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Posts Tagged ‘Bella Gelateria’

Akemi’s birthday…

Picking up a selection of home made marshmallows at Achimallows pop-up stand.

Picking up a selection of home made marshmallows at Archimallows pop-up stand.

The selection

The selection

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Birthday lunch at Bel Cafe.  Banh Mi for me.

Birthday lunch at Bel Cafe. Banh Mi for me.

And spicy chicken salad and a matcha latte for Akemi.

And spicy chicken salad and a matcha latte for Akemi.

And some hazelnut drags to go.  I'm a sucker for those complimentary samples.

And some hazelnut dragees to go. I’m a sucker for those complimentary samples.

New running shoes, a.k.a. new chew toys for Lulu.

New running shoes, a.k.a. new chew toys for Lulu.

Then, over to Main Street to check out the Candy Meister truck.

Then, over to Main Street to check out the Candy Meister truck.

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And, of course, her favorites - and the reason we chase this truck around town - the handmade marshmallows.

And, of course, her favorites – and the reason we chase this truck around town – the handmade marshmallows.

An afternoon walk/roll with the dogs.

An afternoon walk/roll with the dogs.

Doggy bath time.

Doggy bath time.

Sushi dinner at Miku Restaurant

Sushi dinner at Miku Restaurant

Drinks.  For her, some sort of Yuzi liquor.

Drinks. For her, some sort of Yuzi liquor.

For me, the sake sampler.

For me, the sake sampler.

And the "lotus root salad" that was served, completely devoid of lotus roots.  When I asked about this, I was informed that they were out.  Really?

And the “lotus root salad” that was served, completely devoid of lotus roots. When I asked about this, I was informed that they were out. Really? On the bright side, our sushi was served with the expected fish.

And, instead of birthday cake, Akemi opted for birthday gelato at Bella Gelateria.  Yes, it's that good!

And, instead of birthday cake, Akemi opted for birthday gelato at Bella Gelateria. Yes, it’s that good!

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…The Prodigal!

1Another Carl Binder-san spectacular.  I loved this episode even more on repeat viewing.  It’s got action, humor, and high-stakes developments with all of our characters in play (even Zelenka, Lorne, and Amelia Banks).  Fast-paced fun!

And Akemi agreed.  She laughed out loud a couple of times, jumped at others, and seemed just as anxious as Teyla when she was in hiding with her baby.  The night time establishers of the city all lit up never fail to amaze, and the “really cool fighting scenes” in this one wowed her as well, especially the final showdown at the top of the tower (Again, thanks to Mark Savela and our VFX crew and James Bamford and our stunts crew).  Her only quibble with this episode: “I’m so sad I didn’t see any scenes with Jewel.  Where’s Jewel?”  I dunno.  Night off?

She was at her most animated when Sheppard almost tumbles off the tower and is left dangling: “Now Mike Dopud can take over team!”

When Teyla approaches Michael hanging on by his fingertips: “Kick him off.”

And when she does just that: “What?!  He isn’t really dead, is he?”  And when I informed her that, yes, he was: “Wow.  Michael die.  Are you sure?  Who will they fight?”  No one!  The last six episodes of the final season will feature scenes of them sitting around, talking about their feelings.

And a closing observation as the end credits started to roll: “Sheppard never die, ne?  Don’t you think so?  Why not?”

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The other night, Akemi and a few of our closest friends were fortunate enough to attend a Gelato 101 class hosted by the award-winning James Coleridge (winner of the 1st “Maestro Gelatiere Award” at the Florence Gelato Festival, and considered one of the world’s top artisan gelato makers) at his Bella Gelateria in downtown Vancouver.

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Rob and Steve

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Jodi, Akemi (brought her own apron), and Hillary.

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The Master of Ceremonies: James Coleridge.

James, a graduate of Carpigiani Gelato University, started off by giving us an overview of the world of gelato, pointing out the differences between gelato and the more readily available ice cream (gelato has roughly half the amount of fat and air, and is actually served at warmer temperatures).  He talked about his education in Italy and a reprimand he received for daring to question the prevalent use of chemicals in the gelato-making process.  To his credit, James doesn’t criticize those who make use of the chemical mix, instead lauding them for trailblazing the gelato movement in North America.  All the same, he eschews the mixes and chemicals in favor of premium, all-natural ingredients.  It’s something he feels he owes to not only his customers, but his family as well.

