Ottawa: The Tea Party Cafe

Last Tuesday I was in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, to continue my own celebration of our country’s 150th birthday. I was on the hunt for a cool cafe with character because for me, a visit in a city is not complete without exploring at least one cafe or tea shop! Luckily for me, my cousin Flo, a local of Ottawa, knew just the place to take me!

Located on a quiet street inside the historical ByWard Market, The Tea Party Cafe is a cute cafe with two floors, and its own private patio, perfect for tea sipping and chatting with friends under the sunshine.

OttawaTea1

It has a charming yet funky vibe, with Alice in Wonderland drawings all over the walls.

OttawaTea6

OttawaTea7

We arrived around noon, and it was still calm. There were a few people outside in the patio, and only one table was occupied inside.

For vegetarians and vegans, the lunch menu was a delight. There were a variety of healthy options to choose from. I selected Daal Curry with basmati rice while Flo chose Thai Tofu Curry with basmati rice. We decided on the large size ($8.50) for our vegan dishes as opposed to small ($5.50), and were not disappointed with the generous portion size and price. Both dishes were extremely fresh and delicious!

OttawaTea5OttawaTea4OttawaTea8

After our lunch, we ordered the “Cream Tea” for dessert, which included a pot of tea and their famous scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Tea Party Cafe has over 50 types of tea to choose from including a series called “Alice in Wonderland”, which goes nicely with the theme of this cafe. The fun part of selecting our own tea was we could walk up to the tea shelves and open up any jar of tea to smell it, before deciding which one we wanted!

I opted for Japanese Kyoto Cherry Rose while Flo opted for Jasmine with Flowers. Both teas had strong flavours associated with their flowers. We enjoyed the taste of both!

OttawaTea10

We got very lucky that we were served scones fresh out of the oven, since they ran out of all ingredients after the Canada Day long weekend, and made a stop that morning to buy the ingredients for the scones. With a dollop of clotted cream and a spread of strawberry jam over the scone, the scone simply melted into our mouths. As claimed by the cafe, they are definitely the best in the city!

OttawaTea9

At the end of our meals, we came to the conclusion that The Tea Party Cafe is a nice cozy peaceful place to hang out with your friends, over yummy food, desserts and teas!

Next time I’m back in Ottawa, I would love to try their afternoon tea menu. The best part is that they also offer a vegan version of the afternoon tea! For a vegan afternoon tea, they only need two orders and 48 hours notice.

If you’re ever visiting Ottawa, check out The Tea Party Cafe!

Website: http://www.theteapartycafe.com/ottawacafes/

Weekend Trip to Taichung from Taipei

One of my classmates invited us to tour her ancestral home in Taichung, so I took up on her invitation with another friend and away we went, making it into a weekend getaway. We thought we might as well stay overnight to check out Taichung. Taichung is located central west of Taiwan, and it’s the third largest city in Taiwan.

We picked January 16th, Election Day, to go; not a smart move as we found out the day before and on the day of. However, being foreigners in Taiwan, when we picked that weekend in advance, we honestly had no idea it was Election Day. We learned that the Taiwanese are extremely patriotic to their country and take their voting right seriously. Many Taiwanese work in Taipei but their home city is elsewhere, so they went home to vote. Therefore, bus and train tickets on Friday and Saturday were SOLD OUT! Travelling by bus and train to Taichung are the cheapest options, so people actually bought them in advance.

However, if not for Election Day and the sold out bus and train seats, we would not have discovered the convenience of travelling by Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). Yes, it’s triple the price of bus ($250 NTD) and double the price of train ($380 NTD), but very well worth it, in my opinion. We got to Taichung in 50 minutes as opposed to 2.5 hours if we travelled by bus or 2 hours by train. I’m a big fan of the High Speed Rail now; it’s the best way to see Taiwan. Compared to travelling within my own country, $30 CAD ($675-700 NTD) one way is so cheap to go to another city that’s far! The only downside I can think of taking High Speed Rail to Taichung is that the HSR station is in Wurih, 20 minutes away from downtown. Nonetheless, there are plenty of taxis and public buses that go downtown.

