Sherman's Food Adventures: 2020

Flint Creek Cattle Co.

Our original plan was to make our reservation at Flint Creek Cattle Co. at around 7:00pm.  However, we were doing a wine tasting at Percipio Wines in Bellevue.  We were enjoying ourselves so much (possibly due to the wine?), we didn't rush and ended up changing the rez to a later time.   We were rather famished by the time we got there at around 8:30pm.  Luckily, it wasn't too busy for a Sunday night.  Last time I was in Greenwood, I had a great tasting menu at Opus Co and since the area is known for many great restaurants, I was excited to try Flint Creek.

We started with the Anderson Ranch Lamb Tartare with cured lemon, rose petal harissa, radish, herbs, flat bread and dukkah spice. Normally, I find lamb tartare to be rather gamy (and I don't mind this), but this was seasoned so beautifully, the lamb was there, but not the only star.  There was a good balance of acidity, zestiness and spice.  As for the texture, the lamb was fairly tender with an appealing meatiness.  Surrounded by a bevy of Prosciutto San Daniel, we found nectarines, pistachio oil, saba, arugula and salt complimenting the buffalo milk burrata.  Even without the other ingredients, it was enjoyable to eat the prosciutto and fresh burrata on their own.  With that being said, the nuttiness of the pistachios and sweetness of the nectarines were good too.

Behold.  The piece de resistance was no doubt the 48 oz. Prime-Niman Ranch Porterhouse for $125.00  We asked for it to be prepared medium-rare and it was fairly inconsistently cooked.  Now, to be fair, this cut is difficult to nail due to the combination of both striploin and tenderloin steaks.  With that being said, you will notice that the tip of the steak was woefully overdone.  That part was not enjoyable to eat.  If we overlook that, the rest of the steak was superb being tender and full-flavored.  We decided to get one vegetarian side in the McEwen & Sons Heirloom Grits with maitake mushrooms, sherry jus and shaved grana padano. This was super tasty featuring creamy grits that were privy to the saltiness of the cheese and umaminess of the caramelized mushrooms.  Let's not forget about the sherry jus as it added some body.

We also got a pasta in the Wild Mushroom Bolognese with fresh radiatori, garlic, sage, nutmeg, liaison, parsley, pine nuts and parmesan.  This was surprisingly meaty despite the lack of meat.  The way they prepared the "bolognese" gave the dish body and umaminess.  I found the radiatori to be al dente and great for retaining the creamy sauce in its little crevices.  The next dish was not a pasta per se, but it did have a gnocchi component.  The Fennel Braised Wild Boar Shoulder was accompanied by garlic, sage, fennel sugo and the aforementioned parmesan potato gnocchi.  This was really good due to the appetizing richness of the boar as well as the gnocchi.  Normally, it is difficult to eat more than a few bites of a heavy dish, but this was not the case here as the umaminess was intoxicating.

For sweets, we didn't do much other than order the Molten Chocolate Cake with warm ganache, peanut ice cream and candied pecans.  Not a whole lot to say about the cake itself as it was pretty typical being moist with a creamy chocolaty center.  However, the peanut ice cream was so aromatic and purposefully sweet that it was good on its own.  Now that wasn't really true as the crunch from the pecans on top added both the necessary texture and extra sweetness.  Overall, I thought there were some real highlights including the boar and mushroom pasta.  However, the porterhouse was not prepared properly enough which was a downer.

The Good:
- Excellent service
- Some good dishes
- Nice vibe

The Bad:
- Porterhouse was very inconsistently prepared

Great Wine Tasting Room (Percipio Wine Collection)

If you have been perceptive about this blog, you will realize I'm not a big wine drinker.  Now that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a glass or two, but I'm no expert.  Therefore, I will never pass myself off as one.  I will comment occasionally with the best knowledge that I have and to my preferences.  I'm a food blogger not a wine blogger although I'm acutely aware that wine and food go together like peas and carrots (Forrest Gump reference...).  So when David suggested we hit up the Great Wine Tasting Room for a session, I was intrigued.  Why not taste some wine and learn something in the process?  He set up a complimentary tasting before our dinner at Flint Creek Cattle Co.

