Cactus Club Cafe (Richmond)

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Disclosure: All food and drinks were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

In the beginning of November, the newly relocated Cactus Club Cafe at the Richmond Centre location opened its door to the public. We were invited to a media preview to check out the space and enjoy some food and drinks. They have blocked off some parking at the mall so there is valet parking available here. However, there’s plenty of parking at Richmond Centre, so feel free to park anywhere!

 

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We were welcomed by the founder of Cactus, Richard Jaffrey, who spoke about how the original Richmond location began 25 years ago.

 

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The new location is truly a revamp from the old location. The interior is just as amazing as the other locations like the Coal Harbour location. On one side is the formal dining room, while this side pictured above is the bar area. There are high top table and small booth seats available here with a large bar counter right in the middle. Really love the lighting in this area.

 

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On the other end is the heated patio. I love this area as it feels like you’re outside near the beach even though it is fully enclosed. However, during the summer, the roof can roll away and the glass walls can slide open. Super cool!

 

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Whiskey Ginger Smash

Just in time for winter, they have launched two new cocktails. The first is the Whiskey Ginger Smash. This cocktail features a blend of whiskey, lemon, ginger and rosemary.

 

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Late Harvest Daiquiri

The second cocktail is the Late Harvest Daiquiri. This cocktail is made with a base of rum and lime and topped with blackberries and a Saskatoon berry and blackcurrant coulis. Sort of like a Bellini but a berry based one. So refreshing and the flavours are more catered for the winter time.

We didn’t get a chance to try any full dishes other than some appetizers, so I can’t comment too much about the food. However, Cactus is not for consistency, so I’m sure the food at this location is just as good as their other locations. What a great addition to Richmond Centre and I can’t wait to return to try the full menu.

 

Cactus Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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HJU:Z Lounge

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Last week, I attended the grand opening of HJU:Z Lounge inside the Westin Bayshore hotel. To be brutally honest, I thought the name sounded like a ticker symbol, but soon learned that it should be pronounced as “Hughes”. The restaurant is inspired by Howard Hughes, a successful film producer and leader in aviation. You will find many aviation themed decor in the lounge because of this.

 

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Before they revealed the actual lounge, we already knew it would be extravagant since they had some Ferraris in the lobby!

 

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Finally, they dropped the curtains, and we were welcomed into the space of the newest lounge. The restaurant and bar are the perfect blend of art deco inspired design with a modern flair and nostalgic atmosphere.

 

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On the menu, you can expect to find a rotating selection of cheese and meats hand selected by Chef Alex Mok. Such a perfect snack to pair with some drinks while enjoying live entertainment.

 

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Speaking of drinks, the lounge offers no shortage of drinks from wine, champagne and spirits. Most notably is the featured cocktail menu which offers 7 cocktails which have been carefully curated. Some of the cocktails on this menu include the Alaska No.2, a gin-based drink which features an iceberg and sliver of gold leaf and the Apple Jack Silver Fizz which features apple brandy, cider, and egg whites. Pictured here is the Eiffel 75 which features Hennessy Cognac, lemon juice, chardonnay lees sirup, topped with Charles Heidseick champagne and lemon oils. If you try all seven cocktails on the list, you can actually unlock the secret 8th drink!

 

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As for the food, expect to find modern, contemporary cuisine inspired by Hughes’ world tour, with inspirations from the Russian, French, and the American kitchens.

 

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The menu is expected to rotate seasonally and is curated by Chef Alex Mok.

 

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We didn’t get to try a lot of the dishes in full, but on the menu will be dishes like this Scrambled Duck Egg which features Canadian sturgeon caviar, citrus whipped cream scramble and frisée salad. What beautiful presentation!

 

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There is also the Hibachi Wagyu Beef, 28-Day Aged Striploin and Lamb Lollipops for those meat lovers. We tried the Lamb Lollipop and it was cooked to a beautiful medium rare and well seasoned.

 

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So HJU:Z has delicious food and drinks and a beautiful venue, but what really caught my attention was the live entertainment. For seven nights a week, you will find live entertainment provided by Siegel. On this particular night, we enjoyed some amazing live music along with dancers throughout the night. You will want to get up and dance with this lively music! What a great spot for live entertainment while enjoying your dinner or a late night drink!