2016-01-16 11.06.38

Because all reserved seats on HSR were sold out, we saved $25 by getting non-reserved seats ($675)! Non-reserved seats are slightly cheaper, and non-reserved sections are from cars 10-12. On our way to Taichung, we got lucky and found seats. However, on our way back to Taipei, we had to stand but standing for 50 minutes is not tiring at all.

We took the taxi to our friend’s ancestral home from the station which was about 20 minutes away, so we paid around $250 NTD. For the rest of our Taichung trip, we either walked or took the public bus. Public buses come around frequently and it’s the cheapest ($15 NTD) way to see the city if you are not rushed for time. We were thrilled when we discovered that our Taipei’s Easycard worked on public buses in Taichung, so we used that to pay our bus fares!

Here are highlights of my short trip to Taichung:

1.The Wufeng Lin Family Mansion & Garden

This is my friend’s ancestral home which is now open to the public by appointments. To see the inside, visitors are required to either join a tour, or request for a private tour guide. Our friend booked an English-speaking tour guide for us so we could really understand the history behind this magnificent site. I learned that my friend’s ancestors, the Wufeng Lin of Taichung, used to be one of the five powerful families in the early days of Taiwan.

This mansion compound is beautiful from architecture, detailed carvings to the layout inside etc.

I took some photos of the place, and will share with you here. 🙂

2016-01-16 14.27.41

Detailed pattern/carvings on a window. Do you see what they are supposed to represent? If I remember correctly from our tour guide, they are turtle shells. Turtles represent longevity and the Wufeng Lin wished that for themselves and their descendants.

2016-01-16 14.35.57 (1)

The view from the tea parlor, where we rested and had a nice cup of homemade herbal tea.

The next photo shows the doorway leading to my favourite part of the mansion: 大花廳 (direct translation: Big Flower Hall). It is absolutely gorgeous in here.

2016-01-16 14.44.54

The Big Flower Hall was where the Lin family used to entertain guests, and also where they could enjoy outdoor theatrical plays, performed on the exquisitely designed stage below.

2016-01-16 15.12.24

This is where outdoor seats were placed for family members and guests to enjoy the plays.

2016-01-16 15.12.47

Stage as seen from outdoor seating area

2016-01-16 14.47.13

A close up of the detailed carvings on stage, including the ceiling with a flower, very fitting for the Big Flower Hall.

Something visitors can do at the Big Flower Hall is play dress up! Traditional clothing is available for free, and visitors can choose any outfit they want and wear it to take photos with the beautiful backdrop. Of course we couldn’t resist, so we dressed up and had fun taking a variety of photos, in front of a big tour group of American tourists, who were watching. 🙂

2016-01-16 15.02.20     2016-01-16 15.02.07

 

For location and hours of operation to The Wufeng Lin Family Mansion & Garden, see:

http://travel.taichung.gov.tw/en-us/Attractions/Intro/1049/The-Lin-family-Mansion-and-Garden-in-Wufeng

 

2.Drinking the original bubble tea at 春水堂 (Chun Shui Tang)

Bubble tea was invented in Taichung in the late 1980s and this tea house claims to have invented it. We didn’t have time to go to the flagship store but went to the one located inside ModeMall, as it was more central. It is located very near to the train station. The bubble tea was really good…not too sweet and the tapiocas were small and extremely chewy just the way I like it! 🙂

2016-01-16 17.20.55

We ordered two traditional Taiwanese snacks to go with our bubble tea and were not disappointed. The brown sugar mochi and pork shao mai were delicious!

