24 hours in Vancouver, BC

Iris and I spent a night in Vancouver last week and, as always, tried to see how many places we could fit into one trip. Here’s a little mini-review for each stop. If you count chocolates as well, we managed to get about twelve stops in, including Roger’s and Purdy’s, which I should save for another post. I could write a small book on chocolate shops of the world. 🙂

Deer Garden Signatures (www, yelp)


This place was busy! The soup was good, but the number of options could be overwhelming. I orderd the fried fish cakes & ramen in fish soup base. The fishcake was excellent. The ramen might not have been the best match, but was cooked just right for ramen (at least for my white-guy tastes). The soup was light, not too salty with a nice flavor. Iris got a mix with cuttlefish ball that also didn’t disappoint. Menus featured English. Bonus for me and not a guarantee in the Richmond area. This place is just north of Lansdowne Centre tucked away on the second floor of a small strip mall, with classic Richmond parking hassles.

Screamers Soft Serve & Treats (www, yelp)

WP_20150731_006WP_20150731_007Dole whip pineapple ice cream. Yes, it’s the same stuff you get at Disney parks and at the Dole plantation in Hawaii, and yes it’s just as good. Refreshing, light, and creamy with a light tanginess. Only complaint: limited hours. We tried to go a few months ago, last time we were in town, and they hadn’t opened for the season yet.

One other amusing thing we saw around Steveston were these signs that clearly suggest that Steveston is a fishing village first and foremost (and you can walk right down to the boats to buy the fresh catch right at the dock)

Dinesty (www, yelp)

This place is hit & miss. This was our second time, and it was more of a miss. We checked with a few friends as well, and they had similar experiences. Here’s the scoop: The food is good, but not outstanding. The service is rough at best. We had to try multiple times to flag down wait staff, our tea cups sat empty on the edge of the table unless we explicitly asked for more. Even getting the bill at the end of the meal was a bit of a chore. We ordered xiao long bao, pan-fried dumplings, and tea-roasted duck. The XLB were reasonably good, but the skins were just a bit doughy. The pan friend dumplings were a bit on the dry side, perhaps overcooked but certainly not bad. The duck was also just a bit on the overdone & dry side. I’m splitting hairs a bit though, and may be a bit harsh since they compare most closely to Din Tai Fung in many ways, but don’t seem to quite have the consistency down. 4/5 for food, 2/5 for service.

Bubble Waffle

Also known as egg puffs. This little food court stall in Aberdeen mall is the best place we’ve found in Richmond to get this Hong Kong classic. They have plenty of flavors, but if you’re anything like me, don’t bother. We’ve had the chocolate before, and it’s fine (the flavor reminds me a bit of coco puffs) but the original is where it’s at. Amazingly, we walked up and ordered and were handed a bag immediately. I was shocked since this place usually has a good wait, and they did have a line going. I was not going to stop and ask questions. Yum!


Iris owes you a write up on this one, since I didn’t help. Hopefully she’ll come back through and fill in the details a bit. The only thing I can tell you is that if you’re looking at the bubble waffle place and turn around, you can’t miss it. 🙂

Lido (bing, yelp)

The is the classic, quintessential Hong Kong breakfast place: great congee, great milk tee, Chinese donuts and pineapple buns. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if they had a custard filled bun. You can get it stuffed with about a 1/4 stick of butter though, if you like. Even though the place was packed and everybody was hustling, the owner seemed very friendly, and managed to chat just a bit with the customers. It was a nice contrast to the hustled chaos at Dinesty. I’m not a milk tea person, but Iris tells me this is just about as good as it gets.

Honerable Mentions

Powell Street Fest – This Japanese themed street festival included lots of stuff, including food. We ambled past the vendors and demonstrations, stopping to look at an ornate shrine that had been wheeled in, and proceeded to the waffle tent. The cinnamon waffle was amazing. Or at least I thought so. Iris passed. More for me. We then turned around and there was a vendor selling small cups of chocolate. When we walked up, he basically started giving us tiny samples of everything until we stopped him to buy something (and he had about 20 different flavors including mango chocolate and macha). When we god home, I realized that our coffee and dark chocolate squares included rum and brandy in the ingredient list. We weren’t in danger of getting drunk on them, but it was an amusing surprise.

