Triple birthday dinner at The Ranch

September 12, 2015

Thank you to all of you who came out to celebrate our September babies – Garrett, Jess and Michael! I was amazed at the number of attendees on such late notice – you guys rock!

We decided on dinner at The Ranch Bar and Grill for a few reasons:

  • Very recently opened, so none of us had visited yet
  • Numerous good reviews
  • Convenient location for everyone!

The Ranch had just recently opened, so some hiccups were expected, but we luckily didn’t encounter too many! We initially made a reservation for 12 people at 8pm. However, because our friends are awesome and more people responded than anticipated, we had to change our reservation last minute to 16. The staff were lovely and more than accommodating with our request, however it did take quite a bit of time to set up. By the time we were seated, it was almost 9pm and we had to rush to get our orders in before the kitchen closed.

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I called in advance to make sure it would be okay with me bringing a cake. Yes, and they were more happy to keep our cake in the fridge – thank you! Made a banana chocolate raspberry cake with Nutella icing πŸ™‚

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They have a bar area (room to sit and stand), which was great while we waited to be seated, perfect to mingle and talk. A variety of beers on tap and a couple of special cocktails. For some reason, we weren’t able to order other bar drinks (ie. gin & tonic) – wasn’t sure why, but we didn’t push it!

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Did we mention there was live music? Yep! I have to admit, our group was more busy catching up with one another than tuning into the music, but the other patrons were certainly enjoying it!

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The menu looked great and everyone was happy with their meals! The portions were also generous and the food freshly cooked!

Both tables ordered the Wagon Train – Entree Combination Platter ($32 for 2 and $48 for 4) – Let’s just say… if you’re ordering the platter, you don’t need a main meal! A mix of potato skins, chicken tenders, stuffed jalapenos, and spicy chicken wings – a great value!

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2 of our birthday boys

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Everyone was quite happy with their steaks, which were cooked medium-rare. Unfortunately, due to the rush, they weren’t allowed to rest for the appropriate amount of time so all the juices ran out on the plate as soon as the steak was cut. Hand cut chips in the mini pails were a cute touch!

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Birthday girl, pretty in red!

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A terrible photo but my San Antonio Chicken Burger ($17.90) was yum! The succulent, crispy chicken really makes the burger!

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It was getting late by the time we were finished dinner and ready to move on to cake cutting. The staff were wonderful! They insisted it wouldn’t be too much trouble and even insisted on finding us enough matching tableware for the cake cutting/eating.

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Thank you so much! It worked out much better than taking the cake away and having to all head over to someone else’s house to eat it.

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Happy birthday you three!! Thank you to the staff at The Ranch! And of course, to all our friends for coming out to celebrate!

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We will definitely be coming back for more meals in the future!

Mike & Meaghan’s birthday!

September 15, 2014

After a fiasco with booking our bus tickets to Kingston, we had to resort to asking Mike’s dad to drive up to Ottawa and get us. Thank goodness for him!

Today was a special family day, an early joint birthday celebration for Michael and and his sister Meaghan! Mike was turning 35 on Sept 21st and the first time he’s been home to celebrate with his family in over a decade. And Meaghan was turning the big 30 on Sept 26th.

Got to spend some quality time with the family, including Mike’s parents (Greg & Caroline), his brother Matt with his wife Jessice and 2 children, Jasper and RInoa, Aunt Patsy & Uncle Dan, as well asΒ Uncle Jim & Aunt Brenda πŸ™‚

Started off the day with a delicious lunch, thanks Matt – you make awesome grilled cheese! My mom sent a coconut lemon poppy seed cake that was fantastic and a hit with the family as well.

For dinner, Mike’s mum made meatballs, beans, caesar salad, and biscuits from Aunt Patsy – yum!

After dinner came the cake and singing! Caroline made 2 cakes, chocolate for Mike and vanilla for Meaghan.

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The vanilla cake provided lots of good laughs! It was supposed to be a lady bug πŸ˜‰ … a pretty cute one!

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Look at that smile!

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Happy early birthday guys! πŸ™‚

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Great to catch up!

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Aunt Brenda & Uncle Jim

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The birthday siblings

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With Uncle Jim

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The cute nephew, Jasper!

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Uncle Dan & Aunt Patsy – see you soon in Australia!

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Mike’s dad and his youngest grandchild πŸ™‚

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Jasper excited for cake!

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Matt and his son Jasper. Cake and ice cream, what better way to end the night?

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And finally, some family photos!

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My last opportunity to spend time with Mike’s family 😦 Thank you for having me and can’t wait until we see you again inΒ Australia!

Happy birthday mom!

Happy 52nd birthday mom!!

Her actual birthday was August 20th but we celebrated on August 15th πŸ™‚

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Even though we celebrated a few days early, I was really happy our whole family was able to spend her birthday together!

Thanks mum for being our biggest support throughout ourΒ entire lives and for always encouraging us to be the best we can be doing whatever it is that would make us happiest. We love you!

My sister ordered a key lime cake with buttercream icing. Beautiful scroll work and sugar flowers – they looked so real!

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Mommy with Benny – her favourite now

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Proper and complete family photo!

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I don’t… know how my brother does it

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I think the best part of this photo is Franklin, the turtle

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My favourite πŸ™‚

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Cutting the cake!

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Haha, I swear, we can normal

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So sweet!

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Franklin wants in too!

