Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#TOY2014

A few weeks ago, my good friend Kari shared with me that she was heading to Vancouver on an all-expenses-paid business trip for Seattle Magazine. I was super excited for her, but then she called me and invited me to come along with her, and of course I said yes!

The trip included a one-night stay at the Opus Hotel, restaurants, manicures, bike rides and other activities. The only thing we had to do was tweet when we went anywhere, and write about it when the trip was all said and done. Kari will be writing about it on her blog and on Seattle Mag's website (I'll link it once they're up!) and this is, as you could probably assume, my recap of the trip.

Next month, there is an event called Taste of Yaletown. I don't know how to describe it, so here is how yaletowninfo.com describes it:

"From October 16th-30th, Yaletown kitchens will offer featured menus, special tastings and innovative pairings to tempt the most adventurous foodie. With a fresh approach to fixed price menus of $25, $35 and $45 restaurants will offer combinations of food and drink or even special in-house events."

For this, we got to test out a few of the restaurants that will be participating.

On Sunday, September 20 and Monday the 21st, Kari and I headed to Vancouver. She flew up, and I drove since the drive to the airport would be longer than the drive to our location from where I live. I took out enough cash to pay for parking, only to pull up to our hotel and see Kari outside, who then told me "don't worry — your overnight valet parking is covered!"

I got all my stuff out of my car and headed inside. My first thought as I walked into the hotel was holy crap; this is amazing. 

Warning: This is going to be a very long and photo-heavy post.





The Opus Hotel is located right in the heart of Yaletown, and all of our destinations were within a couple blocks. It was super convenient, staff was super helpful, and our room... oh my god.








We stayed in the executive suite, which was the second largest type of room that the Opus Hotel offers.

Opus provided us with an iPad and a Samsung phone, both equipped with data capabilities so we could bring it out of the room and with us to explore if we wanted. We had our own little living room and a mini-bar and the comfiest. bed. ever.

There was a bag left on the counter of the mini-kitchen-area (I couldn't get any good photos of it) that had a bottle of wine, wine glasses and other goodies along with some coupons and gift certificates to pay for our activities later in the day.

The first stop on our itinerary was Yaletown Nails and Spa for nails.



Kari and I were each given a $25 gift certificate, so aside from that we didn't really have any limitations. I chose to get a manicure as it's been years since I had one (I'm talking, like, 2010) and I can't justify paying for one myself. I opted for a dark red OPI polish (I didn't catch the name). I didn't get to take many photos because my hands were either being primped or the polish was drying. What a real problem to have.

Overall, Yaletown Nails and Spa was a good place to go, but it wasn't the best nail salon I've ever been to either. The staff was friendly, there were a lot of nail colors to choose from, but there wasn't any reason that it stuck out to me. Plus, as I write this on Tuesday night (not more than 48 hours since my manicure) about half of my nails have chipped.

Next up was one of the highlights of our trip — The Parlour.


This is the first place we went to that made us feel like princesses. Our reservation was for 1:30, but at 12:30 we were super hungry so we headed over and hoped we could get in early.

The hostess brought us to our table (I didn't catch her name!) and introduced us to Toby, our server. As soon as we sat down, Toby told us that there was some food on its way to us before we had a chance to look at our menus. We ordered some mimosas, and Toby told us a bit about the menu and what we were getting.






From top to bottom:

Brocco // Garlic, Shallots, Jalapeño, Pine Nuts, Sweet Soy Sauce
This was a really good, refreshing appetizer. I loved the pine nuts mixed with the soy sauce and the broccoli. They found a way to make broccoli interesting.

Ahi Lettuce Wraps // Tuna, avocado, citrus ginger soy, mint, spicy ponzu aioli, crispy shallots
I was super nervous for these as I'm not a huge fish fan. Then I realized, I'm in freaking Vancouver and I don't have to pay for any of this food, so I might as well taste it all. I was so pleasantly surprised by these. They weren't too fishy, but they were crispy and had a little bit of that fisy taste once you bit in.. The Parlour definitely knows how to mix its flavors and textures.

Stacked short ribs // Hosisin and Tamarind Marinated, Granny smith apple and Jicama slaw
Like the Ahi lettuce wraps, I was apprehensive to try these. Again, pleasantly surprised. 

Love tips Benedict // Roasted Asparagus, cream, mozza parmesan, crispy prosciutto
This was the only thing that we actually ordered, and I'm SO GLAD WE DID. I wasn't expecting this to be a little breakfast pizza, but when we tried it this was easily our favorite. The dough on its own is amazing, but topped with asparagus and egg and cheese and oh my god, this was so good. If you're ever in Vancouver on a weekend, I would recommend stopping by the Parlour for this.

We also tried the Salmon tartare, which wasn't my favorite. I'm sure if you like avocado, you would love it. The taste wasn't bad; I'm just strange about textures. 

For dessert, we had a cabernet sauvignon and coconut panna cotta. I don't usually like coconut, but the toasted coconut on top of this added a good texture. 

The motif for this trip is "I thought I wouldn't like it, but I did."

After our lunch at The Parlour, we headed to Reckless Bikes for our bike rental.







I don't have much to say about the bike trip other than Vancouver is pretty bike-friendly and we were able to see a lot during our our and a half ride. We rode around the sea wall and stopped a few times for photos, eventually making our way down to Granville Island. 

After our bike ride, we were pretty exhausted so we grabbed a drink and headed to dinner. 

Our dinner was at the hotel's restaurant, La Pentola. Before the trip, I had read a little bit of their menu and it looked a little... strange, at least for my tastes. One of the dishes they offered was a pasta with squid ink. Does that say enough? I think it does.