A&W Root Beer – Fast food. The cafĂ© at gastown area has cute little baskets and chilled mugs though, which made it a nice mid-day snack.

Tim Hortons – Can you please open up in Seattle? Pleeeease?


PCC Cooks: BBQ Rubs, Sauces and Marinades

I just wanted to get a quick post up and give a shout out to Darin Gragner from Alchemy Kitchen. We attended his PCC Cooks class on barbequing. He was a lot of fun, and the amount of information that he provided in a short time was incredible. He also has a good sense of humor and maybe a bit of actor in him. 🙂 The three tastings were fun as well. Oh, and there was beer. I don’t really drink beer for the most part, but of the three pairings, there was one that I liked, the Fort George Vortex IPA was something that I could drink again.


This was the last of his PCC classes for this summer, but he’ll likely be back next summer. He also offers small group classes directly here.

I don’t want to spoil all the fun, but here are a few good tips that I learned:

  • Don’t cook white fish too low & slow, the enzymes in the fish will basically melt it. Go for at least 300 degrees F. Salmon can be cooked slower though.
  • It’s reasonably safe to cook pork to only 140 degrees F. now (which is well done for pork). The last case of trichinosis from commercial pork was decades ago, a result of better pig feeding & handling standards enacted in the 1980s (see, sometimes government does work). Trichinosis is still a concern in wild game and certain other types of meat though.


Dim Sum Factory: The verdict

Dim Sum Factory got off to a rough start on Yelp. Currently as I write this they are sitting at around 2 stars. Ouch. Is it deserved? Since it’s run by the same people as Top Gun, which generally has good dim sum, we thought it would be worth a try.

First, they had a rough opening. I don’t know the whole back-story but we kept checking back to see when they would open, and it seemed like the sign kept changing, the date kept pushing out. Eventually, they seemed to have opened for a day or two, closed, and left just the bakery open. In those first few days, Yelper’s slammed them pretty hard. Once you’re in that hole in Yelp, it’s really hard to dig out of.


The grand opening sign is out though, and they are clearly in business for real this time. The dĂ©cor is a mix of modern and traditional that works well. It’s a very open setting, which should lend itself to the noisy bustling environment that is dim sum. The restaurant takes an odd twist though, in that it tries to turn dim sum dishes into dinner portions, and everything is by order only, in dinner size portions. There are no dim sum carts rolling around the place, which takes something away from the atmosphere. Even an occasional cart with some desserts would help make it feel more authentic.


So, let’s talk about the portions more. The average dish here is approximately twice the size of a dim sum order. Iris and I can usually get through 6-7 dim sum dishes, and here 3 was plenty. Siu mai usually comes about 4 to a steamer dish. Here there are 8 in an oder. Chives & shrimp dumpling: 3 at any normal dim sum place, 5 here. Accordingly, the prices are about double per dish as well. The menu had a nice selection of classics, but felt a bit uninspired. All of the offerings were pretty safe, traditional dim sum dishes as far as we could tell. There were a decent number of options, but a number of our favorites were nowhere to be found.

We ended up ordering 2 dim sum classics and one non-dim sum dish:

WP_20140920_006 WP_20140920_005 WP_20140920_004

Beef in rice wrapping, chives and shrimp dumplings, and Singapore-style friend noodles. One dumpling is missing in the pictures above. I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

Each of the dishes was good, brought out hot and really did meet my expectations for dim sum. They were all well executed. Top Gun has some of my favorite Singapore fried noodles, and they clearly carried the recipe over from across the street when they opened this place up. Tea for two, 3 dishes, tax and tip ran a bit under $40, which seems about right for a nicer dinner, though a bit on the higher side for dim sum for two. At Jade Garden, we’d typically clock in at around $30, and the food is just as good even if the atmosphere is downright chaotic.