More info on Chun Shui Tang Tea House:

http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/chun-shui-tang-cultural-tea-house

http://chunshuitang.com.tw/

 

3. Feng Chia/Fengjia Night Market

We had a blast at this night market from eating, people watching and shopping! It claims to be the biggest night market in Taiwan, and we definitely agree it is. It seems to go on forever from street to street, packed with many people, waiting in line to buy street food,  or going into shops to buy things. The vast size of it is astounding and we have now declared it as our favourite night market in Taiwan because of the wide variety of food options available, and the shopping is simply amazing, so many choices and oh so cheap! We bought beautiful stylish good quality wallets for just $100 NTD! Both food and shopping at this night market is so much cheaper than in Taipei. Since we didn’t have enough time to finish exploring this night market, we made a pact to return in the summer time to do more eating and shopping! 🙂

2016-01-16 20.26.05

2016-01-16 20.28.17     2016-01-16 20.34.40

 

2016-01-16 20.33.41

This Japanese savoury pancake that I bought from a stall (right photo above) was so yummy! I got tuna with all the extra toppings for just $65 NTD! It was large and filling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More info on Feng Chia/Fengjia Night Market:

https://www.travelking.com.tw/eng/tourguide/taichung/feng-chia-night-market.html

http://travel.taichung.gov.tw/en-us/Attractions/Intro/850/Feng-Chia-Night-Market

http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/fengjia-night-market

https://www.englishintaiwan.com/shopping-in-taiwan/taichung-night-markets

 

4.Miyahara Branch of Dawn Cake (日出宮原店)

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and desserts, like me, then this place is paradise for you! This building used to be an eye clinic built by a Japanese optometrist by the name of Miyahara. However, it has now become a pastry/dessert/ice cream shop with a restaurant, all owned by Dawn Cake.

The interior design has a “Harry Potter” feel (see photos below) and it is definitely a tourist and/or foodie powerhouse. The main floor sells a variety of its special sweet products, beautifully packaged, from honey, chocolate, jam to traditional cakes, all promoted by its fine-looking employees, dressed in traditional clothing. Outside they have an ice cream shop, where tourists and locals can buy its ice cream specialty and eat it outside, standing.

2016-01-17 11.18.09

2016-01-17 11.18.55

2016-01-17 13.38.10

2016-01-17 13.44.39

Since it was a rainy day and we wanted to treat ourselves, we decided to go all out, and dine on the second floor of Miyahara, where the restaurant was located. As we approached the stairs, we were politely greeted by a host, and then ushered upstairs for a very scrumptious and special dining experience including excellent attentive service!

2016-01-17 11.21.45

The layout at the table for each dining guest: There are 3 menus for each guest. If I remember correctly, one was for tradition Taiwanese dishes, the second one was for desserts and specialty dishes, and the third one was for drinks.

We learned that the Moon Pavillion Sundae is Miyahara’s signature dessert, the must-eat that every tourist or foodie needs to have at least once while in Taichung. The ice cream shop downstairs sells it as well, but with no fancy seating available like at the restaurant.

The sundae is ginormous, can be easily shared between 2-4 people. It costs $450 NTD (approximately $19 CAD). We get a choice of 4 ice cream flavours and 5 toppings. There are 10 unique flavours available: Irwin mango, Kyoho grape, Heiye lychee, Lugu green tea, Ceylon black tea, raisins Mascarpone, cactus and native pineapple yogurt, Alpaco 66% floral & fruity chocolate, Vanuatu 44% milk chocolate and Uganda 80% smoked chocolate.

We were very overwhelmed with all the interesting ice cream choices, since we have never tried some of these flavours and wanted to try them all, but could only choose four. Our server patiently described each flavour for us, and made suggestions (e.g. pair a sweet one with a not so sweet one etc.) until we made our final four choices: Heiye lychee, Lugu green tea, cactus and native pineapple yogurt, and Uganda 80% smoked chocolate.

2016-01-17 11.48.39

Once the four ice cream flavours were put in front of us, our server came over with a huge movable tray filled with the special toppings. When she lifted the lid, we were astounded by the variety and the sheer size of some of these toppings. For example, the pineapple cake was quite big. In the end we decided on these 5 toppings: pineapple cake, soft cheesecake, a cacao ball, hard fruity jelly candy and the butterfly pastry.

