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Fine Dining with Chef Glenn Viel at S Hotel in Taipei

Recently, The S Hotel in Taipei hosted Chef Glenn Viel, from two Michelin Star restaurant l’Ousteau de Baumanière for a short little residency in Taipei for two days. I love S Hotel (see my write up about the hotel here) and spend a lot of time there so I had to check it out.

The two-day food extravaganza took place on May 4-5 at S Hotel in Taipei (it’s in the heart of Taipei!). It was a set 6-course menu with the option to add wine pairings for each course. Let’s be real here, I don’t know a ton about wines and the pairings would have likely been lost on me so I just opted for a bottle of wine.

The meal, in HYG restaurant, lower level of S Hotel in Taipei
First Course

The first course was caviar and green peas that youmix together and eat with the blini (picture at the top right of the photo). I actually hate peas, but I did not hate this. It was INSANE good. The blini was warm and fluffy and went perfectly with the cool caviar and peas. Oh there was bread and butter to start too, but I devoured that in 0.3 seconds and you don’t need a photo of bread anyway.

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Shrenki Caviar, green peas & blini
Second Course

I will say that this next course was my favourite. I could have eaten this as a main. I’ve never had langoustine and didn’t even know what is was. I, obviously a pleb, googled that shit. Don’t @ me, gourmet diners. That’s how you learn, amirite? Anyway, it was fantastic. The langoustine was served with creamy parmesan, basil pasta, zucchini and pistachios.

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Giant Iceland langoustine
Third Course

The third course was Japanese tuna belly, tataki style. It was served with eggplant, smoked anchovies and fried capers (all underneath the tuna). I’m a big fan of tuna tataki so this one was another big thumbs up for me.

Fourth course (Mains)

My fiancé and I ordered both of the main course choices so we could try the two choices. Each main came with two dishes. The first is the Suckling pig and Iberico pluma with translucent fat, pig jus and corn variations. The pork dishes were nice, but out of everything, they were my least favourite. Still nice, just not my fav!

The other main was the Australian Wagyu beef flank, layered stuffed mushrooms, beef broth and seared enokis mushrooms. This one was for sure my preferred main. You can’t really go wrong with Wagyu beef and this one was delightful. I loved the stuffed mushroom with it, and the broth was lighter tasting than you would expect. I don’t like enoki mushrooms but my guy will eat anything so they didn’t get left behind.

Fifth and Sixth courses

First there was a palate cleanser (I think?) of grapefruit sorbet, grilled zucchini and a chilled apple shot. Grapefruit is amazing so I have zero complaints here. I was so full by now but you know I wanted more. The apple shot was a refreshing pressed apple juice.

Dessert is always my favourite because I eat way too much sugar and it’s my vice (well, that and wine). I’m currently trying to cut my added sugar at home, but that goes out the window if I’m out for food. Life is short. I’m not skipping the damn dessert. The dessert was a mango soufflé, rice pudding (at the bottom) and puffed rice on top. I thought I hated rice pudding. I was wrong. It was a huge dessert and I ate every last bite.

I was actually shovelling the last of the dessert into my face as Yves and Chef Glenn Viel came to say hello! As always, our evening at S Hotel in Taipei was perfect. The service, the food and the music is always nice. Being able to enjoy guest chef Glenn Viel’s menu was a treat. We even had a little photo with the chefs because why they hell not, right? Sorry about the bad quality, it was a phone photo night because somehow when food gets on my brain, I forget everything else, including cameras.

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Chef Pierrick Maire, Me, Chef Glenn Viel

Visiting the S Hotel in Taipei always makes me feel a little less homesick because the service and atmosphere is so similar to something I would find back home, so any chance I get, I visit! I highly recommend it if you visit Taipei, even just to grab drinks, a meal, or look out for the next event they’re having.

 

 

 

 

6 Okanagan Moscatos to get your Summer Started

If you came here to tell me – Chelsea you fool a Moscato is really only a Moscato when it’s from Italy, then chill out I know. However, I didn’t know that before I started looking for summer wines so I’m obviously uninformed and embarrassing but maybe you didn’t know either and now ya know. So you’re welcome?

Anyway, the grape is a Muscat, and it’s actually one of the oldest wine grapes around. There are a ton of different varieties but I’m clearly no sommelier so I’ll keep it simple and stick to some Okanagan Moscatos (Muscats…duh) that are of the white variety, stuff you’d probably recognize from summer-time day wine (people do that right?). I’m sticking around the Okanagan area because I’ve spent a lot of time there visiting my family and I love the area.

Muscat wines are a sweeter, lighter wine with floral aromas and are lower in alcohol content than other wines so, again are a fun choice for day drinks (don’t judge me, everyone loves an afternoon glass of wine). Here are 6 Okanagan Moscatos (Muscats!!) that you should check out this summer for all your boozy brunch time needs.