We weren't there only to sample 4 wines as we were also given the opportunity to find more about our own personal preferences.  This was achieved using the app myVinotype.  There are 4 vinotypes including sweet, hyper-sensitive, sensitive and tolerant.  Those who are sweet prefer sweet whites and reds.  On the other side of the spectrum, those who are tolerant like full-bodied wines such as cabernet sauvignon.  We then find the 2 middle vinotypes where hypersensitive trends towards, but not exclusively to sweet while sensitive trends towards bolder wines.  I already knew my vinotype because I generally like Rieslings and Gewürztraminers.  So yes, I'm sweet (yes, in more ways than one...).   

Our first wine was the only white for the tasting being the Percipio Chardonnay consisting of 65% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Gris and 10% Viognier.  This was crisp with notes of pear and banana, hence the wine was fruity and floral.  It was slightly sweet with a smooth finish.  For me personally, I would love to have a glass with a white fish.  This wine appeals to sensitive and hypersensitive vinotypes, so I generally enjoyed it.  Up next, we sampled the first of three reds with the Percipio Stellar 8.  It was blended with 65% Petite Sirah and 35% Zinfandel.  For a red, this was fairly light and smooth.  This may have been due to the mild amount of tannins which meant the wine wasn't very oaky.  I found it fruity with hints of pomegranate, cherry and chocolate.  Interestingly, this wine appeals to tolerant and sensitive vinotypes which is the polar-opposite of what I would prefer.

Our next red was the Percipio Cabernet Sauvignon consisting of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 3% Petite Sirah.  This was stronger and full-bodied with a noticeable oaky aftertaste.  In addition to pepperiness, there were the rich tones of blackberry and clove.  Suffice to say, this appeals to the tolerant vinotype and not something that I would necessary order for myself.  Surprisingly and unsurprisingly, I was drawn to the last wine in the Cupid which consisted of 55% Zinfandel, 40% Merlot and 5% Petite Sirah.  Surprising since I much prefer whites than red and unsurprising because this appeals to sweet and hypersensitive vinotypes.  I enjoyed the complex and fruity taste that was bold but not harsh.  I could taste the tannins but it was just strong enough.  I ended up buying a bottle of this!   I truly enjoyed my experience at Great Wine and it helped reinforce my preferences steering me towards a wine that I may have not purchased on my own.

*Tasting was complimentary

The Good:
- Informative and helps people find their preferences (if not already known)
- Found a wine that I really enjoyed (Cupid)
- Gorgeous space

The Bad:
- The space doesn't allow for it, but some actual appies would've made the experience even more enjoyable

Dochi

There it was, splattered all over IG - the mochi donut.  Colorful, unique and claimed to be delicious by many.  Sigh...  "Another fad", I thought to myself.  But then again, I was curious.  Also, Deanna posted some really nice IG pics on Dochi in Seattle.  Fine, we added this to our itinerary while we were in Seattle for the a few days.  Fortunately, the lineup wasn't so bad and neither was the weather.  We ended up getting every flavor that was available that day.  Mind you, there are only 6 to choose from.  My cousin visited it recently (which was a good 3 months after I went and there was only one change in donut selection).

If you are curious how the texture of a mochi donut would be like, it isn't as dense as you might imagine.  Rather, it is very similar to a regular cake donut except with the classic chewiness of mochi.  In some ways, it is lighter than a classic cake donut.   I took a sample of the featured donut during Thanksgiving being the Pumpkin Spice and yes it had all the fall flavors with a pleasant cinnamon and nutmeg kick.  I liked how it wasn't too sweet either.  I tend to like fruity desserts, so it wasn't a surprise that I was drawn to  the Strawberry Shortcake.  I guess it had a somewhat "Pocky"' taste to it, but I didn't mind.  The crunchy bits on top added texture and pop of tang.  One of the sweeter creations was the Cookies & Cream with cookie butter.  For me, this was too much sugar but I'm sure it would satisfy someone with a sweeter tooth.  Once again, the cookie on top added more texture to the donut.

