A day in Singapore

September 20, 2014

We landed in Singapore around 1pm. After a huge waste of time with Scoot (which may be discussed in a later post), including a 1 hour delay, we finally made it out into the city!

We first strolled through Little India, enjoying the sights and smells, finally stopping at Mustafa Centre to exchange money. Then we headed over to Chinatown, enjoying a quick lunch of BBQ pork and char siu with rice at Chinatown Food Street (CFS). This was the first time we came across CFS, here’s a little blurb from YourSingapore:

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Located on Smith Street in the heart of Chinatown, the revitalised CFS seeks to create the most authentic Singapore dining experience for locals and tourists alike. From a tantalising plate of Char Kway Teow, to sticks of mouthwatering Satay, CFS offers a diverse spread of local delights, with iconic food from local cultures all represented on one street.

With street hawker stalls, shophouse restaurants and ad hoc street kiosks, complete with the al-fresco dining style along the street, one can revisit the Chinatown of old at CFS. Newly constructed high-ceiling glass canopy shelter and internal spot cooling system allow diners to indulge in culinary pleasures regardless of rain or shine. Now fully pedestrianised, visitors can dine in comfort along Smith Street from day to night.

If you are ever in the area, HERE’S a good article with 10 food stalls to check out!

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We had to have a quick lunch before we needed to be on our way to a very important appointment – our first ‘real life escape game’ at BreakOut! Since last year, BreakOut materialized and landed the #2 ranking on the Trip Advisor list of attractions in Singapore. With nearly a 5 star rating after over 130 reviews, how could we pass it up?

What is BreakOut? Here’s a description from their website:

BreakOut Escape Game is a Real Life Escape Game provider in Singapore, offering themed escape rooms to players who enjoy the challenge of playing escape games in a physical environment. Real Life Escape Game is the latest global phenomenon that has taken the gaming world by storm, with more and more players experiencing the simple thrills of escaping from beautifully designed escape rooms.

Taking on the role of the main characters in the story, you and your teammates have to work together to find clues, solve puzzles and navigate yourself out of a locked room that you are trapped in, while beating the clock!

BreakOut has 3 themed escape rooms of varying difficulty – Forever Young(4.5*).,The Scientist(4*) and Magician’s Secret (5*). We cater to both newcomers and seasoned gamers.

Each session is 1 hour long. We booked our visit for 2:30pm and chose ‘The Scientist’ room to break out of, apparently the easiest of 3 rooms:

An eccentric but genius scientist has discovered a miraculous cure to any form of cancer – it is rumoured to be a previously unknown species of the mushroom family. Its wondrous properties are worth a fortune, and you and your accomplices have broken into his laboratory to steal his discovery. Unfortunately the paranoid scientist has booby trapped the room and you are trapped in his laboratory. Can you escape before the police arrive?

BreakOut is extremely easy to find and on the second floor of the building. We were greeted by staff as we were climbing up the stairs, “Sandra? Welcome! Come on in!”

We were asked if we’d ever played such a game before, either in real life or virtually. We hadn’t. We were given a quick run down and then taken into our room. The rules of the game were explained, including how to immediately stop the game and leave the room if required. We were reminded that unless there was striped tape around objects, they were a part of the game. Keep our eyes and ears open, be observant, use our brains and enjoy the game!

And then the staff was gone, we were left in our room, and the timer started to count down. Suspenseful music played continuously as we frantically tried to figure out how to get out of the room. We soon realized why the recommended number of players is 4-8 people, as opposed to two! The more people in the room working with you, the more fun and successful you’ll be.

We really did try. But maybe it was the jetlag and not sleeping for over a day, but we got stuck a number of times. We felt a little embarrassed but no worries! You are constantly being video monitored and if the staff find you aren’t progressing quick enough, someone will politely knock, come in and offer a vague clue to help you get back on track.

Unfortunately, we failed to break out of the room within the hour 😦 However, because no one had booked the room after us, we were allowed a few extra minutes to complete the game.

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A super fun and exhilarating experience! It is very clear that the rooms and situations have been thought out and well prepared. An hour of adrenaline rushing through your body as you race against the clock. 😉 Highly recommend a visit to BreakOut if you’re in Singapore! We will definitely be coming back to try the other 2 rooms the next time we are in Singapore. 🙂 Thanks to the staff for their great service and not openly laughing at us! 😛 We look forward to visiting again.

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After BreakOut, we walked around Chinatown some more, stopping at Koi Kei Bakery – the famous Macau name, renowned for their perfectly crispy-crumble-in-your-mouth almond cookie.

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Stepping into the shop can be a little overwhelming because there are so many options available. Luckily, the staff is there to help you out 😛 We were greeted as we stepped into the shop and given a few minutes to look around before being offered samples. Lots of samples. I think you could have a never ending taste of cookies if you wanted. We started off with the most popular cookie – the almond cookie. She gave us a sample of both the hand made and machine made almond cookies – you could definitely taste the difference in texture!

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Despite its popularity, we ended up not getting any almond cookies. Instead, we purchased a box of almond pastry. Superbly flaky and buttery while not too sweet. Yum!

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We continued our short day in Singapore with a steady stream of food. Including our first taste of Kaya Toast, a popular Singapore and Malaysian snack. Kaya is a coconut jam, often served on buttered toast with pandan, sugar and/or condensed milk. A sweet treat!

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For dinner, we foolishly thought we would be able to dine in at Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant, one of our favourite places. Boy, were we wrong. Dinner time meant huge lines. No time to wait. Good thing we could take out! We grabbed a few of our favourite dishes including: egg tarts, steamed salted egg yolk custard buns, and red bean paste pancake. So delicious, just as we remembered, and can’t wait to be back!

Unfortunately, our time in Singapore had to come to an end and we headed back to the airport…. where we finally had the opportunity to shower for the first time in 2 days.

See you again in December Singapore!

Tasty dim sum at Michelin starred restaurant Tim Ho Wan

We landed in Hong Kong from Canada at 5:00pm on September 19, 2014.

We had one single goal during our layover in Hong Kong – to enjoy delicious dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, famous being awarded a Michelin star in 2011 (Sham Shui Po location). It had been over a year since we’ve heard of this renowned, posisbly cheapest, Michelin starred restaurant in the world. We had been looking forward to this meal for months and anything else we had time for would be icing on the cake.

Tim Ho Wan was founded by Chef Mak Pui Gor, previous dim sum master at Lung King Heen in Four Seasons Hotel, the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin 3 star rating. What began as a small, humble, 30-seat eatery in Mongkok (this location has since closed) has now expanded to 4 other locations in HK, as well as into other Asian countries like Singapore and the Philippines.

We decided to visit the IFC Mall location, as it was most convenient. For those who are interested, the Airport Express train costs $100 HKD (less than $15 CAD) return and stops at Hong Kong Station, just below IFC Mall. Head up the escalator to Level 1 and turn left, you won’t miss the long queues. There is no sign that says “Tim Ho Wan” so familiarize yourself with their green logo and characters ahead of time so you don’t miss it!

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The other thing you need to prepare yourself for is how to get a table. It can be a little intimidating but don’t worry, it’s quite easy! Most people standing around have already registered themselves for a table and are waiting for their number to be called. So when you arrive, you need to push yourself to the front where you will likely be greeted by a busy, yet very efficient lady. Tell her how many people you have and ask for a yellow menu if you’re not automatically offered one, which is in English. You will be identified as a foreigner and a marking will be added beside your table number on her list so that when your number is called, it will be done so in English. As it gets closer to your number, I suggest standing near the front so you don’t miss your number when it’s called.

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If it’s a busy time, be prepared to wait! And keep in mind that numbers are not called out sequentially but according to how many people can be seated. Ie. A group of 2 will likely be seated before a group of 6.

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While in line, you should definitely start ticking off all the items you want off the menu. As your table number is approaching, you can give your menu in advance to the lady at the front. That way, your food will come as soon as you sit down. We gave our menu to her as we were being seated and didn’t have to wait long at all, so it’s really not necessary!

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We waited around 30-40 minutes before finally being seated. The restaurant is small and packed tightly. We sat in between 2 other groups on either side and felt packed like sardines but such is the experience of eating dim sum in Asia right? Pretty excited to start our highly anticipated meal!

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Place settings with their most popular dishes as well as a listing of their HK locations.

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Chuckled a bit. I know, we decided not to have tea with our dim sum, blasphemy! 😛

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Deep fried dumplings filled with pork ($15, 3pcs). Our first dish, which immediately left a good first impression. Fried dumplings are one of my favourite dim sum dishes, and these ones were perfect. Cripsy on the outside, fully cooked inside, nice and glutinous with a well seasoned, not too fatty pork filling. Yum!

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Panfried turnip cake ($15, 3pcs). Mike and I have tried different variations of this dish over the past few years. We have never been the biggest fans of this dish but being one of the “Big 4 Heavenly King Dim Sum from Tim Ho Wan,” we certainly had to try! We quite enjoyed the silky daikon flavour and beautiful sear of this cake.

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Steamed fresh shrimp dumplings ($27, 4 pcs). Delicate, translucent skins with nicely seasoned fresh, plump and succulent prawns – these were great.

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Steamed pork dumplings with shrimp ($27, 4 pcs). As you can see, these siu mai lacked the finesse of assembly, but were overall tasty.

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Steamed rice rolls stuffed with shrimp and chive ($27, 3 rolls) and Steamed rice rolls stuffed with BBQ pork ($21, 3 rolls). Both of us always enjoy this dim sum dish, but these rice rolls were too thick and the wrong texture, they should be delicate and slightly chewy. In addition, the proportion of filling to rice roll was too low 😦 The biggest disappointment of our meal.

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Baked bun with BBQ pork ($21, 3 pcs). La pièce de resistance! The reason why we came to Tim Ho Wan lies in these 3 sublime golden buns. Oven baked with a crispy sweet topping, this is the perfect love child of a pineapple bun and a BBQ pork bun. A delicious combination between salty and sweet. These were perfection and easily the highlight of our night! If we weren’t so full, we would’ve ordered more. After one bite, there was no doubt how these buns came to be Tim Ho Wan’s most famous dish.

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Tonic medlar & petal cake ($12, 3 pcs). This beautiful dessert jelly had subtle sweetness and was quite fragrant, filled with goji berries and osmanthus flowers. A very light and refreshing way to end our delicious meal!

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We had also ordered Steamed Egg Cake ($15) which unfortunately wasn’t available. Other dishes I would’ve liked to try on this menu include: Glutinous rice dumpling, Braised chicken feet with abalone sauce, Steamed rice rolls stuffed with pig’s liver, Sweet barley soup with bean curd sheet, Sweet pumpkin cream with red bean. Unfortunately, there were only 2 of us. We couldn’t possibly eat more and Michael is also not a fan of liver and chicken feet. It is also our understanding that some Tim Ho Wan locations may have dishes that are not available at others.

Aside from the rice rolls dishes, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and look forward to the opportunity of dining again at Tim Ho Wan, likely at a Singapore location in the near future! The dishes were high in quality and lived up to our expectations. We left happy and with full bellies.

Is it the best dim sum in the world? Probably not, but still darn tasty! Was it worth our 30-40 minute wait? I think so, even if just for those BBQ pork buns and the experience. With that being said, I would definitely go during down time at my next visit so I won’t have to wait in line as long! 😛

Our total bill came to around $180 HKD, which is approximately $25 CAD, what a steal! Keep in mind that there is a $3 service charge for each dine in customer. They also have take out available, which is much quicker if you want to grab a bite to eat on the go or don’t want to wait in line.

Have you tried Tim Ho Wan before? Would love to hear what you think!

Hong Kong locations:

  • Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station Podium Level 1, IFC Mall , Central
  • Shop 72, G/F, Olympian City 2, 18 Hoi Ting Road, Tai Kok Tsui
  • G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
  • Shop B, C, D on G/F Seaview building No 2-8 Wharf Road, North Point

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 as Uncle Jim & Aunt Brenda 🙂

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 😉 … a pretty cute one!

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Look at that smile!

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Happy early birthday guys! 🙂

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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 🙂

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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 in Australia!

Good food and dressing well

September 13, 2014

An early flight back to Ottawa from Halifax, thanks Matt for driving us to the airport! We can’t wait to see your family in Adelaide next year!

We got back to my house around 11am and went to lunch with Ruixi and Chris! Similar to last year, we were all craving Perkins, so breakfast for lunch was perfect! It was so nice to see them and catch up, especially since so much has happened since we hung out with them at Perkins last year, including a wedding and honeymoon! 😉

When my mom got home from work that evening, we ordered Shawarma Palace (of course) and joined my grandparents for dinner.

Shawarma chicken and beef platters… how I miss you!

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My mum and grandpa

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Family minus Jenni!

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Enjoying some Jost Maple Ice Wine, thanks Dan! He and Mike had a sports bet and he lost. The prize? A nice Canadian bottle of ice wine, which we shared with family 🙂

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Chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, garlic sauce, pickles, hummus, bread, salad… mmm

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My lovely grandparents!

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Always fun having dinner with my grandparents 🙂

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Some of you might know or remember that I’ve kept a coin collection since I was young. A very amateur collection, spurred by the release of the 1999 Millenium coins. Even now, my grandma will save new/different/fancy coins she comes across for me to riffle through and pick ones to save.

Here’s the collection of quarters she’s kept for me! Just going through them to see which ones I don’t have and can add to my collection, thanks grandma!

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My brother makes the best faces and takes the best selfies!

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September 14, 2014

The following day, my brother, Mike and I went on an ambitious adventure. Andy was going to photograph some engagement photos for us. He had a few sites picked out to visit and we had lots of fun, although I can’t say many of the photos turned out 😛 But when they’re ready I’ll share!

One fun aspect, we got to dress up a bit! My mom and aunt were going to come along as well, but unfortunately she had a prior engagement so mum and I took a few photos together at home instead 🙂

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Can you tell what we did on our photo shoot? 😛 So serious!

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Check out my brother, the “pro”

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Two hands mama!

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And what did we finish the day with?

Delicious home made Phở Tái (Vietnamese noodle soup with beef cooked rare) before addition of herbs and garnishes, thank mum!

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And of course, who can forget Benny! So cute, but he’s so camera shy!

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Only $1, what a deal! I missed having these, brought back memories from childhood 🙂

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Post exam dinner at Agricola Street Brasserie

September 11, 2014

Ecstatic to have completed our Medical Specialties exam, we were looking forward to a nice dinner with friends. A highly anticipated visit to Agricola Street Brasserie – finally! We were joined for dinner by Laura, Matt and their daughter Isabelle, as well as Ian & Sarah. 🙂

I have to apologize that we didn’t take many photos, too busy enjoying the food and everyone’s company!

You are immediately invited into the restaurant by the great atmosphere and friendly waitstaff. High ceilings, very rustic (yet classy) looking with mood lighting.

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We all enjoyed a cocktail to start, great choices available, although I can’t remember what we ordered now! Once our dinner orders in, some nice house bread and whipped butter were brought to the table. The butter was presented in cute mini jam jars, a cute touch!