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Yum, so much icing!

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Presents and cards for mom!

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Trip Report – Business Class: YOW-LHR-PEK-SIN-BNE

(Note: I think this is going to be a long post, but I hope you enjoy!)

Hello friends!

On January 7th, Michael and I began our journey from Ottawa back to Brisbane… in style πŸ˜‰

With 90 000 Aeroplan points and the most lovely agent on the phone, we were able to book our entire flight back in Business Class, going the long way. Of course, we had to pay taxes, which came to approximately $600.

Here was our flight itinerary:

itinerary

And so begins my amateur trip report! It certainly was an enjoyable first experience, definitely wanted to document and share!

January 7, 2014

Flight AC888 YOW-LHR (Boeing 767-300)
Departing Ottawa at 9:45pm
Arriving in London Heathrow at 9:35am Jan 08
Flight time: Approx 5hrs 40mins

Seats 2C and 2F

We said farewell to our family around 8pm at the airport and headed in through security. One of the best things about flying executive quickly became clear. Priority lines. For everything. Makes life so much easier.

Once through security, we headed to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. A worn but roomy lounge with ample seating space. A conservative but good selection of drinks. There were also snacks, including some hot foods, I believe. We didn’t take a closer look, mainly due to being stuffed from dinner.

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The lounge was quite deserted and quiet, but good environment to get some work done. Also a nice view of planes landing and departing for those who are interested. Bathrooms were spacious with large, private stalls and anything you might need (feminine hygiene products, body lotion, etc).

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Boarded without any issues and I got to experience the Classic Pod for the first time. Not to mention they recline completely flat! Although slightly sad that configuration was 1-1-1 because it meant I couldn’t talk to Michael at all while seated.

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We left around an hour late due to bad weather outside Ottawa causing half the crew needing to come in via taxi from Montreal.

Hot towel, champagne and nuts right after take off as opposed to before due to lack of staff – no problem!

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Every year, Michael and I exchange cards on our flight back to Brisbane. Continuing with that tradition and reading my card after take off.

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Happy in his seat under mood lighting.

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Dinner was quite tasty, I was impressed.

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Appetizer: Nova Scotia lobster, seared scallop and marinated shrimp served with quinoa salad and caper tartar sauce.

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Salad: Mixed greens, grape tomatoes and Parmesan served with balsamic vinaigrette. Also had warm crusty bread.

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There were a choice of 4 mains, I chose the Ricotta and spinach ravioli offered with rose sauce, basil chiffonade, portobello mushrooms and parmesan. The ravioli was delicious but I simply couldn’t finish it all.

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Mike chose the Sauteed Atlantic salmon accompanied by lemon and scallion sauce, a grain medley of wheat berries, long grain rice and acini di pepe pasta, french beans and baby carrots. Slightly dry salmon but good flavours and definitely good quality for airplane food. No photo, sorry!

For dessert, a chocolate pecan brownie with whipped cream. Certainly not close to being one of the best brownies I’ve ever had but still good, nice and warm too. I passed on the cream.

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A decent wine selection but no Canadian choices, which I thought was a shame!

One of my favourite aspects of these flights – amenity kits. This one was compact and included the usual items (eye mask, toothbrush, tooth paste, ear plugs, socks) as well as some beauty products by Vancouver company Escents.

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In terms of service, nothing was lacking. However, both Michael and I felt pleasantries were forced rather than genuine coming from one particular flight attendant. Going up to every single passenger with a list in your hand, mumbling or butchering names while saying the exact same greeting to each person comes across as robotic. When we greet people and are unsure of how to pronounce their name, the easiest and most polite thing to do is to simply ask, “Excuse me, how do I correctly pronounce your name?” Such a simple thing to do and you look a lot less ignorant.

I had ambitious plans to stay awake and get a lot of studying done for my MCCEE. Yea, that didn’t happen. I slept most of the flight, eventually waking up to have breakfast before landing.

Continental breakfast consisted of fresh orange juice, sliced seasonal fruit, yogurt and croissants (and blueberry muffins I didn’t see) with butter and preserves.

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And soon we touched down in London! We made a quick stop in the AC Arrival Lounge to freshen up before heading into the city. Paid a small fee to store our carry on luggage at the airport and headed into the city via the Heathrow Express Train (Β£34/person return).

On the train for just a short 15 minute ride into the city!

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Arrived at Paddington station!

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Being on the streets of London for the first time!

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Due to our short layover (approx 8 hours total), we decided to go on a tour with The Original London Sightseeing Tour. The bus tour was great, we didn’t hop on and off like we would’ve it we had more time but got to see most of what it had to offer. It eventually got pretty cold being on the top of the double decker bus and not moving around at all! πŸ˜›

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Here’s a short video I put together of the sights we saw! London is beautiful, we’d love to come back and visit again when we have time… and money!

We eventually made our way back to Heathrow Airport. I didn’t take any photos of the Star Alliance lounge but it was packed, even for 2 levels. Apparently many flights going into North America were delayed due to bad weather which explained why the lounge was so busy. Had a nice shower to recharge for the next leg of our journey and enjoyed some snacks and drinks as well.Β 

Sooner than we wanted, we were zipping through lines in order to board our next flight with Air China to Beijing.

