Wine and Travel Concierge

Welcome!

This website, is a place for me to share my wine, culinary and travel experiences locally and around the world.

It’s for anyone who shares a common interest in flavours and cultures.

ENJOY!

Donita

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My last dinner at West

The restaurant West in Vancouver, BC has been a staple in the restaurant scene for years. Offering amazing service, a small welcoming room, incredible food and a wine list that’s been curated to be savored and enjoyed.

But, guess what? This iconic restaurant will be closing its doors at the end of 2019.

Therefore, I wanted to share with you my last dinner there in February during the Vancouver Int’l Wine Festival. And, it’s perfect timing for two reasons:

  1. You can start planning and take advantage of a discount for the next Vancouver Int’l Wine Festival, featuring France February 22 to March 1st! This is the largest consumer Wine Festival in North America, you really should not miss it! Starting November 6 at 9:30 a.m., wine lovers can save $10 off International Festival Tasting (IFT) tickets for the 42nd Vancouver International Wine Festival. Or book one of 39 downtown hotels available through StayVancouverHotels.com to get a free IFT ticket, a saving of up to $115. The Delta Air Lines Tasting Lounge and the Gold Pass are also on sale in advance at a discount.
  2. Enjoy West Restaurant before they close at the end of 2019. They are offering a Fall Prix Fixe, a 3-course menu that can be enjoyed Sundays through Thursdays and Friday & Saturday evening until 6 pm. West Restaurant

I hope this inspires you to try their wines, and perhaps get out to enjoy West Restaurant soon!

 

A stunning dinner paired with Stags’ Leap wines from Napa Valley, California, while sitting across from Joanne Wing, the winemaker…

You may know the name – Stags Leap from the historic name battle or from the Judgment of Paris which happened in 1976. Although Stags’ Leap Winery didn’t participate, it’s neighbour Stag’s Leap Winery did, which put them both on the international map because of their recognition at this judgement. “The Judgment of Paris” tasting at which the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon took top honors among the red wines, triumphing over two first-growth and other renowned wines of Bordeaux.”

There are two Stags Leap Wineries in Napa Valley. “This made Napa and the winery itself internationally renowned. The Stags Leap District is known for its rocky soils. There are two Stags Leap District wineries. Read carefully, Stag’s Leap and StagsLeap – make note of the singular vs. plural possessives.”

Joanne Wing, winemaker, Stags’ Leap Winery

Here is the beautiful menu prepared for the Stags’ Leap wines

 

Canapés

SAWMILL BAY OYSTERS

viognier jelly, dill, crispy parmesan, roasted mushroom, truffled chantilly

paired with: Stags’ Leap Viognier 2017, Napa Valley

This viognier was light and beautiful with medium acidity, making it so enjoyable.

 

First course

First Course

KANPACHI CRUDO

fennel, blood orange, coriander

paired with: Stags’ Leap Chardonnay 2016, Napa Valley

A medium style of chardonnay with vibrancy, it was the perfect pairing!

 

First Course

Second Course

BEETROOT SALAD

burrata cheese, avocado, pumpkin seed vinaigrette

paired with: Stags’ Leap Merlot 2016, Napa Valley

The earthy notes of the beets and burrata brought out the earth notes in the Merlot,

if you are not a Merlot lover – this would change you forever.

 

 

Third Course

SLOW COOKED PORK CHEEKS RAVIOLI

roasted onions, grana padano

paired with: Stags’ Leap Petite Sirah 2016, Napa Valley

The pork wasn’t too fatty, which brought out the sweeter notes of the wine.

The pairing made me think of pork sliders, and how this pairing would wow a crowd.

 

Entrée

Entrée

ROASTED HOLSTEIN STRIPLOIN

wild mushroom and leek tart, black truffle flakes and jus

paired with: Stags’ Leap The Investor Red Blend 2015, Napa Valley

This was my favourite out of the two, it lifted the flavours of the food and the wine

Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley

A very big Cab, yet sooo smooth.

 

 

Cheese

WARM GOUGERES

st. albert cheese, preserved quince

paired with: Stags’ Leap The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley

 

What an evening sharing time with the down to earth winemaker and enjoying an amazing dinner.

