Saturday, August 28, 2010

Frozen pizza better than dining out?

You may have read my recent post about Marcello's on Commercial Drive. Now Commercial Drive has a lot of moderate-to-cheaper restaurants, unlike often-overpriced to way-overpriced downtown Vancouver and Yaletown. I coughed up $14.95 for a medium pizza (plus 12% HST plus tip).

The very next day, this landed in my fridge:

Delissio Garlic Bread Pizza (Bruschetta) March 10, 2010

Turns out Superstore (Metrotown, Burnaby, BC) was having a sale on Nestle (formerly Kraft) Delissio pizza. $4.97 (maximum 2 at this price; otherwise $7.57).

They aren't kidding that it's garlic bread pizza because the garlic flavor came through strongly, though not overwhelmingly or making the pizza bitter. On top of that are bruschetta-style toppings evenly on the pizza and all the way to the edge. The square shape makes maximum use of the box (and your oven). It weighs in at 880 grams.

IT WAS TASTY.

So, looking back at Marcello's... I could have gotten THREE pizzas for the same price, in the comfort of my own home, and not have had to tip anyone.

Now, Delissio pizza can be hit and miss (the thin crust flatbread stuff is horrid, with skimpy toppings and a nasty oiliness), but some of them are really good -- and with the advantage that you can bake it to whatever crust you like at home, it's at least on part with mainstream order-in pizza from Pizza Factory or even Dominos.

If you want variety in your pizza, dining out will get you that. If you want cheap and you don't get sick of it by eating it every day, then I highly recommend you store up on these.

(By the way, Save On Foods at Metrotown has a parallel promotion on the big two-pizza-packs. They work out to just a few pennies more per pizza.)

Lady Daisey and Batsauce -- FREE Concert at Capones Restaurant

Sometimes it really pays to accept some advertising. Way back when, Capones had a do to rustle up some business via social media with a pre-re-opening event for Vancouver Tweeters. I was into the Twitter scene then and attended, and ended up signing up for their e-mail newsletter. They haven't flooded me with stuff, but there were definitely a few each season, with such interesting offers as half-price pizza nights.

Lady Daisey Tour 2010
The latest to hit my inbox was free tickets (probably for estimated headcount and/or crowd control on event night) to an in-house concert by touring indie soul-music songstress Lady Daisey (of course also on Myspace).

You can hear extended samples of her astonishingly catchy feel-good fuzzy-warm tunes on her website.

Not to say local jazz talent is second-rate, but this lady is a cut above.

It's absolutely amazing what comes by free nowadays.

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010.
Capones Restaurant and Live Jazz Club
No cover change.
Call for tickets/reservations at 604-569-1770 or reserve online.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Free Wine Twice a Week

Surprise surprise! There actually is FREE STUFF to be had. I suppose that's the convention with wineries and wine tastings.

Check out Taylorwood Wines -- Complimentary wine tastings every Thursday and Sunday in the late afternoon/early evening.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pizza Dinner at Marcello Pizzeria -- Could have been better

Marcello Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
I had heard about Marcello Pizzeria & Ristorante's forno roast chicken (from their website: "The forno roast chicken is spectacular...") and wanted to try it. Everyone knows Marcello's is famous for their Neapolitan pizza, but pizza is better with a whole gang of friends who aren't waist conscious, and I was dining alone.

Turned out to be a non-event... I got there around 9pm, and the first obstacle was the fact that they had run out of chicken (!).
Then the server balked when I asked about their famous oven-roasted chicken, and said it really wasn't anything special.

So, on to pizza then! The first thing that struck me was how the pizzas were mostly 1 or 2 topping pizzas. If you look at their online menu, you'll notice that most of the pizzas are "Tomato sauce, mozzarella, X, Y". Honestly, doesn't every pizza come with tomato sauce and mozza? You'd really only mention those basics when a pizza DOESN'T have them.

There was one called "Marcello" (anchovies, black olives, capers, onion), and when I asked about whether it was the house special, again the server balked. This time, it was about the anchovies and he asked if I was okay with that. Although I said I was, he nevertheless recommended the Capricciosa (ham, salame, artichokes, black olives, mushrooms), saying it was the most commonly ordered one. Probably because it had a lot of toppings for the same price.

I had trouble deciding between the two, and the server offered to do a half-and-half.

I had also asked about the dessert menu. It was all ice cream and specialty coffee. Even the server said "there's nothing going on here". I gave it a pass.

The pizza came in relatively short order, and given that it was a busy night, I wasn't surprised that it hadn't been laid out as carefully as it could have been. I felt most of the toppings had made its way toward the core, which made that region too soggy to pick up. The flavours worked fine (yes, even the Marcello anchovies), but with things tending to bunch up, you got a mouthful of pizza with way too large chunks of salty olive, and then had to finish the remainder, which was crust brushed with tomato sauce -- Everything else had slid down when I was forced to transfer the soggy slice to my plate and use a fork and knife.

It's hard to say, but I think if the ingredients had been distributed better, each slice might have had a decent chance of being picked up, even if you had to support the slice with your other hand.