January 8, 2014

Flight CA938 LHR-PEK (Boeing 777-200)
Departing London at 5:40pm
Arriving in Beijing at 11:25am Jan 9
Flight time: 9hrs 15mins

Seats 16A and 16C

Warm greetings from all the staff, a near empty cabin and seats actually beside each other, we immediately knew we were going to enjoy this flight.

Within minutes of being seated, we were given our noise-cancelling headphones, amenity kit, slippers and menu.Β 

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Amenity kit with L’Occitane de Provence products, lovely!

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And of course, champagne for take off πŸ™‚

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Good bye London!

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I didn’t take any photos of the cabin, but here are some from other (as linked) sources

Wine and more champagne

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Air China was serving their Winter menus.Β 

For dinner, Michael chose to have the Western option, which consisted of the following:

Amuse Bouche: Asparagus wrapped in parma ham, Scallop with keta caviar and radish and Hot Canape: Chicken kebab with chili sauce, Veg brochette

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Assorted bread roll served with butter

Appetizer: Seared scallops with noodles

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Salad: Fresh seasonal salad mix with Italian dressing or basil vinaigrette

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Main courses: Beef fillet served with Frisse risotto & vegetables OR Blue cheese gnocchi spinach & pine nut kernels

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Dessert: Apple crumble tart OR Bread & butter pudding OR selection of cheese with crackers

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Seasonal fresh fruit

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Overall, Michael enjoyed all components of his meal and found everything quite tasty! And of course, very filling πŸ™‚

For myself, the Chinese option which consisted of the same amuse bouche, hot canape, breads and dessert options, with the following differences:

Appetizer: Poached chicken thigh with sesame soy dressing, mushroom shitake with julienne carrot, and mixed peppers with black bean sauce

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Main courses: Monkfish with hot bean sauce served with peppers, asparagus and carrots OR Chicken Yu Hsiang Aubergine served with brocoli (both options include steamed rice).

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I chose the Chinese option because I thought of all airlines, Air China would have Chinese food down pat. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The food was alright but mostly bland. Comparing our meals, the Western option is certainly more elegant with much better and sophisticated ingredients.

Like the previous flight, these seats also laid completely flat, it was wonderful! Again, I didn’t get much studying but a lot of sleeping done. πŸ˜›

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The flight certainly didn’t go by quickly, but was very comfortable and enjoyable. Service was impeccable and the bathrooms were spacious and well maintained. Air China has a small but decent drinks list, although we didn’t take advantage of it.

Lovely views passing by Mongolia!

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Breakfast!

As I had already chosen the Chinese breakfast option, I was anticipating disappointment after the first meal, haha!

My meal consisted of:

Plain rice congee with pickles, pickled spicy radish julienne, and mushroom wood fungus julienne. I’m normally a huge fan of pickles and especially fungus but again, not very flavourful.

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Dim sum with shrimp dumpling, sieu mai, char sieu bun, and chive & prawn dumpling. The dim sum was tasty, thank goodness!

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Mike had his Western breakfast of Scrambled eggs with bacon sausage & grilled tomato. Also danish, croissant, pain au choc & breakfast rolls with butter, marmalade, honey, cornflakes & milk, and fresh fruit. Of course he enjoyed his meal immensely!

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Again, comparing our meals, the Western option is much more substantial with more flavours.

Soon landing in Beijing!

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Check out the crazy smog pollution… the closer we got to the city…

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I was last in Beijing in 2007, around a year before the Beijing Olympics. I remember the airport service being horrendous with poor service and extreme lacking in English speaking staff for international flights.

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The airport is still not completely efficient as they had only 1 kiosk open to proceed to international transfers. As a result, a haphazard, huge snaking line coiled around a tiny space that blocked way for further incoming passengers. Should’ve taken photos!

Once through security, we proceeded to International Air China Business Lounge (serving all Star Alliance members) located on the 2nd floor.

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The lounge itself is quite spacious with plenty of seating area, and multiple stations to get snacks (packaged pastries and sandwiches) and non-alcoholic drinks.

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There is also a separate hot food station. However, like the airline food, I don’t quite understand how the quality of Asian styled food is so low. It might taste alright if you are extremely hungry, however, we certainly didn’t go for seconds.

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And unless we were mistaken and couldn’t locate other bathrooms, there are only 3-4 bathroom stalls in the entirety of the lounge, not enough!

The bar

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Otherwise a relaxing layover!

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View from the lounge

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Β 

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Heading to our boarding gate!

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January 9, 2014

Flight CA969 PEK-SIN (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Beijing at 3:25pm
Arriving in Singapore at 9:45pm Jan 9
Flight time: Approx 6 hrs

Seats 13D and 13H

Again, service was lovely as we boarded and settled into our seats. Although the seats were not as nice or private, we did find the cabin more spacious and open. We also liked the insect-antennae lamps.

The seats beside us.

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Unfortunately, the cabin was quite full, with many Chinese passengers who find hoarking (Is this a real word? To bring up sputum and snot by snorting and hoarking) and spitting completely socially acceptable, as well as talking at full volume. Oh well, such is life!

No amenity kit either… 😦 But champagne for take off!

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Meals! We switched things up this flight. Mike decided to opt for the Chinese dinner option, consisting of:

Appetizer: Five spice smoked pomfret and Chinese salad: Marinated bran with vegetables and peanut

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Main courses: Gong Bao prawn OR braised chicken and chestnut with yellow wine sauce, both servedΒ with steamed pearl rice and seasonal vegetables, OR stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Michael found the meal, “meh.” The main course was alright but he didn’t touch the pomfret and most of the salad.