I also very much enjoyed the Ube Glazed as it was simple and again, was only sweet enough.  I wouldn't say the ube was really all that strong, but it was definitely there.  I guess I just like simple donuts.  Although the Taro Pebbles was also a relatively sweeter donut, I didn't mind it as the crunch from the cereal was nice and I do love taro (although it wasn't very strong either).  Another relatively simple donut was the Matcha Oreos.  This featured a glaze like the strawberry and taro, but with the matcha, it did add some bitterness.  However, much like the other donuts, it was muted in flavour.  I really didn't get much Oreo either but I could see it.  Okay, I'll admit it, I enjoyed Dochi.  I would come back.  I would also eat other mochi donuts.  Fine, it isn't a fad.

The Good:
- Appealing chewy texture
- Not as sweet as it looks
- Good line control and plenty of product available

The Bad:
- Flavors could be even stronger

Stateside

To say I love to eat is not only an understatement, it is flatly stating the obvious.  Of course, breaking bread is best as a shared activity with either friends and/or family, but yah, it can be enjoyed alone too.  Generally, I tend to eat with the fam because I see them most often (like it should be???), however, eating out (or in) with various friends is a totally different experience.  Roughly once per month or two, I meet up with Areta, Maggi, Diana, David, Hanson, Joyce and Christina for interesting eats around town.  However, the last time we were at Verre, it was decided we do something different and head out-of-town for food.  We started off close with Seattle where we stopped by Stateside for brunch.

This Vietnamese fusion spot does their own take on familiar dishes including the Crispy Duck Fresh Rolls.  Rather than the usual salad roll, they took a fried duck spring roll and wrapped in herbs with an external layer of rice paper.  As a result, we got a surprise crunch to go with the chewy soft exterior.  There was plenty of duck and no filler in the spring roll itself, but the texture was rather mealy and lacking in natural meatiness.  Loved the fresh herbs as it added layers of aromatics.  Next, we tried the Pho Braised Beef Potstickers served with gingered black vinegar.  I'm not sure if these actually tasted like pho other than the star anise finish at the end.  I found the beef filling to be similar to the duck as it was mealy and almost a bit gummy.  The delicate wrapper was thin, al dente and crispy on the bottom.  Personally, I love black vinegar, so it was no problem for me.  However, some thought it was too strong for the dumpling.

One of my favourite dishes was the Crispy Sticky Rice Finger Sandwiches with chili-cumin pork or tofu and house fermented mustard greens.  Normally, when we find rice burgers and the sort, the concoction is usually dense and cumbersome to eat.  Not this one as it was almost "light" where the exterior was appealingly crispy while the rice was not packed too tightly.  Again, the pork shared the same texture as the other meats being mealy, but it was very flavorful with a nice kick and of course earthy cumin.  The mustard greens added a nice tang to balance the salty-spiciness.  Not sure if the accompanying dip actually went with the rice though.  Something more familiar, we had the Classic Banh Mi with housemade Vietnamese mortadella, chicken liver pâté, pork floss, pickled vegetables, cilantro, chili, cucumber, Maggi and mayo.  This was a fully loaded banh mi with most of the usual ingredients.  Ignoring that it cost $11.00, it was a solid sandwich.  The fact it had nearly double the amount of filling than ones found at banh mi shops increased both the flavor and robustness of the sandwich.


Now something that was definitely different was the Eggs Bao'nedict consisting of Canadian bacon filled golden steamed bun, poached eggs, hollandaise and pork floss.  I found the hollandaise to be creamy, yet not too rich while sporting noticeable saltiness from the Maggi.  Add in the bacon and pork floss, this was a bit overwhelming with the salt.  With that being said, I didn't dislike the dish as the eggs were perfect and the airy fried bao helped soak up all the sauce and yolk.  Stunningly beautiful, the Open-faced Golden Brown Omelette ate like a frittata. It sported gruyere and fines herbs with potato crunchies and crispy shallots.  We added country ham for $3.00 more.  I quite enjoyed this as the bottom and edges were crispy and nutty.  The flavors (cheesy and smoky) were predictably complimentary with each other (albeit salty) and the crunch from the potato on top kept textures consistent throughout.