1. Township 7 Muscat “Rock Pocket Vineyard”, 2016 ($19.97)

These grapes are grown in  Oliver, BC in the Okanagan valley. I haven’t been to this winery yet but the winery describes this one as a dry Muscat so I’d be really interested in trying that since I don’t love super sweet wines (aka Muscats) so I’d love to see what this one is like. It’s described as spicy and floral with orange blossom and ginger aromas. Yum.  township7-muscat-okanagan-moscatos

2. LaStella Moscato D’Osoyoos, 2017, $19.99 

I know I know, this is called Moscato and I just said it’s only supposed to be a Moscato if it’s from Italy. It’s not a rule, it’s just a labelling thing so not a big deal, clearly. Just something to know – Moscato is the Italian word for Muscat. This sweet treat hails from Osoyoos and the palate is orange blossom, peach rind, rose petal and melon flavours. It’s also slightly effervescent.  Lastella-okanagan-Moscato

3. JoieFarm En Famille Reserve Muscat, 2017, $24.26

I’ve tried JoieFarm wines before, but not the  Muscat yet. Good thing I’m spending time in the Okanagan this summer… oh no… I’ll have to add another winery visit to my list. JoieFarm describes its muscat as floral and fruity wine that’s super-fresh and dry. I love the sound of a drier Moscato (sorry, Muscat).

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4. Hillside Winery Muscat Ottonel, 2016, $22.00

According to The Hillside Winery, they were the original winery to produce Muscat Ottenel in BC; it’s been around since 1984 (hooray for the 80s). It was even the first variety of grape planted at the winery!  This wine is described as having floral aromas and hints of spice. Bonus, it won Gold in the All Canadian Wine Championship (2016), so it’s for sure a must try.

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5. Indigenous World Winery Estate Muscat, 2016, $19.99

The Indigenous World winery is quite new, I actually remember seeing when it was being built (it’s very close to my parents’ house in West Kelowna). Their Muscat is also a dry muscat (ooh, I’m interested) that has notes of zesty citrus, spring flowers and spice. This wine won bronze awards at both the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the National Wine Awards of Canada, guess I’ll have to bike ride on down there from my parents’ house and try it.

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6. The Hatch “Hobo Series” Muscat, 2016, $21.99

I actually have visited The Hatch winery, and I remember really loving this place. It was a very small tasting area, with a great atmosphere. I don’t recall if I tried the Muscat though (go figure). Their Muscat is much drier than a typical Muscat (sweet), but also has very classic Muscat aroma (floral, fruity). If you’re in West Kelowna area, the winery is a great spot to check out.

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You can pair Muscat wines with salty (like hard cheeses or deep-fried snacks) or spicy foods (Mexican, Thai) since the sweetness will balance out the salt or spice.  Depending on the wine, they can be great alone or with light desserts. Basically Muscats are great because they’re light and easy to drink. If you don’t love a sweet wine (like me), look for one that’s dry, who knows maybe you’ll love it and discover you don’t hate Moscatos/Muscats at all! Comment below if you have a favourite Muscat or Moscato I should try!

Sky Gardens and Afternoon Tea at the Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel in Singapore

I was drawn to the Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel in Singapore because it’s a sustainable hotel with a ginormous (no jokes- 15,000 square metres of greenery) sky garden and plants everywhere. They make efforts to reduce water usage by harvesting rain water (that’s cool af) and they use sensors to reduce use of other resources. Everything about the building and facilities looks green and beautiful so I had to give it a go.

Checking in

Before you even get inside, the drop off area is an architectural eyeful. The front area is huge, with beautiful curvy lines everywhere (sorry I’m not an architect I have no idea what those things are called… deal with it).
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We checked in and wandered around the lobby area a bit, since it was huge. The green and wooden theme is throughout, and you can really feel the nature. There was a long row of comfortable chairs to chill in facing the window, with a water feature outside so you can relax with a tea (or wine in my case obviously).

The Room

Our room felt gigantic- clearly the theme of the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel is sustainable but also huge? Nicely done. My favourite was the wall to wall window on one side with a city view and so much natural light.

Room with a view. Nothing better than natural light and giant windows. This was a great feature of our room and I’m glad we got one with this view.

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Sorry never mind, my favourite part was the shower. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was huge. It’s was a standup but it had a seat so you can shave your legs without doing acrobatics. There was also a handy work space that I obviously did not use because I fail at blogging when I’m away.

Facilities

After dropping our stuff off in our room, we explored the rooftop garden and pool area. The infinity pool has a great city view and these neat sort of nest areas to sit in to hang out if you don’t want to die in the heat of the sun.

There was a wedding seating area setup so we got to see how the place would look for a wedding venue (very cute – love those transparent chairs), and the garden greenery is everywhere on the outside of the building. There was a walkway around what felt like the whole building (I’m probably wrong), but it was a nice treat.