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The Bella Gelateria selection.

Following the preliminary introduction, we were ushered into the laboratorio (Italian for “laboratory”, natch).  Apparently, most gelato shops maintain an air of secrecy surrounding their products and recipes, so no photography is ever permitted within their walls.  He, on the other hand, has a more open approach and invited us to snap as many pics and videos as we wished.  Which was great because it meant I didn’t have to rely on my hidden button cam.

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Once we were in the kitchen, the real hands-on instruction (and tasting) began!

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My fellow students

James talked about his education in Italy and winning first prize at last year’s Florence Gelato Festival for his toasted pecans, sea salt and maple syrup gelato.  He started us off by allowing us to sample an unbelievable caramel base.   We then moved onto a base for one of his chocolate ice creams…

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Steve “The Cleaner” Boska polishes off the chocolate base.

We were then offered a taste of the various chocolates that go into the different gelatos – only the best of the best, Michel Cluizel, ranging from creamy 45% milk to darker than dark 99%.

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Let the sampling begin!

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The Cluizel collection

We melted some dark chocolate, heated it in a pot, then blasted it with this industrial mixer…

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Rob takes her out for a spin.

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Akemi at the wheel.

After which the whipped mixture was poured in here -

1- to complete the process.  The mixture gradually set and cooled, growing denser as it spun.  The process was downright hypnotic.

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Rob checks out a piece of equipment for checking out sugar levels.  Oh, steering clear of sugar?  Well, you can go sugar-free – but you’ll need roughly 9-10 times more of whatever chemical sugar substitute you use to achieve the same melting point.

Then, it was paddling time!

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Once around the lake, James – then home.

We each took turns using the ice cream paddle to scoop the finished gelato out without breaking the machine, paddle, or our jaws.

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Jodi shows us how it’s done.

Further tasting ensued.  James demonstrated the correct way to spoon a sample, using a sideways swipe that yielded roughly 3-4 times more gelato than the the more traditional straightforward scoop.  We sampled one of his newest, a Limoncello Cheesecake gelato that was so good I ended up buying myself another scoop after the class ended.

We also sampled the greatest pistachio gelato I’ve ever had made from the world’s greatest pistachio’s (Bronte pistachios that are the most expensive of expensive Sicilian pistachio’s which are, in turn, the most expensive of Italian pistachio’s which are, in turn, the most expensive of the world’s pistachios).

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Akemi is rewarded for her learning skills.  And cute apron.

Fun, informative and, above all, delicious!

Screw television.  I’m going to Gelato University!

Welcome to Bella Gelateria – Home of Old-World Handcrafted Gelato

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Akemi and I tried to make the most of the last few days of the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival by checking out some of the more intriguing offerings we had yet to sample…

1Canadian Classic: 100% pure hazelnut with 38% milk chocolate served with four pieces of artisan chocolate.

At: Schokolade 2263 East Hastings Street, Vancouver

http://www.schokoladecafe.com/

Sweeter than most of the more bitter dark chocolate varieties we sampled and more straightforward than the sweeter, but layered, white chocolate entries.  Simply a nice, rich roasted favor.

1The Gold Medal: Salted Pecan & Maple Syrup (the gold medal winner from the 2012 Gelato Competition in Italy), served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

At: Bella Gelateria 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

An enormous serving of rich, premium dark chocolate served with fantastic banana bread for half the price of some of the festival’s high-end entries.  Bitter, sweet, salty, and incredibly satisfying.

1The Lumberjack: Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup hot chocolate served with a Douglas fir-infused chantilly, maple & vanilla shortbread. 

At: Thomas Haas 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

I wasn’t sure about the Douglas fir-infused chantilly but, like other delicious instances during this hot chocolate festival, I was pleasantly surprised.  Also something else I discovered over the last few weeks: chocolate + maple syrup = killer combination.

1The King’s Cup – Ode to Elvis: Hot chocolate with peanut butter and banana served with a macaron or cookie.

