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Treats: Mock Red Velvet Cookies

I looked for good Red Velvet cookie recipes, but didn’t really see anything that appealed to me. Most of the recipes suggested that I would need a LOT of red dye to get the colour over top of the chocolate powder, I thought about starting off with a cookie that didn’t have much colour as it was – and decided to make peanut butter cookies with white chocolate chips instead.
I usually fight with my oven, but these turned out really well – and tasty!

Mock Red Velvet cookies

Mock Red Velvet cookies

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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Treats

 

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Tea: Red Velvet Cake

Oh, my – another post about Red Velvet! This time it’s tea, and I actually thought that I already had posted about it, but apparently I didn’t!

Red Velvet Cake waiting for water at the bottom of my new Perfect Tea Maker

Red Velvet Cake waiting for water at the bottom of my new Perfect Tea Maker

Red Velvet Cake is one of David’s Teas, and I picked it up a while ago, loved it, and then went out and got more! While it’s supposed to be chocolatey – there isn’t really a strong chocolate flavour -but instead a rich, smooth tea.  The downside – the “red” – there are red and white sprinkles (along with white chocolate chips) which tint the tea a slight pink/red colour – but this also creates a redish foam (or at least with my sweetener it did) and the red also slightly (and fortunately temporarily) stains the strainers I used to steep the tea.  (I recently got a TeaMaster, and it takes more than just a good rinse to get rid of the red stain. It also coloured the stainless steel strainer for my new cast iron tea pot too.)  Really – the tea isn’t benefited by the red sprinkles at all in my opinion, and it’s just a nice tea with a hook to tap into the Red Velvet trend.

Steeping up Red Velvet Cake in the Perfect Tea Maker

Steeping up Red Velvet Cake in the Perfect Tea Maker

Delicious with sweetener and a bit of milk, you can find Red Velvet Cake at David’s Tea. The website lists the ingredients as: “Black tea, semi-sweet chocolate bits, white chocolate bits, beetroot powder, sprinkles, natural and artificial flavouring”. The beetroot is similar to another great David’s Tea – Forever Nuts – but while it seems to colour the tea nicely red, there must be far less in this mix, or the black tea overpowers the colour of the beetroot.

Red Velvet Cake tea pouring out of the Perfect Tea Maker and into an awaiting mug

Red Velvet Cake tea pouring out of the Perfect Tea Maker and into an awaiting mug

So – have you tried Red Velvet Cake yet?  What did you think?

Delicious Red Velvet Cake tea ready to be enjoyed!

Delicious Red Velvet Cake tea ready to be enjoyed!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Tea & Beverages

 

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Treats: My love affair with red velvet continues

I know that Red Velvet Cake is just chocolate cake with loads of red food dye, and even then, there are more chocolate-y chocolate cakes… but still there’s something about red velvet that I love.  I really wanted a little treat, so made myself up some red velvet cupcakes – with cream cheese frosting and topped with mini Reese peanut butter cups. 

(Sometimes I think it’s actually the peanut butter/ chocolate that I love…)

Red velvet cupcake

Red velvet cupcake

I totally cheated too – not only is the cupcake from a mix, but so is the frosting. (Both store brand from Superstore) I’m lazy like that.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Treats

 

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Taste of Calgary 2012

I had intended to go down to Eau Claire Market in downtown Calgary for the Taste of Calgary on Saturday and Sunday this year – but unfortunately other things came up, so I ended up missing Saturday’s ToC along with Rock the Walk – but I did get down on Sunday instead.

I’ve written a bit about the Taste of Calgary (ToC) before, but for those of you who are new to the concept, basically you purchase tickets on the grounds, and then trade those tickets in for different sample-sized food, drinks, or treats from a wide range of local vendors.  The vendors represent pubs, delis, restaurants, and fast-food eateries.  In the adult-only beverage garden there are also liquor stores and breweries represented.

Very crowded!
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

In the past, tickets were 75 cents/each, with a discount if you purchased tickets in large quantities. It made it a better deal if you were planning to go over several days (The festival runs Thursday – Sunday) or if you were there with others or your family.  This year the tickets were $1.00 each (as they were last year I think) but there were no ‘bulk’ discounts.  This would have made it easier to just buy enough tickets for one item, but didn’t encourage repeat visits to the festival in my opinion.