Overall the flavours were good, and it did taste better than your typical bulk pizza from, say, Pizza Factory. At $14.95 + tax + tip, it comes out to about $20 for a medium pizza. Two mediums would have been good for three persons, I think.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meet rklindquistwue0dorthabf and vgkeilakq5kohlwy, divorced with children

Looks like some affiliate program scammers on Craigslist men-looking-for-women personals just really don't care, or they've totally automated their system, including the production of e-mail addresses to use, presumably because they fully expect to be caught as spam and blocked.

Initially a "they", this responder later became a single woman and sent me an X-rated pic.
The crazy-looking e-mail address was the first clue, but I decided to respond anyway to see how it turned out. Sorry, I can't post the picture of her naked in bed (face cropped from the picture, so it could very well have been lifted from one of any number of adult sites).

E-mail #1
We are really interesting and I'm searching for an older gentleman to own entertaining with today

E-mail #2
Hey how are you
Im interested in some thing that's long term, NSA. I want to keep this a secret - my ex-boyfriend is kinda a psycho ever since we broke up. haha .... 4 year relationship. Anyways.. I do have a daughter who is 22 months old, but she will always be sleeping by the time you come over...
This is my first time doing this kinda thing online - so Im kinda iffy about it.

I don't use any messengers - only one that I use for work...
i was hoping we could stay in contact by texting if your interested in making it long term.... http://www.securedater.com you will be able to get my number as soon as you sign up so im thinking we could get together tonight or tomorrow night - that would be great... Im signing off the computer now though, hope to hear from you xoxo.

I have attached a picture, please keep this to your self, I have a very important job and I don't need people finding this out

Sunday, August 22, 2010

sexxci_horny is also on DatingSecure

In my last post, I mentioned "sexxci_horny" (ejkeliu4aviola9c@hotmail.com) who wanted me to sign up with securedater.com. Well, since I didn't respond to that, she's now sent me an even more direct take-my-money site:

Her E-mail #3
Heey I still haven't heard from you on that other site..... I'm still interested in hooking up, but I still want to be safe about it.
Can you please contact me on this site.... http://meetagirlnow.com .
I've just never done a online hookup thing before so I don't know what works and what doesn't but this one does for sure.
i'll be online waiting for you in the chat room.

Hope to hear from you soon.
xoxo


meetagirlnow.com redirects to datingsecure.com and up front it asks to charge your credit card $1 for 3 days of access. From the name of the site, it looks like whatever cheezy affiliate company is behind this is tying up the "secure date" search results with their websites.

Oh, and she's sent more pics. Check 'em out:

ejkeliu4viola9c_hotmail_com picture 4

ejkeliu4viola9c_hotmail_com picture 5

ejkeliu4viola9c_hotmail_com picture 6

ejkeliu4viola9c_hotmail_com picture 7

Meet sexxci_horny and friends

Here's another Craigslist Personals scammer who sends mail to men posting on the man-looking-for-women section of Craigslist Personals.

I know for sure the person behind the originating e-mail (ejkeliu4aviola9c@hotmail.com) is running a scam because they say I "don't look like the sort of man that would do anything bad" -- except I haven't sent them a picture!

If you follow the link to the website they've sent (www.securedater.com), be sure to scroll down and read the "fine print"...

Securedater_com

Her E-mail #1

We are extremely attractive and I'm searching for an older man to obtain fun with these days

My reply (no picture sent):

I'm sure you're both extremely attractive ... but how old are you? Send me a picture if you've got one.

Hoping you're of legal age,
S.


Her E-mail #2

Hello there! :)

Cool, sounds wonderful! :) Let's hook up at either my or your place, we have fun for a while and then go our opposite directions? If we get the itch again we can hook up for some more - but that's all I am looking for.

I registered to a dating site that I hope we can stay in contact on, http://securedater.com It's basically just so I feel safer about hooking up with you, its completely free, I signed up months ago and never had to pay anything, its different than all those other places! You don't look like the sort of man that would do anything bad, but these days you can't be too careful you know? Just wanna make sure we both have safe fun :)

Once you get verified you will see my cell number :) Please call/txt me then so we can decide when to meet? My username is sexxci_horny if you can't find me, I'm thinking tomorrow would be best to have some fun, although I wouldn't mind right now either :D

Oh and I live downtown :) Looking forward to hearing from you.

ttyl :)


ejkeliu4aviola9c_hotmail_com picture 1

Honestly, the pictures look great and like "real people". In the last photo below, her friends do look like classy, chic, downtown Vancouver gals! ("sexxci_horny" is the only one with a slightly creepy predatory look).
It's possible that these pictures were stolen off someone's Facebook account before they locked it down to show pictures only to friends. Or, it may be her actual photographs. Who knows?

ejkeliu4aviola9c_hotmail_com picture 2

ejkeliu4aviola9c_hotmail_com picture 3

E-mails with similar opening lines were also received from the following:

from bnlentz.larhondace@hotmail.com : We are extremely attractive and We are looking for an older gentleman to own enjoyment with right now

from rklindquistwue0dorthabf@hotmail.com : We are really interesting and I'm searching for an older gentleman to own entertaining with today

Do Craigslist Personals Scammers do Split Testing?