I never drink this much red wine, this time after harvest, I usually drink a beer.

– Joanne Wing, Winemaker, Stags’ Leap Winery

 

Until next time, keep exploring and enjoying more wine from around the world. Cheers!

A Trip to Thailand

Canadian winters. You love them, hate them or sit somewhere in between. The in-between would be me. They can be beautiful but chilly. And usually, all I crave is constant sunshine with very warm temperatures, preferably while standing on the sand with ocean waters lapping at my feet.

So earlier this year when an opportunity to travel to a tropical destination landed on my lap, it didn’t take long to decide! “I am doing this!” I said to myself. A friend would be in Thailand, so what a great reason to go. And it had been years since I had travelled to Thailand, so it would be great to ‘see’ it and experience a tropical destination again. PLUS, what a great test to see if I could work remotely while travelling!

Feet, beach, Gulf of Thailand, Pineapple + Mint Fruit Smoothie

So I booked it. 2 weeks on the island of Koh Phangan, just off of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, south of Bangkok. Air with Eva from Vancouver, via Taiwan to Bangkok, then Thai Airways to Koh Samui, and ferry to Koh Phangan.

I had planned on working, yoga, beach time, touring, eating delicious Thai food and chilling. I think I accomplished this pretty well! Here are some photos from my trip along with a little recap of my adventure.

And I booked all my hotels online at agoda.com (a popular site for SE Asia) & I booked my air with a travel agent.

 

Follow along on my adventure…

 

KOH PHANGAN

The Beach Villagehttp://www.beachvillagethailand.com

Here is where I stayed for 10 nights! Basic, beautifully located, somewhat rustic for a 3-star and beds

that were pretty hard (very normal for Thailand), but a great price and location!!

 

Southway Coffee Bar (can be found on Trip Advisor)

A friendly little family-run place with delicious fresh fruit smoothies (very popular in Thailand)

This was where I would start my day with air conditioning!

Banana, coconut, pineapple smoothie

Can’t remember this fruit smoothie (but it was delicious) – I was more excited about having a Matcha green tea!

 

Fisherman’s Restaurant and Barwww.fishermansphangan.com

I took myself here a few times for the food! They had a great wine list too, I was just too hot to have any.

Located on the beach, a modern restaurant with a beach lounge.

The food was soo good! And I enjoyed

my first (ever) fresh coconut – which is a saviour in the hot, humid weather!

A little more expensive than downtown Thong Sala, but still highly worth it!

Chicken Fried Rice

Fresh Coconut with a spoon to scrape out the coconut meat

 

Beach Coconut Bowlshttps://beachcoconuts.business.site

This was such a good find! And I only found them because their social media is strong. They followed me once

I tagged a photo with #kohphangan, so I followed them back and discovered where they were.

They make fresh smoothie bowls from fresh fruits and healthy additions in locally made coconut bowls.

And they made fresh-pressed juices which are not as common on the island.

They also have a cookbook out! Follow them on social media.

Super great people running this place! You’ll find them on Trip Advisor as well.

Fresh pressed juice of apple & cucumber and the Pitaya Passion Bowl

 

Serenity Beach Restauranthttps://www.serenity-beach.org

What a find this was! I drove by on my scooter and caught a glimpse of the view, I had to return.

This picture was my lunch view. A French chef now living locally runs the restaurant. Delicious food

and good wine list (what a surprise!). Also on Trip Advisor & Facebook

The Phangan Thai Cooking Classhttps://the-phangan-thai-cooking-class.business.site

An absolute must when you are here. Chef Oy is a cute woman runs the courses. We started by taking bikes to the local market to get ingredients, then returned to cook and eat what was made.

An amazing experience and not that expensive.

Note: no air conditioning, just fans, so best to go when it’s not the height of the hot season.

Local Fruit Market

Papaya Salad with Prawns; Chicken Fried Rice; Green Curry with Chicken

Chef in training

 

Bluerama – www.bluerama.com

A great location for food, drinks, a calm atmosphere with great music and a spectacular view!

North of Thong Sala, perched up a hill, very modern with a great drinks list, menu and infinity pool.