I really like the ToC – I like the chance to try things that I wouldn’t otherwise try – I like the low commitment – and the chance to see what other restaurants might have that I haven’t tried before. However, I heard from several people who weren’t going this year that it was just too expensive – that although the sample sizes were good – they were largely too expensive for what you got – the same size with a lower ticket price would make the festival more accessible.  I definitely agree – for instance my tiny slice of cake was 3 tickets = 3$.  At a bakery I would have received a slice three times this size for $3-4.

Friendly visitor?
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

On Sunday the grounds were very crowded – a little too much for my liking. Perhaps next year I’ll try to go on Thursday night instead and skip the families and as many people wandering. Plus, we were there around 1pm, and it was swelteringly hot – I found that really uncomfortable after a while too. I did notice that a lot of the vendors had vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.  They might have mentioned this before, but this was the first time I really noticed.

Ok.. so now to the important part – the food!

Mini Boxty – Jameson’s Irish Pub – 4 tickets = 4$

Boxty
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

The first thing I tried was the mini boxty from Jameson’s.  I LOVE the boxty from another Irish pub I frequent, so it was kind of cool to compare.  In my opinion, the boxty from my usual haunt is way better – though this one with chicken and bacon was pretty darn good! Trying to eat it with a spoon though – not so easy. They seemed to have been out of forks when I was there.

Calamari with tzatziki – Pegasus – 4 tickets = 4$

I was trying to decide between the lamb and the calamari – but settled on the calamari. I was actually really disappointed. I found them over-battered, too oily for my preference, and the tzatziki sauce had very little flavour.  I’ll stick with fast-food Greek Opa! instead for the time being. (Until I can get back to my favourite Greek place downtown!)

Spanakopita and calamari
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

Lemoncello Tart – La vita e Bella – 2 tickets = 2$

Lemoncello tort
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

Just a little square – but nice and sour without being too sweet.  Delicious!

Shortbread crusted key lime tart– Downtown food – 2 tickets = 2$

Oddly enough, this one didn’t make the published menu, so I had to go to the menu online to find it! http://www.tasteofcalgary.com/2012_menu.html A tiny lime tart with a shortbread crust topped with meringue.  I don’t care for meringue, and thought the crust was a bit thick – but the lime inside was good!

Key lime tart
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

Red velvet cake – The Old Spaghetti Factory – 3 tickets = 3$

Red velvet cake
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

A thin but delicious little slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Sushi combo – Sumo Lounge – 5 tickets = 5$

With my remaining 5 tickets I bounced back and forth between what I might want, but finally settled on the combo – a shrimp, and a salmon piece, plus a small crab and cucumber roll.

Sushi combo
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

Peach Virgin Margarita – Ric’s Grill – 2 tickets = 2$

Peach margarita
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

When we were ready to go, my companion found an extra two tickets, which she gave me since there was nothing more she wanted.  I got this drink on the way out which was fine.  Nothing special really.

Some of the things my companion had:

Spring roll
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

 

  • Virgin Bellini – Jameson’s Irish Pub – 3 tickets = 3$
  • Polish garlic sausage – Heritage Bakery – 2 tickets = 2$
  • Thai fresh shrimp spring roll – Delicious Thai – 4 tickets = 4$
  • Spanakopita with tzatziki – Pegasus – 3 tickets = 3$
  • Calamari with tzatziki – Pegasus – 4 tickets = 4$
  • Tuna sushi – Sumo Lounge – 2 tickets = 2$

This time we weren’t really in the mood for booze – the beverage garden is usually far more crowded than the rest of the festival, and it was already crowded enough!

Food challenges & freebies

There was also the Armstrong cheese challenge – tasting Armstrong chedder versus their top competitor (I selected the competitor). After the challenge they gave us a tiny bit of a really good grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and basil (really way too greasy for me though!).  The Pepsi taste challenge was there too – too much work to do their challenge IMO, and I didn’t bother filling out all of their form.  Oddly enough, I picked diet coke over diet pepsi…

One of the frozen pizza places was there too – but we skipped that line up, though we did get little chocolate/granola bars from another vendor (Chocomax) handing out freebies.

Love this top!
At the Taste of Calgary 2012

In closing – the prices really need to go down, but otherwise it was a really nice day out. After ToC we headed to Calgary Opera’s Voices in the Village – a short walk up along the Bow River Pathway to the East Village – a free outdoor hour-long opera performance.

Did you go to the Taste of Calgary this year? What did you think?