We ordered a few appetizers to share, including a cheese plate with local and imported cheeses ($14). The cheese variety (can’t remember, sorry!) was interesting and tasty, served with bread, crisps and mango chutney. I think most of us enjoyed the blue cheese most, which was unexpected! With the amount of cheese on the plate, it could’ve definitely used more crisps or bread, although I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem if we had asked for more.

Mike and I picked out 2 dishes to try and share with everyone. The first was Classic Beef Tartare ($15). I quite liked the presentation of this dish, mainly because of the egg yolk in a half shell you pour over the beef yourself. Simple, but nice touch! The tartare was nicely seasoned accompanied perfectly with the dijon mustard and served with grilled bread – yum!

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The other appetizer we chose was Snails & Mushrooms, Garlic & Parsley Butter, Almond & Thyme Tartine ($13). This dish was fantastic! Heaping amounts of really tasty large snails and mushrooms atop 3 slices of bread. The bread soaked up all the juices, making sure we didn’t lose any of the delicious flavours! Unfortunately, only one other person at the table, aside from Mike and I, tried this dish with us. The others missed out!

The appetizer portions were a great value for the price. Unlike numerous other restaurants we’ve visited, these appetizers could easily be enjoyed between a group of 6 people!

For mains, Michael chose the Thai Sausage, Stir Fried Brussel Sprouts, Thai Chilies, Cilantro ($19). Really tasty dish with a lovely fragrant and texture to the sausage. However, we both felt that it could’ve used a small portion of seasoned rice or other form of carb to balance out the taste and look of this dish.

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Ian and myself chose the Basmati Rice & Chick Pea Salad, Vegetables & Herbs, Ginger, Lime, Olive Oil ($14). Flavours, delicious. I loved the crispness of the fried chick peas, they added really good texture to the dish. I’m generally not a fan of basmati rice compared to other types but this salad was done well with fresh vegetables and a nice, crisp dressing. The only thing about this dish that I didn’t enjoy? Too many hot chilies for my palate, I had to pick out quite a few!

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Other mains ordered at our table include the Roasted Halibut, Sweet Pea Puréeé, Mussel Butter, Pea & Brocoli ($27) which was thoroughly enjoyed with no complaints.

Another was the Seared Scallops, Cauliflower three ways, Bacon, Apple & Thyme ($25), which was unfortunately a disappointment. The scallops did not have a beautiful golden sear on them and the vegetables, especially cauliflower three ways, was too lacking. Compared to the serving size of other dishes, including appetizers, this one was tiny. Visually and conceptually, I think this dish needs to be rethought.

At one point during our dinner, the restaurant manager, Peter Goneau, stopped by our table to say hello and see how the evening was going. Mike and I always appreciate when staff go the extra mile to check in on their customers!

Everybody enjoyed desserts, some of which are not listed on the current menu. Matt had ordered a creme brulee while Laura enjoyed a sundae. Ian and Sarah enjoyed a chocolate pot de creme.

Mike and I shared what we thought would be a strawberry cheesecake. But it turned out to be almost a mix between cheesecake and strawberry shortcake. Mike was so disappointed but I quite liked it!

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At one point during dinner, I took a bathroom break, where I discovered 2 things:

  1. Really cool toilets! Individual private bathrooms with great personality. Love some of the unique touches like the faucets, and the door handles which were crafted from pipes.
  2. The open kitchen, that you can sit and dine at. As this area is tucked away from the main dining room, I had no idea but this would definitely be where I’d want to sit at for my next meal. Enjoying good food while seeing the magic happen in the kitchen, yes please!

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Great ambiance, attentive service, reasonable prices and overall very tasty food – one of my most enjoyable restaurant experiences during my time in Halifax. I’m keen to see what seasonal dishes will be on their menu the next time I visit!

Agricola Street Brasserie on Urbanspoon

One last meal with Bill at Dharma Sushi

Sept 10, 2014

Bill drove Michael up into the city from New Germany as we had our final exam the following day.

Of course, we couldn’t say farewell without a final meal together. We ended up at Dharma Sushi, one of Bill’s favourite Japanese restaurants. Walked into a narrow restaurant with 2 rows of small tables lining the walls, a few occupied by obvious regular patrons – always a good sign!

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Started with some warm sake around the table! Couldn’t celebrate too much, had an exam to study for! 😉

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We shared a couple of appetizers, including a dish of Gyoza (6pcs for $7.95). Thin, crispy, delicate skins enveloping a nicely seasoned meat filling.

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I also chose a 10pc Dharma Diamond specialty roll with crispy avocado, Eel, Salmon, & spicy sauce with golden roe and chives on top ($12.95). Lovely blend of textures and flavours, highly recommend this roll if you’re dining at Dharma Sushi!

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For mains, we all couldn’t pass up the new menu item: Dharma Ramen with shio-kouji (salted rice malt) based broth ($10.95). The ramen was good, but not the best we’ve ever tasted. Bill loved the ramen, however, both Mike and I found the broth needed more flavour. The noodles were excellent, but some fattier slices of pork and a medium boiled egg would’ve certainly added more richness to the dish.

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It was nice to see you Bill, thanks again for everything!

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A great little restaurant offering delicious Japanese cuisine with exceptional quality service, highly recommend! Would love to visit again when I’m back in Halifax to try some of their other dishes!

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Dharma Sushi on Urbanspoon

Halifax Food Truck Adventure Day!

Sept 07, 2014

This was an exciting day as Michael and I had some big plans. We’d heard quite a bit about the food truck scene in Halifax and had ambitious plans of hitting up each of them. Lucky for us, as it was a Sunday, only 5 of them were open – otherwise we may have gone into a food coma 😉 If you’re interested in seeing what food trucks are in Halifax and their times and places of operation, visit Street Food Halifax.


First up, Cheese Gypsy! Actually, we cheated, we visited this truck the day before 😛 CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page and HERE to read more reviews!

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Limited, but definitely tantalizing menu!

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Great service! Thanks Mike (and Robin) for your friendliness and even offering a sample of plump and sweet local blueberries 🙂

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Due to its seasonal ingredients, we decided on the Blueberry Grilled Cheese Sandwich with fresh blueberries, wild blueberry jam & brie cheese. $8 for the sandwich only or $11 for the combo (served with hand cut fries or homemade soup with a can of pop or water). Rustic tomato soup was appealing, but we couldn’t say no to fries 😛

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Fries were delicious! Easily some of the best food truck fries we’ve had. Perfectly crispy and golden!

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We weren’t wowed by the visual packaging as the sandwich was simply wrapped in tinfoil, but it certainly made up in taste!

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Not greasy at all with a generous amount of gooey melted brie and blueberries – so good! I really wish we had tried more varieties!


Halifax Press – a second grilled cheese food truck, CLICK HERE for more reviews!

After weeks of hearing about Halifax Press serving up delicious grilled cheese near the hospital but too busy with work  to visit – I finally had my chance!

Bright green truck with a distinctive HP logo, you can’t miss it!

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Take a look at the menu

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I ordered The Sou’western ($8) with That Dutchman’s smoked gouda, tex mex jalapeno & corn bacon jam with creamy avocado. The description sounds like there’s too much going on, but all the flavours blended wonderfully together!

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Looks like a hot mess, but dang tasty!

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Mike couldn’t pass up the daily special called Brunch at Bishops ($8) with Foxhill cheddar, smoky bacon, chili frizzled onions & fried egg. One word, yum!

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The presentation was simple, but definitely had an edge over Cheese Gypsy as it displayed the sandwich. Both trucks had delicious sandwiches, Cheese Gypsy offered simpler blends of ingredients while Halifax Press offered more complex options. Definitely inspired us to be more creative with our grilled cheese sandwiches at home in the future!

We also couldn’t pass up the opportunity for homemade cookies – Reese’s pieces chip chocolate – 2 for $1.50!

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Certainly not the best cookie we’ve ever had, but pretty darn good!

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Next up, Halifax Footlongs!

We were surprised not to see a truck, but don’t be fooled by its simplistic set up!

“Finest hand rolled Nova Scotian Sausage and Montreal Hotdogs – Roselane Footlongs, Sweet William Smokies, Montreal Steamies and Veggie Dogs – Farm fresh local condiments & sauces prepared daily weekends at the Halifax Seaport Market.” CLICK HERE for more reviews!

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Jon, the owner, is obviously very passionate about the food he serves. He only cooks the hotdogs and sausages in small batches to ensure they are freshest at serving. As a result, we had to wait a few minutes (a large group of children were ahead of us) for which he apologised a number of times. Really, a few minutes of waiting, especially when you’re being told exactly how many minutes – is no problem!

The exciting part about waiting is looking at and thinking about what sauces and condiments you are going to try – and there are plenty to choose from!

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With a few minutes in between each customer, Jon happily gives you ‘the tour’ of his sauces and condiments, offering suggestions along the way. Interesting sauces include Sweet Horseradish, Scotch Hot Sauce, Southern Gold, and Nova Scotia Peculiar, while toppings consisted of local brine pickles, garlic balsamic tomatoes, and Montreal Poolroom Slaw (which wasn’t available).

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When we received our Roselane Bavarian (snappy Vienna footlong weiner, $5), we were proudly told that it was made with 100% lean pork shoulder, no fillers or additives. It was also mentioned that although served on a bun, many people eat their footlongs on its own without bread and we were welcomed to do so as well 😉

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We ended up keeping it simple with pickles, horseradish and mustard – delicious and allowed the meat to stand out more!

Definitely recommend a visit if you’re by Halifax Seaport Market!


We’d been looking forward to the next stop all day – Ol’ School Donuts! And what made it even more fun? Christine came out to join us!

Started by 17 year old Noah Connolly, Ol’ School Donuts serves delicious piping hot mini old-fashioned donuts out of their bright red short bus. Click HERE and HERE to read more about the business venture.

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You can enjoy your Ol’ School Donuts 3 ways, each $5:

  1. A dozen of one traditional option (plain, sugar, or cinnamon)
  2. 10 donuts of 1 flavour
  3. Split order of 10 donuts with 2 flavours

More importantly, check out the available flavours – how incredible do they sound?

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After a few moments agonizing over the options while waiting in line, 😛 we eventually decided on 2 split orders…

Strawberry Shortcake & Peanut Butter Cup

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Toasted Coconut & Caramel Apple

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The donuts were made to order – crispy on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside. The toppings were great and much more extravagant with so many more components than we expected, what a nice surprise!


Finally, our last stop of the day, The Battered Fish!

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For a food truck, we found the menu to be quite extensive, perhaps with too many options.

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We like it when appropriate garbage disposals are available to customers!

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Mike got Fish Tacos ($2.75 each) with 7″ flour tortilla stuff with Haddock tips, crisp lettuce, fresh salsa, and their house made white sauce. Although it can certainly look more appetizing, he found them very good!

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I ordered the Fish Burger and Fries ($6.50) Battered Haddock, baby spinach, tomato and signature sauce on a fresh kaiser bun. I also substituted my fries for sweet potato fries. The fish was nice and fresh and their signature sauce was delicious. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by a cheap, flaky, stale white bun – certainly not a kaiser bun like advertised. Too bad.

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The sweet potato fries were good but a little overdone.

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Christine got Haddock Tips & Fries (Sm $6 or Lg $9), which she thoroughly enjoyed.

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Overall, good food at very reasonable prices. There are also a number of picnic tables to sit at which is great. Try their different sauces! The wasabi is too mild for our liking, but the tartare, curry, and signature sauces are all good. The one disappointment was the quality of my fish burger bun! Would definitely order a bread-less option next time.

The Battered Fish on Urbanspoon

Thanks for joining us Christine! Great seeing you on our Food Truck Adventure!

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A fantastic day filled with great food – love food trucks! And don’t worry, we didn’t eat all day… we interspersed it with some productive shopping 😉

Fantastic dinner at Seoul

Sept 06, 2014

Had the opportunity to visit Dan and Natalie and see their lovely apartment, meet their cute dogs, and catch up!

We then headed over to Seoul for dinner, one of their favourite Korean restaurants. Tucked inside the first floor of a building on Duke St, you could easily walk by without noticing!

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The restaurant was quite empty for dinner time, with only 2 other tables of Korean patrons. Unfortunate, because from the quality of food we had, it should be bustling! Clean with modest decor consisting of mainly wall decals and accent walls.

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We were immediately greeted, shown to a table and given menus.

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Between the 4 of us, we enjoyed 3 different appetizers.

Kimchijeon (Korean kimchi pancake, $6.99) which was crispy on the edges and interspersed with yummy pieces of the fermented cabbage.

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Tteokbokki ($7.99). Chewy rice cakes with slices of fish cake and onions smothered in a thick gochujang (Korean chili paste) based sauce. Served piping hot, adding to the spiciness satisfaction!

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Gunmandu ($9.99 for 10 pcs) – fried dumplings with crispy shells and filled generously with delicious meat!

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Dan and Natalie!

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For mains, Michael and I shared an order of Bibimbap ($14.50) which is a sizzling dish of rice with an assortment of seasoned vegetables, meat, topped with an egg and served in a hot stone pot. One of our favourite Korean dishes and the quality of this one did not disappoint!

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Natalie and Dan ordered Jaeyuk Bokum ($14.50) which was very tasty! Extremely tender, well marinated pork stir fried with kim chi and gochujang, I think this was the best dish of the night 🙂

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The main dishes also came with a bowl of miso soup and side salad – which were simple yet still good.

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The quality of each dish was excellent, coupled with very reasonable prices! The only hiccup during our dinner – we weren’t checked on during our meal and staff weren’t really circulating as the restaurant wasn’t busy. As a result, empty water glasses around the table while eating spicy food! Would be great to have call buttons at each table like we’ve seen in many Korean and Japanese restaurants, or water jugs/bottles left at the table. That way, staff only need to come around when needed and everyone is happy 🙂 Would definitely recommend Seoul for great Korean food!

So lovely to see you guys again! Hopefully next time we’ll be catching up in Ottawa 😉

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Seoul on Urbanspoon

Experiencing my first donair from KoD

For years, I have been told that donairs are amazing and that I must try them. Hailing from Ottawa, I wonder how anything could compare to the glorious shawarma 😛 Well finally, I had the chance to judge for myself!

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Mike and I stopped by King of Donair for my first taste. It was completely empty, despite being the best in Halifax! 😛

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We ordered a regular donair with donair meat, onions, tomatoes, and donair sauce. First impression – certainly does not look appealing, and could use some more veggies! However, it was pretty tasty.

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The donair sauce is sweet (garlic, condensed milk, sugar, vinegar – from what I tasted) and addictive, I can see why it’s unique! However, donair meat is such a mystery… to the point that it looks quite unappealing from a health point of view. I wish I knew exactly what meats/cuts I was eating. Otherwise, although Michael said the quality of these donairs were acceptable, from his years of living in Halifax, I found them tasty and I would definitely have it again!

We also ordered a side of donair egg rolls, which were simply egg rolls stuffed with donair meat, and accompanied by a side of donair sauce. What could possibly go wrong with deep fried goodness? 😛

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Completely different than a shawarma, but I will definitely be missing donairs when I’m back in Brisbane!

