The Foodosophy of Food Gift Giving


This post is another reflection from my summer travels to Asia and in particular the two weeks I spent in South Korea.

The tradition of bringing back some local treats and gifts when one travels in an Asian country, especially when you have been to a more rural area and the city folk you left behind want to know what’s there, is one that I enjoy.  Especially when I’m one of those who are stuck in the rat race and urban jungle, and get to taste some goodies brought back from someone’s travels.  On this particular trip, it was the other way around, as I decided to purchase some sweet snacks that were reputed to be the best representation of what Gyeongju has, and I was told, would be appreciated by the Seoulites who would be on the receiving end of my generosity.

As with many food gifts, packaging is key, especially when one is challenged by a large display full of various types.  As people “eat with their eyes”, I can see why so much effort is spent on making the containers, boxes, etc. as appealing as possible and thus help boost sales.  Convenience for me is often key (especially when I’m traveling by air) and so a slim package such as the one above is much favored.  This particular pair of items was bought in a gift shop just before departing Gyeongju city.  A last stop kind of place to get your fill of this resort area before returning to the more populous (and non-touristy) places around the peninsula.

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Coco et Olive – Vancouver, BC


Coco et Olive Fine Foods & Café
3476 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736 7080

Coco Et Olive on Urbanspoon

As I heard from my Alberta-based friends over the weekend complaining about the snow on the ground and the ongoing colder weather, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them as I strolled outside in nice sunny weather this past week along West Broadway in over 10 degrees Celsius weather.   With a clam breeze in the air, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stop into a little café and grab something warm to drink as well as a bite to eat.

Coco et Olive is probably best known among those who live in this end of Vancouver.  And by end, I truly mean that.  It really is far from the hustle and bustle of the more central and thus busier sections of this strip.  In the daytime on weekends, and lunch hours during the week, its filled with people from the neighborhood who clearly have more than their share of free time.

My assumption of this is based on the fact that a) there’s a lot of older folks who probably don’t have to work for a living anymore due to age, and b) younger uppity people who look like they are well off and don’t need to work.  Ah, I wish I could be one of the latter… minus the attitude of course!

With an eclectic arrangement of furniture as seating, and an airy bistro feel, its really easy to feel at home and want to lounge about alone with a cup of coffee (they serve Intelligentsia) or with friends sharing any number of sweets and sandwiches on the menu.  But with a full house and nary a seat to take, I chose an order to go.  [The associated pictures you see here are just simple plated shots once I was back in my kitchen]

The ordering process is straight forward, as the cashier will jot down your order on a notepad and go through the motions of pulling it from the case and if the line is busy, another staffer will handle the grilling.  As simple as that is, I sensed a lack of flow among the staff.  Some confusion among orders despite the written list, an absence of speed as there clearly is not enough space under the griller when more than a few sandwiches are on deck, were just some of the amateurish things I picked up on the service front.

On this day, there were about twelve different sandwiches on board, though some had nothing next to the name plates in the refrigerated case next to the ordering counter.  I did notice as time passed that re-fills from the back kitchen soon made their way into the display area.  The casual feel must pervade from the back, as people would walk in and out from the hidden room to the entrance door.  They seemed like staff, or perhaps friends of the owners (heard a lot of French flying back and forth), but they all seemed to be treating the place as if it were someone’s home, and not really concerned they were cutting in front of paying customers who were scanning the sandwich offerings.

Making your mind from the tantalizing choices is an exercise in both judgment and restraint.  After pacing in front of the case, I ended up picking the Lemon and Herb Chicken ($6.99), as well as a White Tuna Panini.  One of which was chosen as a sandwich & soup combo – an added $3 to the price – and the selection was a Moroccan Lentils soup.

Being handmade, you could immediately see the hodgepodge of sizes for the same kind of sandwich.  Overall, the paninis, of which I preferred the softer texture of the tuna spread as well as the flavor combination, were fairly good, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were outstanding or the best paninis I’ve ever tasted.

As a sweet dessert to round out the pair of meals that I was taking back home, I asked for two of the Almond Croissants.  They just seemed to beckon me, sitting on top of the sandwich display case, as I waited for my paninis to be grilled in the press.  I must say, they were absolutely fantastic.  A perfectly light flaky and crispy crust, and an oozy centre of almond cream, with an ample spread of sliced almonds on top.  I will definitely be back for these, and to try out some of the other cookies, scones, cakes, tarts, and brownies that are made in-house…

Coco Et Olive on Urbanspoon

Honey Doughnuts and Goodies – North Vancouver, BC


Honey Doughnuts and Goodies
4373 Gallant Avenue
North Vancouver, BC
(604) 929 4988

Honey Doughnuts and Goodies on Urbanspoon

The easternmost district in North Vancouver known as Deep Cove, is home to a quaint little street populated by several eateries and shops.  This two-block stretch of Gallant Avenue is where visitors and locals alike can stop in for a bite to eat while enjoying the natural surroundings.  Honey Doughnuts and Goodies stands out as the most popular destination along this strip, given its decent sized eat-in space and convenient snack offerings that are easy to buy-and-go.  I’m sure part of its appeal is also due in part to the steady line-up that brings in the curious and the sweet smells that flow out onto the sidewalk.

