Category Archives: Product Review

Dog Days of Summer

As the month of August draws to a close, us West Coasters are left scratching our heads wondering when summer started and trying not to be too bitter. In all honestly it has only been a few weeks since the weather began acting the least bit appropriately for the warmest season of the year. And I plan on taking full advantage of the good conditions to cram as much summer in as possible. This includes camping, country fairs, trips to the beach, BBQs galore…and of course the ultimate summer picnic.

According to Wikipedia, a picnic is defined as a “pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors (al fresco or en plein air)”. Stemming from the French term pique nique, the concept of dinning in the open air is one that has been around for centuries. Typically it involves a communal contribution and sharing of food, and can involve a cookout (hot food prepared through grilling) or simply consist of cold items such as sandwiches. Some people also believe that if you say the word “picnic” you are increasing the chance of showers by 42%. Food for thought.

Despite temperamental weather conditions that border on lame, British Columbians are fortunate to have gorgeous surroundings that offer a plentitude of picnic spots. We opted for a day in Crescent Park, and in terms of food I decided to go for a more retro menu that consisted of fried chicken, biscuits, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and good ol’ fashioned brownies.

The timing for our picnic corresponded with my receiving a shipment of sample eco-friendly disposable palm leaf plates courtesy of Marx Foods, which are the latest trend in tableware with a conscience. No one disputes the negative effect of traditional plastic or polystyrene plates and utensils on the environment, but sometimes going disposable just makes more sense (especially when feeding a large group). Nowadays consumers can choose from a wide selection of reusable or recyclable options; including paper plates, ceramic dishes, bamboo or a variety of plant-based renewable materials. So what makes palm leaf plates a good option? They are a durable, upscale option of disposable party plates that are made from naturally discarded sheaths of the leaves of the Adaka palm tree. That’s right – the materials used to make these dishes are collected from the forest floor, so no tress are required to be cut down.

All in all I found the palm leaf plates to be nice and sturdy, and I appreciated their rustic appearance (each plate is unique with its own individual pattern). They would be great for entertaining purposes as it lends a more upscale and interesting twist to your gathering, but unfortunately the price point is rather high which could be a deterrent. I like how the dishes (and utensils!) are compostable and thick enough to cut directly upon the surface. But because each dish is unique, they are not always flat which can be irritating as it means the plate can be rocky.

In conclusion our picnic was a success! The food turned out amazing (see links for recipes below), the pesky critters stayed away and didn’t ruin any of our fun, the palm leaf tableware was a hit and everyone left the park full, happy and satisfied. Doesn’t get much better than that folks.

Click here to read about how the palm leaf plates are made!

Fried Chicken
Macaroni Salad


What’s the Big Whoop?!

By The Stay-At-Home-Chef

Sorry. Yes I actually did just title my post “what’s the big whoop”. But one bite of these highly debated increasingly popular baked treats and you’ll understand why the corny in me just has to come out.

For us west coasters, the whole whoopie craze has only recently started to make an appearance in the pop food scene. A perfect combination of sandwich cookie and cake, the traditional version consists of dark chocolaty cake with a creamy marshmallow filling. However similar to what we saw happen with cupcakes, whoopie pies are becoming more trendy and fancy in terms of taste and flavour combinations.

It was time I discovered what all the fuss was about.

My first stop? A famous coffee shop chain which recently started selling a red velvet variety of whoopie pies. One bite of the overly sweet cardboard tasting treats and I knew my search would need to be expanded. So I headed down to Tracycakes Bakery Café. Located right on White Rock Beach in British Columbia, this is a chic and cozy café popular with locals and tourists alike. Designed to create a special experience for customers that centers around good food and good hospitality, everyone who steps into the store is made to feel warm and welcome but in an elegant way.

Known for their cupcakes (in 2009 The National Post named them the most retro delicious cupcake in Canada) Tracycakes also serves up continental breakfasts, soups, salads, sandwiches and light lunches. But the newest treat to hit their stores? Whoppie pies.

“If you can’t decide between a piece of cake or cookie, why not have both?!” reasons owner Tracy Dueck. Hard to find fault with that kind of logic!

Tracycakes started carrying whoppie pies just last month, after slaving away in their kitchens creating and tweaking recipes since October of last year.

“We wanted to make sure that we had the perfect recipe before launching our whoopie pies,” Dueck explains. “It was difficult to get the perfect consistency of cakey cookies that are not too soft but are still nice and moist.”

Current flavours available at their stores include Toasted Marshmallow, Peppermint Patty, Raspberry, Salted Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla and (my personal favourite) Cookies n Creme.

When I asked Tracy why the sudden surge in popularity of whoopie pies, she said that one of the most common responses she gets from customers is that they are easier to eat. It’s true! Because the icing is sandwiched in the middle you don’t get that classic icing nose as with cupcakes. People who don’t like cupcakes tend to enjoy eating whoopie pies, often siting the lesser quantity of icing as one of the most appealing factors. Personally I enjoy both cupcakes and whoopie pies. What can I say?! I don’t like to play favourites.

Last year saw a number of whoopie pie specific cookbooks published (with more in the works), and Wilton has released a whoopie pie baking pan for those concerned with uniformity. This isn’t a trend that will be going away anytime soon, so why not jump on board the whoopie pie train and try them for yourself!

For more information on Tracycakes Bakery Café, please click here

Want to try making your own whoopie pies? Click here for a recipe courtesy of Tracycakes Bakery Café