King of Donair on Urbanspoon

New Germany with the Gregory Family

August 23 – 24, 2014

Mike and I spent my first weekend in Nova Scotia down in New Germany with Bill and Nina’s family! 🙂 They live on a farm with acres of land, animals and delicious fruits and vegetables.

Our visit in photos!

Nina and their beautiful daughter Lily with her donkey Captain Underpants!

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Visiting the horses

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Their beautiful horses

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Heading over to Uta’s (Nina’s mom) property next door

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Chickens on Uta’s property

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Giving Captain Underpants a brush

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See ya later!

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How adorable is she?

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Lily’s brother Archer – look at that smile!

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Picking blackberries 🙂

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Archer with grandpa (Bill’s dad)

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Kids and grandpa

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Nina designed and Bill built the kids… a three storey castle!

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Bill with Lily in the castle

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Lily helping grandma (Bill’s mom) shuck corn!

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Hauling the corn over to daddy to cook

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Family fun on the trampoline

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Pensive Bill

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Kisses

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Bill’s chickens – almost ready to eat 😉

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And their turkeys

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Daddy and the kids

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Archer loves his apples, and look at those blue eyes!

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Such a smart girl!

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Evening bonfire

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Locating some more blackberries on a walk around their farm

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Gross!

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This furry catepillar was kind of cute

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On Sunday, Mike and I made dinner! Banh Mi (Vietnamese subs) with homemade BBQ pork, garlic mayo and pickled carrots.

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Matt, Laura and their daughter Isabelle came down to join from Halifax! And Uta came over as well 🙂

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Thank you for welcoming me into your home Bill and Nina! It was great to spend time with you and the kids! ❤

Dinner at Brooklyn Warehouse

August 22, 2014

We didn’t think we would be able to get a place at Brooklyn Warehouse on a Friday evening without reservations but luckily, a table for 2 was available outside!

Sheltered, which I always appreciate, especially in the evening! Sorry, didn’t take photos of what the restaurant looked like on the inside.

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Service was great, friendly and attentive without being too pushy. We were quickly offered a drinks menu, which we ordered to start.

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I got the Wasabi Caesars with vodka, shochu, clamato and pickled snow peas. I’d never had anything like that before, it was delicious! However, because it was very spicy and explosive in flavours, don’t do what I did and have it with your meal, it doesn’t pair as nicely as a wine! 😉 Mike got a Boxing Rock Red which he enjoyed.

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The food menu was in the form of chalkboards strategically located around the restaurant, offering a view from wherever you were sitting.

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I chose the NS rabbit carbonara house fettuccine with bacon and herb crumb ($26). The pasta was nicely cooked and rabbit was tender and moist. However, although it might be difficult to gauge from this photo, but the portion was tiny. We found it hard to believe that this was supposed to a main dish, it looked more like an appetizer.

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Mike had the Maple glazed halibut with polenta, thyme, and pickled blueberries ($26). The flavours were great, unfortunately, the halibut was overcooked and as a result quite dry. Similar to mine, this dish was also quite small.

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Brooklyn Warehouse offers a pleasant dining atmosphere with great service and well thought out dishes and drinks. However, although the food is delicious, the servings are too small while being on the pricier side! We hope to leave with bellies more satisfied on our next visit!

The Brooklyn Warehouse on Urbanspoon

Catching up over Korean food at Alirang

August 13, 2014

For the second year in a row, I had the chance to catch up with Ruixi during my time back in Ottawa at Alirang, over some delicious Korean food.

Alirang is a little gem on Nelson St across from Loblaws, away from the heavy traffic and the high concentration of restaurants downtown. And, there is parking for those who need it!

It is not a very large restaurant, with tired decor, tacky furnishings, and tables are packed close together. However, don’t let looks fool you. Being greeted by a packed restaurant on a weekday evening tells you this is where you want to be. Service was welcoming and we were seated within minutes of entering the restaurant. Menus were promptly provided as well as their usual warm barley tea.

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My gorgeous date!

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There were lots of yummy items on the menu so it took us a while to decide but we eventually got some delicious topokki ($9.95) to share. Perfectly cooked rice cakes with cabbage and slices of fish cake drowned in hot red chili sauce.

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For mains, I ordered Bulgogi with rice ($13.95) – a gigantic portion of tender, thin and well marinated beef. I had to take home leftovers, but no complaints over that!

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Ruixi ordered the Chicken Soondubu ($10.95) – delicious bubbling hot and spicy stew served with rice!

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The food, as always, was tasty and well prepared, accompanied by consistently good service throughout the night. Would definitely recommend Alirang to anyone wanting some great Korean food!

Alirang on Urbanspoon

Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary to my Grandparents!

On August 16, 2014, our family threw a party to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It was held in the Winter Room at the St Laurent complex – where we also held my grandpa’s 80th birthday lunch last year.

It wasn’t a surprise event, so my grandparents were able to look forward to celebrating with family and friends. Here is a photo of them arriving at the venue, aren’t they so cute?

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Sitting down to lunch with family and friends

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The grandchildren took care of decor and setting up the venue and each family provided at least a dish for a pot luck feast – so much good food!

Wall decals created and put up by my brother. The huge spread of food!

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My mom made self serve taco salad and ‘Banh Lot’ a Vietnamese pandan flavoured dessert served with syrup and coconut cream.

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Mo Hai made green papaya salad with beef jerky, steam buns and veggie samosas

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Di Nam made fried rice and a veggie platter

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Cau Ba made shrimp spring rolls and pickled green plums

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Cau Tu made fish maw soup

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The uncles chopping up the roasted pig

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My beautiful grandparents!

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Grandma with some of her friends

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My grandpa giving a thank you speech after my Cau Hai’s emotional welcome speech

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My grandparents’ friends giving their congratulatory speeches and gifts

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Some group photos before digging in! Grandparents with their family/friends

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Aww!

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My grandparents with their 5 children

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Children and their spouses

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Family photo!

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Table decor

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Even had some party favours

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Good food and good times with good people!

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Ong Tia Ba Y (my dad’s aunt and uncle) sharing a laugh with my grandparents

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Ah, so cute!

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Cousins photo!

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More recently, the grandchildren try to incorporate something unique with each family get together. For today, we have hats that say “Born ‘X’ years after grandparents’ wedding”

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Oscar selfie in the making

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The result!

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After lunch came more family photos, presents, and cake!

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My present! Painted by a street artist I met in Brisbane

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Big homemade birthday card

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Photo with all the grandchildren minus two!

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And a normal one

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Thank you so much to my grandparents for the opportunity to celebrate this day with them! Wishing them many more years of happiness together and with their family!

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There are SO MANY more photos, especially of my aunts and uncles’ families. Please CLICK HERE to see the full photo album!

Surprise week in Ottawa

Aside from my brother and sister, no one in my family knew I had an additional week in Ottawa from August 9 to 15, 2014. Boy was I excited for an extra week with family and friends!

Thank you to my siblings for picking me up at the airport Saturday morning! My mom was working so she had no idea I was home… 🙂

Got home, showered, and then went over to surprise my grandparents. My grandfather was out, but luckily, I had pre-written up 4 pages (he is deaf, so I communicate via writing) with an update on a number of topics including: getting a job and my elective experience in Nanaimo. My grandma was home so I had the chance to catch up with her and leave my letter for my grandpa and visit later.

Elvin picked me up for… you guessed it, lunch at Shawarma Palace, our favourite. What made it even better? The company 🙂 Thanks Elvin, Jenn, Ruixi, Vinh and Tina for joining me for a delicious lunch! Always so nice to see you guys and catch up.

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At the end of our lunch, my siblings texted to say my mom was done work and they were going to pick her up. Of course, I needed to come too in order to surprise her! Elvin drove me to my mom’s work in order to meet my siblings. But eek! When Elvin turned in, my mom was already standing outside waiting for my siblings. We did a half duck and hoped my mom didn’t notice us. Phew, she didn’t! We ended up turning around and meeting my siblings in a nearby parking lot. I crouched down behind the passenger side and waited for her to notice. She didn’t. I started tickling her, she thought I was my brother even though he was sitting on the opposite side of the car. Finally, I just started laughing and gave myself away. I told her why I was home and how I had to pay an additional $400 for the flight change. Worth it.

Dinner that night? Poutine from Spud’s. A family size ‘Sugar Shack’ – fries, cheese curds, beer gravy, bacon, sausage and maple syrup – delicious!

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Here are some random moments over the week! There are a few special occasions not mentioned here because they will have a post of their own! 😀

Loved getting to spend more time with this guy!

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My sister brought a ton of Asian treats back from Vancouver, including Green Tea Aero chocolate – yum.

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With Asian items always comes Engrish

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Everyone was craving my mom’s famous ‘Banh Mi’ (Vietnamese subs). She made BBQ pork and we had BBQ pork banh mi! So delicious, I think we all had subs for days!

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Enjoyed grape tomatoes, fresh from the garden.

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Mum made coconut sticky rice which was thoroughly enjoyed with sweet ripe mango.

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Wake up guys!

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Can I have some meat with this taco bowl?

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Made blueberry white chocolate scones for the family

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My siblings like to sneak selfies on my cell phone 😛

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But all like to take selfies too right?

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Lunch at Art Is In with the family and Janet! Sorry about the terrible backdrop but you can read more about Art Is In here!

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Yummy, green tea ginger ale

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And buffet lunch another day at Eclipse! My lovely siblings 😉

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I had a very special opportunity with the family this week – shopping for a wedding dress with my mom, sister and brother! Although I can’t say I’ve found THE dress, I have now certainly found THE style of dress. Yay! I was very glad to have shared the experience with my family because I honestly don’t know if I’ll have another chance again, especially being in Australia!

After looking at wedding dresses, we went to get donuts at Suzy Q. Same donut with different toppings, not bad but to be honest, I still prefer Tim Hortons donuts. They could certainly do with a facelift!

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DHAL: July 26, 2014 – My sister visits!

For those who don’t know, my sister is doing a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy at UBC in Vancouver. Friday marked the successful end to her first year and before flying back to Ottawa for the summer, she came to visit me for the weekend.

She arrived by ferry early Saturday afternoon, there she is!

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We ended up walking back to the house from the ferry terminal, which isn’t too bad – about 25 minute leisurely walk with uphill segments.

We spent a few hours catching up, snacking and FaceTiming my mom, brother, and Benny. We even got a complete family photo for the first time in a while 😛

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She brought over some goodies for me, including these (now expired) orange KitKats she had saved, as well as some yummy chocolate from Hawaii, a gift from a friend.

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We didn’t head out until late afternoon. Decided that we would walk along the water and head into downtown. Apparently this weekend was the International World Championship Bathtub Race, part of the 3 day Nanaimo Marine Festival. I never knew such a thing existed and we weren’t sure of the schedule but would be walking by the harbour anyway.

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So the great thing about BC, there are wild blackberries growing everywhere. I can be going any where and always find blackberries to munch on. Mmm

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Some beautiful flowers we passed during our walk

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Looked like a giraffe to us before I zoomed in for the photo 😛

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Here is the iconic statue of former mayor Frank Ney (may be hard to see) beside the bathtub. Known for his role in initiating the bathtub races across the Georgia Strait from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

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There wasn’t much activity going on along the water so we decided to head up to Commercial St, where the Bathtub Days street fair was set up. We had already missed the parade but there was still live entertainment and lots of neat vendors.

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We saw Flaming Donkey and couldn’t resist. Even though we could read, my sister went up to the guy and blurted, “What’s a flaming donkey?!”

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Healthy salsa with no additives, no preservatives and no salt. Not only is the price comparable or cheaper than the local supermarket, but apparently lasts longer in the fridge as well. We like supporting local businesses and bought a salsa + chip back after a taste test of the mild option ($7.50 I think). He had already run out of the spicy salsa.

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To be honest, we didn’t think find the salsa nearly as good as the one our mom makes – mainly due to the lack of salt (which doesn’t require a lot but that’s their motto), but also lack of spices as well as pineapple. We are pretty spoiled when it comes to good food, so this is a really good business venture, but the taste didn’t wow us.

Towards late evening, we decided to have dinner at Sukkho Thai, also on Commercial St. We had delicious Thai food, which I will write about in a separate blog post next. We had some fish cakes to start,  pad thai for my sister and sticky rice with BBQ’d chicken and papaya salad for me. Yummy!

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After dinner we noticed a lot of people heading down to the water, most likely to find a spot to enjoy the festival fireworks later that night. We decided to skip out on the fireworks and head home to relax. Even introduced my sister to some Hamish and Andy’s hilarious Gap Year in South America before calling it a night.

DHAL: July 13-19, 2014 – Ottawa for a week!

One week home in Ottawa, been looking forward to this for weeks! 🙂

Michael and I aren’t planning on going home for over summer/Christmas holidays, since our graduation date isn’t until December 20th and we expect to be moving and preparing for a job rural at the end of the year, hopefully! This rotation is our opportunity to spend some time in Canada… so who knows when we will be back next!

Spent some quality time with the family!

Got to eat one of my favourite Vietnamese meals – Bo Bia! Fresh rolls with Chinese sausage, sauteed turnip, egg and veggies including Thai basil dipped in a hoison peanut sauce – thanks mum!

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A meal selfie!

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My mom’s famous deboned, stuffed, and breaded chicken wings! Delicious! And some homemade samosas

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And with my grandparents!

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Trying out my grandpa’s first batch of banana lime liqueur – coming along well!

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We enjoyed quite a few different taste testings, haha!

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I finally got to meet Benny! The dog my brother adopted earlier this year who is now considered the baby of the house and my mum’s favourite. He’s a cutie and (mostly) really well behaved but always gets a little too excited when new people come over that he pees on them.

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He’s a sweetheart and a whiner, always crying and looking out the window if you leave him behind.

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And he loves his balls and squeaky toys…

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Had the opportunity to go down to Perth Road Village to spend some quality time with Mike’s family on July 14th. Their property is by a lake and very cottage-like, so it was very nice and relaxing! Mike’s brother Matt and sister in law Jessica recently had their 2nd child – Rinoa, who’s super cute! Their oldest, Jasper has grown so much since I last saw him!

Some of my favourite photos, you can view all of them HERE.

Matt, Jessica and Jasper out on a canoe ride

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Matt & Jess’ dog Bubba – not feeling well today.

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Father son laughs

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Auntie and niece bonding time.

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Little Rinoa

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Tummy tickles!

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Like father like son

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Hanging out with Uncle Mike

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Indeed!

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A pair of loons and a baby! We tried to get as close as we could without being intrusive and they certainly kept an eye on us the whole time just in case!

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This dinosaur

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Got to satisfy a few of my cravings! Including McDonald’s McGriddle breakfast (mmm sweet and salty, maple syrup and sausage) and of course, Shawarma Palace with their awesome garlic sauce! Not shown: Stops at Tim Horton’s!

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Even had time to catch up with some of my best girls! Thanks for coming over on July 17th Atong, Julia and Hue!

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Julia loved Benny!

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Julia requested Cuttlefish snacks by Nong Shim, which apparently can’t be found in Ottawa anymore. They are delicious though, even Mike’s hooked on them.