The gym was really really nice, on the same level as the pool so you can have the same city view. No need for a no equipment workout here. I wish I could say I used it but I for sure didn’t.

parkroyal-hotel-pickering-singapore-fitness-centre-gymTiers of Joy Afternoon Tea

Since I’m a fancy lady who does tea (jk I just like eating a lot of food in the middle of the day), we had the Tiers of Joy afternoon tea. It was a welcome reprieve from the heat. Please note the amount of sweets… I was here for it. The Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel does a nice afternoon tea so you can escape the heat of the day and indulge while you’re at it.

parkroyal-hotel-pickering-singapore-tiersofjoySavoury

We started with the savoury snacks. There was an open-faced snow crab and green apple sandwich;  Peking duck duxelles (sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic) encased in profiterole (the round one), and the one in the back of the photo is a mini spicy chicken shepherds pie with traditional flavours (this was my favourite one).

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The next savoury item was the mini representation of Nasi lemak, a popular food in Singapore, a coconut rice dish with peanuts and egg – this was a quail’s egg. Next was another open face sandwich with shaved Serrano ham (delicious).

Sweets

I’ve been trying desperately to cut added sugar (fairly successfully), but a girl can’t pass up sweets this pretty. I’m a sucker for gorgeous dainties (and sugar, clearly). Right at the front of the photo is the passionfruit meringue tart. It wasn’t my favourite, but that’s just a personal thing. I’m still not sold on passionfruit.

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Look how amazing these look. You can see the meringue at the back there again. On the left, the green one was a coconut pandan mousse. This one also wasn’t my favourite but again that’s a weirdo thing on my part. I like coconut but the gelatin texture wasn’t for me. Also I don’t really like green food unless it’s a vegetable? I think I’m the weirdo here. BUT – the one on the right was a carrot cake with a chocolate layer then cream cheese frosting. I could have had like 50 of these. It was incredible. I don’t know when I started liking carrot cake but I guess it’s my thing now. parkroyal-hotel-pickering-singapore-afternoon-tea-dessertsThe last dessert was the peanut butter chocolate cup (on the right in the pic, obviously). I could have had 100 of these (not exaggerating at all). It was amazing. My fiancé let me have his last bite. That is love right there. parkroyal-hotel-pickering-singapore-chocolate-peanut-butter-cupTiers of Joy at the Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel was pretty damn delicious. I went into a sugar coma after it, but zero regrets over here. I think I had a peppermint tea but you know the food was the star here.  

My fiancé emailed in advance that we had an anniversary coming up; this was of course before we got engaged and he forgot to tell them this change. No big deal at all – still super sweet of him, the card they left just said anniversary instead of engagement. When we got back from dinner, the hotel had left said card and cake for us!  I, however, failed at blogging and shoved it all in my face before thinking about taking a pic. Oops. It was so nice of them though. Small things like this really make an experience that much better.

Our stay at the Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel was really comfortable (literally… best bed ever and it was sooo quiet) and the hotel for sure has all the amenities you need or want. Especially if you want to escape the heat during the day, there’s plenty to do around the hotel. I will let you know that it is very big and very busy though, and there are a lot of kids around. If you love kids or have a family that’s great and this hotel is very welcoming. If you prefer fewer kids around you may want to try something different or smaller. The location is really perfect and close to everything so I would choose it for this reason alone again.

If you want to book the Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel: www.parkroyalhotels.com 

 

 

Sunday Gratitude – What was good this week

As per usual, my week has gone by crazy fast and it’s already Sunday gratitude time. I can’t believe I’ll be leaving Taipei in a little over two months. That is bananas. My goal is to try to explore more of Taiwan before I leave, since I’ve spent a good part of my time exploring the rest of Asia.
This week I tried to just keep my head down and get some work done, but I still had time to get out with my good friend and Canadian blogger, Josianne to have a lovely coffee and lunch date (… there was wine too). We had a perfect afternoon – you can find her on instagram too, to see more gorgeous colourful photos -> @josianneisabel

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Blogger bff. insta @josianneisabel

After a busy, quick week in Malaysia and Singapore, it’s been quiet and I did a bit of meal prep and made a recipe that I’ve made multiple times here in Taipei so I thought I’d share it. It’s so easy to make, anyone can make it. I’ve adapted the recipe a bit from www.yummyhealthyway.com (the original recipe is at the link).

Pork Lettuce Wraps

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Photo source: www.yummyhealthyeasy.com
Filling:
  • 2 lb. lean ground pork
  • 1½ cups diced onion
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. coarse ground pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter (I used more because peanut butter is life)
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha or chili sauce
  • ½ cup chopped green onion tops
Drizzling Sauce:
  • ⅓ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar (I used garlic flavor)
  • ¼ cup honey or other liquid sweetener
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
Extras for Assembling:
  • Lettuce leaves (whatever large leafy lettuce you have on hand, Bibb lettuce probably works best)
  • shredded carrots (I didn’t measure… just shred how much you need to sprinkle on top of the leaves)
  • Chopped cilantro
Instructions:
  1. In a large non-stick skillet, cook pork, onion, salt and pepper on medium high heat until the pork is no longer pink, stirring often to break up the pork.
  2. Add garlic and ginger – cook for 1 minute. Add soy sauce, vinegar, oil, peanut butter, water and Sriracha. Stir to combine.
  3. Add green onion and water chestnuts into the skillet then cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through.
  4. In a small bowl, combine drizzling sauce ingredients together. Whisk until smooth.
  5. To serve: Spoon warm pork mixture into lettuce leaf. Top with carrots, bean sprouts and cilantro. Drizzle with sauce, wrap/roll, eat and enjoy!

