La Cuisson 咖啡坊

la cuisson
La Cuisson

Something I have noticed in this city: Vancouver itself is a true, Pacific Northwest coffee-loving city, with absolutely no limits to how many Starbucks and/or specialty coffee shops can occupy a single block. In its suburb of Richmond, however, this trend is very obviously replaced  by bubble-tea houses. There is around the same number of Starbucks in the whole city of Richmond as there is within a half-mile radius in downtown Vancouver alone. It is, however, almost impossible to count the number of tea houses in Richmond.  

Unfortunately, for coffee lovers of this suburb, the best and most convenient roast would be from your own machine. At least, there aren’t many non-chain coffee places serving up a great cup of espresso in Richmond. A search led me to La Cuisson 咖啡坊, a real “coffee house” in Richmond. I have always passed by this place in the Union Squre Plaza, but have never gone in.

It’s a cozy little shop with about 7 tables. Many coffee confections – from machines, to giant bags of beans, to little exerpts about coffee sitting by the tables – surround you. There was one barista and one waitress working when we came, and several tables of people. The service is friendly and fast. They have beans from many different parts of the world. Hot drinks, cold drinks. There is tea on the menu for non-coffee drinkers, and aside from the pastries there is also a little snacks menu (I remember seeing toast and stuff).

I had the Americano, with a bit of crema, not a lot. I found it slightly lacking in aroma and body. Roast is very slightly bitter, acidity is low.

Americano
Americano

P chose the espresso with cookies. The cup and serving dish look pretty. Decent crema on the espresso.

Espresso and cookies
Espresso with cookies

NF’s latte, with little hearts. Unfortunately I had to use my cell phone to take these pictures so I apologize for the poor quality. I didn’t like the cup this came in…serving a latte with latte art in a run-of-the-mill coffee cup just doesn’t seem right. I tried a bit of this- it’s not bad, definitely better than chain stuff, but again I found it a bit lacking in aroma and body.

Latte
Latte

Supposedly all the treats in the store are home-made by the owner’s wife (I don’t think either were present when I visited). The cakes look pretty good. We ordered some biscotti. With almonds. Not bad. Taste like biscotti, which aren’t really my thing. They seem to like sprinkling powdered sugar on everything.

Biscotti
Biscotti

La Cuisson is not that much more expensive than your typical chain-coffee house, and I found it to be cheaper than many tea houses. They also sell machines and beans. All in all, a genuine coffee shop owned by a true coffee-lover. I’d come here again and try their other stuff.

 

La Cuisson 咖啡坊

1326-8368 Capstan Way, Richmond (In the Union Square Plaza)

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Tomato Fresh Food Cafe

Tomato Fresh Food Cafe

The day before my surgery last week, W and I had lunch at the Tomato Fresh Food Cafe. This would be their new home in Kits that opened this summer, after the Canada Line construction forced them to move from Cambie Street. I like their warm, casual, and inviting decor: the restaurant is brightly lit – mainly by skylight, there are large indoor trees, the restaurant is very spacious, and the bars and booths are comfortable. Definitely more trendy and sophisticated compared to the old Cambie location.

We arrived at about 1pm. The place was busy but not full, but they still make you sit in the little waiting area (with tables and comfy couches) for about 10 minutes before they seat you. We were seated by a big tree near the back of the restaurant.

W and I shared two sandwiches: the vegetarian with hummus and mayo. The hummus was OK. I ordered it on the sourdough (instead of the whole wheat). The sourdough was OK, not that sour, not that crusty, and I think there is some whole wheat flour in it. Overall, it was an OK sandwich.

Veggie sandwich

And we also ordered the lox and cream cheese on a bagel. I love lox and cream cheese. This was very good. (Though I have yet to compare it to the same thing at Siegel’s or Solly’s.) The smoked salmon and capers were quite fresh. The bagel itself was great. It was a sesame bagel, with a nice chewiness and slight sweetness to it. I wonder where they get their bagels from.

Lox and cream cheese

I like how things are freshly made here, and you can ask them to make a particular sandwich on the menu to your liking. The atmosphere is nice and relaxing, though if I was in a hurry for lunch I might just pack my own sandwich, because it does take a while for them to seat you and then for the food to come. Two little things: They didn’t refill our water even once, and a leaf fell on W’s head while she was eating her bagel. 😀 Otherwise, a nice place and I might revisit for the brunch menu.

Tomato Fresh Food Cafe

2486 Bayswater Street (and W. Broadway)

Naked Bagel @ Tim Horton’s

Tim’s Plain Bagel

The object of my Bagel Quest is to find bagels that are delicious as is – plain and without any added toppings. Indeed, my bagelogy is that if your plain bagels ain’t good, your bagels ain’t good, period. Anyway, last week I had a sliced, toasted plain bagel (“Naked Bagel”) from Tim Horton’s. Probably something everybody is familiar with. Uggh…not great. Semi-dense, not that chewy. It definitely lacked that slight sweetness that I love in bagels. In fact, there is hardly any flavor to it. That’s probably why they kept asking if I wanted cream cheese.

I’d say that if I was born without a sense of taste or smell, then I might be able to identify this object as a bagel just by mouthfeel.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Since I can’t eat much, there isn’t much to post in terms of turkey, Christmas baking, or giant festive meals, sorry. So … instead I shall post a picture of little sesame challah buns from the GC Bakery.  Challah is kind of festive, no? ^___^

challah

Latte Art @ Cafe Artigiano

Heart

Back from a little hiatus… which involved a hospital visit and being dissected. This unfortunately means that my Christmas posts will not be filled with extreme feasting. *sigh* However, I am backlogged on posts, so we should be bursting with food nevertheless! For Christmas Eve, I have decided to dedicate a post to something lovely: Coffee.