Catherine - kierasron_aol_com, cferanna_ttxmail_com

You may have seen an earlier post where I mentioned "Catherine", who replies to man-looking-for-woman personals on Craigslist and follows up with a shortened link to some kind of affiliate site, with the promise that you'll get to contact her more directly there.

Well, it turns out she also has considerably different opening lines, which suggests the more serious affiliate program scammers might actually do ad split testing to see which initial contact e-mails get a better response rate.

Here's the latest in response to my ad: (she gave no name, and was writing from ryliepi@aol.com; e-mail reply goes to cat.f23209xx@mailprotected.com).

Hello there, Send a reply if you are still looking for someone

I am 38,, no kids, not married and would like to meet a nice person. I am a a good conversationalist and fun type of person and like to have a fun time with the right individual.

I have my studio downtown in Vancouver, BC. we can hook up for a drink.

I am seeking that right person.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SchlatterBeckie "BoyCrazedDella" follows up with attempt #2

You may remember I wrote about the Craiglist personals affiliate program spammer "SchlatterBeckie" (schlatterbeckie554@hotmail.com). Well, I wrote back saying that Hotmail reported her message as "This message looks suspicious to our SmartScreen filters."

Amazingly, she wrote back:

Simon did ya make an attempt to message me? They erased my profile for naked pics. :-/ I made a better profile at http://twurl.nl/xcyj7y and They don't care what I do there. Let's message if u made some time. BoyCrazedDella :-)

This time selling Fling.com. Incidentally. Fling.com has a website layout that is only cosmetically different from MeetLocals. The main difference being an X-rated deep-red colour for a background, and the scariest chick imaginable for a covergirl. She's got a perfect-10 body, but there's something about her teeth and wide lips that make her look like a shark...

scam dating site Fling_com, August-18-2010

Meet Elena, who couldn't remember she had already e-mailed me

There are Craigslist Personals spammers, and lame Craigslist Personals spammers. Check out Elena, who sent me two e-mails, almost identical, responding to the same ad. And what are those nonsense letters at the bottom? Bulk mail tracking numbers?!

E-mail #1, from "Lena" (amayakjcyvws@aim.comamayakjcyvws@aim.com)
 
Hi.

My name is Lena.
I wish to get acquainted with good,
serious person and make strong relationships.
Repite, I am find for serious relations only!
Reply on my mail: elenalenaaaa@yahoo.com
Good bye
dsmypd dgmrt gxhg
 
 
E-mail #2, from "Elena" (amandalvxioa@aim.com)

Hi.

My name is Elena.
I dream to get acquainted with good,
serious person and make strong relationships.
Remember, I am find for serious relations only!
Reply on my mail: elenalenaaaa@yahoo.com
Faithfully yours
ywplc jlsjwav dlfkvvo

Meet Jan "kakoulechiot"

Whoop! Even more spam profiles are contacting me through my Craigslist ad. It's sort of ironic, really. On dating/matching sites like Plenty Of Fish, guys can expect to have to do all the initiating. Also, no matter where you go (even real women on Craigslist), generally women will want to see a picture first and be in a position to reject the guys. But when it comes to finding suckers, every post by a man creates a feeding frenzy.
Are men more vulnerable to the desperation of loneliness?

Anyway, here's the message from Jan (jan@ectarereplied.net), who has a more subtle way of hinting at being easy with "fun" in quotes.

Email #1


Hi



I kind of like your message, I am too lokking [sic] to meet someone but it's been kind of tough to find a decent guy. How about we meet at the mall or Starbucks? We could see if we are compatible and then maybe move on to more "fun" stuff, lol.
We can also meet at:


http://www.kakoulechiot.net/

and see if we can talk a bit there.
Either way I really hope we can see each other real soon.

hope to talk to you soon
Jan.



The dead giveaway is the website address (that goes to MeetLocals). Even if you thought it was a real site (but why would you even think that, given the context of meeting there -- there's Instant Messaging, or even just calling someone on the phone), as soon as it redirects, you ought to be hitting ESC or the red X to stop loading, close the window, and going back to your e-mail to delete her e-mail.
Don't bother blocking these people -- They probably get a new e-mail address every day and twice on Sundays.

Honestly, I wish these spam e-mails could be a bit more entertaining. At least with Taylor and Melissa, you got a hot pic. Not perfect-10 tasteful Playboy stuff, but still, at least it makes it worth your while to just open the e-mail, you know?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meet Shasta Gongalves who decided to rename herself Jenni

Honestly, she's got to be one of the lousier Craigslist scammers... Not only did she follow up very slowly, but she changed her name!

Email #1 - August 5th, as "Shasta Gongalves" (shasta3915@hotmail.com)

hola, I would love to talk.

Email #2 - August 17th, as "Jennifer" (jennifer@wogakerre.net)

Hi
How are you doing? Interesting email, lol. I am simply looking for a nsa thingy, if you are too then let's talk a bit and see where this goes. What do you say? In case you are interested, let's meet at:

http://www.tetuleconnard.net/

If you are not interested, just let me know and I won't write you back...