To be honest, that’s pretty much all I’ve gotten up to. Eating and working, and getting ready for our Bali trip with Arash’s family on Tuesday. I think next week will be so much damn fun and I’ll have a bit more interesting stuff for next week’s Sunday gratitude. I’ve been excited about the Bali trip for months. Come back next week and I’ll share some Bali pics and whatever else we got into. Cheers!

 

 

 

5 Canadian Craft Brewed IPAs You Need to Try

I like a good Canadian craft beer here and there but I’m no expert. I spend most of my time drinking coffee,  so I’ve collaborated with my friend Sean for his beer expertise. He’s the Provincial Sales Manager and Owner of Set the Bar  Sales & Distribution Ltd., a boutique sales agency that represents beer, wine & spirits in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  He has waaaay more expertise than I do, so he’s recommended 5 Canadian Craft Brewed IPAs that  he thinks you should try, and I totally trust him.

About IPAs

IPAs are typically very hoppy, citrusy, bitter, and full flavoured. This means they pair really well with salty, spicy, fried food (shout out to pub food right here). India Pale Ales date back to the mid- 18th century, and they were formulated to survive long voyages by sea better than other beer styles of the time. Hence the name India Pale Ale – they were meant  to survive the trip from England to India.

5 Canadian Craft Brewed IPAs you need to try, stat

1. Fernie Brewing Lone Wolf IPA

This IPA has four select malts in combination with four classic hop varieties and traditional brewing methods. The use of  dry hopping results in a golden ale with exceptional flavour and complexity. This bad boy is well balanced and perfect for any beer drinking occasion (sooo basically anytime). Meat dishes, (wings, blackened chicken) go well with this one.

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Photo: Instagram @ferniebrewingco
2. Bench Creek Brewing White Raven IPA

The White Raven IPA has a distinctive, very hop-forward blend with huge aromatics of orange, grapefruit, passion fruit and mango with a touch of pine. Signature flavours of Munich and crystal malts contribute a complex toffee caramel backbone that nicely balance the bitterness from the hops. It finishes slightly dry with lingering citrus and a tropical impression that tells you this robust beer would pair well with blackened fish, roasted duck, and even spiced coffee cake.

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Photo: Instagram @benchcreekbrewing
3. Farmery Estate Brewing Localishious IPA

Quenching your IPA desires, crisp bittering estate-grown Cascade hops and delicious 6-row barley make up this fresh-tasting IPA. It is strong brewed in the heart of the Continent, and has a clean & balanced finish. This IPA has floral notes, citrus and the expected IPA bitterness. If you’re from Manitoba, you’ve probably heard of this Canadian craft beer.

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Photo: Instagram @farmerybrewery
4. Collective Arts Brewing Ransack The Universe IPA

This IPA with the best name (uhhh Ransack the Universe?) is made from Galaxy hops from Myrtleford, Victoria in Australia and Mosaic hops from Yakima, Washington, USA. It delivers aromas and flavours of tropical fruits, mango and citrus. Light malt body lets the hops shine through, and finishes crisp but not bitter. This can be described as a hemispheric hop mashup.

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Photo: Instagram @collectivebrew
5. Corsaire IPA Levisienne

Noble to its origin, the Levisienne is an India Pale Ale that possesses an amber colour. It’s a more hoppy & stronger version of a Pale Ale. Pure to British traditions, its floral aromas are also complimented with hints of caramel. Rich in flavour and in body, this famous English IPA pays tribute to all the heroes of the Great Crossings.

Well there ya have it – now you have many choices for a new Canadian craft beer to try. I really knew nothing about IPAs before Sean helped me out so at least I feel like I have a better idea of what I can look for. Personally, I’d like to try the Bench Creek White Raven IPA for those toffee notes. Are you an IPA drinker? Comment your favourites below!

set-the-bar-sales-ltd-logoIf you’re interested in knowing more about what Sean and Set the Bar Sales does, or maybe want to hear about Canadian craft beer, or some other fun stuff, you can check them out here:

www.setthebarsales.com  or find them on Facebook!

 

Where to Eat – MUME in Taipei, Taiwan

I already had a dinner reservation at MUME in Taipei when I saw that a Michelin guide to Taipei was just released, and MUME had received a star! This Taipei restaurant shows up all over lists for best restaurants in Taipei, so I was expecting it to be good. The Michelin star was just a nice bonus right before we went.

We had a 6pm reservation because I am 100 years old. The other people in the restaurant at the time were also 100 years old, so we were def doing the early bird special. Younger people arrived as we were leaving. When I think about it, I have no idea why I did such an early reservation. Doesn’t matter, I was starving when I arrived anyway.

