New White Spot at Kensington Square in North Burnaby!

A new White Spot just opened for business in my neighbourhood and I thought it’d be a perfect excuse to write an impromptu restaurant review.

For those of you who don’t know White Spot is a chain of restaurants in British Columbia and Alberta and today I enjoyed an appetizing and delicious lunch at their newest location at Kensington Square in North Burnaby.

If today was any indication of what to expect in the future I am confident that this location will do very well. The food was good, the service was excellent, and the whole place had a very nice ambience.

The Kensington Square White Spot.
The Kensington Square White Spot.

This is in stark contrast to the ABC Country Restaurant that once occupied this location. Housemate ate breakfast there every week but I didn’t like it. I thought the food was disgusting, the service was piss-poor, and the atmosphere left a lot to be desired. They really seemed to cater to senior citizens and people coming out of church. I was not their demographic and the servers let me know this…

Those days are no more!

One of the White Spot managers explained that they hope to attract a diverse crowd of customers including seniors, students, young adults, and everyone in-between and I told him that I had no doubt they’d achieve their objective.

The people at White Spot completely gutted the old ABC location and essentially rebuilt the entire restaurant from the inside out. Back when it was ABC a large portion of the restaurant was sectioned off for some reason and I never saw anyone use it. The new White Spot, however, has filled the entire place up with booth seats and a very attractive bar area.

The bar area at White Spot. The servers said there is no booze on the shelf yet!
The bar area at White Spot. The servers said there is no booze on the shelf yet!

And yes, the food was delicious! I’ve been sick for the last week and this was the first actual meal I’ve had in days.

I ordered some tea, a Legendary Combo (a hamburger with some kind of salad), and a vanilla milkshake.

I am pleased to say that the burger was made from local ingredients and that the patty was fresh – not frozen. The salad was salad. I’m sure someone who likes salads would say that it was delicious but I only eat them because they contain essential vitamins. And yes, the tea and the milkshake were also delicious!

The servers were very attentive, friendly, and prompt. I will definitely make a habit of eating here and Housemate has also indicated that he will join me on future visits!

The tea was excellent!
The tea was excellent!
The Legendary Combo with a salad!
The Legendary Combo with a salad!
A close up of the burger! Tee-hee-hee!
A close up of the burger! Tee-hee-hee!
Vanilla milkshake!
Vanilla milkshake!

President’s Choice brand Nanaimo bars!

I made some Nanaimo bars today!

Nanaimo bar
Nanaimo bar

The other day Housemate came home and happily exclaimed that he had purchased some Nanaimo bars and triumphantly plopped this box down on the counter:

President's Choice brand Nanaimo bar baking mix
President's Choice brand Nanaimo bar baking mix

“Uhm… those aren’t Nanaimo bars,” I tell him. “It’s just the mix to make them!”

“Oh damn! You’re kidding right?” he asked.

“Of course it’s a mix,” I exclaim. “Who the hell stores Nanaimo bars in a box on a store shelf? They are full of butter for crying out loud. They need to be refrigerated!”

Perhaps Housemate can be forgiven as he’s originally from Vancouver and Campbell River – not Nanaimo! One of the best things about being from Nanaimo is that people across Canada associate my hometown with a dessert.

What is a Nanaimo bar? The Wikipedia article describes it as a dessert that’s made from a “wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavoured butter icing which is covered with melted chocolate made from chocolate squares.”

But there are many different recipes.

During a performance of his song “Nanaimo” on CBC Radio One’s North by Northwest in the late ‘90s, for example, Gabriola Island folk singer Bob Bossin claimed that Nanaimo bars contained: smoke and peelers, cocaine dealers, redneck loggers, non-stop talkers, and hookers with daughters.

Here’s all the stuff I used to make it with:

The Nanaimo bar mix out of the box
The Nanaimo bar mix out of the box

But the recipe I made came from a prepackaged mix that was shipped in from Ontario. The recipe also calls for a en egg, a bit of milk and butter. Lots of butter.

Unfortunately we didn’t have any butter so the very non-Nanaimo Housemate actually suggested I use margarine instead.