Entrance fee is 60 Baht which goes towards your bill, it’s a no brainer.

Friends and new friends

Infinity pool looking over the island of Koh Phangan

Tuna tartare – one of many delicious dishes

 

Divine Comedie Boutique Resorthttp://www.divinecomedyhotel.com

I stayed at this beautiful and quaint resort for just 3 nights, it had modern decor and soft beds – thankfully! Each suite has a rooftop deck, and you feel tucked away from the busy main road.

Next time, I would stay here the entire time. Good wifi, a restaurant with Burmese cuisine, infinity pool and a little bar.

The infinity pool at the beach

 

I would also recommend:

Bubba’s Coffee house (can be found on Trip Advisor) – offering North American comfort foods, fresh and locally made, good coffee as well.

Visit the small shop Pink Pineapple in Thong Sala – all-natural self-care products and island home decor.

Visiting the little village of Haad Rin to shop or enjoy the beach, but warning, 1 week before the full moon it gets quite busy as young travellers arrive for the full moon parites!

Haad Rin

Also, take the longtail boat from Haad Rin to Haad Yuan Beach to the Bamboo Hut Restaurant for Thai Food.

Haad Yuan Beach

Visiting the night market on the weekend in Thong Sala

Night Market food

Visiting the food market outside of the Big C supermarket (freshly made green papaya salad!).

And if you are there in April, do take part in the Songkran Festival – it brings locals and visitors out to celebrate the

Thai New Year with street water fights. I’ll admit it was pretty fun!

My scooter and I are drenched from the water fights in Thong Sala for Songkran

Visit Haad Than Sadet Beach – about 30 minutes north on the scooter,

just one restaurant but lots of space to enjoy the beautiful beach.

Fried Rice & Pineapple Mint Fruit Smoothie at Haad Than Sadet Beach

KOH SAMUI

Leaving Koh Phangan for Koh Samui was a beautiful and short ride on the ferry. But also a shock.

KP is a rustic and quaint style of island, where KS is busy with tourists, more cars, more everything.

I stayed right in Fisherman’s Village – which is a touch too touristy, but it did have everything I needed

for my 2 night stay before flying home to Canada.

 

Eden Bungalowshttps://www.edenbungalows.com

Comfortable, quiet, central and quaint (totally my style).

On-site restaurant with really good local Thai cuisine & the friendliest staff.

A cute little pool and right on the main street so it was easy to get around.

Eden Bungalows pool & courtyard

Beef with peas a local Thai speciality

 

Cocotam’s – https://cocotams.business.site

A great find along the beach, a popular bar at sunset as well. And who doesn’t like a beach swing?!

This is where I discovered the Pineapple and mint fruit smoothie, ahhh sooo amazing!

Cocotam’s bar at the beach

Cocotam’s beach area

 

Fisherman’s House Cafe & Hotelhttps://fishermans-house.hotelinsamui.com/en/

Located off the beaten path in busy Fisherman’s Village, this is an absolute must.

They offer breakfast to dinner, creative cocktails, a basic street view but modern decor

and hands down amazing food to make up for it! Follow them on social media.

Spicy chicken lettuce wraps

I would also recommend visiting Chi Samuiwww.chisamui.com a resort just outside of Fisherman’s Village,

go there for dinner, evening jazz, and the view.

Travel tips: I was told the tropical heat is cruel to your shoes, its the truth. So the best flip flops I was able to find through research was Havaianas (the plastic they use is heat resistant and won’t melt); pack light as you will wear light clothing daily; rayon, cotton and linen are the preferred fabrics for hot, humid weather; ladies – make-up won’t be needed, it melts! Get ready to sweat all the time, you’ll eventually be okay with it, but you MUST hydrate – buy 1-litre bottles of water to drink and to brush your teeth (water is not potable) and travel with NUUN rehydration tablets to add to your water. Rent a scooter, they range from $2-4 cad/day – no insurance, so just drive responsibly, but it’s a convenient and common way to travel. There are buses on the island as well.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed my trip, it’s a great place to visit.

Easy to navigate, everyone is very friendly and you will enjoy incredible value, delicious foods and even more amazing views!

Until next time, happy travels! ~ D