 

Britannia Brewing Company

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The Britannia Brewing Company has opened for well over a year already. I can’t believe that I haven’t noticed this spot for so long. We definitely don’t have many craft beer spots in Richmond, so for Britannia to have both food and craft beers in an establishment, it makes it much more attracting. I believe they brew their beer on the other end of Steveston in the Ironwood area, so here, they just serve food and beers on tap.

 

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Whoever worked on the design of this spot seriously has good taste! I love the nautical white and blue theme and beautiful wooden furniture here. The patio outside which comfy pillows seriously make this the perfect spot in the summer.

 

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Mimosa

S, N, and I came here for brunch on the weekend. S started off with a glass of Mimosa. Other than beer, they have a variety of wines, cocktails, teas and coffees.

 

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Beer Paddle

For myself, I wanted to try their beers so chose the Beer Paddle. For $10, you can choose 4 different beers, including ciders. One of the ones I tried was the Chai Sasion which is something I haven’t seen before. Not a beer expert, but I quite enjoyed the various beers I tried. They also sometimes have guest taps available.

 

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Crab Benny

Brunch is available 9:30am to 1:30pm. There’s around 10 choices to choose from during brunch. N got the Crab Benny which was an interesting take on the classic. Instead of having english muffin on the bottom, it was served with a fried local crab cake on the bottom with 2 soft poached eggs and hollaindaise and hash browns on the side. Although the bennies had crab in it, I found the portions to be quite small for $16. It’s quite a light meal and I think many people would still be a bit hungry after.

 

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Gypsy Eggs

S and I both got the Gypsy Eggs which had chorizo, san marzano tomatoes, fennel, smoked paprika, and sourdough bread on the side. I liked the tart acidic tomato sauce which I dipped my bread in. The eggs were poached perfectly with the yolk spilling out. Again, slightly on the smaller side for $12. Maybe some hashbrowns on the side would make it a little more filling. However, the food itself tasted great.

 

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Overall, I’m happy to have learned about this new spot in Steveston village for brunch. I really think this is a great spot to catch up over food and drinks, especially in the summer when the patio is open. Not the cheapest, given the portion sizes, but at least the food is good.

Pros:
– Great beer and food
– Visually aesthetic interior design

Cons:
– Portions are slightly on the smaller side

Price Range: $15-25

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3.5 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 4 Parking: 3 Overall: 3.5

Britannia Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

St Lawrence

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St Lawrence, a sister restaurant of Ask for Luigi, opened up earlier this year. The restaurant is located next to Cuchillo, the Mexican restaurant, in not the best area in town, but once you step inside, you will forget about the exterior. S brought me here for my birthday and she had called to make reservations before the restaurant even opened to only score a 9pm reservation. Yes, this place is in high demand! We decided to go half an hour early to see if we could get a seat, and luckily were told that there was a chefs table seat!

 

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If you are into cooking or are a major foodie, I highly recommend asking if the chef’s table is available. We got to watch the chefs in action and the whole plating process. The menu offers classic French cuisine with Quebecois inspiration. The restaurant also offers some daily specials which change up daily.

 

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We started off with complimentary bread served with pork pate and grainy mustard. That pate paired with the grainy mustard was seriously so damn good. They need to give us more bread to clean that plate up!

 

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Ravigote Smoked Bison Tongue

The dishes at St Lawrence are great for sharing, so S and I decided to order a variety of dishes to share. Our server was very knowledgeable and gave us quite a few recommendations. For appetizers, we started with the Smoked Bison Tongue which was seasoned with Montreal spices and served with a ravigote herb sauce. The bison tongue was really tender with a nice sear and paired well with the slightly acidic sauce with capers.

 

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Fish Quenelle

The next appetizer was the Fish Quenelle which was served with mussels and a cream sauce. I had never had a dish like this before but apparently fish quenelles are quite the traditional French dish. It is sort of like a fish dumpling where the fish is very creamy. It was served with some puff pastry.  The appetizers here are seriously great for sharing between two so you get a good amount to taste. I think it is quite a lot and too heavy for one to finish the whole appetizer.

 

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Ratatouille

Moving on, S suggested we get some veggies, so we chose the Ratatouille. I haven’t had many ratatouille, but this was absolutely delicious! The mixed vegetables were served with a parmesan custard and when you break it apart, the creamy cheesy custard spills over the vegetables. Highly recommend this!