The exterior of the restaurant is tough to identify, so we hovered outside awkwardly for a minute or two, peering inside the windows trying to figure out if it was the right place. You can’t really see the sign until you look closely at the stone wall. I’m glad there was an automatic door that slid open once we were close enough, cause I don’t know how long we would have lingered outside like weirdos if it hadn’t opened. Anyway – as soon as we entered, the vibe was warm and welcoming. I especially loved the glowing cocktail bar right when you enter. The decor is a mix of warm, natural elements in a small and intimate setting.

The hostess showed us to our table immediately, and a server was on it with the drink orders. I like to order my drinkie right away, so I appreciated the quick service on this. My guy Arash tried two different cocktails because he is brave and I am a boring loser when it comes to beverages. His first cocktail (left photo) was the Flos, made of Kavalan Whisky, dry vermouth, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, and beeswax tincture. It had a similar taste to an Old Fashioned. The cocktail on the right was the Slash, made with tequila, triple sec, passion fruit, and Ardberg scotch. I hate tequila so I thought this would horrifying, but it was insane tasty. If you don’t like too sweet, this one is for you.

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Sourdough bread

We decided to do three items from the Snacks part of the menu, two from the Smaller plates section, and one from the Bigger course. We started our meal with the sourdough bread with smoked beef fat butter, since every other table had it we had to try it too. Also – bread. Come on. It was warm, fresh and delicious. Can’t go wrong with bread. I was feeling the beef fat butter and salt.

mume-restaurant-taipei-ricotta-cheese-fish-peas-tarts
Sweet pea tart, Milkfish belly tart

Next up was these little baby tarts. Don’t be fooled by the image, they are teeny tiny. Just a perfect bite. The left one was the sweet pea with ricotta cheese and on the right was filled with milkfish belly with fried ginger on top. They were both amazing and I wish they were bigger.

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Liver brûlée

Our third snack item was the liver brûlée, made with chicken liver, topped with fresh seasonal herbs. This one was probably my favourite, but I LOVE liver pâté and this is essentially that, with a crispy top. Arash loved it too, which is funny because he always harasses me about loving pâté. He thinks I’m gross. Note- we ate it with our bread, so I don’t know how I would have felt about eating it with a spoon with no bread had I not already ordered the sourdough. Maybe I’m just uncultured swine. I dunno.

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Prawn small plate

From the small plate section, we had the prawn plate. It was prawns, with shaved yam bean, prawn head sauce, and ricotta snow. I loved the ricotta snow; the server sprinkled it on right at the table. The dish was cold, and the prawns were actually sashimi. I wish I would have known this prior to ordering. I’m not a fan of prawn sashimi so had I known, I would have tried something different. This was my least favourite item, but that’s obviously because of my sashimi aversion. The sauce was flavourful, and the shaved yam bean gave it a nice crunch.

mume-restaurant-taipei-ox-tongue-tortilla
Ox tongue tostada

The second small plate was the ox tongue served on a Taiwanese grain tostada. There were greens, as well as cheese and pineapple. This was my first time trying ox tongue, and I have to say, this was one of my favourites. The tostada was crunchy and delicious, and the flavours went together so perfectly. I’m so glad I got out of my comfort zone to try this one.

shortrib-mume-taipei-restaurant
Short Ribs

The bigger plate we ordered was the beef short ribs served with maitake mushrooms and a coffee sprinkle on the plate. I never thought I would enjoy coffee on my steak, but this was. really interesting flavour combo that I enjoyed. The beef was cooked perfectly and was really tender.

chocolate-dessert-mume-taipei-restaurant
Taiwan chocolate dessert

Clearly we only had one bigger plate so we could get two desserts. Balance. Am I right. I am a chocolate addict so I always choose the chocolate option on a dessert menu. This was served with a mild chocolate ice cream, longan fruit, coffee and walnut. It was delicious and I was annoyed I had to share it with Arash.

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Custard apple dessert

The second dessert was a warm custard apple served with caramelized puff pastry, crème fraîche and ice cream. There were some pecan or walnut crumbles in there too, and this combination reminded me of an apple crisp. Also delicious. Also annoyed about sharing.

Overall, we had a great experience at MUME in Taipei. The atmosphere was casual and laid back, with really amazing food and presentation. I loved the intimacy of the small space, and the music was perfect. Music can really make or break an experience for me, so I always notice if it’s good or not. The kitchen was open so you can actually see the chefs doing their thing. I’m trying to visit lots of Taipei restaurants, but my time is running out here! If you’re looking for the best restaurants in Taipei, there’s definitely a reason this one comes up on so many lists.