Jenni


The link redirects to xxxmatch.com, which has the gimmick of an "interactive" perfect-10 model who takes off a piece of clothing every time you advance a step toward signing up. It's like Desktop Stripper, only you have to work harder and probably give up your credit card number.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meet Catherine, who doesn't have a sexy picture for a craigslist affiliate scam

Catherine - kierasron_aol_com, cferanna_ttxmail_com

In previous posts, we looked at some of the simpler affiliate program scam responses to my Craigslist personals ad -- basically, the ones like Taylor and Melissa use sexy images (showing moderate to well-endowed chests), selling you the idea that they are easy sluts who have for some reason or other taken a liking to you and if you follow through with signing up with their affiliate programs, you will qualify to talk your way into bed with them.

Others use a more personalized approach (or at least better crafted canned responses to simulate real persons) and extended conversation (like a normal person, not a slut), to make you less suspicious.

Catherine (kierasron@aol.com, cferanna@ttxmail.com) sent a blurry not-excessively-hot-looking possibly-normal-person picture, and gave a personal feel to her responses before sliding in the affiliate link to MILF AmateurMatch.
It's interesting that she used an ow.ly link shortener because that is related to the Twitter app HootSuite. It may very well be that she trolls for suckers online as well.

Catherine e-mail #1


Hello

I'm a 38 yr old woman, and an artist, no kids, never married and would like to meet someone. I'm a fun to be around and like to have a great time with the right person.

I have my studio downtown in Vancouver, BC. we can hook up for a drink.

I am seeking that special individual.


Catherine e-mail #2

Hi... Thanks for writing back, I'll be short as I have some stuff to do around here.

We can get together but I would like some phone conversation if you are ok with that arrangement?

I'm sure we both have some questions.

Thanks for the picture, it's nice.

Forgive the aol account, just trying to be careful. I sent my pic again if you didn't see it the first time.


Catherine e-mail #3
Hi

Forgive me for not just hurrying out to meet with you, you are a complete to me right now, though you seem great.

Considering some of the people and stuff that goes on in the world today, I will be playing it safe for now.

So I will need you to verify please. If not I understand completely, but I won't be meeting you or anyone, no exceptions sorry. If so great, here's the link.

http://ow.ly/2mBrP

My user there is HotSexYou

I am home now, painting for a friend, call me when you have my phone number. It is on my user profile


E-mail addresses from which I have received responses from "Catherine" include: kierasron@aol.com (reply goes to cferanna@ttxmail.com), vivianihi@aol.com (reply goes to cat.f15952xx@mailprotected.com)

Meet SchlatterBeckie, who doesn't have a pic for a craigslist affiliate marketing scam

Sad to say, after Taylor and Melissa, the Craigslist affiliate program scammers dropped in quality. schlatterbeckie554@hotmail.com didn't even send a picture before sending me a shortened link to her MeetLocals.com affiliate page!

Her email #1
Hi

Her email #2

Due to the unbelievable amount of men not serious about meeting just picture harvesting and emailing me false photos of themselves I have found it necessary to use a photo verifying service. I use http://twurl.nl/6k6viz because they do not charge. Have your picture verified and contact me. My profile id is LollyPopQT.
I apologize for the hassle. See you soon.


Her email #3
Haven't seen you yet... I'll be online for 20 mins. to IM if ya are up to it.

The third e-mail is a classic marketing trick to elicit an urgency to take action.
As we'll see in my next post about Catherine, even if all you have are words decent copywriting skills can be more powerful than sexy pictures.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Meet Melissa Gaines and her blurry sexy pics

Melissa Gaines 1 - erikmcclure858_yahoo_com

Oh boy!
I had no sooner finished posting about the lovely Taylor Burch responding to my personals ad on Craigslist when Melissa Gaines (e-mailing from erikmcclure858@yahoo.com) mailed me a couple more pictures of her lithe body and selling her profile on the same looks-like-a-phishing-scam site (http://craigslistsafe.net/profiles/melx3/). One of them was an NSFW naked-breasts pic which I haven't posted here (sorry -- but honestly, nothing to write home about, especially with the serious bikini tan lines).

Here's the e-mail exchange:

Melissa e-mail #1

Here is my picture as attached. Please e-mail me details what you are looking for along with your pictures. Thanks and waiting to hear from you soon.

Melissa e-mail #2

hey thanks for getting back to me
we should definitely meetup sometime...
if youre interested of course :)
a couple things i should set straight though:
1 we use condoms
2 you join a dating site that I belong to
safedates
no worries though its free
and my numbers on there so hit me up again when you get this thanks
Mel


E-mail addresses from which I have received responses from "Melissa" include: erikmcclure858@yahoo.com, oscarduke935@yahoo.com

Melissa Gaines 3 - erikmcclure858_yahoo_com

Update: August 31st, 2010
Same pic, this time from "Steph" (kathleenpeck542@yahoo.com)

E-mail #1
Hey whats up interested in getting together?lemme know


Update: October 17th, 2010
Same pic, this time from "Steph" (jodysawyer327@yahoo.com)

E-mail #1
hi just saw your post on cl and i am interested in getting to know you more ... do you have a pic i can see ..??