It’s been a while since I’ve lived in Nanaimo but I know that the secret to a good Nanaimo bar is good fresh butter. So, Housemate kindly offered to drive me to the store where I got managed to purchase this essential ingredient.

The egg and most of the butter was used in the base mix:

Nanaimo bar base
Nanaimo bar base

The filling powder was mixed with milk and some butter and then spread across over the base:

Nanaimo bar filling
Nanaimo bar filling

The remainder of the butter was mixed with a packet of chocolate chips in a saun pan which was then poured over the top of the filling:

Nanaimo bar topping
Nanaimo bar topping

It’s actually a very good Nanaimo bar that’s as good as anything you might find at your local bakery. It’s much better than the Starbucks Nanaimo bars. My only complaint is that they don’t give you enough custard filling. I like a lot of filling in my Nanaimo bar.

Thank you Housemate for making this treat possible!

Ice cream tub art!

Usually the companies who produce four litre tubs of ice cream don’t put a lot of thought into the design of the lids so I was pleasantly surprised to see the incredibly cute and whimsical “lid art” on the four litre tubs of Western Family brand ice cream when I was shopping at Save-On-Foods last week.

The good people at Overwaitea Food Group, which owns Save-On-Foods, have gone above and beyond the competition in awesome ice cream tub art and I feel they deserve recognition with their vanilla, chocolate, Neapolitan, tiger tail and chocolate tubs.

Western Family Chocolate Ice Cream
Apparently cute robots need Western Family Chocolate Ice Cream in order to function!

“The characters make it more fun and attractive and we certainly like to have fun in our department and had a lot of fun picking the characters out for the tubs,” says Brian Heppell, general manager of corporate brands at Overwaitea Food Group.

Heppell notes that the lids were designed to appeal to both adults and children – especially mothers who have children aged one through 12.

Western Family Vanilla Ice Cream
The Abominable Snowman deals with his depression by gorging on vanilla ice cream.

“A majority of our shoppers, about 80 per cent, are female and we think of someone who is buying a four litre tub as a ‘heavy user,’” he says. “They are mostly female, many possibly have kids and they might be getting ice cream for a birthday party”

Western Family Tiger Tail Ice Cream
That cat's gonna get fat... and diabetic! Just like Khan!

Heppell, who has been with the company for nearly 40 years, says they designed images that are identifiable by children and parents but not trademarked.

He says that the lids were designed by a Richmond graphic design company which has worked with Overwaitea for nine years.

Western Family Neapolitan Ice Cream
The ice cream matches the clown's hair! Hah! He kinda looks like my brother Gino...

“We pride ourselves on the local aspect,” says Heppell who points out that the product beneath the lid is produced in Chilliwack from Canadian ingredients . “We have been around for nearly 100 years and we like to engage with local suppliers and services and so we work with a local design company. We live and work here too.”

I love Overwaitea!

Truth in advertising: frozen dessert

Recently Housemate came home with a big smile on his face. “Ice cream sandwiches were on sale at Safeway for only $1.99!” he exclaims.

I don’t even need to turn around and look at what he bought to know that it’s just too good to be true. Heavily discounted “ice cream” is always a bad sign.

“Yeah, look at the box before you get excited,” I say without turning away from my computer.

“Oh crap!” he says. “It’s expired!”

“Look closer at the box!” I tell him knowing that he routinely buys frozen dessert that he assumes is ice cream.

“Oh! Frozen dessert! I’m sorry – I’ll buy some real ice cream next time,” he promises.

Here is what he bought:

Lucerne Frozen Dessert Sandwiches
Lucerne Frozen Dessert Sandwiches

According to Dairy Farmers of Canada frozen desserts are made with oils such as coconut oil or palm kernel while ice cream is made with milk and milk ingredients such as cream, milk powder, and whey powder. I wrote a complaint to Breyer’s about this before and this was their response. I don’t like frozen dessert – I think it tastes awful.

And this is what the real ice cream sandwiches look like:

Lucerne Ice Cream Sandwiches
Lucerne Ice Cream Sandwiches

When I looked at the box of the frozen dessert sandwiches I was astonished to see that Lucerne, Safeway’s in-store brand for dairy products, featured the words “frozen dessert” in the same stylized font as their ice cream sandwiches. This sort of honesty in product labelling is refreshing as ice cream manufacturers have a tendency to obscure the fact that some of their products are frozen dessert.