At: Soirette Macarons & Tea 1433 West Pender Street, Vancouver. (Coal Harbour)

www.soirette.com

Inspired by what was purportedly Elvis’s favorite treat (fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches), this delectable drink combines all three ingredients to tasty effect.  The peanut crumble rim was genius.

1The Scandal of Singapore: Spicy dark chocolate with rice milk.

At: Beta 5 (http://shop.beta5chocolates.com/and The Juice Truck (usually found on the corner of Abbott and Water in Gastown).

I actually had it with almond milk instead and it was quite good, with just enough spice to catch the back of your throat but not linger too long.

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My final tally: 36 out of 60 flavors sampled.  Given that the festival was only 27 days long, I consider that a pretty respectable score.  And, now that it’s finally over, it’s time to pick my Top 5 Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival 2013 Favorites.  Drum roll, please…

Coming in at #5:

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Malteaser: Barley malt-infused hot chocolate served with salt caramel malt truffles.

Available: At Thomas Haas 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

Terrific!  I could have had two but I’m sure the sugar rush would’ve killed me.

A pleasantly surprising top five finisher – in the #4 spot:

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The Josiah: Basil drinking chocolate topped with housemade strawberry marshmallows.

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver
www.cocoanymph.co

Basil drinking chocolate?  Really?  Oh, yeah.  Really!  I was admittedly dubious but one taste thoroughly won me over.  The best hot chocolate I had that week.

A pleasantly unsurprising top-five finisher – at #3:

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Italian Honey Moon: Honey nougat and hazelnut made with Avalon Organic milk and Michel Cluizel chocolate served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available: At Bella Gelateria 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

I was leery at first.  Hot chocolate topped with shards of honey nougat? I love particulates (that’s what they call ‘em) in my ice cream, but in my drinking chocolate?  Well, they turned out to be a wonderful little textural addition to the drink.  I am now a hot chocolate particulate convert!

As a personal rule, fruit and chocolate don’t mix – and yet, inexplicably, defying all logic, it works perfectly here.  Coming in at #2 (and, incidentally, Akemi’s #1):

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Armoury Amour: Cocoa Barry  “Madirofolo”– a single plantation chocolate, kissed with raspberry and served with a mini lemon and basil ice cream sandwich.

Available: At Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

Well, damn, this was a surprise!  I’m not a fan of the fruit-chocolate combo and find raspberry a particularly reprehensible partner but this heavenly creation sang.  Akemi’s overall favorite so far and a definite Top 3 finisher for yours truly.  Loved the raspberry sugar rim.

Which brings us to my favorite hot chocolate of the festival.  At #1:

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Jasmine: 64% dark chocolate – origin: Ecuador. Infused with jasmine and served with choice of chocolate square.

Available: At Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Surprisingly spectacular.  Just the right chocolate married with the perfect balance of jasmine yields the most exquisite hot chocolate of the festival so far.

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And rounding out my Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival 2013 Top Ten: The King’s Cup – Ode to Elvis (Soirette), Pretty in Pink (Bel Cafe), Ohhh Canada (Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe)Blond Mystique (Secret Location), One in a Million (Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie, Cafe).

 

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Back when I was in San Diego for Comic Con, I ran into former Stargate: Universe writer-consulting producer Remi Aubuchon who was in town promoting Falling Skies, a scifi series he is showrunning for Dreamworks Television and TNT.  He informed me that he would be back in Vancouver to start production on the show’s third season sometime in August and that we should definitely get together.

Well, the other day I received an email from Remi informing me that he was Vancouver, prepping production, and had a window of dinner opportunity before crunch time.  The last time he was in town, we went to Ki, an overall underwhelming dining experience.  I sought to rectify that misstep by suggesting we head on over to one of my favorite local restaurants, Miku.

So we got together, caught up, talked shop, and enjoyed a great meal…

Special Guest Diner Remi Aubuchon

The soft shell crab karage.

The aburi (flame-seared) nigiri selection.  Highly recommended.

The Crunchy Scallop Roll.  Scallop, flying fish roe, and aonori tempura bits.

The Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi – my favorite dish on the menu which, not surprisingly, turned out being Remi’s favorite.  It packs a delightful jalapeno/cracked black pepper kick.

The Aburi Ebi Oshi Sushi.  Here, it’s more sweet and sour than spicy, with a combination of ume and lime zest doing the honors.