My Reply
Hi Steph,
Wow! You're gorgeous! Look, sorry to ask, but I've heard of fake profiles on Craigslist -- could you send me a picture with you and some other real person?
How old are you and where in the Lower Mainland do you live?

Meet Taylor Burch and her gorgeous boobs

Taylor - essasingletonyd318_yahoo_com

Over the last couple of weeks, I'd posted a Man Seeking Woman profile on Craigslist. I'd had enough of "friends" who were really needy I-need-a-shoulder-to-cry-on women latching on to me while they were in some drama/crisis or another, only to vanish after the crisis was over.
So I thought I'd take more initiative and try to be more choosy.

Anyway, it looks like tricking emotionally vulnerable men (i.e., guys posting personals on Craigslist) into signing up for pay sites or credit card phishing sites is big money.

The girl with the gorgeous boobs you see above is "Taylor Burch" and she (probably a "he"?) wrote to me twice with canned responses from emshandleysk044@yahoo.com and essasingletonyd318@yahoo.com.

Here is one such exchange:

Taylor e-mail #1

Your ad interested me. I am friendly, easy going and love to have a great time. I think we could have fun together. Send a pic and lets see what happens.

Taylor e-mail #2


cool :) lets do this then yea?
let me know when ur free
just do me a favor and sign up on my profile
safedates
its a service i use to make sure the guys i meet are safe bc ive had somebad experiences in the past
its free to sign up but you might need to put in your cc for the background check to view my profile and pics (nsfw btw haha)
when ur done feel free to give me a call/txt (my cell is on my profile)
heres a little sneak peak? hahaha :P
talk to u soon

-taylor


The website link goes to http://www.craigslistsafe.net/profiles/tay5, which isn't a craigslist site at all, of course. There aren't any useful or fine print links that are useful. Even the "report as spam" link redirects back to the profile.

Still... Nice pic. (^_^)

E-mail addresses from which I have received replies from "Taylor" include: emshandleysk044@yahoo.com, essasingletonyd318@yahoo.com, karimccoy172@yahoo.com

Taylor Burch - emshandleysk044_yahoo_com

Update: August 31st/2010
E-mail from "Diana" (candicemack337@yahoo.com), using picture #2
email be back with a pic if you like what you see.

Update: September 11th/2010
E-mail from "Diana" (myrnawhitaker142@yahoo.com), using picture #2
hi, how are you? I'm very clean, cute and love to have passionate fun. Here's a pic, I have more and would love to see yours too. Let's talk soon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beautiful food at Gastown's Cobre


Cobre on Urbanspoon

After yesterday's disappointing inhaled-in-three-minutes burger at Romer's Burger Bar, I wanted to salvage my culinary vacation and finally got around to trying Cobre, tucked away past the main busy-ness in Gastown at 52 Powell. At 5pm when they open, there's practically nothing else open within a half block radius although in the very next block, a dozen or so restaurants are packed to the gills.

I got in shortly after 5pm, and there were a couple of small parties but nothing serious. By 6pm, things were pretty busy and they had reservations stacked up for the night. Although the server said the food would come quickly, it was paced out, and for my unexpectedly large order for one person, that turned out just fine.

No buxom servers here -- All guys in plain dark Ts and jeans (which I thought helped with the casual ambiance, but could still have been upscaled a tad to black pants, or at least all black jeans, eh?).

Important tips:
(1) Ask about dessert. It's not on the printed menu or online, but there is a small dessert selection and you'll need a good memory because it'll come to you verbally from the server. If you like rounding out dinner with dessert, you might want to at least scope it out early. Tonight there was a condensed milk drink, a chocolate dessert, and "coconut tres leche". I forgot to ask, but from the easy, confident way the server explained the choices, I'm willing to bet it's the same every day.
(2) The portions are not as small as you think. It might sound that way from the servers, and look that way from pictures online, but be careful! I would suggest ordering no more than two items per person and holding on to the menu. If you choose from the tacos (under the section "taqueria", or "taco shop", on the menu) and tapas, that might very well be enough as a light meal.
I was excited to try interesting food and ended up ordering three items. After the surprisingly large tapas third course, I was already thinking about cancelling my dessert.

My meal tonight was the ceviche of the day ("ceviche para el dia"; $13), lamb tacos ("lamb bondiga y mole, sardo parmesan browned garlic popcorn"; $12), boar belly ("Maple chipotle tamarind glazed wild boar belly, chicharon y patacones"; $15), and dessert (coconut tres leche; $7). After tax and tip it came up to $62.64. Yoicks! -- Considering two of these could have been gotten (with a dessert) for $28 during Dine Out Vancouver. Whether you would have gotten the same sized portions, though...