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A lovely engagement gift from Julia & Atong 🙂 A family cookbook that even has room for photos!

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And perhaps most importantly, my mum held an unofficial engagement dinner with Michael’s parents so they could formally meet all of my family. This was on Friday, July 18th, the night before both Michael and I flew out to our respective electives. We decided to have dinner at Chu Shing and luckily, only a handful of family were missing. It was the usual family deal, chaotic but I think it went well! Thank you also very much to my grandparents and to Ong Tia Ba Y for their generous gifts!

Some of the photos!

Selfie at the dinner table

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With Mike’s parents, my mum, my grandparents, and my dad’s aunt and uncle.

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The elders!

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All my aunts and uncles (except for my 4th aunt who was in LA with her daughter Lilian) and a few of the cousins

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Some more cousins as well as Aunt Diane, Uncle Andrew (my great aunt and uncle’s daughter) and their 3 children.

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Group photo!

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With my dad’s side of the family

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Aren’t I lovely?

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With Michael’s family. Unfortunately, his sister Meaghan was not able to join us due to work. His brother has 2 small children on an early schedule and it’s a drive up from Kingston!

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Before heading home, we dropped by Phuket Royal, a restaurant where my cousin Kevin was working (couldn’t make it to our dinner) to say hi. He was just getting off work so we decided to go to My Sweet Tea to catch up over bubble tea. We didn’t get back until past midnight, and Mike and I still needed to pack! Needless to say, it was a late night.

Woke up at 4:30am the next morning to have breakfast together at Perkins with Di Nam before heading to the airport for my 7am flight to Vancouver. Good bye family and see you again soon!

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They’ve changed the format of the security line at the Ottawa Airport to be extremely inefficient, causing myself and a number of other passengers to almost miss our flight. At other airports, once passengers go through security, they may be pulled aside to a different station for an explosives scan, which is when they swab the outside and also open your bags to swab the inside and test for explosives. For whatever reason, Ottawa has decided to incorporate the explosives scan as part of their security line, before your bags go through the scanner. The ENTIRE security line gets held up when someone’s having their bag tested. Meaning nobody’s bags are being scanned and nobody is walking through the metal detectors. Completely inefficient, I don’t know what they were thinking, but they better change that.

My sister met me once I landed in Vancouver and we had time to grab a quick bite to eat before I had to start heading to Horseshoe Bay to catch my ferry to Nanaimo. It took a good 2 hours to get there from the airport via the SkyTrain into the city and then bus to the ferry terminal. More about Nanaimo in my next post!

Great Korean food at Maru with friends!

Sarah (who’s Korean!) had suggested I try Maru, one of her favourite Korean restaurants, so I made it the last stop of our Food Adventure Day with Yoni on June 29, 2014.

We had just finished watching Edge of Tomorrow in the city, and even though we weren’t really hungry because all we had done that day was eat, we just couldn’t skip dinner. Maru is located on Elizabeth St just beside Malaya Corner, on the 2nd floor.

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Full house on a Sunday evening, luckily, we were able to get a table without reservations and waiting!

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My adventure partner for the day! We also picked up some bubble tea at Hazel Tea Shop just down the street before heading in 🙂

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The menu is extensive, with lots of options including rice dishes, soups, noodle dishes, and BBQ – something to suit everyone! Prices were slightly higher compared to Madtongsan II down the road, but definitely worth the quantity and quality of food!

Loved the side dishes: kimchi, seaweed salad with mayo dressing and fish cakes

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I decided on Omurice with chicken curry – delicious! Loved the crispy chicken and the subtle (not salty!) curry. Extremely generous serving size, I could only finish half and saved the rest for dinner the next day – heated up nicely!

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Yoni got a rice in a stone bowl and meat, possibly pork or bulgogi. Unfortunately, it’s been so long now that we can’t remember and they don’t have an online menu to refer to!

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With a great first impression, both Sarah and I recommended Maru on July 11th when we had dinner with Amanda, Xuan and Mabel!

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Xuan ordered Beef Rib Soup that came with rice on the side, he found it a little bland unfortunately.

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I can’t remember the name of this dish that Mabel ordered, but it was spicy and tasty!

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Both Sarah and Amanda ordered one of the ‘ziggle’ plates – the Korean word for sizzle! They got the Ziggle Spicy Pork which was delicious.

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I got the Ziggle Dadak Beef, which was marinated minced beef sizzling in a pan, also served with rice. Very tasty but I was glad I had friends to share it with because it’s a lot of meat!

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Portions again, were very generous, we were definitely stuffed afterwards!

Also enjoyed some Black Raspberry wine. I’ve only had raspberry wine once before but I really enjoy the berry sweetness! $20 for a bottle shared between 4 people.

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Fast and friendly service with generous servings of delicious food and tasty side dishes (not always the case at Korean restaurants) at extremely reasonable prices – I think I’ve found a new favourite Korean restaurant. Will definitely be back!

Maru Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Post exam catch up at Bonsai Botanika

July 11, 2014

3rd rotation finally over! I was quite excited to be flying back to Canada the next morning, but first, a catch up with friends! 🙂

We wanted to find a coffee shop to sit and chat before dinner and Bonsai Botanika seemed perfect. The decor and ambiance is very alluring from the street, I remember Michael and I walking by many times and telling ourselves that we needed to come back and check it out.

The theme and decor is hard to describe, very rustic yet quirky – does that make sense? I’ve never seen anything like it before, it’s really neat!

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Once inside, however, it becomes quite confusing. The cafe is 3 levels high. Non alcoholic beverages like coffees and teas, as well as their iconic flourless cakes can be ordered on the first floor. If you are looking for real food though (apparently it’s also a ramen restaurant), you need to head up to the second floor. There are no signs that direct you, which can make it a haphazard first experience.

Noticed that the service left a lot to be desired – staff were impatient and didn’t take the opportunity to provide suggestions off the menu to new customers. The cake cabinet was also in disarray, with many empty slates left dirty and uncleared. The ones that were available did look delicious though. No prices were displayed, and I was appalled to later find out a small slice was over $8.

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We ordered our drinks before heading upstairs to find a seat. Lots of room for small and larger groups. We quickly glanced at the food menu at the unmanned bar – damn, expensive!

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It took quite a while for our drinks to arrive, and they also came quite staggered. Perhaps she was new, but the staff member who brought my order was so confused when I pointed out that the drink she was calling green tea was supposed to be a piece of green tea cake. It later turned out that that drink was a juice ordered by someone else at our table. How can you work at a place and not know what your drinks are by looking at them?

Mabel and I got two different kinds of their hot chocolate. Very interesting and unique presentation, as well as delicious! We only wish it had been hotter, much hotter than the temperature it was served at.

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The green tea flourless cake was quite tasty and rich, served with some whip cream and fresh rosemary that added an interesting flavour. It is too overpriced for me though, I wouldn’t get it again.

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Xuan got a cappuccino. The double walled glass mugs are quite cute!

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Sarah and Amanda both got juices that were tasty and refreshing.

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At the time of our visit, the 3rd level was closed so I don’t know what is up there. Perhaps we can check it out during our next visit.

Once you get past the confusing set up and so-so service, Bonsai Botanika is quite a quirky and interesting place to grab a drink and catch up with friends. The drinks are nice although I do think the food is very overpriced. I don’t know if I would ever come here to try a meal unless someone I knew said the food was really good. Definitely worth another visit, even if just for the interior design!

Bonsai Botanika on Urbanspoon

Vegetarian dinner at Kuan Yin Tea House

Mike and I have been wanting to try out Kuan Yin Tea House for a while now as we often seen how highly rated it is in Brisbane for its vegetarian cuisine.

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Had the opportunity to try it out with the lovely Amanda over dinner one night. We were famished and the menu looked well priced and quite appealing!

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We immediately noticed the fantastic service provided by all the staff which was friendly and accommodating. We arrived for dinner around 7pm on a Friday and were surprised to be told the restaurant was out of rice, although the staff were apologetic and happy to offer a substitution.

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The meals at Kuan Yin are very affordable. We ended up ordering 2 appetizers and 2 main dishes to share, as well as a bubble tea each. Note to self and others, that is a lot of food for only 2 people, as warned by the staff! 😛 However, we were hungry and wanted to try as many dishes as possible, taking away leftovers is always an option too! 😉

My lovely date!

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Peking Duck Rolls. Interesting concept but shouldn’t be called a peking duck roll when it’s nothing like the original dish which normally only has additional spring onions and a sweet bean sauce. Very sour and overpowering pickles and the vegetarian duck skin didn’t seem to have seasoning.

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Sweet Potato Wedges. These were delicious! Not sure what the secret to the seasoning is, but we definitely tasted salt and cinnamon. Yum!

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Because Mike couldn’t join us… we made him feel included! How convenient to have such beautiful photos 😉

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I chose the sweet and sour pork bento box. Since they didn’t have any rice left, they offered a tofu substitute instead. Also came with a few side dishes including veggies and a fruit salad. Overall, this dish was satisfactory. Filling but I wouldn’t get it again.

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Last dish, Sour Spicy Dumpling Soup. Huge serving, lots of dumplings but we didn’t find the broth spicy or sour enough!

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Overall, had a great time, however, more due to the company than the food. I’ve been quite privileged to have extremely good Asian styled vegetarian food in my life, which may have set my expectations a little too high 😛 With that being said, I would definitely come back for another visit and try different dishes, even if it’s just for those sweet potato wedges alone!

Kuan-Yin Tea House on Urbanspoon

Jamroc Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Second stop on Food Adventure Day with Yoni was Jamroc Jamaican Jerk Chicken. With a 90% rating on Urbanspoon and having never tried jerk chicken, we were looking forward to it.

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What is jerk chicken? From their website, “Infused with a secret blend of herbs and spices, our chicken is marinated for 24 hours and char-grilled to succulent perfection.”

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Jamroc is convenient to get to but doesn’t really have a dine in atmosphere. There are probably less than 15 seats scattered indoors and along a bench outdoors, so not really convenient for grabbing a bite with friends and hanging out.

Service was friendly and the staff was happy to provide suggestions. We opted out of a combo, going to for a burger/wrap + drink instead.

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I chose the Rasta Wrap with marinated chicken breast pieces, garlic mayo, tomato, onion & lettuce. Super fresh wrap and vegetables. The chicken was indeed succulent and nicely char grilled, however, I found the garlic mayo overpowered the seasoning of the chicken. For the level of spiciness, I chose “Chilled Out (Mild)” which was way too mild, I didn’t taste a hint of heat. Would definitely go at least one step up next time to “Traditional Spice (Medium)”

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Yoni got the Negril Burger with marinated chicken breast, smokey BBQ sauce, tomato, cheese, onion and lettuce. Nice bun, toppings and chicken, but he too felt the sauce overpowered the chicken and not enough spiciness.

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We also grabbed some yummy tropical fruit juices ($2.50 each), mainly because I missed having soursop… and we were thirsty.

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Personally, I find the prices comparable to Grill’d and the (chicken) burgers overall tastier. I would definitely return but only if I’m with no more than a few friends due to lack of dining space. And definitely up the level of spiciness on my chicken. Until next time!

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Jamroc Jamaican Jerk Chicken on Urbanspoon

Quick meal at Golden BBQ

Golden BBQ was on our list of cheap eateries to try during Food Adventure with Yoni day a few weeks back. Roasted pork and BBQ’d duck are 2 of my favourite dishes, so I was really looking forward to a quick but delicious bite, especially considering the 88% rating on Urbanspoon.

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We arrived around lunch time on the weekend, busy but a few empty tables so we didn’t have to wait. There is no real decor or ambiance in this restaurant, which is fine! More of an in-and-out kind of stop.

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The plan was to be out eating for the entire day so Yoni and I decided to share a combo plate – $14.50 for a choice of two meats with steamed rice (or noodles for an extra $0.50). Of course, we chose the BBQ pork and duck.

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Every portion comes with a complimentary soup of the day. I don’t know if the type of soup changes often, but it was pumpkin or squash for us. Very dilute but warm and inviting nonetheless.

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There is hardly a wait for your food at Golden BBQ and our food came out within minutes of ordering. Portion size generous, served with a side of boiled or steamed napa cabbage. Unfortunately, both meats were served at room temperature and as a result, the pork skin was not nearly as crispy as it should be. Should be served piping hot so it was a disappointment. They do have great prices for a quick and easy meal out so I can see why people love returning.

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I’ve been spoiled growing up when it comes to roasted duck and pork. My honest opinion, the ones offered at Golden BBQ are definitely not as good and flavourful as they should be. If you’re having a barbecued meat craving or want to serve something nice for dinner, I would recommend picking up the meats at Burlington BBQ (a whole duck for around $25-30 and serves a whole family) just a few shops away, as their meats are tastier. It also ends up being much cheaper when you take it home and make up your own rice and side dishes!

Golden Barbeque on Urbanspoon

DHAL: July 04-12, 2014

A huge gap of DHALs, how shameful! This is going to be a long one!

Friday, July 4th… meant one more week of Anaesthesia before the completion of my Critical Care rotation! It was getting harder to see the end now because although it was so close, it felt so far! Since there was no final exam (aside from an online multiple choice exam I had already completed in week 2 of 8), I did not have to spend my weekends immersed in studying, I was able to enjoy going out and seeing my friends.

So on Friday after my shift, I met up with Amanda for dinner. There is a vegetarian restaurant in Fortitude Valley called Kuan Yin Tea House that Michael and I have been meaning to visit because we have heard good things and it is highly rated on Urbanspoon (96%). I was a fun night out with Amanda but the food was subpar, I’ll be writing a separate blog post for this later on!

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Next day on July 5, I finally had the opportunity to see and catch up with Josiah and Danya! They are living in Bundaberg this year, so we have not had a chance to hang out since coming back from Canada, but it finally happened! Weekends in Brisbane for them are always hectic but they had some time to pop over for a visit! And I was finally able to pass on a small wedding gift that Mike and I brought back for them from Canada, which only had to wait 7 months 😉 They even gifted us a nice bottle of wine as a belated engagement present, unexpected but thanks so much guys! It was so good to catch up and hear that they are enjoying living in a new city and being well looked after by the small Bundaberg community. They are liking it so much that they have decided to stay for Josiah to pursue his internship training… that’s saying heaps!

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Lowlight: My cousin, Hoang, from Vietnam who now lives in Brisbane with his wife, was supposed to come over for dinner on July 5th. Unfortunately, something came up and they had to cancel!

The following day on July 6, I had a photo shoot session with the Gibson family!

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This was the first ‘photo shoot’ of any kind I’ve ever done. Pretty much had no idea what I was doing, didn’t have any special equipment, and worked with kit lenses. Had a good time with Kristen, Matt & Abigail but too bad Abigail wasn’t her usual smiling bubbly self! I imagine having a big black camera covering my face might be a little intimidating for a 6 month old! Was able to get a few photos, even some smiling ones. I’ll have to make a separate post but here’s a teaser photo!