This tub of Breyers frozen dessert is a perfect example:

Breyers frozen dessert
Breyers frozen dessert

“Rich and creamy” and “French Vanilla” are written in prominent text while “frozen dessert” is buried in the corner in the smallest text on the front of the tub. It’s easy to see how many shoppers might buy this product assuming that it is, in fact, ice cream. I detest this form of deceptive marketing and I believe hat Unilever (which owns Breyers) is doing this intentionally in an attempt to bilk consumers into buying their inferior product line, thus lowering our standards for dessert.

I always read the fine print to ensure that my ice cream is ice cream and I do appreciate that Lucerne has made this process so much easier. While it may not seem like a big deal I believe it’s a symbolic gesture that shows respect for the consumer.

And yes… Housemate is forever banned from purchasing any dessert for this house!

Licorice ice cream

Have you ever had licorice ice cream? It’s my favourite flavour but it’s so darn hard to find so I was absolutely thrilled to learn that my neighbourhood ice cream place, Gleburn Soda Fountain and Confectionary, had just added Licorice Marble ice cream to their menu. I’ve gone there twice this week for a scoop… or two.

Glenburn uses Birchwood Dairy ice cream which has a 16 per cent butterfat content. This means it tastes really good.

Licorice ice cream at Glenburn.
Licorice ice cream at Glenburn.

Birchwood describes their licorice marble flavour as “a black licorice flavour based marbled with a dark black licorice.” I thought it was very good. The licorice flavour is on the light side – it’s not overpowering. That being said, it carries a nice blend of flavours that meld well with the cream. The colour is very light and it has a pleasant aftertaste. It’s a definite must for any licorice lover.

My all-time favourite licorice ice cream was produced by Island Farms but they have discontinued it in recent years. They used to sell it in those big 11.4 litre bulk tubs. Back when I was growing up and until about 2010 it was not terribly uncommon to find a gas station or corner store on Vancouver Island that sold it.

It was as black as a slab of cold coal and packed a very potent dose of licorice flavour that just grabbed your taste buds. You had to be careful eating this ice cream if you wearing a white shirt. I hope they bring this flavour back.

Island Farms Licorice ice cream at the Old Country Market in Coombs B.C. 2009.
Island Farms Licorice ice cream at the Old Country Market in Coombs B.C. 2009.

Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery

Excerpt

When people ask where I live I always tell them “North Burnaby” as opposed to “Burnaby”.

I love this area and one of the best things about it is the abundance of really cool small businesses along Hastings such as the Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery which opened for business in early March.  I love ice cream more than just about anything and I’m always on the lookout for a quality product. I don’t want gelato, sorbet, or frozen dessert, god damn it! I want ice cream! And yes, Glenburn delivers.

They don’t mess about – they use high quality Birchwood Dairy ice cream which has one of the highest fat contents of any ice cream out there. It’s absolutely delicious and you can taste the difference right away.

Many of their products, including the ice cream, are made in British Columbia and their sauces are made in-house with local fruit. The shop is set up to emulate a mid-century soda fountain complete with chrome appliances, old stools which the owner imported from an actual 1940s diner in the States, and a long counter that reminds me of Woolworth’s.

The ownerss, Robert and Ron LaQuaglia, clearly take pride in their business and the community it serves. And yes, North Burnaby Dairy Queens be warned – you guys have some serious competition!

Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery
Glenburn reflects the character of the Burnaby Heights.
Glenburn reflects the character of the Burnaby Heights.
70-year-old stools! w00t!
70-year-old stools! w00t!
I think these are soda fountains.
I think these are soda fountains.
My friend Heidi refused to let lactoce intolrance get in the way of ice cream.
My friend Heidi refused to let lactoce intolrance get in the way of ice cream.
Heidi enjoyed a Canadian Mint sundae which contains mint chocolate chip ice cream, hot fudge, and toasted almonds.
Heidi enjoyed a Canadian Mint sundae which contains mint chocolate chip ice cream, hot fudge, and toasted almonds.
I had a vanilla sundae with strawberries. It was delicious!
I had a vanilla sundae with strawberries. It was delicious!
The menu!
The menu!