Learning from my previous mistake, I chose the Western option this time, which should have included:

  • Amuse bouche: Tea smoked duck breast
  • Hot canape: prawn skewer with Thai chili sauce
  • Appetizer: Baltic style smoked salmon with black pepper
  • Salad: Fresh seasonal salad leaf with French dressing or Chinese vinaigrette.
  • Assorted bread roll served with butter
  • Main courses: Baked Tandoori fish served with raisin turmeric rice and curried vegetable ORΒ stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Unfortunately, bad luck struck again! Although I received my main course, apparently, they had made a mistake and were completely out of the other Western dishes. I said not a problem and accepted the Chinese side dishes… which weren’t very good and like Michael’s, remained mostly untouched. The Tandoori fish was very spicy and salty, I couldn’t finish it although the rice was extremely flavourful! Curried vegetables were mushy snow peas though 😦

Dessert: Hazelnut cake OR orange flavour chocolate cake OR selection of cheese with crackers AND seasonal fresh fruits.

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Cakes were alright but not tasty enough to finish all of it!

This flight went by quickly and we soon found ourselves landing in Singapore!

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After transferring terminals and doing some duty free shopping (have to restock our bar ;)). For spending over $100 on duty free liquor, we got a free Spongebob SquarePants plush toy! I chose to take Patrick, complete with a deep innie belly button home.

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After shopping, we headed to the SilverKris Business Lounge.

Very spacious with ample seating room, this lounge reminded us of a gentlemen’s club with dark colours and leather seats. Lots of drink options and an extensive hot foods area although we didn’t check out the food. I was able to squeeze in a shower in their lovely bathrooms (that you don’t have to go to reception to get a key) which was refreshing and great.

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Michael enjoyed a frosty mug of Tiger beer, of course

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We had a very brief 3 hour layover and soon found ourselves heading to our boarding gate for our last leg home.

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January 10, 2014

Flight SQ255 SIN-BNE (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Singapore at 12:45am
Arriving in Brisbane at 10:45am Jan 10
Flight time: Approx 7hrs 20mins

Seats 12H and 12K

Perhaps our most anticipated leg of the journey due to it being Singapore Airlines, the aircraft was probably one of their oldest and most outdated. The seats looked and felt tired, disappointment!

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The service, however, was great as always on an SQ flight. Again, no amenity kit (why? :() but we did get funky slippers!

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As always, champagne for take off!

We opted for 2 meals during this flight. Both dinner and breakfast. With many naps lying nearly flat in between… πŸ˜›

For dinner, we had warm focaccia with smoked chicken, cheddar cheese and sweet onion relish. Delicious!

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Highland Park 12 Year-Old Single Malt Whisky for Mike and a Skyhigh (“An invigorating recipe featuring vodka, Cointreau, lemon, topped with 7-Up). I quite enjoyed all the unique Singapore Airlines’ cocktails on this flight.

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And egg noodles with braised beef brisket, mushrooms, and leafy greens. Also delicious!

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Before landing, we both enjoyed an American Breakfast with fruit yoghurt, poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, bacon, ham, mushroom and roast potatoes. As well as breads with preserves. For airplane food, it was impressive and mighty tasty!

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Once landed in Brisbane, we proceeded through immigration and customs without any issues or delays. Once outside, there was no taxi queue, allowing us to immediately get into a taxi and be home within 1/2 hour.

Although we enjoyed most aspects of our flights immensely, it was a relief to finally be home!

Summary:

Best service: Tie between Air China and Singapore Airlines
Best food: Air China (LHR-PEK) for Michael, Air Canada (YOW-LHR) for me
Best drinks selection: Singapore Airlines (SIN-BNE)
Most comfortable: Air China (LHR-PEK)
Best entertainment: Air Canada (YOW-LHR)
Best lounge: Changi Airport’s SilverKris

Would we do it again? Yes! But only on points… πŸ˜‰

And thank you to James and Kim for being so lovely! Not only did they keep an eye on our place for us, they made sure we had some fresh bread and milk in the fridge for when we got back! You guys are the best!

Grandpa’s 80th Birthday lunch!

November 24, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA! CHUC MUNG SINH NHAT ONG NGOAI!

Background: Our whole family thought it would be lovely to throw my grandpa a surprise 80th birthday party! Tasks were divided up in order to get everything organised for the big day. Everyone put a lot of time into the event, which turned out successful, yay! We rented a smaller room at the St Laurent Complex with tables, chairs and a screen and projector to work with. I made a slideshow with old photos from each family as I knew my grandpa loved looking at them, especially those of his family. The chosen theme colours were royal blue and silver. A lot of work was put into not only the food, but also the decor! The cranes on the centrepieces were each folded, then spray painted before being strung onto the branches. In the vases, we also put ribbon and tulle that matched the theme colours. Thank you to everyone for their time, especially the grandchildren! Couldn’t have done it without you guys. ❀

I have so many photos, so will only share a select few to help me tell the story πŸ˜€

The grandchildren (my siblings + cousins) arrived 2 hours early to set everything up, yay us!

Making sure we sign the card before the adults arrive

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My brother Andy and Justin putting up the vinyl mural he made – a portrait of my grandpa!

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Closer look at the mural, pretty sweet.