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Because my cousins never made it on Saturday for dinner, I invited Sarah and Amanda over for some studying and dinner on Monday, July 7! Had bought a bunch of ingredients to make dinner and didn’t want them to go to waste, what better way to use them up than to have friends help you? Made some Thai green curry chicken to have with rice, yum!

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Had also made lots of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies so sent the girls home with a bunch as well. What made the night fun was meeting Sarah’s boyfriend, Jay. After years of poking fun at her for having an imaginary partner (he has always been too busy to attend any of our events or get togethers), we met him when he came to pick her up. Mind you, it was completely dark outside so I have yet to see what he looks like in person 😛

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The weekend passed too quickly and soon I was completing my last week of the critical core rotation. I feel quite lucky to have had most, if not all, preceptors be very kind and willing to teach. It made for a very good learning environment and I never felt intimidated with any procedural skills, even when I failed them. There was always room to improve and my supervisors were always willing to make things work better for me.

It is also nice when your effort and hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. I was rostered for 2 days (July 09-10) on the APMS (Acute Pain Management Services) team, who are responsible for hospital wide consults for patients who require more specialised care for the managment of their pain. These patients can include those who have epidurals, regional blocks, or patient controlled analgesia (PCA). With only 2 days on the service, I made the most of it including being proactive in taking notes, chatting with patients, and handing over plans to nurses in charge. I’m not sure what the other medical students did during their time on APMS, but when I received the note (not required and squeezed beside the signature box) “Above and beyond the call of duty” on my last day and a number of verbal thank yous and compliments, I knew I had done well 🙂

Lowlight: I was told this last week of the rotation by the course administrator that she wanted me to make up time for 2 sick days I took earlier in the rotation. My last week, where I’m fully rostered, and she wanted me to make up 2 extra shifts last minute. I was not happy as we were never made aware of having to make up for sick time, isn’t that why you have sick days to begin with? After having a chat with her and explaining to her that the request was unreasonable in the amount of time I had left, she told me to have a chat with the respective professors of the Emergency and Anaesthesia departments. Bring them my work books and evaluation forms so they can assess if I have done work to their satisfaction and maybe they will let me pass the rotation without making up the time. Lucky for me, both professors were more than happy to let me off after having a chat and leafing through my documents. It was annoying and stressful before I was given approval because of the potential to fail the rotation, but I’m glad things worked out!

Soon, Friday (July 11) rolled around and I was super eager to finish my last day of work! I had been packing up and cleaning the house bit by bit throughout the last 2 weeks so I didn’t have much left to do before flying out Saturday morning. And to end the rotation on a good note, the anaesthetist of my last shift was awesome. He spent the first few hours of my shift grilling me and asking me questions non stop, explaining things along the way as required. When that was exhausted, we just chatted about life in general where he also shared some good advice for my internship year. By 2:30pm, he was showing me his wedding videos and because the same surgery had been going on since 8:30am, he asked me if I just wanted to head home. Early day on my last day? Heck yes! I could definitely use some extra time.

I went home, where I met up with Yoni. He’ll be renting out one of our bedrooms (Christine’s in the other one) so I just wanted to give him the keys and a verbal handover, including what food he should help us finish, which he’s always happy about.

I then headed back into the city to meet up with Mabel, Amanda, Sarah, and Xuan for a post-rotation hang out! We had a coffee catch up at Bonsai Botanika before heading to Maru for a yummy Korean dinner and finished the night with some delicious bubble tea at Gong Cha. I will be writing blogs for the respective restaurants soon! Lovely evening with good company to end my time in Brisbane!

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It was around 9pm by the time I got home, plenty of time to finish up my packing and cleaning. I tried to stay up as late as I could in order to sleep easier on the plane but by 3am, I had to lay down for a 3 hour nap.

Thanks to Christine for giving me a ride to the airport at 7 in the morning! and soon I was boarding Qantas flight 15 to Los Angeles. Boy oh boy was it not the best journey home, will tell you more in the next DHAL!

Consistently delicious food at Mon’s Thai Rarnaharn

We have eaten at Mon’s Thai Rarnaharn a number of times now, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to blog about it!

Dining in at Mon’s Thai is always a pleasure with good ambiance, friendly staff and great service. There is the option of dining indoors or outdoors (sheltered and of course, with heat), which is nice! Also fully licensed with BYO bottled wine.

The prices here are slightly more expensive than what you might expect compared to other Thai restaurants, but the quality of food is consistently great and the portions generous. We have also ordered take out a number of times – quick preparation times and piping hot – they even offer home delivery. Sometimes we find takeaway portions can be smaller than what is offered dining in, but certainly not at this restaurant!

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My last visit was on June 14th with Tan and Christine. The restaurant was packed for a Saturday night, with both small and large groups. After browsing through the menu, we decided on one of the banquet options as the dishes were appealing and it seemed like a good deal.

We chose the Phuket Banquet option (minimum 2 people) at $29.90 per person. This included:

  • An appetizer for each person. Either Mixed Entree (1 springroll, 1 chicken satay skewer, 1 curry puff) or Tom Kha Gai
  • 1 main dish per person. Choices were Mussamun Beef, Green Curry Chicken, Beef or Chicken Stir Fried with Oyster Sauce.
  • Jasmine Rice
  • Ice cream with chocolate/caramel/strawberry topping
  • Tea or Coffee 

We were unorthodox, had our tea and coffee before the meal because Tan and Christine were falling asleep despite being hungry. Jasmine green tea for me and decent cappuccinos for them!

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I now apologise, we were so excited to eat that I forgot to take photos of our appetizers until we were halfway through, here’s a curry puff for your viewing pleasure.

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And half of my bowl of Tom Kha Gai. For those who don’t know, it is a delicious coconut milk based soup with strong aromas of kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal – yum! I was first introduced to this dish in Bangkok and this definitely brought back memories!

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We were then served the jasmine rice and our mains.

Green curry chicken. We opted for the mild-medium level of spiciness with extra chillies on the side, I’m glad! Tender chicken, flavoursome broth and crisp vegetables.

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Beef Massumun (beef curry) was delicious and melted in your mouth. I am also a fan of the cashews! This dish reminded me of the Vietnamese dish ‘Bo Kho’ due to the texture of the meat and spices in the sauce.

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For the third main, we decided on Stir Fried Beef in Oyster Sauce. Whenever I order dishes in restaurants with stir fried beef, I always wonder if it will come out dry or awfully chewy. This was definitely not the case! Beef was easy to bite into and vegetables still had a crunch, simple dish but yum!

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For dessert, we were expecting one scoop of ice cream each. Boy were we wrong. 3 scoops of nice vanilla ice cream! Luckily, there is a second stomach for dessert but we seriously struggled to finish this meal. Banquet option was definitely a bargain!

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Other dishes I’ve had in the past and love include their Pad Thai and Pad See Eiw, definitely give those a try as well!

Definitely recommend Mon’s Thai for some of the most delicious Thai food in Brisbane!

Mon's Thai Rarnaharn on Urbanspoon

Ethio-African cuisine at Yeshi Buna

May 09, 2014

To celebrate finishing exams, Christine suggested we have dinner at Yeshi Buna. She had been very recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I, having never tasted Ethiopian food before, didn’t hesitate before saying yes.

Brightly decorated, the restaurant’s atmosphere was immediately inviting and the owner (?) warmly welcomed us.

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After sitting down, he asked if we had ever been to the restaurant before, to which Michael and I replied that it was our first visit. He handed us not only the menu, but also a page to explain terms that may be unfamiliar to those new to Ethio-African cuisine.

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Words like ‘injera’ the tiniest cereal in the world that is ground and fermented for days to make the flat, slightly sour, bubbly ‘bread’ that is a staple of many dishes.

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It didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted the Meat & Vegetarian Combination Dish ($48 for 3 people).

We were pretty hungry, and pretty excited. When the dish came, we were even shown how to eat with our hands and use pieces of the injera to scoop

The combo dish contained the following: Ye Beg Alicha, Doro Wott, Tibs Wott, Minchet Abish, Gomen Be Siga, Atikilt Wott, Kik Alicha, Fassolia, Missir Wott, and mixed salad. (Wott = hot stew, Alicha = mild stew, Tibs = sautéed meat)

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Looks are deceiving but there was quite a bit of food and we were all struggling to polish off the plate towards the end. But we did it!

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My first time experiencing Ethiopian food was great! Something I’d certainly have again. Well-priced, delicious food with great service and wonderful ambiance – I would highly recommend Yeshi Buna!

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Yeshi Buna Ethio African on Urbanspoon

Sydney: The Dough Collective

May 04, 2014

I came upon The Dough Collective on George St. by chance while taking a walk and looking for some food/snacks during my short stay in Sydney. I remember checking into my hotel and immediately thinking, “I need to find something delicious to keep me going if I plan to be studying for the rest of the day.”

And if you know me, you know I absolutely love bakeries. Delicious breads and pastries, does anyone not like that?

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A small shop with assorted breads on display typical of a self-serve bakery. I also liked the look of the bread behind glass displays within the walls, added a nice elegant touch. Wish I had taken some photos of the shop but I was trying to get in and out as quick as I could. Also, lots of different samples to try, taste to your heart’s content!

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As I was traveling solo so I couldn’t buy too much… even though I wanted to!

Ended up getting a Chocolate Surprise – filled with Belgian chocolate and a Brown Sugar Roll with brown sugar, walnuts and raisins.

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Both were delicious! Such fresh, soft, delicious, chewy bread. I am not a fan of raisins, but these ones were so big, plump, and juicy I thought it went really nicely with the walnuts in the roll.

And I also got the Gangnam Crown, I believe. Five individual buns with kimchi, cream cheese, and condensed milk. The combination of flavours may sound odd, but I assure you this was delicious. Spicy, creamy, salty and sweet – mmm!

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I know, I should’ve also taken photos of what the inside looked like to show you!

I still think of the awesome textures and tastes of the breads I tried, and prices were very reasonable as well! I really wish there was a Dough Collective here in Brisbane… maybe one day soon? Will definitely visit again when I have the chance though!

The Dough Collective on Urbanspoon

Easter lunch date at Thyme²

April 19, 2014

Wow this post is long overdue but better late than never, right?

Michael and I booked a 50% off Dimmi Special to enjoy an Easter lunch date together at Thyme², a buffet restaurant within Sofitel Brisbane Hotel.

From the description on their website, we were looking forward to a promising lunch:

“The interactive kitchen has set a benchmark for innovative dining. The theatre of chefs cooking live to an audience provides a stimulating, visual tableau and an international dining experience that will ensure you come back for more.

Challenge your tastebuds with 150 different dishes weekly and delight in 15 international themes including French, Mediterranean dishes in wood-fired ovens, Indian fare in our authentic Tandoor Ovens or watch as Asian cuisines come alive in our Chinese woks.”

With reservations for 12:30pm, the first thoughts we had upon entering were, “Wow, is it because it’s Easter weekend or is it always this busy?” Many tables, all full of patrons. The second thought we had was, “Nice decor, good ambiance and the service from staff here is absolutely lovely.”

We were seated beside the window with a view of Anzac Square and offered sparkling wine. Yes, free flow sparkling wine is included during breakfast and lunch dining times. 😉 Hungry and eager to see what the buffet had to offer, we headed towards the food.

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The variety at the salad bar was decent and tasty.

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Of course, the seafood – 3 items. Very tiny, but but fresh oysters. The mussles were plump and quite tasty, and I normally don’t like mussles! Large prawns, although tough and rubbery.

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We found the selection of hot foods very lacking, with mostly Indian curries, some pastas and vegetable options. Also, the only interactive aspect of the buffet was a person manning the roast meat station, carving for guests. A little lame for an interactive buffet.

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My lovely date!

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Shrimp smile!

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We hoped for a better dessert selection and was pleasantly surprised with the variety of pastries and sweets, with even some gluten free options.

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I was disappointed that there were no strawberries or any fruit at the chocolate fountain.

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There was also a cart with a number of nice cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, breads, and crackers.

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Overall, we enjoyed our lunch at Thyme2, mostly because we were able to spend time together as opposed to the food.

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The selection and quality, especially hot foods, simply did not live up to expectations. And I assume there is already a better selection on the weekends compared to weekdays, although I could be wrong. I’m glad we dined for 50% off because the regular price of $76 per person is exorbitant. However, the staff were great the entire time we dined. Extremely friendly and pleasant and quick to refill our glasses and clear our tables.

Would we return? With such average food, no because it’s simply not worth it. Unfortunately, for the price, we would definitely be able to treat ourselves to a great quantity of much better food!

Thyme² Interactive Restaurant on Urbanspoon

With happy bellies and such a beautiful day, we stayed in Anzac Square after lunch and… took a nap. It was glorious!

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The view from where we lying, which was also the view from our table in the restaurant.

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Delectable dinner @ Moda Restaurant

April 9, 2014

Thank you to Aunt Patsy and Uncle Dan for treating us to this special night out in celebration of our engagement, from across the world in Canada!

We had a fantastic dining experience at Moda! Even today, Michael and I still talk about the amazing food we experienced that night with Javier’s Table Experience ($85.00/person), at the strong suggestion of Trent, our server for the evening. Thank you again, we are so glad to have listened to you!

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I know, you’re probably wondering what is this Javier’s Table Experience? It is a rustic degustation consisting of 3 courses with signature dishes from the menu and dishes created from fresh seasonal produces selected by the chef for the entire table.

(Some of the dishes we received are not listed on the menu, so I apologise in advance if our recall of descriptions are not accurate!)

Our first course consisted of 5 different appetizers. I know, how amazing is that.

Top left: Fresh ceviche that was light with lovely aromas
Top right: Amazingly tender WA octopus with tropical flavours
Bottom left: Crispy chicken croquettes with Romesco sauce
Bottom right: Manolete chorizo sausage with Spanish peppers

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And also sardines! They have never been our favourite but went well with tomato salsa underneath.

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I sipped a lychee martini throughout the meal while Michael thoroughly enjoyed a couple glasses of Spanish red (Viña Tobia and Manso).

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Next were 3 amazing main courses.

Even though I asked for the name of this dish twice, I can now only remember that it was red snapper, I’m sorry! Delicious with little clams and a rich sauce containing hearty peas.

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To the left was the daily special of suckling pig with goat cheese gnocchi and ginger essence. It was hard to say which dish was our favourite of the night but probably this one. So tasty with the crackling of the pig and the soft fluffy gnocchi – yum!

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And to the right: Fowl on a bed of purple potato mash and a side of chanterelle mushrooms (I think). Meat was moist, potato mash the perfect consistency and very nicely done mushrooms. This dish was easily our second favourite!

And lastly, dessert! From left to right: spiced ice cream (similar to gingerbread), chocolate mousse and Spanish creme caramel. All 3 desserts were lovely treats to end such a filling and wonderful meal!

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Could not fault the amazing and delicious food with Javier’s Table Experience. Thank you again to Trent and the staff at Moda for such an enjoyable dinner experience!

