The TWG Tea Salon and Boutique is a gorgeous space and their chef Cliff Hohl is a very nice man. He was gracious enough to hang out with us table side and explain the various dishes that make up their Valentine's Day menu. He was so happy and proud to tell us that TWG was "officially Oceanwise as of yesterday". Oceanwise, if you're not familiar with it, is a sustainability program championed by the Vancouver Aquarium. Take a few minutes and give it a google, a very worthy cause!
The tea pairing, Mon Amour Tea, is one of the best I've tasted. Inhaling deeply from a tin of it left at our table, presumably for photography purposes, I harkened back to the days when Bubble Tape was first introduced. Remember that? Grape bubble tape, the kind bootlegged in my school yard, seriously, was the first thing that came to mind. Absolutely delicious!
Have you ever had really, really good iced tea? Like the stuff plantation owners must have enjoyed on the wraparound decks of their palatial mansions? Love me Tea must be one of those! I wasn't raised extravagantly. I had everything I needed, but some years were tough with my mom going back to school for a time and my dad being unemployed for a time when Safeway closed the bread plant, where he plied his trade as a mechanical engineer, to bust his union and move the plant a little ways up the road. As such I have humble tastes: Nestle's Quik trumps any and all hot Chocolates at your froofy cafés and peanut butter is good on anything. This iced tea is not the sickeningly sweet, powdered offering of my youth, but a subtle, semi-sweet and refreshing upgrade. This is progress we can all get behind! Make iced tea great again!
TWG's scallops are the polar opposite of rubbery. Fresh, tender and flavourful. They really soak up the dashi broth and blend marvellously with the dragon fruit and "white desire" tea infusion. Korean brown rice is just better than regular rice, it just is. Again the dashi, the root of everything miso, soaks in and competes with the garlic for flavour supremacy. The time and effort spent to curl the carrots and cucumbers into tight spirals speaks volumes about TWG's commitment to presentation and elegance. Chef Hohl intimated as much, "the team is excited about this menu", he exclaimed between self deprecatingly deflecting praise and promising to bring us the meal's "Cliff notes" that he was having trouble finding thinking he'd left it on his "Cliffboard". Oh Cliff! I was proud to hear he had tried to model his summation after my writing. High praise from an artist to a financier dabbling in the written word and hardly an artist by any stretch of the imagination. Words are words, people use words everyday, but the culinary arts nourish people, inspire people and have the ability, with minimal exaggeration, to bridge cultural divides.
The dessert came out looking as glossy and beautiful as a $10,000 paint job on a $1,000,000 car. The vanilla bourbon ice cream is amongst the best, top five, ice creams of my life! Decadent, but with that natural vanilla flavour that reminded me of my first independent car ride with a peer as a 16 year old. That vanilla air freshener dangling off the rear view mirror signalled a freedom, an independence that vanilla always brings back for me!
The TWG Tea Salon recently underwent an extensive renovation and the room is incredible! Brightly coloured containers of the world's best teas line the walls. Ornate tea pots encased in glass for the dining area and smiles everywhere. What makes you smile? For me it's kindness. For me it's joy. For me it's socializing. I promise you, from the bottom of my heart, that going to TWG will make you smile! Go hungry and leave happy!