The restaurant felt very ritzy and somewhere I could only ever go to on a special occasion. A very special occasion.

We went with the Cena Alla Famiglia, which is a fixed price ($60/person) for a seven course meal. This includes three appetizers, two pastas, one main dish and a dessert. We chose all of the items off the menu that we wanted to order. When we told the waitress we wanted the cena alla famiglia, she started to walk away and we stopped her, asking, "wait, don't you know what we wanted to order?" She then told us that when guests choose cena alla famiglia, the chef chooses what they eat. She took our order anyway and we ended up getting what we wanted, which was good, because most of the dishes were seafood and that really isn't our thing.







Beef and ricotta salad, pickled radishes and hazelnuts (not pictured)

Cauliflower and endive 'bagna cauda' salad

Parmesan soufflé, zucchini crudo

Rapini ravioli with lemon and bottarga

Ricotta gnocchi, fava beans, zucchini and pine nuts

8 oz Hanger steak, arugula, pine nuts, balsamic, parmesan

Lemon panna cotta with blueberries, plum and almond biscotti

After dinner, we headed to Yaletown brewing company and used some of our free drink vouchers to end the night. 

I am NOT a beer person. Like, at all. But at Yaletown brewing company, the bartender was happy to bring us samples of two of the seasonal beers before I even got a chance to say "no, thank you." And guess what? I tried a beer. And I liked it. I still opted for a pear cider, though, because I figured I had been risky enough for the day.

Back to the hotel it was, and we were exhausted. The bed was so comfortable. I can't begin to explain it. You'll just have to go to the Opus hotel and see for yourself.

Our alarm went off at 7:47 on Monday morning, and it was off to hot yoga we went. We went to West Coast Hot Yoga, which was right down the street from our hotel (like everywhere else we went.) It was early, and I'm admittedly not in good shape, so it was pretty challenging. There were definitely a few times when I had to stop and lie down just to keep from feeling like I was going to pass out.

Overall, hot yoga was definitely an experience. The staff at West Coast were incredibly friendly and made us feel warm and welcome. The location is perfect, the lobby is relaxing and they gave us some yoga mats, blocks, towels and weights to use. If you like hot yoga, I would recommend West Coast Hot Yoga.

After hot yoga, we went back to the hotel and freshened up because we were both sweatier than we had ever been in our lives. We grabbed some coffee and then met Nicholas, who gave us a hotel tour and showed us some of the other rooms.

The hotel rooms were all decorated very nicely and pretty edgy. Each room is suited for a different "person"; we saw an orange room for Pierre, who was a food critic from Paris. Pierre likes to go to restaurants where he can take his time and really enjoy his food. His decor matched his personality. We saw similar rooms for DeeDee and Billy (a rock star from London... helloooooo.) I liked that the Opus Hotel uses art from local artists, and keeps their guests feeling spoiled.

Our final destination was a restaurant called The New Oxford on Mainland. 


The New Oxford reminded me a lot of London. Inside, brick walls are adorned with some cheeky pop art and drinks are written in chalk toward the ceiling. We sat at our table and were introduced to the chef, Kyle. 

Kyle gave us his taste of Yaletown menu and let us know that we were able to order whatever we wanted. Of course, we wanted one of everything. He spent a good 15-20 minutes describing all the dishes to us, which I liked. You can really tell that Kyle loves food and puts a lot of effort into making sure that it's the best you can get.







First of all, I'd just like to note that my photos from The New Oxford are my favorite from the trip because the food was presented so well and the lighting was stellar.

Quinoa salad // mixed dried fruit and nuts, cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro, fresh mint, harissa vinaigrette, crispy flatbread cracker
I loved this dish because there were so many different textures and flavors to make the quinoa less plain. It was really refreshing, but still satisfying.

Sausage platter // London maple sausage, bacon studded banger, mexican chorizo and toasted baguette served with spicy mustard and rosemary mayo
Every single one of these sausages were amazing. I can't stress that enough. It's hard to choose which was a favorite because they were all so good. 

Albacore Nicoise salad // thyme garlic poached potato, nicoise olives, poached egg, capers, anchovy, green beans, olive chili vinaigrette
This is another dish that I was reluctant to try, but Kyle told us that he held it very near and dear to his heart so we wanted to try it. I liked it more than I expected, but there's just something about the texture of raw fish that I'm not a huge fan of. The combo of everything (minus the raw part of the fish) was amazing.

Pappardelle Agliolio // roasted corn, confit shallot and garlic, kale, cherry tomato
This pasta was very light, but still satisfying. I loved all of the different flavors and fresh vegetables mixed with the noodles. 

Guinness Float // Guinness beer, vanilla gelato, SoCo caramel
Prior to this trip, I had never tried Guinness. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm not a beer fan, so I've never been eager to try Guinness. At first, the taste of this float was a little harsh, but mixed with the gelato the Guinness is much more bearable. I could only do a few bites before I had to stop.

Apple crumble cheesecake 
Oh my goodness. I could have eaten this whole thing to myself. Sorry, Kari.

Overall, The Parlour and The New Oxford were my favorite parts of the trip. They both made us feel welcome and really gave us an idea of what they believe in as restaurants and what they aim to do. 

Vancouver was such an amazing trip and I'm thankful that Kari brought me along! Yaletown is such an amazing neighborhood. 

xo,
allie

Check out Taste of Yaletown (#TOY2014) in October.


All photos belong to Allie Holzman

1 comment:

  1. Allie this is so awesome and beautiful. LOVE your pictures. And I'm so glad you came along too :)
    -Kari-

    ReplyDelete