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(Note: Our dinner reservations were made with a 50% off Dimmi special, we couldn’t pass up such a great deal to revisit Moda for a second time. You can read about our previous visit here

Moda Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Quick lunch @ Peony Asian Fusion

March 24, 2014

I had been running errands in the city all morning and hungry for some good food. Mike was also joining me for lunch as well so I did a quick search to see what was good in the area. In the mood for asian cuisine and based on Urbanspoon ratings, we chose Peony Asian Fusion.

Seating areas available both indoors and outdoors, with ordering at the counter made for a simple dining experience. The menu is limited but carries enough variety, with the majority of items under $10 – very affordable.

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We ordered BBQ pork buns ($4.50 for 2) which were unfortunately very bland with crumbly dough consistency. Tasted like poor quality store bought frozen buns that had been steaming for too long.

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Mike ordered a Chicken Karaage Don ($7.95) that was simple and tasty.

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I ordered Omurice, Japanese style prawn fried rice with ketchup ($12.95). A generous portion with tasty rice. Unfortunately, the omelette wrapping the rice was very cold and chewy, most likely pre-made well in advance. Also, many large prawns but very flavourless, wish they had been marinated in at least some salt, pepper and garlic beforehand!

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Peony Asian Fusion is a good stop for cheap, quick and no-fuss meals. The quality of food although decent, is below par. For a little bit more money, we definitely prefer Jackpot Dining next door.

Peony Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon

Stradbroke: Good eats at Tillers Cafe Pantry

During our stay on Stradbroke Island, we enjoyed ourselves twice at Tilllers Cafe Pantry, a lovely open air dining space right next to the reception of Allure Resort.

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The cafe offers non-alcoholic drinks and a nice selection of breakfast options, as well as sweet and savoury snacks. What we also really liked about this little cafe is the pantry, plenty of neat and unique specialty items to browse through and try.

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Our first visit was for coffee and an early evening snack. We were greeted by extremely friendly staff and the enormous cheesecakes in the display case caught my eye immediately.

I couldn’t pass up a slice of passionfruit cheesecake ($6) that even came with a side of delicious vanilla ice cream! Loved the topping! The crust was quite crumbly but not too sweet and I believe I even tasted coconut flakes.

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Mike enjoyed his flat white… and of course, some of my cheese cake. 😛

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The following morning, we came back for breakfast. In contrast to an empty cafe yesterday around 5:30pm, the cafe was buzzing and packed with customers. Definitely a popular breakfast destination!

My wonderful date!

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Photos of the menu. Reasonably priced, tantalizing options!

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Mike didn’t take long to make up his mind: Croissant filled with smoked salmon, capers, sour cream and dill ($14.50) and a coffee ($4). He enjoyed his croissant immensely and was pleasantly surprised at the fresh and delicious side salad that was not mentioned in the menu!

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I decided on the Whole dressed avocado served with sourdough bread, grilled haloumi cheese, lime & dressing of olive oil and balsamic ($12). I never say no to haloumi. And I’m not usually a fan of avocados but this was the most perfect avocado I’ve ever seen and tasted. I know, I sound crazy. But it was beautifully green without a blemish, perfectly ripe and buttery. And I don’t know how they get that dressing so emulsified but it was delicious.

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And I also ordered a plain toasted croissant ($2.50) – best croissant I’ve had in a long time!

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This vacation on Stradbroke Island has been extremely special with wonderful memories during our stay on Allure Resort. Enjoyable experiences at Tillers Cafe Pantry with tasty food options and friendly service will definitely bring us back when we’re on Stradbroke Island again!

Tillers Cafe Pantry on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Malaya Corner

Saturday, March 08, 2014

With exams completed yesterday and Yoni in town, we decided to go out for lunch! Michael and I have passed by Malaya Corner multiple times and now were finally going to check it out.

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First impression on entering: Malaya Corner is much more spacious than it looks on the outside. Brightly lit with plenty of dining room, I imagine it would be feasible to quickly get a table even during peak busy hours.

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Started with drinks. Mike got a green tea bubble tea while I got a cold teh tarik. Both drinks were delicious although in hindsight, we probably didn’t need them alongside the massive amount of food.

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Michael and I really enjoyed our Malaysian meals in Singapore and were looking forward to re-experiencing those delicious foods.

One of our newer favourite dishes is laksa, which is what Mike ordered – Malaysian Laksa ($16.90) hokkien noodles & vermicelli with fish cake, prawns, calamari, bean sprouts in coconut curry soup.

A humongous portion that was packed full of seafood in a delicious coconut based broth. He found it odd that there were 2 types of noodles and preferred the hokkien noodles. Although not a laksa connoisseur, he found it delicious and always brings back the good memories of having it for the first time in Singapore.

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The other dish we’ve tried in the past is Nasi Lemak ($12.90), which is what Yoni chose. His dish consisted of Malaysian coconut rice with curry chicken, beef rendang, anchovies, egg, and pickled veggies. He found all the components of his dish quite tasty (except onions, because he’s not a fan of them) and finished his entire dish.

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I got the Penang Char Keow Teow ($11.90) – stir fried ho-fun with prawns, calamari, fish cake, chinese sausage and bean sprouts. I’m a sucker when it comes to stir-fried broad, thick rice noodles. This was delicious generous amounts of seafood. However, I did find the noodles slightly overdone and the dish overall too greasy.

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We thought it would be a good idea to get a 4th dish to share: Yeung Chow fried rice ($10.90) with shrimp, BBQ pork, chinese sausage, and egg.

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Yummy! But overall bad idea. It was actually really tasty but there was so much food! One common denominator to all 4 dishes: the monstrous portions.  So many leftovers to take home, haha!

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Friendly service, great menu including many drinks, delicious food with enormous portions – would definitely return with more friends!

Malaya Corner (City) on Urbanspoon

Melbourne: Lunch at Kokoro Ramen

Sunday, March 2, 2014 

Our initial plans of having Japanese ramen at Little Ramen Bar turned out to be a fail since they were closed on Sundays.

Instead, we found ourselves taking a long walk to Kokoro Ramen on Lonsdale St and joining the queue for a table in this busy restaurant!

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As we were a group of only 2, we were able to get a table quite quickly and ahead of some of the groups in queue ahead of us. Thank goodness because we were starving!

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Posters for sale. And I loved the different coloured wood panels on the wall as well.

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Being our first visit and without being given any instructions upon being seated, it took a few minutes for us to realize that we had to go retrieve menus from the front counter and order there as well.

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We took a look around us at the other patrons, and the ramen bowls looked pretty big and filling. Despite a lot of pondering, both of us ended up ordering the same dish. Normally we like to get different dishes as well as a few appetizers to share, especially when writing a review, but not today unfortunately!

There is self-serve water and side dishes, which we helped ourselves to. And then we waited. And waited and waited. Because the restaurant was so busy with quick turnover, it over 20 minutes before our ramen bowls came out.

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But boy, did it look good or what? Tonkotsu Shoyu with pork belly ($10) Thin egg noodles in a thick pork bone and soy sauce based broth served with spring onions, red ginger, black fungi, sesame seed, and ajitama (marinated soft boiled) egg.

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Flavour of the broth was rich and excellent, and definitely not too salty! The pork belly was extremely tender, the egg was cooked just right, and I’m always a fan of fungus.  We didn’t specify while ordering so were given thin noodles. Next time, I would definitely ask for thick noodles as I find the consistency of thicker noodles more appropriate with such a dense and strong broth.

Of course, I’ve never been to Japan so I cannot compare. However, our meals were delicious and extremely satisfying! Would definitely recommend a visit to Kokoro Ramen to anyone who’s interested in delectable Japanese ramen.

Kokoro Ramen on Urbanspoon

Melbourne: Dinner at Bar Santo

Saturday, March 1, 2014

So many restaurants to choose from along Fitzroy St by St Kilda beach, we probably should’ve done a little research before arriving, but not a problem! It was lovely to walk along the street and check out the menus and vibes of each restaurant.

With terrace dining (and not many empty seats), welcoming staff, $5 sangrias, and $20 mains, our decision was easy – Bar Santo for dinner!

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Christine happy to have her MCCEE over with!

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Sangria… cheers!

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As an appetizer we got a plate of calamari with garlic mayo ($12) to share but were too excited to take any photos. Calamari was good but mayo could’ve used a lot more flavour.

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Awaiting mains, which took what seemed like forever to arrive but when they did, they were piping hot. The menu on their website is not current, so unfortunately I don’t have the full names and descriptions of each dish.

For our main courses, Christine got the beef lasagna that came with a salad and chips. She thought it was quite tasty and it was certainly a generous portion.

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Michael decided on a smaller plate of mussels that came with a side of bread. Although the dish was nice, some mussels were quite chewy and he felt the sauce was plain and could’ve used more flavour and some kick.

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And for myself, the eggplant parmegiana, which was piping hot and delicious. However, the dish was a tad too oily for my liking and the salad would’ve been nicer with a little bit of dressing.

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It was overall an enjoyable experience with attentive service and tasty, reasonably priced food.  I would suggest Bar Santo to my friends; however, there are too many other fantastic looking restaurants in the area that I would like to check out before returning.

Bar Santo on Urbanspoon

Melbourne: Lunch at Shanghai Street

Saturday, March 1, 2014

After a morning of walking around, we were definitely in the mood for a delicious lunch. And we already knew what we wanted – dumplings. It’s Melbourne right? There’s got to be amazing Asian cuisine around. The only problem was, where can we get great dumplings.

With an 89% rating on Urbanspoon, our decision was easy. A short walk soon found us joining the queue outside of Shanghai Street. Simple rules in the world of food: If you want good food, go where the queues are.

(Took this photo after lunch, no longer a line up outside)

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A bustling little shop with small tables and limited seating area. Staff handed us menus while we waited in line and took our orders when we were ready. Luckily, we were near the beginning of the queue and turnover was quick.

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We were soon settled into a small table for 2 and awaited our food. The worst thing about going to a dumpling restaurant with only 2 people? You only have enough belly room to try a limited number of items… unless you want to take away lots of leftovers.

Xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings) was our first dish to come out. Piping hot and filled with delicious broth. Even with utmost gentleness we had a few dumpling leaks, a shame! Although the dumpling skins were nice and thin, I wish they were a slightly more sturdier.

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Our second dish (and last) dish was fried pork buns. These had a much thicker, chewier skin but were also filled with soup. Take care with these ones! Bite the top off and suck the soup off rather than munching it directly or you’ll end up squirting hot soup in someone’s eye! 😉

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We did want to try the egg custard buns but unfortunately they were unavailable.

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The fried pork buns seemed quite popular as many people around us were enjoying them as well. While we were eating, a couple waiting to be seated even approached us to say those looked really appetizing and asked what the name of the dish was so they could order it too.

Both types of dumplings were generous in size, hot and flavoursome with good texture. Although quite busy and you may have to queue, the line moves quickly and the food is definitely worth the wait. Did I mention everything is also very reasonably priced? Less than $20 for our dishes that left us stuffed! The staff was consistently pleasant and we certainly left pleased and looking forward to a future visit. Our only regret was not being to try more dishes!

Shanghai Street Dumpling on Urbanspoon

First batch of Year 4 Food

As you may know, I have gotten into the habit of keeping a photo diary of food I’ve been making since coming to Australia from Canada 3 years ago.

Going across the world was my first time moving away from home, and I hardly ever cooked before that because my mom’s food was too fabulous to bother trying. Curse of living at home? 😛

I am proud of myself for continuously trying and improving my skills in the kitchen. I am most certainly not the best at anything, but I am enjoying trying my hand at new things, and most importantly, it brings me happiness that people (especially Michael) enjoy the things I make. Being in the kitchen is my ‘relaxing activity’ believe it or not. And I especially love to cook and bake when I can share.

Annoyingly, I still have family members that ask, “So… how do you feed yourself when you’re living in Australia?” and are so surprised when I reply, “I cook for myself.”

“Really? You can cook?!” Why yes, yes I can. Did you really think I have been eating just take-out and salads for 3 years? Come on!

And the way I see it. Anybody can, they just have to want to try!

You’ll notice there’s no meat in anything below. Mike and I wanted to go meat-free for a few weeks, especially after indulging so much over the holidays.

First ‘hot meal’ after we finally got groceries on arriving back to Brisbane. Breakfast for dinner, a favourite.

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Creamy cauliflower soup, with onions, potato and sweet potato. Definitely a new favourite!

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Trying my hand at gnocchi from scratch for the first time. Sweet potato gnocchi (can you tell I was really lazy with the shaping of it) with a butter garlic rosemary sauce, fennel and apple salad and some grilled haloumi. Quite an odd combination, I know. But hey, it works! We shop the sales and then decide on the menu, not vice versa. Life of a student, you know? 😉

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Ricotta lime cookies with a lime glaze. Made these for “Friday Bake Day” at the hospital, which were enjoyed by many. Will definitely be making these again.

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Pasta salad with green beans and carmelised onions with a greek yoghurt dressing. Side of cucumber and tomato salad.

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Coconut basil shrimp!

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Peanut butter cookies with caramel chips. Made these for another Friday Bake Day

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Had some basa fillets that I cooked up…

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To make delicious fish cakes for the first time! What an easy method to serve fish in a totally different and flavourful way!

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And 2 dishes that I made when back in Canada

Quiche with mushrooms, onions and bacon. Cheated with store bought crust though! 😉

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Cream of (wild) mushroom soup

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Life has been dull

Not too many exciting things happening, but here are a few moments!

January 13, 2014

Photo right before leaving for our first day of school! Both of us need hair cuts real bad… good thing we finally got them last week!

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January 24, 2014

Tan was in town from Mackay, where he is now an intern, visiting Christine so we got to hang out! We went to Sunnybank for Korean BBQ dinner at Midam, which I’ve blogged about before. Dinner was definitely delicious and filling!

We, of course, saved room for dessert! At Christine’s suggestion, we went to Meet Fresh – a Taiwanese dessert shop. And boy it was yum!

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Both couples shared a Duo-Deluxe Pudding. Ice cream, egg pudding, tapioca pearls, milk pudding and crushed ice. Not too sweet, lovely creamy pudding consistency, and the tapioca pearls were cooked just right!

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January 25, 2014

Saturday morning tennis! It was great fun, to the point that we continued playing in the rain, got completely soaked and then went for breakfast at the adjacent Saint Lucy Caffe.

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Although we were all sore the next day, looking forward to doing it again!

January 31, 2014

Check out this interesting Christmas present Michael received from my sister, Jenni!

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Bacon marmalade! Looks mighty interesting doesn’t it?

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And look, just because it says bacon, doesn’t mean it’s going to kill you.

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Unfortunately, although it smelled really nice, the marmalade (which I am normally not a fan of) overpowered any flavour or taste of bacon. It was also way too sweet 😦 I wish it was a little more savoury!

IMG_6585See? I wasn’t joking when I said life has been dull. In the 3 weeks we’ve been back, these are all the “fun things” we’ve done 😛

Actually, I lied. On Friday, January 10th, we caught up with Amanda, Xuan, Sarah and Kee Ping over a lovely dinner at Wagaya!

And the following weekend, January 18th, we also went to visit Kristen, Matt and their adorable 1 month old (at the time) baby girl Abigail! She is too precious and we are looking forward to visiting them again soon. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos 😦 Next time!