Service was good, if a bit disorganized. After being seated, we were asked for our drink order from two people within two minutes. The servers were attentive, cleared plates quickly and were polite. One impressive touch: they kept the teapot full, we never had to tip the lid up. The one blemish came as a bit of a surprise at the end. Iris left her sunglasses on the table, and she went back in to pick them up. She asked the lady at the door if they had found her sunglasses. We think the lady was either the manager or owner, we recognized her from Top Gun, and she was dressed in a suit, a bit nicer than the wait staff. She abruptly pulled the sunglasses out without saying a word, no pleasantries or politeness whatsoever. But for that, we had a good experience.

A few days before this, we tried the bakery. We ordered three two buns and a chocolate walnut cake. The walnut cake was light, the chocolate coating reasonable, but the flavor was a bit lackluster. And it’s not just my American sweet tooth that was disappointed. Iris agreed that it was a bit weak as well. The other pastries were tasty, but not amazing. There aren’t too many options that I would put above them on the east side though. Pickings are slim over here. Kiki’s is probably our favorite among the Asian bakeries, still.

The bottom line is this: They have some rough edges to work through, but Yelpers are being overly hard on Dim Sum factory. They beat up Din Tai Fung when they first opened too, and that turned out pretty well in the end. Hopefully with a little adjustment on the part of Dim Sum Factory, they can climb back up. They have decent food, and I can see ourselves going back there. It’ll work better with more than just the two of us, so next time we’ll be looking for friends to join us. The food is good, just make sure you go in prepared with enough friends and with the right mindset. The dishes may be dim sum food, but it’s not the quite the same dim sum experience.

Ben & Iris


Eastside Korean Roundup

Seattle Magazine ran an article this month on great Korean restaurants around Seattle. Iris and I have tried a number of the restaurants on the list, with BCD and Hosoonyi being our favorites of the ones that we’d tried. They seem to have completely ignored the east side though. There are at least two great Korean places in the neighborhood, and a few more in the area that probably deserve an honorable mention:

  1. Stone Korean Restaurant (www, yelp): Don’t judge them by their website. Their claim to fame is the stone bowl rice, which has a nice crispy layer where it’s up against the bowl. They have great soon doo boo (spicy tofu soup), grilled meats. and seafood pancake. My personal favorite is the dae ji bulgogi, spicy pork. Service is good, and like any great Korean place, they provide all the little appetizer dishes of kimchi, pickled veggies, mashed potatoes, sprouts, etc. This has become our main go-to Korean restaurant.
  2. Seoul Hot Pot (www, yelp): Since we moved to Redmond, we haven’t been going to this Overlake place nearly as often. Word on the street is that it was started by one of the chef’s from Hosoonyi. It’s easy to believe, since the menu and preparation are very similar in many ways. This was the restaurant that ended our long trips up to Edmonds for Korean. The place isn’t big on dĂ©cor, but the food makes up for it and service is usually good. While doing some homework for this piece, I also tripped over their sister restaurant in shoreline, Old Village Korean Charcoal Barbeque, which is going on my list of places to try.
  3. Honorable Mention: Palace Korean (www, yelp): Palace has a wide menu and a grill-it-yourself option. The last time we were there, they also had a rotating all-you-can-eat deal going. While it doesn’t stand up to Stone or SHP, the food is good, and they have some non-Korean options on the menu as well. They also have some very large booths that work well for bigger parties. Service can be hit or miss. After 3-4 visits we’ve mostly pulled this out of our rotation, but it’s a competent option if you’re in the neighborhood.
  4. Honorable Mention: Blue Ginger Korean & Sushi (www, yelp): We’re always a little skeptical of food mash-ups, and in our few experiences with them, Blue Ginger has demonstrated why this doesn’t work. The sushi and Korean food are both competent, and they have a broad menu, but neither option stood up to their single-purpose counterparts in the same price brackets.