The ceviche tonight was a mound of scallops cured in sharp lime and sitting in a sweet sauce. There wasn't too much sauce, so you couldn't smother a slab of scallop without raising your plate to get enough sauce into your spoon. This was actually a good thing since the sweet sauce would have overpowered the raw scallops. Too little sauce would have left you with just a tangy scallop because of the lime. Overall, I thought it was just right.
The gorgeous presentation hid the fact that it was a good sized portion: The mound of scallops may have looked small because it was a pale colour on the white plate.

The lamb tacos were a confusing experience. On the good side, despite the lamb patties being generously sized such that you could just barely close the 4 inch wide soft tacos when you pulled up the sides, there wasn't any mess trying to eat them in just two bites. Nothing fell out, and on just one out of four tacos, some juice escaped onto the plate.
The ground lamb patties were thick and moist, but with varying amounts of pink inside. I wasn't sure this was how it's meant to be, but with thick patties like that, you're really trusting the chefs to do it blind--They are probably not prepared to chop it open and check. Some pink won't kill you, but if you're averse, you might want to ask the server to convey your request to the kitchen to make sure it's cooked through. This may, of course, get you slightly drier or overcooked patties.
The popcorn was clearly there, though sadly it made no difference. More of a gimmick than anything, I'm afraid.
On two out of four tacos, there was a bit too much burnt taste, probably from the toasting of the tacos or possibly one or two slightly burnt popcorn kernals. Unfortunately a distracting taste.
Overall, I thought it could have somehow used a bolder flavour somewhere. Not necessarily tangy or hot, maybe just stronger.
The clean and easy way they could be eaten makes this order an easy choice for a party of 2 or four.

The wild boar was a surprisingly larger order. There's a gorgeous picture of how it looks on their website, but from the angle, you can't tell it's a long row of cubes approximately 1-1/2" to a side. Each chunk will probably take 2 bites.
This plate is best shared or ordered as a standalone light meal.
If you eat like a size 6 pigeon trying to slim down into a size 0 hummingbird, you should know it's not all lean meat. They just sliced it off the boar, fat and all. If you strip the fat (which isn't crispy and really worth keeping), suddenly you've lost about a third of your meal. The juice (delicious and sweet, and barely any heat) is in abundance and even if you throw away the fat, you can smother the exposed remainder properly.
In hindsight, there is a lot of merit to cutting out the fat because it really didn't add so much to the meal at all, and the taste could lend a heaviness to the dish and your dining experience overall.

The tres leche ("three milk cake") was plated beautifully but unfortunately lacklustre. It was also a light portion: imagine a regular North American sized cake wedge, shrink it down to half, and put a 1-inch-diameter scoop of green ice cream on top.
If you're worried about the sometimes pungent aroma that comes from too much milk, worry not. That said, there wasn't anything outstanding in taste at all. At $7, you could have gone elsewhere for a slice of cake two or three times as large and just as boring.

Overpriced at Romer's Burger Bar


Romer's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Yesterday I popped over to Romer's Burger Bar on West 4th at 5:30pm, hoping to beat any sort of dinner rush. The place was bare, as most restaurants typically are at that hour. When you go that early, you get prompt and attentive service, and, hopefully, nice window seats if you're inclined to watch the world go by or get a cool breeze in on a hot day -- and I got the latter when I asked for "someplace cool".

Big screen TVs are positioned to occupy the single diner, so between waiting for summer-clad hotties to go by and watching the latest adverts on high def TV, waiting for my burger wasn't so tedious at all.

There are so many restaurants to go to in Vancouver, and I wasn't sure when I'd be back, so I went for the "Gold" package -- fruity drink of pomegranate, cranberry, ginger beer splash ($5), "drunken donuts" ($5), and their most prestigious burger, the Ultimate Kobe Classic.

The drink was okay. It was basically a fruit juice mix, and there weren't any fruity bits, so it seemed a bit suspicious to me as to whether they were, as advertised, "non-alcoholic drinks are made from only the finest ingredients", or simply poured from Ocean Spray or other factory-prepped juices. There did, however, appear to be some bits (of ginger?) at the bottom. If you do get this, I recommend stirring it first as the ginger taste somehow sank to the bottom and for me and didn't appear strongly for that extra "kick" until later. It was fine for $5, which, I suppose isn't entirely overpriced as drinks in restaurants go. A Coors Light would have set you back the same.

I was told the donuts were deep-fried minis in a serving of 10, with 3 dips. No half order for the single diner wanting a lighter meal, alas. I got it for take-out, and it came in a brown box, plastic lined on the inside so there was no oil seepage.
They were very generously crusted with a sweet vanilla-coloured powder (was it sugar touched with frying oil?!), and there were three dipping sauces -- A milky chocolate (Nutella), a sour white cream liquid (limoncello?), and a khaki coloured watery sauce that was sweet with less bite than the white stuff (maple whisky?). The menu reads, "decadently fried, powdered sugar, Kahlua, Nutella, limoncello, maple whisky".
There was more than enough dipping sauce to completely coat each donut (i.e., you dunk the whole thing in and swirl it around to coat it entirely, rather than do it the movie-cop way and delicately tip one end and take a bite).
In any case, it was pretty tasty, but a bit heavy-feeling after a meal. Best if you had a tangy drink to wash it down with and clear your palate.