There, now that’s all the fun things we’ve done… I think! ^_^

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 😉

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:

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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 (£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! 😛

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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. 

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. 

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

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And of course, champagne for take off 🙂

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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. 

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 🙂

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. 😛

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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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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 served 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 OR 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… 😛

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… 😉

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!

Last batch of random moments in Canada!

I made macarons that tasted like the ones you get at the store! Their feet weren’t as pretty but white chocolate green tea… how delicious does that sound? Unfortunately, I was only able to make them successfully 1 out of the 3 times I attempted this break.

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Some of the chocolate truffles I made this year as Christmas presents for family and friends. Flavours were: Cocoa covered dark chocolate wasabi, sprinkle coated hazelnut milk chocolate, and Toasted almond orange white chocolate.

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Shawarma Palace with Mike on Boxing Day! Could not believe that I ran into Jason and Max there as well, exactly one year ago I was in the same place having shawarma with them (and Amin)!

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“This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

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Walked out of my driveway one day to hear something hissing at me from above. I was concerned it might jump down and eat my face like a zombie.

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My mom made deeelicious deep fried choux rolled in butter and dipped in a mixture of salt and sugar. Haven’t had these since 2007!

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And later she also made choux crème. Baked with a custard filling, yummy!

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Mike and I got matching Sunskis! We are quite happy with the quality and service and can’t wait to rock them at the beach! Check out their Facebook page HERE

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My sister got me some amazing wild mushrooms from West Coast Wild Foods for Christmas. I used them and altered the recipe it came with (didn’t have all the ingredients it called for) to make some delicious cream of mushroom soup. So tasty!

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Blackberries with freshly whipped cream! And they were so sweet!

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I got my nails done for the first time, with my sister! Shellac, I quite like this… too bad I can’t afford doing this all the time!

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Promised I would make a quiche and I actually did! With mushrooms, bacon and onion… not bad, got the stamp of approval from my brother!

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Mmm, McDonald’s McGriddles for breakfast, I will miss you! Delicious combination of maple syrup pancake sweetness sandwiching egg and the saltiness of cheese and sausage!

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Saying farewell to Franklin who’s going to be living with Anthony for a few months! My mom will miss her ‘grandson’ quite a bit!

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The day after New Year’s, our furnace died, on one of the coldest days! The temperature in our house quickly dropped to a frigid 13.5C before we finally got running again. Apparently our flame sensor needed replacing – ugh!

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This bird has been sitting by our kitchen window for as long as I can remember. My dad brought it home one day and I thought a real bird had flown in and perched on our window the first time I saw it. Dang, it’s an ugly bird! But, memories 🙂

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And that’s the last of my random moments in Canada… I believe! 🙂

 

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

December 25, 2013

For as long as I can remember, the entire family has gathered at my grandparents for Christmas day. We always have lunch, complete with 2 turkeys and a plethora of side dishes and dessert. Food is followed by a large break filled with napping or catching up or board games with many laughs. Then evening rolls around and we have our second turkey meal of the day – leftovers from lunch!

This year was slightly different from previous ones. We had THREE turkeys. And a non-family member, Michael, joined the family festivities for the first time.

3 turkeys!

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Plating up the side dishes

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Uncles carving the turkeys

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Almost there

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Yay, eating time!

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In the past few years, as we get older, the cousins have been trying to do something a little different for special family occasions. You might remember at my grandpa’s birthday a few weeks ago, all the kids had lanyards stating their name and birth order. Other occasions have included colour coordinating outfits.

This year, my sister designed t-shirts for all the kids, including Mike. I think they turned out well, what about you? And surprisingly, all the cousins wore their t-shirts the entire day, as opposed to changing out of them once photos were taken. Thanks guys!

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Trying to replicate our faces

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Silly faces

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Isn’t Mike such a lucky man? 😛

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Playing games as soon as we finished eating!

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So much laughter and craziness playing ‘Heads Up’, Ellen Degeneres’ game that we played similar to charades.

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My grandparents! Probably watching our shenanigans!

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When it comes time for presents, the grandparents always receive theirs presents and cards from the grandchildren first.

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Then my grandparents will give children either a lucky red pocket with money inside, or a small gift each. This year, however, my grandpa decided to do something different – 2 raffle prizes for the kids. Each prize box contained tons of edible goodies with specific instructions to share with the other kids. Win win for all!

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And of course, my grandpa always arranges prize draws for the adults. Sadly, our family (the 6s) has never won one of my grandpa’s raffles! The 2 family were, again, the lucky winners!

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All the cousins participated in a gift exchange this year! Since we are all poor, we agreed to the challenge of buying one item from Dollarama for this gift exchange, with the option to steal presents. Worked out nicely and provided a bunch of fun!

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And some of the cousins participated in our first cookie exchange! Such a great idea and so many cookies to munch on for days. Can’t wait to do this again!

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There were 9 cousins who participated in total and we decided to do batches of 5 cookies as opposed to the traditional dozen. Good idea, because we would’ve had A LOT of cookies to eat.

Kim with her cookies. She attempted to make cookies which included fresh pomegranate syrup but they didn’t quite turn out, mainly because she didn’t use a recipe! She decided to make up for it with cute little bags, thanks Kim!

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Christine with her colourful and tasty pinwheel short bread cookies!

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Janet with fortune cookies!

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Jenni with her shortbread and sugar cookies, with super fancy packaging

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Andy going with the traditional chocolate chip cookies

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Flora and her decadent peanut butter cookies!

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I made some orange cinnamon cookies with cranberries and white chocolate chips!

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Mike and his triple chocolate candy cane cookies – so chocolatey

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Lilian with her impressive and massive red velvet cookies with cream cheese frosting

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So many cookies!

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The haul!

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When our tummies finally made some room, we had dessert! Blueberry and cherry no-bake cheesecake made by my mom and Vietnamese Creme Caramel (flan) made by my Aunt 2! Yum yum!

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And of course, finally as always, some family photos.

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More Christmas photos HERE

This is quite late, but I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas with their loved ones as well! ❤

Yummy delights at Macarons et Madeleines

December 18, 2013

I finally had the opportunity to visit my sister and brother’s favourite bakery in Ottawa – Macarons et Madeleines – a beautiful, warm and cozy home bakery tucked away in Chinatown that specializes in French pastries.

A semi-detached house, the first things that greet you as you enter: delicious aromas of freshly baked goods and Stephan Ethier’s friendly welcome.

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As it is a business run out of their home, Macarons et Madeleines does not have space for customers to sit down and eat, however, that doesn’t mean that their atmosphere is lacking in any way.

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A price list and guest book are set up in the foyer, Christmas decor lines the small yet spacious room, even a lovely wood fireplace.

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Looks like there should be a cat around, but we didn’t get to meet him/her!

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Macarons et Madeleines offers a small selection of approximately 10 pastries on a regular basis. For macarons, only a few flavours are chosen and made each week, many of them creative adventures suggested by customers. In addition, there are others (like the chocolate almond croissant) available only on the weekends. They are also very happy to work with you to create any custom orders you might have, which is great!

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Stephan is a very friendly and extremely passionate patissier (read his biography here). He was more than happy to thoroughly explain the story and work behind the pastries, provide any tips and answer any questions. I did not have a chance to chat with his wife that day, but my sister tells me she is lovely and also just as friendly.

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After a bit of a chat and being given some information on everything available, it was difficult not to get everything to try!

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Christmas macaron flavours available were: pistachio-cinnamon (red), hot chocolate with marshmallow (white), and eggnog with rum (yellow) – we bought 2 of each to share ($2/each). Our favourite was the pistachio-cinnamon, having the most vibrant flavours of the 3, as well as great colour for the holiday season!

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Since we’ve never had a Cannele Bordelais ($3) before, we had to try. A small striated cylinder with a crispy carmelised crust and a soft custard inside – rich, creamy and delicious!

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Croissant ($1.75) – flaky and tender, easily one of the best ones we’ve ever had!

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Pain au chocolate/Chocolate croissant ($2.50) – even better than the regular croissant because of its smooth, creamy, chocolate centre, mmm!

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Apple turnover/Chausson aux pommes ($2.50) – most unique one we’ve tried as it is made with a velvety home made apple puree filling. I love apple+cinnamon, this one definitely did not last long.

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We also got a Brioche Parisienne ($1.25) which was very nice as well!

Macarons et Madeleines offers delicious French pastries Wednesday to Sunday starting at 7am until quantities last. Definitely worth a special visit, I promise you will not be disappointed! Not only will you be warmly received into the home of one of the most passionate pastry chefs, you will surely leave with amazing treats that will leave you pining for more!

Macarons et Madeleines on Urbanspoon

AYCE buffet at Eclipse Asian Cuisine

December 16, 2013

At my mum’s friend’s recommendation, our family decided to have AYCE buffet lunch at Eclipse Asian Cuisine.

A reasonable, $12.95/person + tax/tip for weekday lunch.

Our first impression of Eclipse was, “Holy, heavy doors!” But we did appreciate the eclipse decor pattern on the glass.

Joking aside, the restaurant is large with 2 main seating areas, offering both tables and booths. We were greeted at the door and immediately shown to a booth. Recommendation: hooks by the booths to hang up coats!

The decor is nice and tasteful with wood and brown furniture against purple walls with circular white and yellow accents.

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We arrived shortly after 11:30am for lunch so it was not surprising that there were only a few other patrons in the restaurant. However, there was a steady flow of diners as we headed into lunch hours.

Before grabbing food, I walked around to take a look at all the dishes available and take a few pictures. I was quite taken aback when an employee, I assume the manager/owner as he was in a dress shirt and tie, saw me and harshly asked, “Why are you taking pictures?!” When I replied that I like to blog and was planning to write a review, and asked if taking pictures would be okay, he gave a curt nod of his head and walked away. Isn’t it easier to be friendly?

Anyway, I quite liked the set up of the food. A symmetrical, semi-circular area with an island at the centre and 2 smaller areas off to each side.

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The presentation of the food was elegant, smaller portions cleanly plated on white square dishes. However, I believe this also allowed the dishes to cool a little quickly.

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There are many meat dishes (vegetarians will have a hard time here) and a number of seafood ones to choose from. Many of the classics (dumplings, General Tao’s chicken, egg rolls, stir-fries, etc) are available along with a selection of sushi, salads, soups, and desserts.

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Hungry for food!

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I found my mum’s side profile funny

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My plate. Trying to get a bite of many dishes…

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Unfortunately, my tiny, sesame ball with red bean filling was still raw on the inside.

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And 2 of us had big chunks of fat in one of our pork dishes, not a fan. Fat is the closest piece, pork behind it.

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Overall, the food and selection is good. Of course, the variety doesn’t match Emerald Buffet, but Eclipse still offers something for everyone in a nicer environment. Some dishes are cooked and taste better than others. I especially liked the salmon Teriyaki and salt and pepper shrimp. The sushi is decent, although if you are looking for sushi, I would definitely recommend going down the street for AYCE at Sushi Kan.

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Desserts were definitely disappointing, with a small selection of fruits, jello, ice cream and pre-bought desserts. Unfortunately, many pastries/cakes were dry as they are left open to the air. Would’ve loved to see some Asian desserts as well!

With reasonable prices and food, I’m sure we will find ourselves back when craving Chinese buffet!

Eclipse Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Long overdue catch up with Sareda at Art Is In!

December 14, 2013

By long overdue, I mean three years. Really.

Needless to say, it was great to see her and finally catch up. So much can happen in such little time, you easily don’t realize it until actually sitting down and having a chat.

For lunch, Sareda chose Art Is In Boulangerie. What a delight! And thanks again for the treat my dear!

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Unit #112 of the industrial loading bay at City Centre Ave, Art Is In has a very unique atmosphere. You walk through a black door to be greeted by high ceilings, minimal decor, shared seating in a large open space. And surprisingly, it’s very warm, inviting and cosy.

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Being first time visitors, we appreciated that there wasn’t too much of a line when we arrived shortly after 12pm on a Saturday. We had the opportunity to ask questions regarding what was available and take a moment longer to make up our minds. I really liked how there was an employee taking our ‘hot food’ orders while we waited in line. By the time we got to the front of the line, ordered any additional pastries, breads, or other items from the bakery, paid and sat down at a table, the food took only a few more moments to arrive.

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We both decided on a sandwich and a pastry.

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Sareda chose the Thai chicken with apple, curry mayo, and havarti sandwich ($10.95)

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I got the Buttermilk brined chicken caesar sandwich ($10.95, tender chicken pieces with bacon, havarti, tomatoes, arugula and our homemade Caesar dressing. Served on our Dynamite Cheddar, jalapeno & chive bread).

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Both sandwiches were delicious, served such amazing crusty bread and filled with fresh vegetables and flavourful meat – yum! Although they were great, they are not the biggest sandwiches and I wish for the price, they came with a small side. Even if it was just a few greens.

For dessert, a danish with lemon curd and berries (I believe) for Sareda

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And a Chocolate Almond Croissant ($2.95) for me!

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Again, both extremely tasty! We each saved half to share with Sareda’s partner, Calvin, later.

We were definitely impressed with our first visit and left making plans to each come back in the future, yay!

December 17, 2013

And so, when Mike came up to Ottawa, I took him there for lunch!

He couldn’t pass up the same sandwich I got last time and ordered the chicken caesar, along with a coffee.

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We also bought 2 pastries to try:

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Sticky Bun with Pecans, Raisin & Caramel ($3.25). Delicious but extremely rich, especially as it is not technically a bun but more of a croissant. It is quite sweet, although the caramel is hardened, would’ve been nicer if it was slightly warmed!

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And the Maple Dipped Old Fashioned Potato Donut ($3.25). The donut had very lovely texture but otherwise quite bland, which is not technically a bad thing depending on what you are looking for! Or it could be because our taste buds were overwhelmed by the sticky bun 😛

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❤ him!

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During the second visit, there were a few minor things I noticed that could be improved.

Although I don’t drink, directions for where to get self-serve coffee would be useful. There was confusion as nothing was labelled and wasn’t sure if the big dispensers contained other beverages like tea or hot chocolate.

Additionally, you are given pastries you order at the cash to take back to your table. Hot foods arrive when they are ready. However, there is no self-serve cutlery for those who would like to enjoy their pastries first or while they wait. A stash cutlery where the self-serve drinks are would be great and save the trouble of bothering an employee! 🙂

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Otherwise, the food is delicious on many levels. The atmosphere is great with a variety of clientele including families, elderly couples, and those on break from work. Turnover is quick and although it was quite busy both times I’ve visited, we never had trouble finding space to share and dine with others. Service is quick and friendly. My only regret is not buying some fresh loaves of bread to go! I guess that means I will just have to return soon… 😀

Art Is in Bakery on Urbanspoon

No excuse for not blogging!

Hi friends!

Yes, I have no excuse for not blogging, I am on vacation after all!

How is everyone doing? Getting excited for the holidays yet?

For once, I am (mostly) on top of Christmas preparations! That even includes putting up the Christmas tree by myself at the beginning of December, yay! Not to mention all my presents have been wrapped… which normally never happens until the night of the 23rd or 24th.