 

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Pork Chop

For our entrees, I suggested trying the Pork Chop since I had read good reviews about this. If you are going to order this, then you can probably skip the appetizers because this plate is HUGE. It can definitely feed two if you are going to have some appetizers beforehand. The pork chop is served with Oka cheese and a butcher sauce. The plate is $37 but given how large the portion is, this is a great deal! Normally, I don’t order pork chops because it tends to easily be cooked dry. However, this thick cut of bone in pork chop was seared beautifully with the inside juicy and tender. The pork chop sat on top of mashed potatoes which were buttery smooth.

 

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Duck Ballotine

The second entree we chose was the Duck Ballotine. The tender duck was wrapped around these leaves which gave it a very interesting flavour. Definitely my first time trying duck this way. The duck was served with crisp potato puffs and maple sauce. I loved the potato puffs! So crispy on the outside while the inside was smooth and creamy. I don’t see this dish on the current menu anymore though.

 

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Rice Pudding

To be honest, we were both beyond full becuase we definitely over-ordered. Even the chef was impressed by us and said we did a good job! He ended up treating us both to dessert which was Rice Pudding with salted caramel. At first, I wasn’t too excited because I’m not a fan of rice pudding. Clearly, I have been having terrible rice pudding though, because this was next level! The rice pudding had the perfect creamy texture with rice not clumping together at all. The salted caramel brought a slightly sweet flavour without it being too sweet. Now I know what good rice pudding tastes like!

Overall, I was very impressed with St Lawrence and can see why it is so hard to get a reservation. The meal was not cheap, but the portions are actually quite reasonable (especially the entrees). We ended up leaving with half of each entree packed up and it made a whole meal the next day for me! Definitely a great spot to celebrate a special occasion!

Pros:
– Well executed classic French dishes
– Chic ambiance and friendly service

Cons:
– Not in the nicest place in town
– Can be quite the pricey meal

Price Range: $50-100

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 4.5 Ambiance: 4 Parking: 2 Overall: 4

 

St Lawrence Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

[Japan Series] Day 6 Cont’d: All You Can Drink at Yakitori Marukin やきとりまる金 新宿本店 in Shinjuku

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While we were on the train heading back from Hakone to Shinjuku, I decided to look for a place to eat dinner. Did some searching and ended up coming up with the idea to go check out an all you can drink spot. Actually, I was craving yakitori (Japanese grilled skewers) and this spot just came up. Yakitori Marukin is located just in the busy streets of Shinjuku and is popular among locals.

 

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It took a while to find the place because you actually needed to take an elevator upstairs. Actually, many of the good restaurants are often upstairs, so if you’re looking for food in Japan, look up! Anyways, the restaurant was filled with locals and when we arrived I think we got some curious looks. The staff could barely speak English but they were still very accommodating and welcomed us in. Luckily, they have an English menu, so I’m guessing they have a lot of tourists here still. With some pointing and nodding, we were good to go!

 

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I read online that this may be one of the cheapest all you can drink restaurants in the area. Plus, they have an English menu, so it really helps. For only 598 yen + tax, you can drink as much as you want for an hour! My understanding is that you need to do a minimum of one hour, but we chose to stay 90 minutes as it gave us more time to eat. Honestly though…that is dirt cheap! We can only get a beer…sometimes not even for this price back in Vancouver!

 

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So when you think of all you can drink beer, you must be thinking that the restaurant will just serve your drinks super slow so that your time is up. Well, not a problem here, because it is self serve! I was pretty mind blown at this concept! Along a wall in the restaurant, there are a bunch of bottles that dispense your liquor. The waiter will give you a beer mug and you just head over to the drink station and fill it up with whatever you want. The majority of the drinks were sochu (tastes sort of like vodka), plum wine, and I believe there were some whiskeys. There are also flavoured syrups that you can pump into your sochu so that it’s not straight liquor and gives it some more flavour. I suggest filling only a quarter or half a mug each time so that you can try other drinks if that’s your liking. Otherwise, you’re sort of stuck with that drink until you finish it! This was seriously lots of fun and the liquor is quite high in alcohol content, so you will for sure have a good night! No beers here for you beer lovers though!