A much more successful Japanese dinner this time out.

Rather than order dessert, we walked the block down to Bella Gelateria for a couple of double scoops of gelato.

Continuing our trip down Atlantis memory lane…

THE GAME (315)

Great premise.

Hmmm.  For some reason I’m unable to approve comments.  I approve ‘em and then they magically unapprove.  Was ist los?

Today’s entry is dedicated to long-time blog regular Anne Teldy.  Wishing you a speedy recovery!

 

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Cookies for everyone! Compliments of Akemi.

Seriously.  How can anyone say no to freshly baked cookies, even if it means having them for breakfast?  In retrospect, they were the perfect food for what lay ahead, full of the carbohydrate and sugar energy I would need to get me through a grueling day of eating.

Akemi and I met up with our foodie friend, Simon, aka JYS, for a little culinary excursion, Vancouver-style.  The plan was to check out the new pasta place in Gastown, but it was closed, so we opted for my favorite sandwich place in town: Meat & Bread.  And, as usual, whenever I go, I always get…

The Porchetta

One of the many great things about this sandwich (beside the juicy pork, salsa verde, and fresh bun) are the bits of crisp crackling.  I know, I know.  I’m sure the daily sandwiches are equally fantastic – but I go with what I know.

The Day’s Special – beef.  Don’t recall the specifics but it looked delicious.  

Simon throws caution to the wind and goes for it.

We strolled over to Vancouver’s best dessert shop, Cadeaux Bakery, for lunch – only to discovery it was closed as well.  So we hopped into my cover and motored on over to Cordova Street for a sweet one-two (three, four) punch.

We started at Giovanne Cafe (better known as G) for three terrific desserts:

The Chocolate Zeppolle.  It’s about the size of a softball.  My favorite.

The cream in this one is very subtle but its buttery finish contrasts nicely with the sweet, fine sugar exterior.

The Hedgehog – Simon’s favorite.  Peanut butter, chocolate, and hazelnuts.

And, since we were right next door, we decided to check out the best gelato place in Vancouver: Bella Gelateria.

He’s gonna eat that.

I don’t mind admitting that, by this point, I was stuffed.  So instead of going with a particulate-heavy selection, I decided to go with a light palate-cleanser…

A little palate cleanser: vanilla gelato.

Well, I had planned to launch into that rant today but an early morning skype session with my old friends, Alexander and Sarah, temporarily defused much of the simmering anger.  I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before it comes to a boil though so don’t mope, the rant has been postponed, not cancelled.  Anyway, it was great to catch up with Ruemy and Sarah.  She, sweet and upbeat; he, bitter and blase. They’re the romantic equivalent of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Akemi and I were hoping to go down to Berlin for the wedding and maybe do a little Madrid and Paris (actually, a lot of Madrid and a little Paris) but it seems unlikely we’ll be able to swing it.  Still, I’m hopeful we can make it work later this year.  And, hopefully, Alex and Sarah will be able to reschedule their wedding accordingly.

A reminder to cast your ballot (and leave a comment for a chance to win a signed script) in our Greatest Season-Ending Cliffhanger in Stargate History poll.  Vote!

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Heading to Comic Con in a little less than a week to do a signing for my comic book, Dark Matter, and I thought it would be nice to offer those who swing by a shot at winning some cool giveaways.  In addition to copies of Dark Matter‘s first issue, I’ll also be offering up a shot at winning some Stargate-related merchandise like the signed script I featured in yesterday’s entry or this SG-1 100th Episode commemorative photo frame and keychain.  Awesome, no?  If you’ve got tickets for Comic Con (apparently they’re already sold out :() come on by for a chance to win:

Saturday, July 14th between 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Dark Horse Booth (#2615).

Hey, JYS – what restaurants have you got lined up?

A big thanks to Blake Linton, Kelley Hirst, Chad Hansen, Joseph Sardone, Martin James Keating, TheDudeDean and all the fans who helped Stargate: Universe clean up at the Constellation Awards the other day.  The show took home awards in the categories of Best Series, Best Actress (Ming-Na), Best Script (Twin Destinites), Best Technical Achievement (Joel Goldsmith), and Best Canadian Contribution to SF.

