Qoola – Richmond, BC


Qoola Frozen Yogurt & Fruit
Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way Map
Richmond, BC
(778) 297-5488

Qoola’s profile first came to my attention last year when there seemed to be a lot of buzz around their opening in the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping mall.  With their emphasis on fat/gluten free frozen yogurt, fresh cut fruit, organic grain waffles/crepes, the whole concept reads like a feel good, very West Coast-inspired offering.  Throw in their initiative in using bio-degradable and recyclable products, the whole operation  has “BC tree huger” written all over it.  Now with shops in this popular Richmond mall, as well as in Victoria, BC, the Qoola wave is slowing spreading across the province.

The signature menu item is the fresh frozen yogurt which is available in three flavors (original, chocolate and green tea) and supplanted by other monthly flavors.  For edible snacks, there is also something called the Q-Waffle, which is a whole grain waffle topped with various toppings and a mound of the frozen yogurt.  I watched as a few other customers ordered this and was amused at the confusion the self serve yogurt stations caused, especially with the older clientele that I witnessed.

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Twisted Yogurt – Edmonton, AB


Twisted Yogurt
#650-3803 Calgary Trail
Edmonton, AB
(780) 440-4955

New concepts, especially in the do-it-yourself kind seem to be sprouting out all over the place these days.  Perhaps its a way to cut labor costs, but having customers/diners do all the heavy lifting and giving them countless choices to suit their every need and desire, seems to be partly (in my opinion) due to the ever burgeoning something-unique-for-everyone ethos that has arisen from the Starbucks business model (“super venti mochachino with quarter-whole, quarter-skim, and make the rest half & half, decaf with a few shavings of nutmeg”” anyone?).  No single item will do, you get as much leeway as you want.  Kind of a steroid-driven upgrade on the old “have it your way” style of one of the major fast food burger chains.

I wouldn’t even try to come up with all the permutations of configurations you can get with your Twisted Yogurt dessert.  Rather than try to come up with something both accurate and witty, I’ll let the marketing gurus of the operation themselves tell you how they would give their elevator pitch:

“Twisted Yogurt is all about exploring your creative side, because you get to create your own frozen masterpiece. You start by choosing one of our eight flavours of fresh, natural non fat frozen yogurt and then add on as many of our over 50 toppings as you can load into your bowl.”

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Coffee Mama – Namyangju, KOR


Coffee Mama
Various locations
Location visited: Namyangju City, South Korea

Asian desserts.  For some they are a welcomed treat.  For others, I’ve heard words like strange, confusing and not appealing as descriptors or reactions.  I will take a stab at this topic despite not being a huge sugar-goodies fan and say that one of the main causes for this seesaw result is the source of the sweetness within many Asian desserts.  That being azuki beans.  I think for most westerners, the concept of sweet tasting beans is unusual and hard to comprehend, given that beans are generally used more for savory dishes in North American cuisine.  This juxtaposition is a concept that for some, that I think is hard to overcome.  Its perhaps more a mental hurdle than anything else, that perhaps more experience can help people overcome.

When it comes to after-meal sweets in Korea, one of the things that pops into my mind right away is the summer favorite known as patbingsu.  In English, I’ve seen it being referred to as red bean sherbet.  But really, its a compilation of shaved ice, ice cream, diced fruit (strawberries, banana, etc.), jelly, bits of rice cake as staple elements and toppings.  And for added texture, some places even add in some dry cereal flakes.  I’m sure there are even more creative approaches and touches that some places add, but these seem to be the standard set from my own experience.  Of course, the a fore mentioned sweet azuki beans are always involved.

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Midam Rice Cake House – Burnaby, BC


Midam Rice Cake House
#110 – 4501 North Road
Burnaby, BC
(604) 568-5357

Not a dessert man, am I.  But after a hearty meal of Korean-style barbecue, we took a short walk down the stairs from the second level of this commercial complex to close out our dinner with some sweets at another establishment.

I only had a faint recollection of this place from a previous walk around and approaching 9:30pm, I wasn’t sure I’d get my chance as I reckoned that the closing hour was near.  Luckily, there was still thirty minutes on the clock and the employees inside were welcoming and gave no sense they were in a hurry to wrap up.

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Cake-ya – Port Moody, BC


Cake-ya
2415 Clarke Street
Port Moody, BC
(604) 931-9005
Tues – Sat: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 5:0
0 pm

December 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

This was a far cry from my usual pattern of seeking out new eats.  First off, this mission required an extended drive way out to the community of Port Moody – a quaint little place with an older downtown core near the water but also has some beautiful natural surroundings up in the nearby mountains.  Second, this was a deliberate foodosophy trip focused solely on sweets, with no regular food component as part of the meal.

So what led me to what is self-dubbed as the “City of the Arts”?  A Japanese-specialty dessert shop known as Cake-ya.