If you want to book a table at MUME in Taipei, you can do so here: www.mume.tw 

Address: No. 28, Siwei Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106 (this is a nice area to walk around in Taipei as well) 

 

Cozy and Inviting Atmosphere at Home Restaurant in Hanoi

When my boyfriend Arash and I travel, we don’t do a ton of sit-down restaurants because we’re usually trying to fit a million things into our days. We grab a lot of street food, which can be a little questionable at times, but whatevs I’ve never gotten sick so I’ll nevah stop. Plus I really like walking and eating, which is weird, I know. We do try to do at least one sit down dinner or nicer restaurant each trip. On our last trip to Vietnam, we came across Home Restaurant in Hanoi while looking for a Vietnamese restaurant on Trip Advisor and decided on it because of the cozy and inviting look of the place (and the good reviews…duh).

home-vietnamese-restaurant-hanoi-vietnam-outdoor-seatingThe outdoor seating area is gorgeous, I wish we could have sat out here, but it was so god damn cold out. I mean, I’m Canadian but I was freezing my ass off that night so no one was sitting out there at all. Cozy and inviting, nonetheless.

We were greeted at the door by a friendly hostess, and brought to a table in the back area of the restaurant. The restaurant was really really warm inside, and normally that would annoy me when I’m about to stuff my face and probably have food sweats, but I feel like I was never really warm that whole weekend so the extra cozy temperature was a bonus. The interior was painted with warm colours and accented with lots of wood, dark fixtures, and homey table settings. home-restaurant-hanoi-vietnam-table-settingPretty pottery dishes and custom placemats, that I would proceed to drop spring rolls on because I am still terrible at chopsticks.

Home restaurant serves Vietnamese fusion food, so it’s got a bit of contemporary twist to set its menu apart from any other Vietnamese restaurant in the area.

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Steamed clams

We started with steamed clams with lemongrass and chili. I wish I could say I loved them, but to be completely honest, they weren’t my favourite. The clams were crazy fresh tasting, and they were cooked perfectly. It was the flavour that kinda left something to be desired for me. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t the best I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot of tasty clams while living in Taipei. I wish I would have ordered the clams with garlic chili sauce and coconut sauce instead!

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Pork spring roll

Our next appetizer more than made up for the the okay-ish clams. I didn’t really even want spring rolls because my whole adult life I’ve been thinking that I don’t like them! UH. I guess I’ve only had garbage ones? These ones were minced pork with mushroom and vermicelli, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

steamed-clams-spring-rolls-appetizer-home-restaurant-hanoi-vietnam

Look at this serving dish! The clams were nice and hot, and I wanted to take that beautiful purple flower, but walking out of a Vietnamese restaurant with a random flower would be weird…. so I didn’t.

grilled-beef-home-restaurant-hanoi
Grilled beef

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when ordering this beef dish so I was pleasantly surprised when it ended up being this amazing flaming bowl of a peppery beef stew-type dish. The description from the menu was “grilled beef top blade finger with vegetable and pepper sauce in pot then served in fire pan”. Obviously I needed to order something that says “served in fire pan”. The flavours were so rich and the beef was perfect. I loved this dish so much, even though I was half afraid of burning my face or hands off.

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Roast duck

The second main we had was the roast boneless duck served with soy sauce and Vietnamese rice crackers. I don’t normally eat duck so I wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone. Yum this was good. It was cooked perfectly and the skin was so crispy and delicious. The dish was a pretty big serving, too. We definitely ordered more than we needed to.

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Fried bananas

Didn’t need dessert after that much food, but I wanted to get the full experience (that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). We shared the deep fried banana battered with green sticky rice and caramelized sauce. My waistband was screaming at me as I shoved more food into my body but I have zero regrets.

On top of great food, the service was really excellent. I’ve noticed that service can be a bit different in Asia than what we expect in North America and Home restaurant made me feel like I was in a restaurant in Canada, with a similar service level. If you’ve visited Home restaurant or any Vietnamese restaurant in Hanoi, I’d love you to comment below and let me know what you thought!

You can book a table at right here! 

 

Luxury Hotel in Taipei – S Hotel & HYG Restaurant designed by Philippe Starck

I first stumbled across the S Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan when I went there for a networking event with my girl, Josianne. Admittedly, she may have dragged me a bit since I was feeling a smidge antisocial that day, but I’m so happy we went. After seeing how amazing it was inside, I was jazzed when we got an invite to stay a night at a luxury hotel in Taipei.  Since I live literally across the street from S Hotel, it was obviously super easy to get to. However, if you’re coming to Taiwan to visit it’s a perfect location to stay in the city, in downtown Taipei. Why else would I live in the area, after all? 

S Hotel Taipei Lobby Seating AreaRight when we walked in the staff was sooo friendly. Maybe people are just like that? I’m not exceptionally friendly so maybe it seemed like they were extra friendly… or maybe they’re just good at their jobs. Either way, we felt so welcome and attended to. The lobby was probably one of my favourite parts of the hotel. It’s so inviting and warm feeling. I just wanted to hang out and read one of the bazillion books hanging out on the shelves and tables.

Seriously every corner is full of detail. The hotel was actually designed by Philippe Starck. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know who that was either, clearly I’m uncultured af. If you know who it is then who are, you cultured human? Teach me. Anyway, google ghost chair, you’ve definitely seen one of those bad boys. That’s Philippe Starck. So rad. Everything in the lobby is a mix of wood, metals and gorgeous details and hella decorative pillows.