On to the burger! Here, I ought to preface my disappointment by saying that Romer's claims to do up their burgers with "all-natural Heritage Farms range-fed Angus beef, natural Fraser Valley pork, turkey, free-range chicken or wild salmon flat-top seared for succulent flavour and juiciness". Okay. Burgers are typically $9-12, mostly about $10. Okay.
If you go, pay attention to this as you're paying for more than taste -- You're paying to support a different style of farming.

That said, The Ultimate Kobe Classic is made with Kobe beef, and that's an entirely different animal. These alcoholic bovines drunk on sake are definitely not from around here as to bear the Kobe trademark, Kobe beef must be born in Japan, fed in Japan, castrated in Japan, and killed in Japan for starters.
(It's possible that the menu really meant "Kobe-style" beef, which is a knock-off of the real thing and with theoretically little difference in taste.)
The Kobe beef burger weighs in at TWENTY-FOUR DOLLARS ($24), with NO SIDE DISH. Not even a half order of cheap-ass fries. (Although, granted, some waist-conscious people might not have wanted a side with their burger at all). That totally set up my expectation. Glowbal has Kobe beef steaks at $18 per OUNCE, so cost-wise, it's probably in line with flying dead cow meat over from Japan. But can a burger be so delicious that all on its own, it was worth $24?!

The ad copy reads, "Delectable, mind-blowing: premium Kobe beef, foie gras paté, chanterelle mushrooms, onion strings, truffle mayo, garlic mustard, robust red wine demi-glaze on the side, because it’s that special."
When it came on the plate, it *looked* big, but that was because of the crispy fried onion strings. Once you squashed it down to fit in your mouth, it was little bigger than a McDonald's Big Mac. And I'm taking points off for a patty that was smaller than the cross-section of your bun.

As mentioned, it came with a (small) amount of demi-glaze. Unlike a French Dip Sandwich where you are expected to dip-and-eat (sort of like a donut with coffee), and are therefore provided with a lot of dip, there's very little sauce here. You're not meant to drown your burger, just moisten it a bit.

And you'll probably need it because, if your burger is anything like mine, the meat was dry. Foie gras? Truffle? Didn't taste it. There as probably enough meat to cover up all the taste. And when I used the demi-glaze to moisten it, the "robust red wine" taste overpowered everything. On the up side, the bun and the porous burger drank up the sauce nicely, with no huge dripping mess.
It's not what you've got, it's how you use it. I really think they blew it here. Premium ingredients for sure, but nothing properly brought out in taste or experience.

Was it worth it for $24? You have a couple of options:
(a) Go to White Spot where you'll get unlimited fries on the side if you're up for that, plus you can treat a friend to the same. And the TWO platters combined would still weigh in at LESS than the single Kobe Beef Burger with no side dish. No all-natural anything obviously, so if you can't taste the difference anyway, go to White Spot or anywhere else instead.

(b) If you absolutely have to have Kobe Beef, it's a bit tricky to find apparently. It doesn't look like you can get it from the obvious choice, Kobe Restaurant on Alberni as their menu doesn't actually list Kobe Beef at all, curiously enough. Glowbal has an Australian Kobe steak at $18/ounce (a moderate 10 ounce steak would therefore cost you about five times what a typical Canadian or US beef steak order would set you back); they do, however, have a $2 Kobe Meatball. Either way, hopefully you'll get the straight-up Kobe beef and get to experience what the phenomenon is all about. Hopefully, it'll be worth $18 a bite.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Slow Food at Miku Restaurant


Miku Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Miku Restaurant first got my attention when I poked around the Dine Out Vancouver site to see who'd landed the Best Bite Awards this year:
  • Best Appetizer - COAST Restaurant
  • Best Entrée - MIKU Restaurant
  • Best Dessert - COAST Restaurant
  • Best BC Wine Pairing - The WESTWARD HO!
  • Best Overall Dine Out Menu - COAST Restaurant
  • Best Service - MAURYA Indian Cuisine
In what used to be The Spotted Prawn Bistro, a place reputed with so-so food and less than so-so service, revitalized with refreshing and vibrant decor, Miku Restaurant serves pricey sushi that looks great and tastes good if you take it slow.

I dropped by on a Wednesday Celebration of Light fireworks night to find it packed and gave it a pass, to come back the following week for lunch. A missed connection meant that I was, alas, dining alone. :-(
I got there around 12:15pm and found it not so busy that I couldn't be seated right away. By 12:30pm, however, the lunch crowd had packed the place and some accepted to sit at the "bar", looking on the chefs preparing meals out in the open. When I left shortly before 1pm, although many diners had left, there was still a short lineup at the front door.
The place was definitely busy enough that the plainclothed manager was helping with the service.