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Due to the space, we decided on two long rows of tables on either side, as opposed to individual tables spread across the room, which worked well! We had an assembly line going as soon as the tablecloths and dinnerware arrived (we rented these),and things were laid out in no time!

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Dining area set up beautifully, ready to go!

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My sister, Jenni, also made party favours for everyone

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There were also 3 tables set up for all the delicious food! Everything but the roasted pig and bread rolls were hand-prepared by a family

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The 2 Family made: Fried wontons, crispy garlic chicken wings, steam buns, flan and also brought an assortment of other things like cucumber, bread rolls, and chocolate.

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The 3 Family made: A fruit platter, Vietnamese pork roll shaped into 80s, deviled eggs, and sweet egg desserts made with agar with a mung bean egg yolk. He also took care of a few vegetarian dishes for my grandma’s friends who attended, as well as the symbolic bowl of 80 clementines!

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The 4 Family made: Seafood soup, water and canned drinks

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The 5 Family made: A veggie platter and a sandwich platter, also bringing along coffee and tea for dessert.

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The 6 Family (us) made: Quinoa salad, pandan and Vietnamese coffee flavoured coconut jelly. I made cupcakes!

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It was a feast! Definitely lots of food leftover that we took home with us πŸ™‚

Grandchildren, assemble! In order to greet my grandpa when he walks in the door!

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We hope he was surprised, especially because my sister wasn’t supposed to be making it but eventually decided to fly in for the weekend!

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Some of my grandma’s guests

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Photo with all the grandchildren + Mike

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Photo with all five children

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We also took individual family photos, here is ours

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My grandma’s friends were not told in advance that the event was for my grandpa’s birthday. Here they are just apologizing for that and giving gifts anyway!

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Grandpa giving us a thank you speech before eating lunch, thank you grandpa!

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Soup assembly line, haha!

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Ready to eat

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Kids table

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Birthday cake! A nice, fluffy green, pandan flavoured cake

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Oh, don’t be shy grandpa

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Make a wish!

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Cutting the cake

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Check out the paparazzi!

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Being the one who made a special trip home for his birthday, Jenni had the honour of presenting the hand-made card!

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Giving our presents! In case you didn’t see in a previous post, our family got him a number of interesting goodies to try and share with family and friends πŸ™‚

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There are A LOT more photos, especially the ones including all the other families. I couldn’t possibly bore you with all of them! πŸ˜› PLEASE CLICK HERE if you would like to see the complete album.

Otherwise, our-what’s-now-becoming-a-tradition: Cousins’ Photoshoot

All 13 grandchildren lined up by age, with 2 outliers – Michael and Martin, an honourary grandchild for the day.

Gpas bday - 158I really like doing these group photos… πŸ˜›

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Quality’s not the best, but this one is my favourite!

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The serious, just got arrested look

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And lastly, a few family photos!

With Janet and her dad (part of the 5 Family)

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The girlies!

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Us!

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There will never be a family photo of us without a silly one first…

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Or two silly photos…

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Look how pretty the 5 Family looks!

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The afternoon passed by so quickly, it was soon time to start cleaning up in order to return the room.

I hope everyone had a great time and enjoyed the atmosphere and the food, especially my grandpa! I hope you enjoyed the slideshow too! Thank you again to the whole family for making this day possible! πŸ™‚

Happy birthday Fi!

September 28, 2013

A small BBQ gathering to catch up with friends and more importantly, celebrate Fiona’s birthday! She’s only turned “24” this year guys πŸ˜‰

Blowing out the candles! It took many laughs and a lot of effort πŸ˜›

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And a few random pictures! Sorry Christine and Mike, somehow I missed you guys!

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Happy birthday again!

Sono Japanese Restaurant for Amanda’s 22nd Birthday!

Thanks to Kee Ping for organising the surprise birthday party for Amanda on Saturday, June 16th! We had the private function room at Sono Japanese Restaurant with 17 people altogether.

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The privacy of the room was pretty nice, although I wish the 2 tables weren’t so segregated. Unfortunately, it was impossible to facilitate conversation between both tables at the same time. Service was very friendly, the servers wore lovely Kimino outfits and were very accommodating. Even though we were in a closed room, we weren’t forgotten and constantly checked upon.

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The food, however, was quite expensive and dishes were hit-or-miss. Some people were quite happy with their dishes but others found theirs lackluster.

Here were a handful of dishes at my table:

Ebi (prawn) Tempura. Delicious, but expensive at $15 for 3 prawns.

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Unagi (eel) Kabayaki ($28) – thick cuts and very flavourful!

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Soft Shell Crab with Shiso Salsa ($15) – Great dish with nice flavour and acidity. A little too much salsa than needed for the burst of flavour so the crab quickly got soft.

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Tenzaru Soba ($19) – This was my dish, which I chose because I had never had cold noodles before and wanted to try something new. The dish was quite bland if not for the tempura and unfortunately, I got really bad food poisoning later that night (the only one in our group who got sick and who had this dish). I’m almost sure it was from the cold noodles itself, probably Bacillus cereus, which is often associated with improperly stored starchy foods (ie. rice, noodles, pasta). Seriously the worst pain of my life, thank god it was over quickly.

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The most interesting, but unfortunately, the most disappointing dish of the night: Seafood Houbayaki ($26). Individually served and cooked at the table, rice is extra.