2016-01-17 11.49.28

Our sundae was decorated carefully by our server and at the bottom of our ice cream serving bowl, was another hidden sweet secret. There was mascarpone cheese which allowed us to dip our butterfly pastry and cone pieces into it.

Our final verdict is that the Moon Pavilllion Sundae was decadently delicious and worth every single expensive dollar! 😉

2016-01-17 11.55.34

On our first day in Taichung, my friend asked what’s a Canadian food, and I proudly told her poutine is very Canadian. She said she never had it before and as luck would have it, it was at this restaurant! So, we also tried another food item on the menu: Poutine (French fries with gravy and melted Gouda cheese).

Even though it’s not authentic, the presentation and flavourful taste of this poutine definitely made up for it!

2016-01-17 11.57.55

The french fries were elaborately stacked into a pyramid, and our server poured the melted gouda cheese with flair as we “oohed” and “aahed”. 

2016-01-17 11.58.26

Next he poured the gravy on top. I was pleasantly surprised that pieces of meat was added to the gravy.

2016-01-17 11.59.07

Final presentation of Miyahara’s Poutine. 🙂

More info on Miyahara:

http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taichung-city/miyahara

https://www.travelking.com.tw/eng/tourguide/taichung/miyahara-eye-hospital.html

In Chinese: https://www.dawncake.com.tw/

 

And there you have it, my whirlwind weekend getaway in Taichung, with my two new friends from Taiwan! We think Taichung is a city worth visiting especially for foodies and shoppers. We also heard that Taichung is the gateway to other nearby natural scenic attractions such as Sun Moon Lake and Alishan. Many people use Taichung as the main base and do day trips to these places. Therefore, we are definitely returning to Taichung this summer! 😀

PappaRoti: Most Delicious Bun in Vancouver!

 

PappaRoti_frontshop

While we were in Vancouver, we discovered this cute little café, PappaRoti, right across from our hotel. We fell in love with its signature caramel coffee bun! In my opinion, it’s kind of like a mix of a Chinese pineapple bun and a fluffy pancake. Its caramelized-coated top is crispy and crunchy while the inside is soft and warm, filled with butter that simply melts in your mouth! This bun is a combination of salty and sweet.

PappaRoti_bunandtea
The bun can be eaten separately, paired nicely with a cup of coffee or tea, or with a combo which consists of a variety of toppings (e.g. local organic jams, kaya etc.). I tried their recommended combos: Banana & Nutella, Strawberries & Whipped Cream, and Ice Cream & Maple Syrup. All these combos were delicious. The Ice Cream & Maple Syrup adds a little Canadian flavour and is simply decadent! I found the toppings from these 3 combos were a lot, so I had to order a second bun to enjoy every single indulgent bite. 🙂

Bun with Kaya (coconut jam)

Bun with Cream Cheese

Bun with Banana & Nutella

Bun with Banana & Nutella

Bun with Strawberries & Whipped Cream

Bun with Strawberries & Whipped Cream

Bun with Ice Cream & Maple Syrup

Bun with Ice Cream & Maple Syrup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We loved the buns so much that we actually returned to this café a few times during our week stay in Vancouver. The cafe seems to have a steady flow of customers from morning till night, from tourists, to regulars in the neighbourhood to friends finding it as a nice place to hang out. We even observed what seems to be an English conversational group holding a session there in the morning. This means that people find the environment very comfortable, and conducive to conversations.

Aside from its signature bun, PappaRoti also has…

-a warm and welcoming ambiance

Cozy back area for people to sit and chat comfortably

Cozy back area for people to sit and chat comfortably

A view of cafe from the front

A view of cafe from the front

A nice sunny area during the daytime to sit and even read a book from the bookshelf if you like!

A nice sunny area during the daytime to sit and even read a book from the bookshelf if you like!