Located in an older building next door to a funky used bookstore and down the same path as a soup/sandwich joint, Cake-ya began as a place that made and sold Japanese pudding, otherwise known as Purin.  To describe it simply, I would say it is a smooth, silky custard (with the usual key ingredients such as butter, milk, sugar, eggs, etc.) with a sweet caramel syrupy sauce at the base.  I’ve traditionally enjoyed it as a simple after meal sweet treat, or on its own while drinking a contrasting bitter green tea.

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Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice – Honolulu, HI


Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI
(808) 735-8884

One of the several pre-trip, researched spots on my food adventures in Hawaii was Waiola.  It was also noted by someone I know who has a residence in Honolulu that it was along the same road as some others I’d asked him about, so as far as location went, it was perfect.

In a pretty run down looking building, complete with some garish plastic banners and graffiti, Waiola is mainly about the shave ice desserts.  Nothing more refreshing on a hot summer Hawaiian day.  A few other customers came in while we were there, along with a delivery guy who brought in huge cubes of solid ice.

Stepping inside does nothing to improve the sense of it having a dated and in need of a refresh design.  But this is part of the appeal of the place, knowing that despite its popularity and well known name, they haven’t plugged the money into expensive furnishings or makeovers.  At the same time, they’re not avert to plastering the joint with pages from various media publications that have reviewed or profiled the place.

With anywhere from thirty to forty toppings and flavors, Waiola can probably meet any craving you have for a tasty shave ice.  With its distinct soft, fine shavings, I tell you they are addictive.  And you get none of that dreaded “brain freeze” from say a more liquidly-ice concoction.  We tried a trio of flavors.  Pictured above, the adzuki (Japanese sweet bean) and mochi (Japanese rice cake balls) combination.  Easily the version among the three we ordered with the most interesting textures with each bite, and the sweetness was not too strong.

In comparison, this pineapple-flavored very basic shave ice was cleaner in taste profile and probably more refreshing as there was less to have to chew.  The fine shavings once again proved to be excellent – and I enjoyed this one more than the one I had at Island Freeze days earlier, thus confirming that Waiola is one of the best shave ice joints on the island.

Lastly, another Japanese-influenced flavoring in the matcha with mochi provided yet another twist.  Almost like a blended coffee-like drink as the flavoring was “heavier” than just the pineapple syrup of the other dish above.

So as you can see, this was just a sample of a few varieties of shave ice to be had at Waiola.  I’m sure there are many more interesting combinations to choose from, and perhaps if you make a visit, you can try them out for yourself.  If there are any readers who have any recommendations, please do leave them in our comment box for this post!

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice on Urbanspoon

Island Freeze – Honolulu, HI


Island Freeze
International Market Place
2330 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii
Tel: (808) 971-2080
Open Daily 10:00am-10:30pm

Smack dab in the middle of the tourist and hotel district of Waikiki, is an outdoor shopping centre called the International Market Place that has its own little food court area.

It is a reprieve price-wise, from all of the other eateries and restaurants that market to out-of-towners milling around on the nearby streets.  This eating area is no different in setup from any standard food court you find in a North American mall – only that the food tenants are all mom-and-pop and represent a wide variety of cultures.  Surprisingly, no commercialized McDonald’s or Starbucks inside.  Just rattling a few off from memory, I recall seeing food offerings that were Chinese, Korean, Greek, Mexican, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Hawaiian, and a few others.

As reported earlier, I was already in the area and wanted something cool and refreshing as the summer heat was still bearing down hard and I needed to rehydrate some more after my quick meal at Ono. The photo above was taken after the sun went down, facing the main entrance of the International Market Place.

Now I’d heard of Hawaiian-style Shave Ice before coming to the islands (and got some recommendations from my Honolulu-based friends of some of the best ones to try during my stay – look for future posts), and I headed straight to the Island Freeze.  I wanted to get a quick introduction to the various types and flavours that are part of this ice cold treat.

Here is a bare bones shave ice, undecorated by any other ingredients aside from some liquid flavourings.  Island Freeze allows you to choose up to three flavours to add, and I went with strawberry, lychee and pineapple.  As you can see, it came served in this flower-shaped, light plastic cup container, with a spoon and straw to help you eat it.

Now I realize its just ice, but the texture of it was different from say a 7-11 Slurpee or if you were to slash off fine layers of ice with a sharp blade.  Its neither too flaky so the flavourings aren’t absorbed, or too soft such as in a Slurpee where the liquid dominates.  I think its a combination of the way its shaved and the temperature of the ice that keeps it just so.  The trio of tastes made eating this interesting, as you could just shuffle the cup around to another section and scoop up a new flavour sensation.

All in all, a very refreshing treat!

Island Freeze on Urbanspoon