For sorta dessert, we had the Hong Kong Style Charcoal Waffle with coconut-pandan syrup, mango jam and shaved almond.  I think the best part of the dish was the syrup as it was aromatic and purposefully sweet.  Combined with the mango jam and this was very tropical (like a Pina Colada).  We didn't get a whole lot of pandan though.  I thought the waffle was crispy enough on the outside and somewhat dense on the inside.  Now as you can ascertain, there was a certain Asian flair to the brunch service (in particular, Vietnamese).  Normally, fusion can fall flat and be con-fusion instead.  However, I thought there were some highlights for sure here.  At the same time, I think some of the other dishes could be further refined or re-imagined.  

The Good:
- Definitely different
- The more "Asian" items were good
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- A little on the salty side
- Meats had the same mealy texture for some reason

Blossom Dim Sum & Grill

After a disappointing and expensive Dim Sum experience at Ampersand earlier this year, I was very apprehensive in trying out Blossom Dim Sum & Grill on Robson.  However, I am warming up to the idea of non-traditional Dim Sum restaurants as many news articles have pointed out that older Chinese-restaurant owners are closing up shop as their children have no interest in continuing the business.  So we'd better get used to modern-Chinese restaurants.  One of the best examples is Little Bird, as it serves up traditional Dim Sum in a non-traditional environment.  Ironically, it is run by the son of the original owners of Flamingo.  So back to Blossom, we decided to check it out for lunch and to make our own opinions about the place rather than read the one-sided reviews (either way) online.

With our first dish, it got me worried due to the portion size.  The Green Tea Smoked Duck Breast was very sparse on the plate it was served on.  To be fair, if this was non-Asian restaurant, no one would even blink an eye at spending $12.00 for it.  In terms of execution, it was quite good though being tender and moist.  There was plenty of seasoning without being salty and the smoke did come through.  For $5.80, the  Black Pepper Prawn Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) were a downright steal.  If you have paid attention to Dim Sum prices in the GVRD, a typical order of 4 can cost easily $7.00 and even more so at ritzier places.  We were even happier that the execution was good where the dumpling skin had a pleasing elasticity (albeit on the drier side).  The large chunks of prawn were meaty and had a moist snap.  Naturally sweet, the filling was also accented by just enough black pepper for a bite.

Similar to the one found at Mott 32 (and also New Mandarin), the Hot & Sour Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) were $9.00.  Significantly less than Mott 32 where they charge $20.00 (although they do use Iberico pork and yes, the place is "higher class").  These were pretty good though with a fairly thin dumpling skin. There was plenty of hot and sour broth inside. So much so, it was hard to prevent soup from spilling all over the place.  It wasn't very spicy though, being more sweet with a touch of tang.  The meat was loose and tender.  Something we weren't particularly fond of was the Lotus Wrapped Risotto with free-range chicken and truffle.  Yes, this was like a Lo Mei Gai, but the "risotto" was far too wet and mushy.  Hence, it didn't elicit any good mouth feel.  Furthermore, the dish was rather underseasoned, so yes the truffle came through, but little else.

Also similar to Mott 32, the Quail's Egg Siu Mai featured pork, shrimp and black truffle.  Pricing was also much less at $12.00 vs. $21.00 at Mott 32 (again, not Iberico pork and yes, not as "high class").  If I had to compare, I would say the one at Blossom wasn't any worse for wear.  First of all, they were gigantic and featured a runny quail's egg in the middle.  Second, the texture was on point being light and airy with buttery and bouncy processed pork.  On top, the small amount of black truffle paste was enough for impact.  Onto a baked item, we had the Pineapple BBQ Pork Buns.  I thought these were also good with a golden crispy baked sugar pastry topping.  The bun itself was soft and almost fluffy with some elasticity.  The addition of pineapple added a different sweetness to the glaze and I found it to be balanced.  The slices of BBQ pork were tender and lean.