As the name suggests, doughnuts are a hot seller.  In the glass display case inside where you also place your order, an assortment of healthy (e.g organic) and more sugary varieties of doughnuts can be had, as well as scones, muffins and other pastries.  The donuts here are “richer” looking, the kind with a heavier consistency and the glazed ones I saw were really attractive.  I would not go as far as to say they were all-out gourmet, but certainly more than the generic Tim Horton’s.

While in line on this day, a man ahead of me in the cue ordered a whopping $150 worth of donuts!  Its not like he had pre-ordered this, so as the girls behind the counter were busy counting and putting them into brown paper bags, it was clear the supplies would be threatened for those us in still waiting to get our goods. I later saw a tented parking lot that looked like it was an eating area for a film set, which might explain this large order – as homes in the neighborhood are often rented by the television and movie industry.

In addition to the sweets, Honey Donuts and Goodies also has on their menu, some good looking breakfast dishes, along with some soups and sandwiches.  With plans to go hiking on the nearby Badden-Powel Trail, I thought it best to warm up and chose the Soup & Bread Combo, with the soup being Chicken Kale.  It was a hearty soup, with beans, onions, plenty of kale, and chunks of chicken in a rich, slightly salty broth.  Aside from this, I got a Blueberry Muffin to go as a snack for later on (sorry, not pictured).  Towards the end of my hike, I opened it up and had a few bites.  Good flavor, not too brittle and dried out.  I am sure they taste much better hot out of the oven.

I found it interesting that it seemed many members of the kitchen/wait staff were of Latino heritage.  We overheard a discussion, it seemed there was some mention about Argentina between one of them and another person in line, so its possible that’s where they are from.  I don’t think its had a huge impact on their menu, but interesting nonetheless.

Honey Doughnuts and Goodies on Urbanspoon

Terra Breads (Kitsilano) Bakery & Café – Vancouver, BC


Terra Breads (Kitsilano) Bakery & Café
2380 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736 1838

Terra Breads Cafe on Urbanspoon

Aside from the occasional pickup of some French baguettes and loaves, and multigrain breads, my forays into the original location of Terra Breads in Kitsilano and their bakery in the Public Market on Granville Island have been limited.  So on this day I thought I would expand upon the range of my usual purchases and check out some of their pastries and sandwiches.  Actually I was torn between trying out their daily changing savoury focaccias (on this day it was a simple tomato & pesto variety) but decided on a sandwich, in order to see if any of their other artisan breads suited my tastes.

The collection of pastries pictured above are the Apple Focaccia with caramel, sesame and thyme, a Blueberry White Chocolate Bread, Macaroons, and a Blueberry Scone.  It wasn’t a deliberate decision, but I found as I was eating my way through them with some friends that there was an interesting mix of textures and flavors among just this simple set.  The sweet focaccia with its great crispy portions and a softer chewy texture on the inside was probably my favorite of the bunch – I would get this again for sure.  The Blueberry bread was a bit more crumbly but not as much as my beloved scones.  I think you can clearly get a sense that blueberries are among my most favorite fruits.  The Macaroons were an attempt to battle my lifelong dislike for coconuts (I can handle them when they are made of sliced almonds) in foods.  Funny how I don’t mind the inclusion of coconut cream in Piña Coladas though…

A pair of sandwiches were chosen.  The first of which was the Roast Chicken + Bacon on Pain de Campagne.  Described as a roasted, free-range chicken, double smoked bacon,  roma tomatoes, organic mixed baby greens, and tarragon mayonnaise, I was quite satisfied.  The smoky properties of the chicken and bacon were a perfect match, and the veggies adds a cruncy textural element that completed the composition.  The bread was a neutral variety that wasn’t overly bold thus not overwhelming the ingredients sandwiched between.

The second meat and bread combination was the Roast Turkey + Chutney on a Pumpkin Seed Bread and contained slices of roasted turkey breast, cucumber, cranberry walnut chutney, organic greens, and mayonnaise.  I personally didn’t enjoy this as much as the earlier one, mainly for the fact of that sweet chutney.  I think eating this while taking bites of the pastries might have influenced my thinking here, but I didn’t really want any sweet elements in the sandwich.  The bread used was interesting, I think I will pick up some next time and try out with other fillings and condiments.

At this location, you can elect to eat your meal at the communal table that is plopped right in the middle of the café, or along one of the bar counters facing the street.  It seems to always be packed however, and I’ve never seen an open seat, though imagine there is some pretty fast turnover, just not when I am there.  As we left with our purchases we walked a bit further along 4th Ave, and popped into the Take 5 Café for some coffee.  Again, a similar scene as all of the seats were occupied.  They had similar looking sandwiches there available to order (as well as some soups), which made me wonder if they bought from Terra Breads.  Anybody know?

Terra Breads Cafe on Urbanspoon