Yves Godard, the General Manager met with us and  graciously let us drop off our overnight bags in our room. After, he took us on a little tour of the hotel.

S Hotel Taipei twin bedsThe rooms all have a bright white and yellow colour scheme with huge windows and a nice little view of the hustle bustle of downtown Taipei. I’m a big fan of white walls so I was here for this.  It feels so clean and vibrant. We stayed in the double twin bed room for our little slumber party. Crazy comfy beds? Check. Fluffy housecoats and slippers? Check. Frickin best pillow I’ve used in ages? Also check.

I loved the welcome snackies of macarons and kiwis. Thank you, S Hotel for feeding me a fruit. Loved it. I think I may be the only person in the world who doesn’t like macarons but whatever I’m the loser. Adorable tray. There was also a bunch of made in Taiwan snacks in the fridge and drawer but we ate them too quickly to take a pic. Oops. All of the rooms have these great lounge couches with bright pillows, and tons of huge mirrors. Our bathroom had wall to wall mirrors, which gave me a huge laugh when I stepped out of the shower and got a hilarious and shocking view.

Yves also showed us the presidential suite, that boasts two bedrooms with queen. beds as well as a huge living area with couches and a dining table. This was my favourite, for obvious reasons. Duh. I can recognize a gorgeous space. This space can be rented for events as well!

After the room tour, we checked out the art gallery the have on location. When we visited there was a German artist as well as a local Taiwanese artist on display.

There was also one of the coziest and cutest gyms I’ve ever seen (check out this post if your hotel has no gym… I got you). It had such a warm and welcoming feeling, it basically tricked us into working out with its cuteness. After the tour and before dinner we went for a little workout in anticipation of our huge dinner. Josianne said the dumbbells could have been heavier, but I beg to differ. That girl is strong as hell.

HYG Restaurant

Next we got our lives together for dinner! My favourite part! Food is always my favourite part…

The restaurant and lounge is below the lobby, at the bottom of these two dramatic curved staircases on either side. Can we take a second here to look at these? I mean, holy dramatic. The huge screen in the middle is a piece of digital moving art, surrounded by gigantic bookshelves. I loved it.

The whole area downstairs is cozy and welcoming, with perfect lighting so obviously you always look good. The bar itself is so beautiful with jars and jars of homemade spice concoctions for cocktails, and a huge chandelier. The pool table sits just next to the dining room and I did not dare go embarrass myself trying to play.

The restaurant is mostly based on the Nordic kitchen, but it is a fusion between Scandinavian and Asian flavours. It made for some pretty unreal dishes.

HYG Restaurant Taipei chef Pierrick Maire sous chef Gildes Perrin
Chef Pierrick Maire & Sous chef Gildes Perrin

From across the restaurant, you can actually see right into the kitchen so we popped over to say hey and thank the awesome chefs for their delicious food. Later on, they came to say hi at our table. Thanks, nice guys!

To begin our food bonanza, Josianne convinced me to eat some oysters. Normally, I avoid at all costs. It’s a texture thing for me. This particular evening I was feeling like I should be an adult and eat a god damn oyster. Uh. I ate two giant ones, and they were heaven on earth so I don’t know what the hell my issue was.

There were two set menus available (as well as regular menu), so we opted to order two set menus and just share everything so we could taste more. Solid strategy, I’m thinking. Both menus start with salmon appetizers.

On the left is the flame grilled salmon with pickled cucumber (so… pickles?) and toasted buckwheat with a dollop of horseradish sauce. I loooove a seared salmon. I would have preferred to not share this one. Also- gimme more sauce. The other salmon was Scandinavian pickled salmon with a sweet and sour mustard sauce. You could really taste the dill-y Scandinavian flavours here.

Next up was two variations of pan fried octopus. I used to be weirded out by octopus but since I’ve been in Taipei, I am seriously into. One was potato and the other was asparagus. My personal fav was the asparagus, could have been cuz it was the first time I’ve had asparagus in almost six months! 

 Here is pork belly with cauliflower salad and lobster soup. The crunchy cauliflower with the soft pork was a nice combo and the soup was to die for. It was the kind of soup that makes you wanna sit by the fire with your blanky on a chilly fall day. Also I could eat a loaf of bread with it. 

Main courses! USA prime beef. Everything about this was perfect. After this many courses I was like uh how am I gonna continue to eat… worry not, this beefy delight gave me the energy. The other main was mackerel. This was actually my first time trying mackerel. No regrets over here. The greens were so good with it. Lately I feel like I haven’t had enough greenery in my life so every time I eat some, they are honestly the best thing I’ve ever had.