We really didn't care for the Sweet & Sour Sakura Pork, even though it was reasonably priced at $14.00.  There was nothing wrong with the sauce per se as it was thick enough to coat every piece of pork.  Moreover, the flavour was also good with a nice balance between sweet and tanginess.  The real problem with this dish was the pork itself.  Consisting of pieces that were far too tiny and also completely over-battered, the pork was hard, dry and frankly, not very appetizing to eat.  This was further exacerbated by the lack of sauce (even though we usually do not want that much of it).  It is worth mentioning that our next dish was also reasonably-priced at $12.00.  At most places, a plate of Wok Fried Local Pea Tips would cost equal of even more than $12.00.  The portion size was fairly large and the execution was on point (still crispy and vibrant while cooked all-the-way-through) except the use of oil might've been a bit excessive.

Continuing on with another larger dish, we had the Crab Meat Fried Udon with tobiko, spring onions and Shanghai bak choy.  This was not bad where the udon was cooked just enough that it had softened without giving up any chewiness.  There was a certain amount of smokiness and caramelization from the wok heat.  There was ample amount of crab meat, but since it was all shredded, the texture was lost and in fact, was overdone due to the work fry.  We would've much preferred it to be sprinkled on top without being fried with the noodles.  Their take on a Spring Roll was unique as it was filled with prawn, lotus root and egg white.  We were on the fence with this dish as we enjoyed the crispy exterior and the layer of nori added umami.  However, the filling itself was possibly too soft due to the egg whites.  The prawn portion was perfectly cooked with a cold-water snap though.  So I guess if they did away with the egg whites, it would be better (but then again, more typical). 

Back to the dumplings, we tried the Crab & Prawn Dumpling with carrot and cilantro topped with a balsamic pearl.  These were so large that they stuck to the sides of the bamboo holders.  That also meant the skin was a bit too dry as well, but it didn't make or break the dish.  Inside, the mix of ingredients was fairly loose where the prawn was similar to the ha gau being cold-water crunchy.  There was plenty of shredded crab meat which was also like the fried udon.  I would've liked to see more chunks of leg meat as the crab was somewhat lost texturally (but that might've cost more to make).  We got a couple of the Crispy Crab Claws for $6.80 each and to put the price into perspective, the ones at the Richmond Night Market cost $6.00 each and are smaller.  These were really good featuring a big clump of minced prawn that was bouncy, sweet and on point.  This was served with a side of pomegranate sauce.

Next, we decided to try two items from the Asian Sandwich section of the menu.  The first one was the Salt Spring Lamb Belly served in a squid ink bao with pickled veggies, cucumber and kewpie mayo.  I was a bit surprised by the thinness of the bao itself.  It made the bao a lot less heavy to eat, but at the same time, I had a hard time keeping all of the ingredients inside as well.  This was probably also due to the lamb belly not being soft enough as well.  It tasted okay though with the tang and sweetness from the pickled veggies and the creamy sweetness of the mayo.  Our other sammie was the Shredded Duck with cucumber, leeks and hoisin sauce.  This held together a bit better since the duck was in smaller pieces and hence also easier to chew.  We would've liked to see less fat underneath the skin and also if the skin was crisped up rather than being flabby.

Our final savoury dish was the Steamed Boneless Pork Ribs with black pepper and vinegar.  We really liked this dish as the black pepper really came through with a bite.  Furthermore, the meat was perfectly textured being tender with the requisite bounciness.  We didn't notice much of the vinegar though as the black pepper was pretty strong.  We decided to share two desserts including the Chocolate Lava Cake as well as the Mango Pomelo Soup Cheesecake.  There was nothing really special about the lava cake as it was pretty typical with soft chocolate cake and a runny centre.  It came out quick, so it probably wasn't baked.  On the other hand, the cheesecake was good where there was plenty of cheesiness from the creamy and semi-rich cake.  The mango sauce was refreshing and not too sweet too.  Overall, we were surprised that the Dim Sum at Blossom was less fusion as we anticipated.  If we looked at it from a purely higher-class Dim Sum restaurant perspective, it wasn't even that expensive (relatively).  Sure, not everything was awesome, but most things were fine.