A communal table facing the TV

A communal table facing the TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-friendly and courteous staff

-beautiful presentation of food as shown in photos above

Sample of bun for customers to try

Sample of bun for customers to try

-an array of local organic jam and tea

Samples of local jams and teas that they serve

Samples of local jams and teas that they serve

-this cool tea timer to make your perfect cup of tea!

PappaRoti_tea timer

For someone who has been gluten-free and dairy-free for over a year now, eating PappaRoti’s bun is worth breaking my dietary restrictions, while on vacation. The way I see it, just like its motto, I’m enjoying life one scrumptious bun at a time. 😉

PappaRoti is a must visit and eat place in Vancouver!!

I’m excited to find out that PappaRoti is actually an international chain and has one in South Korea, which is my next summer travel destination. I’m looking forward to finding it there!!

I’m excited to find out that PappaRoti is actually an international chain and has one in South Korea, which is my next summer travel destination. I’m looking forward to finding it there!!

To check out PappaRoti Canada, go on their website: http://papparoti.ca/

PappaRoti on Urbanspoon

Finding Joy in Unexpected Places!

There really is joy and pleasure in discovering new places or things in our everyday life, unexpectedly.  Such is the case when I discovered two neat places that specialize in delicious, healthy & gluten-free food. 🙂

I would like to briefly share with you these two places I found in my own city with some friends.  If you’re a resident of or a visitor to Toronto or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and have time to spare, check out the following places!

1. The Victorian Tea Room in Thornhill

It was easy to see the difference between the "regular" and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side).

It was easy to see the difference between the “regular” and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side); and the gluten-free pastries were on a separate plate.

If I had to choose to eat only one meal in a day, it would have to be English High Tea or Afternoon Tea.  High Tea originated from England and refers to the mini meal accompanied by tea, served between lunch and dinner. This is my favourite meal of the day because I love its combination of sweet and savoury, ranging from scones with sinfully thick and smooth Devonshire cream and sweet jam, to delightful finger sandwiches and scrumptious tiny pastries.  Aside from the obvious enjoyment of munching on these afternoon treats, the best part is drinking the aromatic tea, presented in the prettiest teapots and cups and saucers, in a cozy and relaxing environment with close friends and/or family members! 🙂

Anyways, now that I’m gluten-free, I thought I had to forego this little indulgence, unless I work hard in learning how to make gluten-free scones and the rest.  To my absolute delight I heard about this new tea place that opened about 6 months ago, and I learned it offered a gluten-free menu!!  It was also perfect timing to check it out as I had a friend who recently came back from England so we thought it would be lovely and very “English” to go for high tea there, and reminisced about good times we both experienced in England. 🙂  I really liked how the gluten-free treats were divided from the regular treats clearly.  Also, I thought the gluten-free treats still tasted delicious, and after eating them, I did not feel as full as I used to after eating my high tea bite sized food.  This tea place also had over 40 different types of tea from around the world to choose from and we had fun deciding on which one to drink! When I’m in the mood, now I know where to go to for my high tea craving!

To learn more about the Victorian Tea Room, see: http://www.victoriantearoom.ca

 

2. Goodbye Gluten  in Toronto

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

This place was definitely an unexpected surprise.  We were going to try out one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, and got lucky and found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant.  As we got out of the car, we saw this store, which was right beside the restaurant, and of course we went in!  Despite its small space, it was very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products that you can think of, from noodles to desserts to health food and freshly made food.  It’s really a gluten-free foodie’s paradise and an one stop gluten-free grocery shopping experience!!  They also have a mini gluten-free bakery section, producing freshly baked goods daily as they have a kitchen downstairs.  The desserts looked really yummy, but we couldn’t buy any since we had a big dinner ahead of us.  I will most definitely keep this shop in mind if I ever need a gluten-free cake for any special occasion or need to buy some gluten-free essentials. 🙂

Here’s this store’s website if you’re interested in getting more details: http://www.goodbyegluten.com

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carry vegan products!  What's not to love about this store?? :)

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carries vegan products! What’s not to love about this store?? 🙂