So we actually shared three desserts, because our server convinced us we had to ( it wasn’t exactly a tough sell). Not pictured, because we ate it too damn fast was an Apple caramel cinnamon soufflé type dish with ice cream. Exactly what you want to eat in the fall. The other desserts were fruity and not normally what I would order but I was trying to be less boring for once and tried these guys. They were a mango salad, vanilla crouton with a vanilla sorbet. I’ve recently learned that I love mango, so I was into this. I also recently learned that I love passionfruit, so the passionfruit sorbet inside of a burnt meringue was also a winner for me. I think I grew up eating a lot of apples 

After dinner we watched a scary 80s movie in our fluffy house coats and enjoyed the comfiest beds ever in this beauty of a luxury hotel in Taipei. Overall, I loved S Hotel. It was nothing but positive vibes and a welcoming attitude. Even if you don’t get the chance to stay at the hotel when you’re in Taipei, you should definitely come by for a cocktail or for dinner. The restaurant service was exceptional. I know I’ll be back… it’s across the street so… obviously.

S Hotel 

No. 150 Dunhua N. Road, Taipei, Taiwan

Phone: +886 2 2712 1777

www.shotel.com  

HYG Restaurant 

Phone: +886 02 2712 0877

www.hyg.shotel.com

5 Charming Coffee Shops in Hanoi, Vietnam

I was only in Vietnam for about 48 hours, but still managed to visit 5 coffee shops in Hanoi. Not sure If I should be proud or ashamed of my coffee addiction. Either way, take a look at what I thought of them. Spoiler… I obviously loved them all because I can never get enough of coffee shops.

Cafe Pho Co

Almost didn’t find Cafe Pho Co coffee shop. We circled the area until a guy in uniform pointed us towards a spooky hidden doorway at the back of a dress shop. Never would have found it, and this for sure was not his first time telling dumb tourists where to go. I see you, eye-roll. Glad he helped us though.

As soon as you walk in, it’s like a hidden garden and courtyard. A few birds and a random chicken hanging out greeted us, and then we had to climb a billion stairs, including a spiral staircase so we could choose what level to sit on. We did the rooftop, obvs, for the amazing lake view. I had Vietnamese coffee (shocker) and Arash had an egg coffee. After my flight, strong  Vietnamese coffee was the perfect punch in the face of caffeine I needed. I could have just hung out there all afternoon, it was so peaceful up there. This was the first one we checked out and I had no idea that it would be so serene after stepping off the busy, noisy street.

cafe pho co Hanoi Vietnam rooftop view Vietnamese coffee

cafe pho co Hanoi Vietnam view from spiral staircase

The Note Coffee

The Note Coffee shop has a perfect location for watching the square in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. We sat upstairs so we could peer at all the people walking by. The location isn’t the best part though. The whole shop is covered in notes from people! It’s literally plastered from floor to ceiling and every single square inch, with adorable colourful sticky notes. They give you one to write on and you can just put it wherever you want. Plus they put a note on my coffee which totally made my day (I’m easy to please).

I hadn’t planned on eating there, but when in Vietnam, why not carbo load, right? That’s a thing, I’m guessing. We shared (I ate 90% of) a chocolate croissant and it was insane good. Like, I still think about that thing. Vietnamese coffee again. Delicious again.

the note coffee shop Hanoi Vietnam coffee chocolate croissant

the note coffee shop wall notes Hanoi Vietnam

Hanoi Social Club

Got lost finding this bad boy too. Maybe I just suck at maps. The Hanoi Social Club felt like a garden paradise on the rooftop. This one was also a ton of stairs up, but totally worth dying in the heat for. We actually went here for breakfast, which was amazing, and ended up having coffee too. Also amazing. I loved that this place was so quiet, it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. There was a cat, too, who wasn’t interested in my love, but whatever. His loss.

Hanoi Social Club coffee rooftop garden

Hanoi social club rooftop garden seating

 

Eden Coffee

We came across Eden Coffee when we were walking around St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It’s such a beautiful area, and as per usual I was needing a caffeine fix (healthy habits obviously). It looked pretty busy so we decided to take a look. Again, we wanted the rooftop, so again, a billion steps up. Totally worth it again for a perfect view next to the Cathedral and more garden vibes. Every floor was was so colourful though; I just like being outside because I’m Canadian and our winters make me sad so any chance I have to be outside, I take it.

eden coffee Hanoi Vietnam old quarter rooftop

rooftop garden seating Hanoi Vietnam old quarter eden coffee

The Loft Stop Cafe

We wandered into The Loft Stop Cafe because I saw some delicious looking pastries in the window, and my boyfriend Arash, being his suuuuper friendly self was like “you want some?”. Ugh. I can never say no to a pastry. Or coffee. I wish I could say we had a third person with us to excuse the three treats you see in the photo, but nope that’s all me. Sweets were so delicious and at every coffee shop so it’s not exactly great if you have zero willpower, but I have zero regrets. This was such a perfect spot to watch people go by while having a sugar bomb of food and drinks.

loft stop cafe Vietnam Hanoi window view

the loft stop cafe Hanoi Vietnam

Each of the coffee shops in Hanoi that we visited were so unique and different from one another. The coffee was similar but a bit different and each had its own kind of  theme, or vibe so I loved them all and can’t wait to go back and find more. Because clearly I need more coffee in my life… yikes. Have you been to Hanoi? Comment below if you have any recommendations for my next visit!