Congratulations also go out to my buddy James Coleridge who took home the prize for Best Gelato at the Florence Gelato Festival in (where else?) Italy.  I’m not surprised.  Ever since arriving in Vancouver, Akemi has always drawn comparisons between the food here and the food back in Tokyo.  It was always: “This isn’t very good. It’s better in Tokyo.” or “This is good, but it’s better in Tokyo.” or “This is great!  But it’s still better in Tokyo.”.  Until we went to Bella Gelateria (where James plies his tasty trade).  After sampling the ice cream there, it was the first and only time I’d heard her say: “This is better than Tokyo!”  Welcome to Bella Gelateria – Home of Old-World Handcrafted Gelato

Cool time-lapse video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory at the NASA Johnson Space Center:

Head on over and check out the cool space pics as well: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/this-is-our-planet-iss-video-tomislav-safundzic_n_1646944.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Three more episodes left to discuss in our stroll down Stargate: Atlantis memory lane…

MICHAEL (218)

In its earliest inception (under the working title Charly, a tip of the hat to Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon), the story tracked the capture of the wraith, his transformation, and the subsequent attempt to keep him in the dark which, of course, ends in a spectacular failure.  It was interesting but lacked something.  And, it was while we were in Carl’s office, discussing the fact that it needed some sort of twist, that I suggested we tell the story from Michael’s P.O.V.  Rather than let the viewers in on it from the get-go, make them an audience to the mystery.  This would allow them to connect with Michael and sympathize with him – and be thoroughly blindsided when we pulled the rug out from underneath them with the big reveal.  It was a small change in approach but it made quite a difference in execution.

Writer/Producer Carl Binder came through BIG TIME, delivering a gripping, emotionally resonant story that is at turns suspenseful, thought-provoking, and surprisingly controversial.  I love the little hints he sprinkles throughout the beginning of the episode – the fact that everyone is wary with the exception of Ronon who is downright hostile, Michael’s identification of the wealth technology, his nightmare, Teyla’s anxious look when he pins her during their sparring sessions and slams his hand down on her chest.  Brilliant.   And equally brilliant is the shocking “DAY 12″ – “DAY 10″ – “DAY 1″ session reveal.  As far as arc-driven episodes go, this one is seminal, developing the retrovirus and introducing one of the most complex villains in Stargate history.

Another standout guest star in Connor Trinneer whose portrayal of the confused and vulnerable Michael Kenmore elicits great sympathy, even in the darkest moments.

Rachel is equally terrific in this episode as Teyla demonstrates genuine compassion for a former enemy – something she will come to regret in later episodes.

Anybody catch McKay’s complaint about the lack of blue jello in the mess, an obvious callback to the blue jello references of SG-1?

One of the episode’s unintentionally amusing moments takes place in the infirmary where Michael spots the “Kenmore” calendar.  Perhaps even more startling than the coincidence of the shared name is the fact that Carson has marked one of the calendar days as “Dinner with Cadman”.  Word of advice to Carson: If you want to impress the girl you’re dating, start calling her by her first name.

This episode opens up the floor to some interesting moral and ethical debates.  An exchange late in the episode nicely encapsulates the dilemma:

HEIGHTMEYER:  We can’t kill him, Ronon. We’re the ones who put him in this position.

SHEPPARD: Hold on a minute, Doc. If we hadn’t given him the retrovirus, he’d still be a Wraith. We wouldn’t think twice about killing him.

TEYLA: But we did give him the retrovirus. We made him human. Now we have the responsibility to treat him as we would any other …

DEX (interrupting): He’s not human. He’s a Wraith.

In retrospect, the Michael experiment delivers mixed results.  On the one hand, it is a failure in that it costs an expedition member his life and creates a powerful new enemy with dangerous knowledge of Atlantis’s existence.  On the other hand, the transformation does work – albeit briefly – and offers hope of a powerful new weapon against the wraith.   And there’s something to be said for Sheppard’s “If we hadn’t given him the retrovirus, he’d still be a Wraith. We wouldn’t think twice about killing him.” argument since, despite the criticism directed at the retrovirus, it IS a far more humane alternative to simply killing the enemy.

What do you think?

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