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Extremely bland! You can even see there seems to be no seasoning involved.

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Moving on to dessert and festivities with the birthday girl! πŸ™‚

Amanda was puzzled, trying to guess who was the person who ordered the chocolate cake decorated with macarons. Turns out it was from her sister back home in Malaysia!

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Taking pictures!

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Many sweets! Chocolate cake from her sister, cheesecake from her friends and I made some pear cupcakes!

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All smiles! Happy birthday girl!

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Great night and got to meet some lovely people! πŸ™‚

Would we come back to Sono? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong. We had a fantastic evening – service was great, with lovely traditional decor and great ambiance. However, most of the group agreed that it was too expensive for less than impressive food. It seemed like half the group really enjoyed their food and the other half (which included the 4 people who ordered the Seafood Houbayaki) simply thought, “Meh.” Also, the food poisoning was unfortunate and extremely unpleasant!

Sono Japanese City on Urbanspoon

Hey, it’s snowing on my blog!

And I can’t remember how to stop it… you’ll just have to deal with it until I fiddle around and find that magical switch to turn it off.

So… I’ve been back 2 weeks and have been terribly blog-silent, what have I been doing?

You might’ve seen me mention it in earlier posts, but home renovations took up quite a bit of time! Does it count if you’re not tearing down walls? Because I didn’t do that this time.

Our living room: Before

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Our living room: After

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Not too shabby? I am amazed I put this together without:

  • Destroying it
  • Having it fall on top of me
  • It being crooked!

I’ve also helped my brother with his bedroom but it’s still full of his unorganized junk, so no pictures for now!

What else – I FINALLY had Tim Hortons!

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Look at the glorious selection (or at least what’s available at 8pm). A dozen donuts for approx $7 – apple fritters, I have missed you!

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Even better that this Timmies is just on the corner of my street.

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Yum, makes me so happy! Got some apple fritters, blueberry fritters, apple cinnamon with jelly filling, Boston creams, blueberry/strawberry jelly-filled, maple cream, yum!

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We also had (really simple) Subway dinner with my grandparents on the evening of his 79th birthday (Nov 24)

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My sister brought her turtle, Franklin, over to visit my grandparents after dinner πŸ˜›

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The next day, Nov 25, we celebrated his birthday with the entire family!

The foods!

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The birthday man!

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Giving our cards and gifts

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Having lots of fun playing Articulate (came all the way from Australia!) after cake πŸ™‚

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FULL ALBUM HERE!

AYCE sushi with my family on November 28th at Sushi Kan!

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Mmm, green tea ice cream

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RANDOM! My new favourite combination: goat cheese (herb flavour) with blueberry jam – delicious! And bagels! Australia! Why you no have delicious bagels?!

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Met up with Bea on Friday, Nov 30 for lunch at Bobby’s Table. Good company and good food in a homely and friendly little place!

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And then for dinner met up with the girls for sushi at Genji – delicious! So nice to catch up with Ruixi (and hear all about her engagement!), Julia, Atong and Alyssa – you girls make me laugh non stop – love you guys!

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BONUS! My brother’s ugly face πŸ™‚

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Okay, I should go pack now… flying to Halifax tomorrow morning! πŸ™‚

Part 2: A Delightful Wednesday

October 24, 2012

Mike and I love food and wish we could go out all the time. Unfortunately, we are both poor students so can’t afford it! However, we do try to take advantage of as many great voucher deals as possible!

And tonight was such a deal: $69 for a 6 course degustation meal and a glass of bubbly for two at L’Academie! We had a good time there last year and thought it would be worth going a second time!

The week before we emailed in a reservation but never received a response. A little unexpected, but nothing a quick phone call couldn’t solve and we were booked for 7pm.

Always a nice change to get dressed up for a night out! πŸ™‚

Upon arrival, we were shown to our table and our degustation meal was explained to us. Unfortunately, the server did not speak very good English and also did not know the menu very well. We missed half the things she was saying and couldn’t really ask her any questions regarding the food (Ie. she didn’t know what a palate cleanser was). Throughout the meal, we had 3 servers, which I find out and just adds to potential confusion.

The bread had been put out at our table ahead of time, but we also noticed the bread in the kitchen was just sitting in a basket, also exposed to air. Dry, crusty bread isn’t very nice! And the same problem we had the last time.

I remember the first time I was at a banquet and had more than one set of cutlery – gosh I was so confused, haha! Certainly know better now πŸ˜‰

Hey dear!

We had a view of the kitchen from our seats

First course: Oyster 2 ways: Bloody Mary and au Gratin

I’m not a fan of oysters, especially raw oysters – but I figured I must try! Michael thought they were quite delicious but I simply couldn’t get past the aftertaste of raw oysters. The other components of the dish were good though! What I disliked: the undressed, out of place julienned carrot and onion. I also wish the chef had separated the oyster from the shell. Would make things a lot easier and look more appealing if patrons could just go straight to slurping the oyster!

Second course: Fried tofu with some Asian styled sauce with a side of salad.

Tofu was way overfried. Crisp but completely dry. Not enough sauce also made the dish quite tasteless, and I normally love tofu. And again, with an undressed and haphazard salad, this was our least favourite dish of the night.

By this time, they had not given us our glasses of bubbly so we had to request them. Unfortunately, it was a different server and he too, did not speak English well and couldn’t understand our request. It was fine though, as he asked the lady who initially seated us and she promptly brought them out. Seems like they just forgot, so no problem! In case you were wondering, it was 2 glasses of Charles Vienot Brut Cuvee.