The Good:
- Some really good dishes
- Not as expensive as you might think
- Excellent service

The Bad:
- Some items could use further refinement


The Rise Eatery (Dine Out Menu)

To be honest, my first few experiences with Dine Out Vancouver Festival were disappointing.  Several restaurants developed DOVF-specific menus that did not reflect their usual offerings which meant I really didn't get the true experience.  To be fair, DOVF has improved over the years with more relevant menus and more restaurants participating.  With that in mind, one still has to peruse all of the menus and choose wisely for it to be a good experience.  Frankly, I wasn't planning on any DOVF reservations this year, but with an invite to try The Rise Eatery's menu, I changed my mind.  No, it wasn't because it was complimentary.  Rather, I tried their menu last year (which was their own version of DOVF) and came away impressed.  I was looking forward to what they had in store for this year as an official Dine Out Vancouver Festival restaurant.

Like last year, joining me again was Jacqueline.  For our appies, we started with the Chicken Seoul Good featuring Korean style fried chicken, wild mushroom cream, truffle oil and grated Parmesan.  Tender and juicy, the chicken would've done North Road proud.  It was crispy with rendered skin and sufficiently seasoned.  On top, the woodsy cream was not over-truffled, which was a good thing.  This ate heavy, so for an appy it was substantial.  Plated on top of masala pumpkin seed romesco sauce and topped with sun-dried tomato chutney, the Curve Ball was made of house vegan cheese, spinach & mushroom risotto.  Essentially an arancini, this ate very well considering the cheese was vegan.  The rice was still firm and the coating was crispy.  I enjoyed their version of a romesco as it was nutty and mild.  What really made the dish was the spicy and tangy chutney.

Onto our mains, the Ode to Adobo sported adobo duck leg confit and menudo longanisa cassoulet.  There was certainly the unmistakable hits of vinegar, soy and garlic while at the same time it was muted enough that it didn't scream out adobo either.  This could've been partially attributed to the addition of carrots and sausage as well as the menudo that created multiple layers of flavour.  I liked how the skin was rendered while most of the meat was tender with a few drier portions.  Okay, we really wanted to try something different this time around, but we just couldn't resist having the famed Uni-versal Pasta XO Edition.  This has to be one of the most unique dishes in Vancouver consisting of squid ink pasta, sea urchin cream, free run egg yolk, house XO sauce sautéed ocean wise prawns, flying fish roe and toasted seaweed.  When mixed together, there were hits of fishiness (in a good way), spice, brininess and umaminess.  The pasta was perfectly al dente and coated evenly with the creamy mix of ingredients.

I really enjoyed one of the two desserts we had in the I Care-A-Mel About U featuring salted caramel crème brûlée, pecan praline and brown butter quinoa crumble.  When I  got a scoop of everything in the cup, I swear it tasted like a salted Almond Roca.  Not sure if that is what they were aiming for, but it was pure deliciousness.  I found it to be silky and light with the sweet crunch of sugar and the nuttiness of the pecan.  Just like last time, we had the Luv U So Matcha that was really good.  Appealingly buttery, the tart shell was firm being a good contrast to the airy matcha cheese.  The matcha was rather strong, but good for those who like the flavour.  Brightening things up was the raspberry coulis on the side.  My only wish that it was bigger, so I could eat more of it.  Other than the great tasting food, the best part of the DOVF menu at The Rise is that all of the dishes are on their regular menu.  No "made-for-DVOF" dishes here.  3-courses for $35.00 starting tonight until February 2nd.

*All food and drink was complimentary*

The Good:
- Same as regular menu
- Unique food
- Asian fusion that actually works

The Bad:
- Um...  tart could've been bigger?