Birthday cake flavour Oreo cookies [Video]

Birthday cake flavour Oreo cookies
Birthday cake flavour Oreo cookies

The other day I discovered the limited edition birthday cake flavour Oreo cookies at Safeway.

I like Oreos and absolutely love the taste of birthday cake so this was a must-have treat for Nathaniel. When I saw they were on sale for only $2.99 I had to pinch myself and ask if it wasn’t, in fact, my early already.

These cookies are that delicious!

They look just like regular Oreo cookies except there are colourful birthday sprinkles in the icing which tastes just like cake batter. Many bloggers have complained that they are over-sweet but I find that the cake taste really goes well with the chocolate wafer and it all balances out nicely.

They certainly have more kick and pizzazz than the regular Oreo cookies which have a comparatively bland taste. I’ll certainly buy these again and hope they are not just a temporary promotion that will be gone from the shelves in a few months.

Here’s my video review:

Shamrock Shake reviews – McDonald’s vs. Dairy Queen

I would like to with everyone, and their cats, a happy St. Patrick’s Day. But unlike many people I’m not going to overstate my connection to the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. My family left Belfast decades before I was born and I only knew one relative, my great-grandmother, who actually grew up in the “old country”.

Nana, as we called her, liked mint. So do I.

For me St. Patrick’s Day is all about Shamrock Shakes at McDonald’s! Or it was, until this year. I used to get them when I was a kid and recall they were green, minty and delicious. I hadn’t had one in over 10 years so I recently decided it was time to go to McDonald’s and order a Shamrock Shake for Paddy’s sake!
I was terribly disappointed.

Shamrock Shake from McDonald's
Shamrock Shake from McDonald's

Firstly, I forgot that McDonald’s milkshakes have the consistency of paste and feel very heavy in the stomach. They are not easy to drink through a straw and it feels like swallowing plastic. Secondly, there was not nearly enough green food colouring or mint flavour in the shake and they didn’t really bother to mix it in well so it just tasted like a regular vanilla milkshake with the occasional hint of toothpastey mint.

They used to taste so much better.

I was determined to ring in the holiday with a proper Shamrock Shake – McDonald’s or no McDonald’s. So, I went to a nearby Dairy Queen and asked if they could make me a green mint-flavour shake. They said they could and they did. It cost a little bit more than the McDonald’s shake but it tasted so much better.

Dairy Queen "Shamrock Shake"

Both the mint flavour, reminiscent of a mint Aero bar, and the colour were mixed thoroughly with the milk and ice cream to create a consistent flavour and colour. Like all shakes at Dairy Queen it was both light and creamy and easily consumed through a straw. They also add a bit of Cool Whip type topping as well as a cherry.

McDonald’s apple pies with ice cream!

I love apple pie and ice cream but sometimes I can’t be bothered to make the pie or buy it from the grocery store.  That’s why I’m grateful for the McDonald’s near my house where I can buy two apple pies for about $1.39.

Some people will eat the pies as-is but not me. I like to take them home, put them in a bowl, microwave them for a minute, and then top it with some vanilla ice cream. It is a delicious and affordable snack for anyone with access to a McDonald’s and a microwave.

For variety I recommend trying the other pie flavours such as Oreo or wild-berry or even mixing them up to create a new and exotic twist on a fast-food standard.

But whatever you decide to do, enjoy the experience. You only live once!

Bon appétit!

Take two apple pies and place them in a microwave safe bowl.
Take two apple pies and place them in a microwave safe bowl.
Plop the pies in the microwave for about a minute and then put some ice cream on top.
Plop the pies in the microwave for about a minute and then put some ice cream on top.

Housemate enjoys crappy cereal

This afternoon Housemate decided to buy some puffed wheat.

“It’s cheap and I like it,” he said. “Also, it costs less than Sugar Crisp.”

I used to eat this crap as a kid and I really didn’t like it. I still don’t. It tastes like Styrofoam and despair.

A bag of Safeway brand toasted puffed wheat.
A bag of Safeway brand toasted puffed wheat.