Third course: Strawberry & citrus sorbet (We think! Couldn’t figure out if it was citrus or just lemon)

Nice but a little too sweet for a palate cleanser! I found the portion a little large as well.

Fourth course: Chicken skewer on a bed of greens

Chicken was amazing. Crisp on the outside, tender and perfectly cooked on the inside, I wish there were 2 skewers! The salad was a little weird for me, again. Raw zucchini skins are definitely not the tastiest things you can put in salad

Fifth course: Thyme and garlic pork fillet on Paris mash, saffron carrot & Blaukraut (got the full name off the menu on the counter beside us)

A very hearty dish, we were definitely getting full now! Pork was perfectly cooked and made me wish there was more than 3 slices and less mashed potatoes! The sauce was so overpowering (tasted mostly of Worcestershire sauce actually) that it made the Blaukraut (German braised red cabbage in red wine) seem like a really odd and weak-flavoured addition to the dish. Nevertheless, still quite tasty.

Sixth and last course: Choc Hazelnut Gateau

Yummy! The other time we had dessert here, it was a crude and dry brownie. This cake (even though it was precut and refrigerated) was moist, decadent, full of hazelnut crunch and the serving size was enormous! I would’ve been more than happy with a piece half that size, but who was complaining!

With our bellies bursting with happiness, we said thank you and headed home πŸ˜€

Overall, we had a good experience. Staff were friendly but really need to work on learning their menu items and ingredients. Some dishes were quite tasty but we hated the undressed filler salads that came with many plates. Dessert was super generous and delicious which ended the night on a high note. We understand L’Academie is a training restaurant, and with such mixed reviews on Urbanspoon, we definitely did not walk in with any expectations.

Will we come back?

For a good price we would. But I think we’re more interested in trying out a new place next time.

L'Acadamie on Urbanspoon

Part 1: A Delightful Wednesday

October 24, 2012

Met up with Christine for study date – lunch at Petit Four in Wintergarden Queen St Mall. Christine had a ‘tasting’ voucher – $15 for the 2 of us which I thought was definitely worth it!

I had read a number of negative reviews on Urbanspoon but was quite happy with the pleasant service! We were patiently instructed on our options and what we could choose:

  • 2 hot drinks (approx $5/ea value) – I chose a hazelnut chocolate milk while Christine got a strawberry mocha. My milk was nearly hot enough to even melt the chocolate so I ended up with a clumpy chocolatey drink. Fortunately, it still tasted good.

  • 2 chocolates ($3/ea value) – Wild passionfruit for me and a rose shaped fudge for Christine. Yummy chocolates!

  • 4 small macarons (approx $3/ea value) – Pistachio and citrus for me, strawberry and pistachio for Christine. I really enjoyed these but haven’t had them enough to know if these would be considered ‘great’ or not.

  • 1 tart (approx $5/ea value) – Lemon meringue. Nothing special but tasted good.

  • 1 square (approx $5/ea value) – Chocolate mud cake. Didn’t really like this – barely enough chocolate flavour and not very moist – definitely not a ‘mud’ cake.

  • 4 finger sandwiches – We got one of each flavour: egg & dill, chicken, tuna and tomato/cheese/ham. Again, nothing special but they were good!

Overall, the food was quite decent. And really, how could you complain when you paid $15 for all of that food, in Brisbane?

There were also numerous people who came to redeem the same voucher (which expired the next day). I was amazed at how impatient and stuck up some customers can be. Hello?! You chose to be cheap and purchase this great deal… what on earth are you so high and mighty about? Some people really need to learn to be a little more respectful!

Anyway, Petit Four is located in a corner of the mall so you don’t expect much. But they do have a cute environment withΒ  clear plastic chairs and little tables (seat 2 or 4) as well as clear stools for 2 big counters for customers to sit at. We set up shop at one of the counters and ended up staying for close to 5 hours, mainly studying with some chit chat πŸ˜‰ Not once did we feel pressured to leave and the tasting definitely filled us up for a while!

Would I come back? Yes! But only when I’m not so cheap and poor… πŸ˜›

Petit Four on Urbanspoon

Finally got home around 5:30pm to these! So pretty!

From this guy! πŸ˜‰

We had a dinner date that night (you’ll see in Part 2!) so he decided to get me flowers… awww, so sweet!

A wonderful Friday surprise

Last Friday (October 19), Mike and I decided to have lunch at The Coffee Club in West End after PBL. We had bought a voucher that was expiring within a few days – $25 for 2 breakfasts or lunches and 2 glasses of wine/juice, so had to use it!

After a delicious lunch, we did what we usually do when we go out for food: hang around for a few hours and study. During that time, I got a message from Joseph saying “OSCE marks are out!”

I told Michael excitedly and then with trembling hands and a pounding heart, we logged onto Blackboard to check our scores. I don’t know If you remember, but a few weeks ago I wrote a blog after the OSCEs detailing my experiences and the fear that I may have failed.

I held my breath and loaded the page:

Yay! I passed! Michael was slower and was even more nervous to load his page, but he passed too! Yay us!

I was unbelievably happy. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Michael and I booked our flights back to Ottawa for the second week after final exams in case we’d have to redo the exam but now we can have a real holiday in Australia before going home instead!