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As for the food menu, they had one menu which listed all the yakitori items which had English on it, but there was also a menu for appetizers and other izakaya type food. Unfortunately, this menu was all in Japanese, but there are some pictures to help. As you can see, the yakitori is also relatively cheap here compared to other yakitori shops. The quality is not amazing, but it comes with this dipping sauce which is really tasty! There is a big jar of sauce on the table which is left there all night… Kind of sketchy since you have no idea if the previous diners did anything to the sauce, but they state on the menu that you are not allowed to dip your food in the sauce twice. Let’s really hope no one does that!

 

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First up, we got the Chicken Thighs. Pictures are really dark as it was very dim inside, but these were definitely not as charred as I’d like. However, I really enjoyed the dipping sauce and when you’re a bit tipsy, anything tastes great!

 

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There were a lot of intestines for yakitori on the menu, so we weren’t really a fan of that. Instead, we decided to try the Grilled Wing Tip. This was not bad but a bit difficult to eat as there is not much meat. I would stick to the chicken thigh next time.

 

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Then came the funny story… So we ordered off the all Japanese menu and I pointed at the picture thinking they were popcorn chicken. Turns out…we ordered a plate of Grilled Garlic! Yup…we did not finish this.

 

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Some other appetizers included this Squash Croquette. This was really yummy! And great with drinks!

 

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The Gyozas were also one of our favourites. I think we ended up with two orders of this! I love how in Japan, they cook all the gyozas together and the skin becomes super crispy.

 

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Finally… we got it right and ordered the real Chicken Karaage. Chicken was moist and batter was crispy.

 

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What a fun night at Yakitori Marukin! We probably spent around $25 each in total for the food and unlimited drinks. What a steal! After dinner, we wandered the streets of Shinjuku. It might have also involved taking some shameless sticker pictures… Last day in Tokyo next!

Yakitori Marukin
Address: Shinjuku 3-34-16 | Ikeda Plaza Bldg. 4F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture

Botanist

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Botanist opened up earlier this year at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. It took over the previous location of Oru, which I quite enjoyed. Botanist has completely renovated the space though, giving it a beautiful and elegant ambiance. I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant for a while, and S decided to bring me here for my birthday.

 

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We were seated in the “Garden”, which has beauitful floral chairs and wooden tables. The decor in here is truly beautiful.

 

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We were told that the Garden has over 50 different species of plants, and you truly feel like you are in a garden. They also have a cocktail bar, dining room, and outdoor terrace garden.

 

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Botanist is known for their cocktails. If you sit at the cocktail lab, you can order some really fancy and sophisticated cocktails. I can’t find the name of the one I ordered anymore, but I remember it had gin and some lemonade in it. It was then topped with lavender. Light, sweet, and fresh.

 

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To start, we were given complimentary bread that was topped with poppy seeds and served with whipped butter. The bread is shaped like a leaf which follows the whole botany theme of the restaurant. Even the serving plate which is a piece of petrified wood adds to the theme. The bread was delicious with the whipped butter!

 

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Pan-Seared Scallops

To start, we shared the Pan-Seared Scallops. This was a beautiful work of art and featured onions, green apple, guanciale, brown butter, and snap peas. What made it extra special was that the scallops were wrapped with a thin slice of guanciale, which is an Italian cured meat. The scallops were cooked perfectly with a beautiful brown sear and not rubbery at all.

 

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Herb-Crusted Lamb Saddle

For our mains, S got the Herb-Crusted Lamb Saddle which featured green garlic panisse, favas, shallots, and natural jus. I am not familiar with this cut of lamb, but it was cooked to a beautiful medium rare and very tender! The panisse was very interesting. It is supposed to be similar to a polenta, but we found it tasted almost like fish cake. Overall dish was colourful and delicious!

 

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Duck Breast

For myself, I had the Duck Breast which featured spaghetti squash, rhubarb, and natural jus. After my first bite, I immediately thought it tasted like Chinese roast duck! The skin was extremely crispy, while the meat was a beautiful pink and tender throughout. The slightly sour rhubarb worked well with the meat along with the spaghetti squash. I really enjoyed the Asian flavours of this dish and it was executed very well.