One thing I will say is that I’ve almost never been happy with the grill-it-yourself setups. If it’s available, we usually decline. The pros in back (should) always do a better job, and you usually end up paying more to grill at your table anyway. It’s a fun novelty, but it wears off quick.

What else did I miss? I’m sure there are other great Korean options on the Eastside.


Butterscotch Chip Cookies

I have this wonderful, light chocolate chip cookie recipe handed down from mom. The cookies are nice and fluffy, but still decidedly cookie like, not cake-like. Officially, it’s a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I really think it shines with a butterscotch chips and pecans.


Here’s the recipe. This is a big batch, halve it if you don’t want enough to freeze some. I think mom already doubled this before she gave it to me many, many years ago. As with most American baking recipes, Iris likes to trim the sugar way back. The original had 1c each. She would probably go straight to 1/2c of each, but for some things that’s a bit too aggressive. 3/4c seems like a reasonable compromise on this one, esp. for the butterscotch chips, which are a bit sweeter than chocolate to begin with.

Dry works:

  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teas. baking soda
  • 2 teas. cream of tarter
  • 1/2 teas. salt

Wet works:

  • 1 cup margarine (or butter)
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teas. vanilla


  • 12 oz chips
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prep the dry works in a spare bowl, mix the wet works using a mixer following the usual order: combine sugars with shortening and butter or margarine, then mix in eggs, then flavorings. Slowly mix in the dry works. By hand, mix in nuts & chips. If you like your cookies a bit thicker, chill for a few hours. If you cook it right away, it works fine, but the cookies will be a bit thinner. Bake for 11-12 minutes, rotating once halfway through.

The notes:

  • For chocolate chip cookies, I like to use walnuts. For butterscotch chips, I like pecans. Play around to find your favorite combination though.
  • I love the bourbon vanilla. It’s a bit more expensive, but its not something you go through quickly, live it up a little.
  • I don’t get picky about brand for butterscotch chips, but for chocolate chips, there’s no substitute: We consistently get the Ghirardelli dark semisweet chocolate chips.


– Ben

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s is the little ice cream shop that kept our marriage sane for a week with my family. We were visiting family for my brother’s wedding. While it’s not a complete food desert, for someone who’s a foodie & Asian, it’s not great. Before the trip we made a round through the local Asian restaurants in Seattle, expecting a lot of fast food & casual chains for 10 days, and generally not much that really stood out.

Rita’s was the shining bright spot on our trip when it came to food. Iris loved it. Rita’s is a frozen custard & Italian ice shop. It’s a chain that’s scattered around various parts of the country, but generally doesn’t seem to be in touristy areas. There are a few shops in Las Vegas, for example, but none are near the strip. Next time we’re in town, we plan to go out of our way for it.

Over the course of a little over a week, I think we made at least 3 trips. We worked our way through chocolate custard, mango gelati, Misto, Italian Ice and frozen lemonade. None disappointed. Custard contains egg and is a bit thicker than ice cream, but if you didn’t tell your kids they wouldn’t notice the difference. The flavor was excellent though. It doesn’t actually taste “eggy”. The chocolate is rich without being overpowering. The mango gelati tasted like mango, even if it was probably made from mango syrup. The frozen lemonade was clearly made from real lemons. It tasted great, but I feel like I need to have some sort of critique about something so here goes: they might have done better at straining the lemon seeds.The Italian ice seemed a bit finer than a typical Hawaiian shaved ice giving it a nice texture (if you’re ever in Hawaii, though do try Matsumoto’s). It’ll still give you brain freeze if you go too fast though. Take it slow an enjoy it. 🙂

So a shout out to Rita’s. Iris loved it, and I appreciated the fact that we found food for Iris to look forward to, even if it was just dessert.

Rita’s Italian Ice

– Ben