Headed out after studying and stopped in Bent Books – sooo many books! Loved it!

Three Monkeys Coffee & Tea House on Urbanspoon

We then decided to stop at Three Monkeys Coffee & Tea House for a slice of celebratory cake. πŸ˜€ Our friend Lauren introduced this lovely cafe to us last year. Although it has great ambiance, cozy indoor and breezy outdoor seating, their cakes are unfortunately quite average while overpriced. Nevertheless, fun times! And make sure to check out the decor if you stop by! All the different “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil” monkeys really gives the cafe its name!

Kimono on Urbanspoon

Decided to call it a day and head home. But during the walk back to Cultural Centre bus stop, we passed by Kimono – a sushi train restaurant we’d never seen before. Sushi is our weakness… so we decided we had to give it a try!

We were loudly greeted by the chef as soon as we walked into the door and felt immediately welcomed. A server showed us to our seats and briefly outlined the dinner options, which included an AYCE buffet option! Alas, we weren’t hungry enough for that so we ordered a few rolls instead. They were made on the spot, well priced and all were quite yummy!

When we went to pay, the server commented that we didn’t eat much but we told her we’ll definitely be back!

What an amazingly happy day! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Thanksgiving lunch at Mario’s

October 14, 2012

Mario invited a bunch of us over to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving… it was amazing πŸ˜€ Everybody brought such delicious food… let’s see if I can remember everything:

  • Mario – roasted pork belly and duck fat potatoes
  • Mike & Sandra – Meatloaf and apple tarts
  • Yoni – Sweet potato salad
  • Janet & Ben – Mac&Cheese and green been salad
  • Stacy – Pumpkin pie
  • MyCo – Wings (& salad I believe)
  • Jen & Alex – Roast lamb
  • Lauren – Salad
  • Saji – Drinks
  • Ben – Pumpkin risotto
  • Sarah – Mezze board
  • Sarah & Max – White chocolate mud cake

Is that everyone? I hope so! I’m sure everybody had super happy bellies by the afternoon πŸ˜‰

I wish I had taken photos, but here are a few from Mario:

Setting up the tables with only some of the dishes

One of Sarah’s mezze boards and white chocolate mud cake – yum!

Shot of my apple tarts

Group photo!

And another group shot taken by MyCo

Thanks again to Mario and everyone else for a lovely lunch!

Overdue food update

Haha, haven’t seen food on here in a while!

Bunch of dishes from past months πŸ˜€ There will be a few repeats from my Photo a Day project and a couple of dishes made by my mom while my family was here visiting!

The first dish I made since exams this past Saturday – yum! Pan fried dumplings with homemade kimchi

Gnocchi, garlic bread and eggplant tempura

Toast, curried eggs and garlic yoghurt brocoli salad

Easy dinner – pasta!

Crispy pita with sauteed spinach with garlic and melted cheese

Fajita night

‘Banh hoi’ with roasted duck, roasted pork and veggies – always such a treat!

‘Banh cuon’ filled with thit nuong (BBQ ground pork) – one of my favourites, thanks mom!

Toasted baguette with lightly sauteed spinach and veggies

Butternut squash soup

Rice with spinach and mushroom stuffed peppers

Rice with beef curry, thit kho and stir fried snow peas

Hors d’oeuvres with buttersquash, curry, and spinach stuffings – so easy to make and fun to eat!

‘Bun xao’ – thanks mom!

‘Bun rieu’ – thanks mom!

Apple and cheese puff bites

Now that my oven is fixed, I’ve also been trying to learn how to bake (from scratch) and creating my own recipes. Can do better, but still many successes – yay!

Lime cupcakes with lime icing

Red velvet creamcheese brownies

Carrot muesli cookies – healthy and delicious!

Carrot and banana cupcakes – perfected my own recipes, yay!

Chocolate lime cupcakes

FADU: Happy 50th Birthday Mommy!

August 20, 2012

Very lucky to not only be able to celebrate my 25th birthday this year with my family in Australia, but also my mom’s 50th!

Mike and I took my family down to visit the Gold Coast and have lunch at the Four Winds Revolving Restaurant. Although the food was quite lacking (I rate this restaurant 3.5/5), the view was amazing and definitely worth the visit.

Waiting for the train to Gold Coast!

Taking pictures at Surfers Paradise πŸ™‚

Fourwinds Revolving Restaurant at the top of Crowne Plaza Hotel

In the lobby of Crowne Plaza

The restaurant, lovely views!

Elevator shots! πŸ˜›

Cake, cards and presents at home!

Chocolate lime cupcakes – I’m sorry your cake isn’t as extravagant as it deserves to be mommy!

So sad… our last activity together! 😦 My mom and siblings are now somewhere across the Pacific Ocean back to Canada… miss them already!

Recent Cookings!

A few things I made these past few weeks – mostly healthy I think! πŸ˜›

Rice with garlic asparagus and lemon pepper chicken breasts stuffed with a whole bunch of stuff including chives and cream cheese

“Che” A cold, soupy dessert with lychee, jackfruit and nata de coco in sweet coconut milk

Rosemary, garlic and lemon grilled eggplant

Spring rolls! Yum yum!

Stuffed (beef, cheese, sweet chili, spices, etc) bell pepper and tomato with rice.

Blueberry yoghurt and banana cake topped with walnuts