 

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Meyer Lemon Polenta Cake

To finish, we shared the Meyer Lemon Polenta Cake which featured apple, honey, angelica brulée, lemon buttermilk ice cream, and a ring shaped polenta cake. The dish was expensive but the presentation was spot on. So many components, but everything worked well together. I found the polenta a little too dense for my liking, but the light ice cream helped balance it out.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the food at Botanist. I felt that every dish was presented like a piece of art. Although the prices are on the higher end (think Hawksworth prices), I found that the portions were very reasonable. The mains were all very filling although they will cost you around $40 each. Service was also spot on although I felt like the service was almost a little too attentive and I was being watched! Ambiance of course is perfect for any date night. Happy to have this new addition in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood!

Pros:
– Ambiance is beautiful
– Food was well executed and presentation was spot on

Cons:
– High end prices (not your everyday meal!)

Price Range: $60-100

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 4 Ambiance: 5 Parking: 3 Overall: 4

 

Botanist Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sparkling Ice: Cocktail Recipe

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Disclosure: All Sparkling Ice beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

With the summer heat getting real these days, I’m always looking for new beverages to try. It’s also time for patio season and barbecues, and of course cocktails must be present! I was recently sent some of the Sparkling Ice beverages to try and decided to whip up a cocktail recipe.

 

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Sparkling Ice is a fizzy, flavourful beverage without all the calories! In fact, they are advertised as a zero calorie beverage! The best part is that they come in a variety of fruity flavours, so make a great addition in your cocktail. Some flavours include Lemon Lime, Coconut Pineapple, Kiwi Strawberry, Cherry Limeade, and Black Raspberry. You can drink it straight, or add it to cocktails, flavour your marinade, and even use it in baking for flavour!They are available at most retailers, including Walmart and Amazon if you want to shop online.

 

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S and I enjoy gin, so we decided to make a Gin Fitzey:

INGREDIENTS

1.5 oz of gin
Simple syrup
½ Lime (sliced into 3 wedges)
Splash of Sparking Ice Lemon Lime
Lime (garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Add gin, simple syrup, and lime wedges to shaker. Muddle. Add ice. Shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Add a splash of Sparking Ice Lemon Lime. Garnish with lime twist.

The cocktail was super easy to create, especially if you don’t have a lot of ingredients. I loved how the drink wasn’t too sweet, and the fizz isn’t overwhelming.

 

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To find more cocktail or cooking recipes that incorporate Sparkling Ice, check out their website and on Instagram. I especially love their cute and quick videos on Instagram! Cheers!

Parallel 49 x Central City Brewing: Seasons Greetings 24-Pack Advent Beer Calendar

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NOTE: All beers sampled were complimentary as part of a media tasting. However, all opinions are based on my own experience.

It’s that time of the year again and if you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift or you’re just a beer enthusiast, then this is for you. Earlier this month, Parallel 49 and Central City Brewers launched their collaboration of the advent-style beer calendar, called Seasons Greetings 24-Pack. Yes, if you’re tired of getting chocolate advent calendars, why not get one filled with 24 beers. In the pack, which goes for $72.99 at BC Liquor Stores and select private liquor stores, you’ll find seasonal favourites as well as some exclusive beers. Each brewery has pulled in 12 beers each for the pack.

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At the media event, we were able to try some of the beers that are in the pack. The selection ranged from sours, stouts, scotch ales, porters, winter ales, IPAs and pale ales. For someone who enjoys lighter and fruitier beers, I was happy to find that the pack has many of those, but also a mix of some darker ales for others.

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Below are some of the beers included in the pack which we were able to try. The other 12 are a mystery!

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The first 6 we got a sneak preview for were from Parallel 49. Of these, I really enjoyed the Filthy Dirty Grapefruit IPA which is great for those who enjoy a fruitier beer. The Top O’ The Mornin’ Breakfast Stout was an interesting one as it tasted just like coffee! It’s made using coffee beans from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters.

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The other 6 were from Central City Brewers. They feature the brand Red Racer. In this pack, there’s some stronger beers with one up to 11.5% in alcohol content. The Red Racer Fly by Night Porter was an interesting one again because of the strong notes of coffee and chocolate. I usually don’t like dark beers but the coffee flavour really made it much more interesting. Again, they also feature some fruit beers like the Red Racer Kiwi Sour which was a favourite for K. Light and fruity.

Overall, this holiday gift pack definitely has a large variety of beers and imagine how fun it’ll be to reveal a new beer each day in December! Definitely the perfect gift for your beer loving friend.