No hottie-dressed buxom servers here! The wait-staff wore basic black everything and were too busy to be anything but run ragged, especially when even the slightest flaw on a plating meant it had to be sent back. I saw a server bring back a plate where one end piece of sushi had tipped over (and, presumably, the filling had partially fallen out) for the chef to delicately salvage the presentation.
The black shirt tops may have been standard issue because the early afternoon hostess who showed me to my table had a slightly-too-small one, which results in gapes between the buttons. (I, of course, averted my eyes -- Yeah, right.)

The atmosphere was trendy restaurant and the table arrangements not excessively claustrophobic. The ambiance was more like a Robson Street izakaya with staff yelling Japanese sound bites back and forth. No coordinated bowing and shouts of "irashaii" to spotlight you when you enter, but noisy nevertheless.
I thought it a shame as the shielded location in the Guinness Tower (1055 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V6E 2E9) gives it a chance to be a quiet oasis amid the downtown bustle: The Tower's lobby is spacious and generally quiet; right outside is a generous patio and a small park, the latter rather infrequently usedl; and the distance from the restaurant's glass walls to the nearest traffic is considerable.

For lunch I went with the "Premium Select" ("selection"?) -- "Chef's selection of aburi, oshi, temari, roll & rose sushi (12 pieces)". It arrived quite promptly and beautifully plated, and looking deceptively skimpy for lunch. One has to remember, however, that each slab of sushi goodie sits on rice, and it was overall a not-overly-filling lunch, with room for dessert.
I was a bit disappointed to find three duplicated items, but it still looked like a varied set. A hot bowl of soup came shortly after. There was the usual thinly sliced ginger, but no wasabi (which wasn't at all necessary as there wasn't a strong "fishy" smell or taste to the fish). A touch of soy sauce had already been integrated into the sushi.

Weighing in at $26 before the new 12% HST, this plate isn't your typical bulk sushi and at almost $2.50 per piece, you really ought to take it slow and savour each bite.
The portions were bite sized, and you can put the entire piece into your mouth in one go. Some sushi places give a slightly more generous portion, but that means you occasionally have to take two bites, and the fish or octopus or whatever sitting on top of the rice doesn't always want to be cleanly severed by your front teeth, resulting in inconvenience and possibly a mess.

Overall, if you are willing to go slow, you may taste enough of a difference in quality to justify the price tag. Otherwise, stick to sushi from your local supermarket. For half the cost, you could go to an all-you-can-eat sushi outfit if you are willing to risk what might be substandard or even unacceptable quality and smother the bad bits with soy sauce, wasabi, and/or ginger slices. Either way, you'll get more pound per penny than coming to Miku Restaurant.

For dessert, the most interesting item seemed to me the Green Tea Opera -- "layers of green tea almond sponge infused with espresso and Brandy chocolate ganache, azuki red bean and green tea butter cream served with green tea ice cream & crunchy wafer".
Unlike your usual chocolatey goodness Opera Cake (that generally looks like a fine-dining Nanaimo Bar with more but thinner layers), this one was green of course and soft-wet.
It came with a single small scoop of green tea ice cream sitting on perfectly concealed crushed peanuts. I thought the cake could have used a bit more texture on the inside, maybe a wafer or a layer of crunchy bits of something, but it was still tasty overall.
Whether you will consider the slight portion, slightly smaller than a standard chocolate bar in volume, to be fair value for $12 is debatable.

The final bill for a single diner (me) with no drinks, was $38 + tax + $10 tip, for just over $52. Ouch.

Pictures and more reviews for Miku Restaurant can be found at Yelp.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Great things about video games

Surely one of the great allures of video games is the simple way in which you can be rewarded for vigilante justice and solving the ails of the world through deadly violence. The bad guys can be unambiguously identified, and since their solution to everything is to try to kill you (and will do so unto death), you are forced to defend yourself with lethal force. Bad guys die, you collect the reward, problem solved.

Hmm...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another friend disappears

If you've had a peek into the history of this blog, you may remember that late last year, I went to Germany to visit an old friend, and a few days in, her father died.
She was already contracted to work in Austria shortly after, and after some wrangling decided a change of scenery might do her good. I kept in touch with e-mail and the occasional phone call while she was in Austria, and when she returned to Germany earlier this year. Her new challenge was finding another position as, while she was in Austria, her seasonal German employer bailed on her and hired someone else.
She was always spotty on e-mail so I really hadn't expected anything that way. I had trouble reaching her on the phone, but in the last month or so, I couldn't reach her at all. Finally I left a couple of voicemails expressing that I still wanted to keep in touch and asked what the latest developments were.
Last week I sent her a birthday card for her August birthday.

I do think, however, that she's fallen off the radar, just like so many friends I've had in the past. We are close for a little while, but invariably they were in some sort of crisis and my listening ear and steady shoulder were all they needed. Afterwards, POOF -- they're gone.
It's the story of my life. And it sure makes getting into a long-term relationship with someone really rather tricky.

Sometimes I think this incarnation of my life is all about helping people with non-judgmental empathy (and maybe that's why I'm still at the Vancouver Crisis Centre after 9 years). And maybe why I'm still single. If I actually get into a serious relationship, I don't know if I'd still feel as approachable for my listening ear.

Oy vey.