Here are a few scattered moments since my last blog post:

Remember when I said I was digitizing all our old photos? Well, I finished! But I have not yet organised them T_T

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Mum made delicious guacamole!

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Got the tree up and this was my first present wrapped!

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Grilled cheese on a panini grill

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Snacking

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Made some macarons with the bro. They were successful in that they had feet, but failed in smoothness and texture – overbaked and way too crispy! We’ll try again soon…

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One of my favourite fruit snacks – pineapple with salt and pepper, yummy!

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Don’t know what made my mom think this would be good – smoked oysters (from China) in a can by Clover. Needless to say, she tasted one and didn’t get further.

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A little bit of a lot going on in this photo

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It snowed so hard on Dec 15! 😦

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Which was also the day my sister came home for the holidays from Vancouver. Thank god my uncle (Cau Hai) drove us to pick her up… or we would’ve died on the road.

The flight was, of course, delayed. Our poor grandparents had to chill at the airport until close to 3am when Jenni finally arrived!

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December 16 – day after my sister came home. And Michael came up, finally! ❤ We went to see the Ottawa Senators vs St Louis Blues hockey game at the Canadian Tire Centre!

My sister, the biggest Toronto Maple Leafs fan… forced to wear a Sens jersey

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One of the most exciting games I’ve been to with the winning goal scored by Ceci in the last minute of overtime, yay! Note: I dislike hockey and have not watched many games in person.

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My brother “studying” before we left for the game.

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December 17 – breakfast with mum at Cora’s before driving her to work! Cora’s food was a disappointment, this is my 4th or 5th time going and it just… never wins me over.

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And homemade jajangmyun (Korean noodles with black bean sauce) that night! Mmm!

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Of course, Michael couldn’t visit Ottawa without having lunch at Play! Love the current menu options, although they have since increased the pricefrom 2 plates for $20 last year to $22. Still a great deal though!

Started off with house bread and frites with aioli sauce.

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Our first plates. beef laab / hoisin / jalapeño / daikon / romaine / ginger for Michael. So fragrant and delicious! Great contrast of flavours and textures, definitely a favourite.

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I enjoyed the pappardelle / chorizo / duck / celeriac / winter squash / shallot. Also very tasty! The pappardelle (broad pasta noodles) was cooked just with with really nice flavours but way too oily for me.

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Onto our second plates! rabbit meatballs / pork / cornbread / eggplant agrodolce for Mike. Tender and moist meatballs against fluffly cornbread made for a very hearty meal.

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I chose the pork belly/edamame/Thai sauce/apricot/red bell pepper/onion. The flavours danced across my tongue… easily our favourite dish of the day! Crispy pork belly on a bed of wonderful delights with a good amount of heat. Unfortunately, the sauce in this dish was too oily, which was worse than my pappardelle because the pork belly is already so fatty. Still a delight though!

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And finally, guess who!

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Seeing the girls again!

December 08, 2013

Reunion with the girls, finally! We were just missing Sophie 😦 who’s still studying in San Fran… but we’ll catch up with her sooner or later!

We congregated at Julia’s house (thanks Hue for picking Atong and I up!) to make delicious food and of course, to feast!

Julia taught us how to make gnocchi, who knew it was such an easy dish to make from scratch too!

Baking and letting the potatoes dry out.

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Pressing the potatoes… takes effort! 😛

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Hue made a play on the well known appetizer Insalata Caprese – yummy with tomato, basil, and boccocini, dipped in a basalmic and olive oil vinagrette.

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Atong… just watching and waiting to eat, haha.

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I made some coconut basil tempura shrimp… never a let down!

Infusing the coconut cream

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Ready to feast!

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It had been a while since I had poutine, Julia made some with sweet potato too, yummy!

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The tempura shrimp!

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Can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the gnocchi! It was so delicious with a rose sauce and bacon!

I also made some deep fried banana fritters, tasty!

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Group photo 🙂

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Silly faces

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Such a lovely home

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Watching Masterchef as we eat 😛

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And with her lovely Christmas tree!

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And lastly, I just wanted to point out her table runner. How beautiful is that??

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AYCE Sushi fix at Banc Sushi

November 30, 2013

All you can eat sushi with the cousins! Yay, I finally get my sushi fix!

We decided on Banc Sushi as it is pretty tasty and in a convenient location for everyone.

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For my friends who don’t know how AYCE sushi works, you are given a menu and ordering sheets. You write down the quantity of each item you want and they bring it straight to your table… how easy can it get!

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It costs $23 for dinner on Fridays and weekends, prices for lunch and weekdays are more cheaper.

Check out the extensive menu:

And of course, photos!

Only missing 2 cousins: My sister and Kien

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The other half’s first bit of food arrives…

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The girls

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Our side of the table was waiting so long for food… then realized we never handed in the order. Fail!

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Always with the nipple touching Khang

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Finally, our first dish arrives – seaweed salad!

And more food!

Tuna

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Unagi/eel – this was so tasty!

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The Lover’s Roll… in the shape of a penis. Many laughs and instagram-ing occured at the table

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The most tender beef rolls (enoki mushrooms inside) I’ve ever had!

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So much dessert! Ice cream and fried banana for everyone! Haven’t had mango ice cream in so long – yum!

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Kevin so happy with his 6 scoops of ice cream 😛

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Happy with bursting bellies!

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Let’s do this again before I leave! 😀

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 😀

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 🙂

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 🙂

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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! 😛 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.

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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! 🙂

Random moments since being home!

This post is just as it sounds, enjoy!

There were ripe bananas at home so made some banana chocolate muffins

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How silly is this? Beechwood Cemetery sent this addressed to my dad (who is buried there) inviting him to join for a Memorial Candlelight Service.

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Birthday present from my mom! Belated because she kept it in Ottawa until I got back 🙂 Even matches my birthstone, thanks mommy!

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Shawarma Palace is my absolutely favourite shawarma shop and now they have a fancy new location – thank you Elvin for the treat! 🙂 So nice to catch up with him and Vinh!

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On Nov 27, it snowed. A lot. It’s not even winter yet.

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This is really yummy if you’ve never had! I don’t think they have this kind of Greek/fruit yoghurt in Brisbane so I will enjoy all I can while I’m here, haha! 😉

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My brother got a bike trainer so he can still ride his bike during the winter 😛

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CINNABON. Best cinnamon bun ever. Always look forward to having this when I’m back in Ottawa, thanks bro for buying me one! 🙂

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Ambitious project going on… I’m trying to digitize all our photos

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Face squishies!

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My brother made kale chips, tasty! But I don’t really think they’re worth the money.

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Delicious green tea chocolate by La Chocolaterie – so creamy and rich in matcha flavour

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Dinner one night at home: thit kho (braised pork) with bamboo and egg, greens and a mixture of different kinds of rice – very yummy!

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Look how easy it is to do a bowel cancer screening test now, from the comfort of your own home with prepaid postage. Everyone over the age of 50, please get screened at least every 2 years! Very easy to get a kit, just ask your family doctor for one the next time you visit!

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Couldn’t resist trying Domino’s pizza here… nice size, nice crust, BUT WHERE MY CHEESE AT?

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Good crunchy lava cake though!

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Made dumplings… lots and lots of dumplings…

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Mum brought home some macarons from work, yay! Although they were really lacking in flavour, it was hard to make out what most of the flavours were.

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More to come soon I’m sure! 😉

Vancouver: Day 02

November 18, 2013

What a good night’s sleep, most definitely needed it! Unfortunately, we woke up to a very gloomy sky. 😦 But that was okay right? Hopefully!

Started off with a delicious breakfast at home with BAGELS: something they really need to start selling in Brisbane because we miss them dearly when not in Canada.

Soon we were heading out and starting the day.

First stop, Stanley Park (huge, 1001 acres) with the hope of riding bikes if it didn’t start to rain. It was looking good! But unfortunately, it started to rain as soon as we got off the bus. So no biking but a little bit of walking around to see what the park had to offer.

Look how pretty it is!

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Lots of seagulls and ducks

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Some fam shots!

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We missed all the wild blackberries! 😦

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We barely made it into the park but it was wet and cold…

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Since it was raining, we thought of going to Science World as it was indoors and would be fun. But alas, they were closed on Monday.

So sad, so my sister decided to show us Granville Island next. A peninsula and hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment, this shopping district includes a large public market, a marina, performance arts theatres, fine art galleries, craft studios (glassblowing, printmaking, jewellers, etc), and much more!

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Oh my gosh, berries so cheap! Australia, why you no have good price like this?

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The public market was bustling with amazing delights like baked goods and fresh fruit. Every stall was appealing in its own way, but particularly because most, if not all, were offering local products including artisan cottage-industry foods and hand-made crafts.

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We also had lunch at the market: perogies, sausages and dessert of cheesecake and macarons – all yum!

Also got some flavoured honey sticks, 4 for $1 – haven’t tried mine (honey lime) yet though!

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The Umbrella Shop. It was hilarious to hear the employee say something along the lines of, “Now, the important thing is that you need to open the umbrella all the way out to dry.” Never heard umbrellas being taken so seriously before!

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The Crystal Ark – had a great time in here just looking at everything. Yes, I like collecting rocks/minerals! And even bought a few items as Christmas presents! 😉

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So many polished stones to choose from!

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My sister greeting some ducks on our way out!

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We decided to head to the University of British Columbia with 2 intentions: To see the Walter’s Harvard Lab (from the show Fringe!) and to get a tour of my sister’s study area on campus at UBC Hospital. We also wanted to go to their Museum of Anthropology, but that was closed on Monday too, so many fails!

And yes, the rain has not let up at all. By now, we (but especially me) were all feeling chilled to the bone and miserable.

So it turns out that what Michael believed to be was Walter’s Lab was a FAIL! Because we had a completely wrong building! I’m pretty sure this is the Iona Building, School of Theology

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The one we really wanted to see was this Chemistry Building. Aieya, I guess next time! Photo credit: As linked

We got a quick tour of the OT area at UBC Hospital and chilled out in their student lounge for a bit. So miserable with the rain and cold! If you know me, I can take anything but rain, I detest rain!

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Soon we headed home in order to meet my sister’s friend for sushi dinner! The sushi restaurant was decent, the company definitely made it better. It was an uneventful evening as we just headed home and hung out after dinner – sorry no pictures!

And that’s the end of Day 02!

Post-Medicine rotation gathering!

November 15, 2013

(I know, I’m now writing out of order too, sorry! :P)

In celebration of our time together throughout our Medicine rotation AND the fact that we finished our last exams of third year – we had to celebrate… with food, of course!

Very happy that most of us were able to meet for dinner Friday evening, hurray!

After some discussion, we decided on New Shanghai as they have many yummy and generous sized dishes to share. In particular, dumplings. Need I say more?

Credit to Sarah for the photos!

The ones who couldn’t make it: Clarence, Yung Howe, Tomas, Joseph, Mustak, Manisha, and Sunny

Adi, Kee Ping, Sarah & Daniel

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Me, Mike, Xuan & Christine

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Sarah & Daniel

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Mike & Xuan

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Daniel & I

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Love this picture 🙂

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For dessert, it didn’t take much convincing for everyone to join for some frozen yoghurt, yum!

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Thanks for the good times guys, have a great holiday!

Last night in Brisbane: Eat Street Markets!

November 16, 2013

Continuing on with my previous post!

I know, I’m so behind.

After Kristen’s baby shower earlier in the day, we decided to meet up at Eat Street Markets later for dinner – also a last chance for me to hang out with everyone before going home to Canada!

Unfortunately, Michael wasn’t a part of this gathering because he had to stay home to sell his iPad, and the girl never showed up! How annoying! At least Yoni was over so he didn’t have to spend his night in Brisbane alone, haha.

Christine picked me up at 6pm and we got there in time to meet Kristen, Matt, Fiona and her friend Amy for dinner – yum!

What is Eat Street Markets? I didn’t know either!

It’s a newly opened (and hopefully permanent) night market at the old decommissioned Hamilton Wharf. Around 80 shipping containers, although I suspect more will be added as time goes by, have been transformed to bright and alluring stalls selling food from all over the world, textiles, art, fresh produce, jewellery, and more!

You can read more about it at The Weekend Edition and at Must Do Brisbane.

One of the entrances to the market

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Two huge ‘starry night’ tents lined entirely with amazing food stalls. Very reasonable prices too!

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Yum, food and friends 🙂

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And plenty other stalls!

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Chitty Banh Banh stall by Jake and Elle from My Kitchen Rules

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Sending our love to a friend who wasn’t able to make it.

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Lovely atmosphere and as with any market, plenty of unique things to see!

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There were even fireworks at the end of the night, although I’m pretty sure they were unrelated to Eat Street Markets.

Had a great night, especially hanging out with everyone! Hopefully Mike will have a chance to go when we are back in Brisbane!

Random recent moments

As I mentioned in the last post, I haven’t done much in the last 3 weeks but there are a few things to share!

My dear friend Amanda gifted me with lovely chocolate covered sultanas by Melba’s and a bottle of Chenin Blanc (Coriole Vineyards), both presents from South Australia. The chocolates are rich, smooth and delicious and of the course, the wine was very tasty. She even wrote a really touching note… just because she’s an awesome friend and is always thinking of other people. 🙂

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Having some of the chocolates and salted cashews = winning snack.

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Craving for Korean food led us back to our usual spot – Madtongsan II for dinner on Oct 16!

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Oct 19 – Could not resist the great lunch specials at Wagaya. Went for my new favourite dish, tonkotsu ramen, so delicious! Even comes with dumplings and an amazing bowl of fried rice!

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For dessert, we chose to share the green tea cheese cake with green tea ice cream. Have been wanting to try this for a while but probably not worth getting again.

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Mike’s squishing me! Long but fun and extremely worthwhile days in hospital this rotation. But sooo tired when we finally get home, not much studying gets done.

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Yoni was in town from Nambour and staying with us Oct 19-20. We went to see Gravity which was good, although I was glad we didn’t see the 3D version because I think I would’ve gotten motion sickness. And we never go without food! My favourite wedges from Beastie Burgers and burritos from Guzman y Gomez, yummy picnic!

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I ordered a few BB Cream replacements recently, and look at all the amazing samples I received! All well known Korean brands too… can’t wait to try some of these out, especially the Ice Mask!

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Boiled quail eggs with some salt and pepper – delicious snack!

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How do you cut a pineapple? This is how I learned from my mom, least amount of pineapple wastage!

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Yummy! Honeydew melon with pineapple and lychee – can’t go wrong!

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Tried frozen yoghurt for the first time not too long ago – how delicious! Biscotti and coconut pandan flavour with fruits – yum!

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A new favourite in our house, basil & blueberry gin and tonic – try it! Very tasty 🙂

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Home made food update? Here are a few things!

Crispy oven baked sweet potato fries

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Creamy mushroom soup – delightful!

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More mango sticky rice with coconut cream, mmm

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Vegetarian pasta salad with Greek yoghurt based dressing

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Pear cupcakes with passionfruit icing for the students in my group

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Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing and carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing as thank you gifts for my med team.

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