I was a tea drinker… once. I used to dislike coffee. Somehow, some when, I converted. At first, I could drink the instant stuff. Then I went from getting a tall Americano from Starbucks once in a little while, to having a grande every day. Now, the drip brew from Tim Horton’s tastes like shit to me. I am by no means a coffee connoiseur, I don’t even brew my own… but I salivate when I see nice espresso machines. I only know that I don’t like drip brew, I don’t like bitter, I don’t like over-roasted, and I prefer espresso-based drinks.

Caffè Artigiano is considered to be one of the best coffee houses in Vancouver, and has won the Canadian Barista Championship for several years. I love their espresso for what it tastes like, not the leaves and hearts that decorate the milk foam on top. Not that I don’t consider it a skill, but latte art in general doesn’t impress me so much, because sometimes I think of fancy-shmancy as a cover up for a less satisfactory product. This is, of course, not the case at Artigiano. Though I must admit the latte experience is more exciting with the art than without.

Their Americano is good, better and with a nicer crema than your typical Starbucks fare:

Americano

Now, if you have had a latte at Starbucks, and actually like it, then that’s just… too bad. I can still drink Starbuck’s Americano, but there is no way I’d have the latte at Starbucks. I don’t know if there is latte better than Artigiano’s: their’s has got a great aroma, very roasty, and not at all bitter. Which is very important. It is far superior than most latte’s out there, even without the latte art. This particular leaf wasn’t the prettiest, but it really doesn’t matter:

leaf

Due so soon?! A tall just isn’t enough! 

due

Before I tried it I had an impression that this place might be a little overrated. I don’t think it is – Artigiano is really that good. But maybe just how great you think it is depends on your specific coffee preferences and snobbiness, and what you order. Artigiano is pretty much the same price as Starbucks, but to me it is far better. Unfortunately they just aren’t close to where I live, and I don’t have an espresso machine.

Caffe Artigiano

5 locations in Vancouver: Pender, Hornby, Hastings, Park Royal, Kerridale.

The Ugly Duckling: Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato

The Okinawan purple sweet potato is one interesting tuber. From the outside, its tan, light brownish colored skin makes it a plain old root vegetable, and its thin, irregular shape puts it at the ugly end of the spectrum. (Not that any tuber can be considered remotely good looking, but some are not particularly ugly, like baby potatoes.) At first glance you might disregard it as another dirty root vegetable sprung from the ground; I definitely wouldn’t know it’s got anything to do with purple if it wasn’t labeled as such. In fact, given the price (over 2 dollars per pound) I might just roll my eyes and pick up a typical, cheap as dirt, sweet potato.

Purple potatos?

But! Never judge a book by its cover, or, er, a potato by its skin! Because underneath this very unassuming exterior hides a most majestic interior – a deep purple lightly speckled almost like a gem of sorts – that is deliciously rich, slightly moist, and very sweet. I didn’t believe it when first introduced, but the purple sweet potato is the Cinderella of root vegetables, and tastes as beautiful as it looks (inside).

Purple sweet potato

The purple sweet potato was introduced to Japan in the 1600s from China. Today, outside of Japan, it is mainly grown in Hawaii. In your Asian supermarket, you will find it falsely labeled as “Hawaiian Purple Yam“. According to this source the purple sweet potato is not the same as the ube, which is a yam that also has purple flesh but red skin. (And this Nerd really shouldn’t have to explain to her dear readers what the difference between a yam and a sweet potato is, should she now? ;-))

Although both the purple sweet potato and the ube is pureed into a purple mush to create various kinds of purple-colored desserts like cakes, pies, and ice cream, I think it is great to enjoy it as is. The best way to prepare it is not by baking, but steaming. Despite being sweet, it doesn’t have as much moisture as the normal sweet potato, so baking doesn’t quite produce a soft and moist potato but dries it out. (This was baking 2 hours at 375F – the thing was still hard and not mushy unlike baking a sweet potato.) On the other hand, steaming it on a plate sat on a water-filled pan or wok, is much faster and retains a bit of the moisture. From experience, not all are sweet, and skinnier potatos that don’t have giant bulges (or at least have a somewhat uniform diameter throughout) seem to be sweeter. But I am really no expert, so you might want to buy more than one in case I am not right.

Banished from the kitchen!

Day 3 of being completely cut off from the kitchen, because brand new floors are being installed this week (beautiful dark-colored tiles to replace a 2 decade-old, beige vinyl flooring, oooh!) This means no stove, no sinks, no cookware, flatware, no cooking. As painful as you can imagine. I took with me a few small bowls, my mug, some plastic eating utensils, my vitamins, and waved good-bye to my favorite room in the house, as though off on some godforsaken journey into… a fallout shelter.

Banishment, indeed.

On the weekend I made all my lunches for the week and stuffed the fridge full of food that  needed to be prepared/precooked/prewashed. Now I am watching it dwindle away without replenishment. *sob* (When will it end!!?) Luckily, a few things were saved from this disaster: the fridge, the microwave, and the toaster, now occupying various odd spots in the living room with the TV. The bare necessities of life right there, I’m telling you. With the fridge next to the couch as I watch TV, I am somehow reminded of a combination of both Homer Simpson’s reclining toilet chair, and King-Size Homer. 

King Size Homer

Now if only I could also work at home.