has activities that will satisfy your wild side.  They offer ATVs, Electric Mountain Bikes, Canoeing, Axe Throwing and offroading in a Porsche Cayenne! I am very much interested in getting behind the wheel of a slick German-engineered Porsche Cayenne and taking it through the outback woods of Whistler - Next time!


POOLS - The Spa

The Scandinave Spa in Whistler is ICONIC; yet yours truly had never been before! Nestled within a spruce and cedar forest, the Nordic-inspired spa offers 20,000 square feet of outdoor pools, saunas, solariums, steam rooms and hammocks. Patrons are encouraged to follow the cycle of HOT/COLD/RELAX to fully experience the benefits of hydrotherapy. 

We were given soft plush white bathrobes which made me feel super bougie. The locker room and showers are spacious, but more importantly to me, very clean! There were signs all around the spa outlining the hydrotherapy cycle. 

For HOT, the recommended time was 10 to 15 minutes. After letting your muscles relax, blood vessels dilate and increased blood flow to your skin, muscles and organs, the next step was to take a 15-second plunge in chilling cold water. The cold is TOUGH. My entire body instantly contracted and caused my breathing to become shallow, but once I stepped out of the cold pool, a calmness swept through my entire body. I felt more relaxed than when I was in the HOT water. Good thing the RELAX stage comes after the COLD. I padded my way up the steps to Hammock Heaven where I hypothetically should have spent 10 to 15 minutes blissfully asleep. I say Hypothetically because unfortunately, being the antsy anxious individual that I am, sitting still and doing nothing is very difficult for me. I noticed other spa-goers had brought along books to pass time during the RELAX stage. Next time, I am definitely bringing a book with me too. 

A few things to take into consideration when visiting The Scandinave Spa:

• Sunglasses: it is outdoors and if you are sensitive to the sun like me, sunglasses are a must!
• SILENCE: talking is frowned upon. All patrons agree to maintain the silent environment and if you think you can whisper, it is only a matter of time before the "shush police" catches you!
• Time: give yourself ample time to really enjoy the hydrotherapy experience. You will want to go through the cycle a few times and perhaps then lounge up in Hammock Heaven for a little longer. 
• NO Electronics: Electronics are NOT permitted inside the spa. Scandinave Spa strives to make all guests feel comfortable and at ease, so please be respectful and leave your phones in your locker. 
• Spa Buddy or Book: Probably more for individuals like me that are constantly antsy and have a hard time being still for long periods of time. I will probably enjoy the spa more if I have something to do or a friend who will at least keep me some company. 
• Slippers: 2/3 of the spa is outdoors, so protect your feetsies from the scorching hot pavement by bringing some slippers with you! If you forget, the spa does have some for purchase. 

Food

On this trip, my tastebuds were spoiled with mouthwatering dishes. We dined a total of three times at three distinctly different dining establishments. 


Thunderbird Cafe
Located in the basement of the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) is the Thunderbird Cafe. Indigenous-inspired dishes using local ingredients are served at the Thunderbird Cafe. I recommend the Veal Chilli with fresh Bannock - a traditional indigenous bread that is soft and doughy, a perfect accompaniment to the rich nourishing chilli. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to explore the indigenous art that is showcased at the SLCC. 


Alta Bistro
Dinner was at Alta Bistro which is situated in Whistler Village. Do you know what the word "Bistro" means? A bistro typically has a menu that changes to incorporate fresh seasonal ingredients and a stellar wine list that showcases lesser-known local wines that are affordable. Speaking of wine, Alta is the first restaurant in Whistler to feature the premium Enomatic wine-serving system, which in layman's terms means the fancy machine preserves the integrity of the wine till the last drop in the bottle. I prefer simple food, so Alta's fancy cuisine was a little too out there for me. Also, I no longer enjoy meat as much as I used to and the vegetarian options at Alta were limited. It just was not for me. I do recommend Alta Bistro for wine lovers because they really do have a spectacular selection of wine by the glass. 


The Living Room
The next morning we had breakfast at Pangea Pod Hotel's cutely named "Living Room" restaurant and cafe. Their breakfast game is one point! Healthy, simple and exploding with flavour. For me, having a nutritious start to my day is important, so if it is not obvious already, I fell in love with Pangea Pod Hotel's food! 

I had the Eggs Benedict, but I wanted it with raw spinach which they happily accommodated. The hollandaise was luscious and buttery. I rounded out my breakfast with the Pangea Power Smoothie. A delicious blended concoction of mixed berries, banana, greek yogurt, honey, almond milk and toasted almonds. I really loved the Pangea Power smoothie - gurly approved!

PODS - Accommodations


We stayed in the heart of Whistler Village at the Pangea Pod Hotel. I only have praises for Whistler's first and only pod hotel. This blog post has gotten a bit long, so I am going to cover my Pangea Pod Hotel experience in my next post!


BYES

Disclaimer: Complimentary Media trip courtesy of Serena PR, Tourism Whistler, Destination BC and Pangea Pod Hotel. All opinions and content are original and my own.