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Downtown Calgary, Sushi, Treats

 

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Sushi: Grey Eagle Casino

To start off, I can’t even believe I went here to begin with, but my companion really wanted to go to the Grey Eagle Casino back in May (yes, this is a scheduled post!), and despite my misgivings, I grudgingly agreed.  Every Wednesday they have an Asian buffet, which was advertised as having ‘hand-rolled sushi’ featured as a dish.  Now.. what kind of sushi do you expect at an ‘Asian buffet’?

If you said anything other than “lousy”, you fail this little test.

My first issue came with the smell of the Casino. The stench of stale, recycled cigarette smoke was nearly nauseating.  My stomach hurt though I didn’t actually get sick, mind you I had my nose covered for most of our wait in line to get into the buffet.  It seemed poorly organized to have a line-up wait to get in, but you pre-pay to go in, and then I suppose pay later for your drinks. (We didn’t order any drinks, so no worries there…) More than one till might have been a good idea, or a more efficient process perhaps.

Sushi selection from the Grey Eagle Casino

When we got in, I went for the first table of items – a small buffet table with two sushi roll flavours (a BBQ eel roll and a crab/radish/cucumber/salmon roll that I thought was salmon/mango…) two small platters of sashimi (which was already well picked over by the time I got there, with salmon, tuna, octopus and mackerel, a platter of nigiri-style steamed prawn sushi, and a bowl of raw oysters.  I love raw oysters, but something about seeing them buffet-style turned me off.  There was also a small section for condiments with cocktail sauce, lemon wedges, wasabi, soy sauce, onion soy sause, and ginger.  (The ginger had already been ‘contaminated’ by a piece of shrimp by the time I got there too.)

I tried the:

  • eel roll (dried out as though it had be rolled a few hours earlier)
  • salmon/crab/cucumber/radish roll (which I found kind of gross, and picked off all the cucumber before having the second piece which wasn’t much better – the radish was just the wrong flavor for the salmon – mango was what I had expected, and would have been far preferable!)
  • salmon sashimi (inedible because of several small bones still in the fish)
  • tuna sashimi (the best of the first batch)
  • mackerel (very ‘fishy’ – though I don’t often eat mackerel, so I don’t know if this is normal. It was cut strangely, and sort of fell apart on it’s trip from the platter to my plate.)

So round one was a disapointment, and I wasn’t too keen on going back for seconds of anything from that buffet table.

Next I headed to the salad buffet table where there was a large selection of (mostly mayonaise or dressing heavy) salads.  I picked a Greek salad and a hard-boiled egg, then looked at the hot Asian food items. (Clams, pork, chicken, shrimp…) None of them appealed to me in any way – they were missing my favorite standards like sesame chicken, ginger fried beef, chicken balls, or salt-and-pepper squid, so I skipped that entirely and stood in line for the hand-rolled sushi and sashimi.

I would love to be able to review this properly, but after standing in line for 10+ minutes, only two or three people had been served, and I was behind about another 7-8 people… this didn’t bode well.  I decided to skip this, go eat my salad (I’d eaten my egg while in line…) and let my companion go get her next plate of dinner… (We always trade off at a buffet, so that we don’t have to carry our purses, or worse still, leave them behind!)

When I was ready to go refill my plate, the line up for the hand-rolled sushi had barely moved.  What a terrible system!  I could see that they did have ingredients to make my favorites, but it was insane to be lined up for 20-30 minutes… since only one chef was working.  This could be done so much more efficiently.  For instance, you could have a menu sheet, write down your order, and your table number, and have the (ample) servers deliver it, or have more chefs working, or something.  I didn’t even see a menu of what you could order – though perhaps I just never got close enough.  Also, the line up completely blocked one side of the hot food… Very poorly designed!

There were a few pieces of ready-made sushi rolls nearby though, though the platters were completely picked over and apparently weren’t being replenished.  I took a single tempura roll piece with a strawberry on top – which was terrible, so I didn’t go back for more!  Instead I headed to the desserts.

Dessert – much better than the rest of the meal

So, my sushi experience at the Grey Eagle Casino was, in a word, horrible.  I wouldn’t ever bother going back again for food.  However, the desserts were much better.  I had:

  • A small slice of red velvet cake (good, but the icing was too sugary and not cream-cheese-y enough for me)
  • A little cake ball that I thought was a rum ball, but was actually a diabetic-friendly nutmeg cake thing… it was surprisingly good!
  • A square of chocolate cake (quite good)
  • A funny doughnut unlike the Tim Horton’s doughnut with a FAR superior chocolate icing on it
  • .. and then we went for some fruit (strawberries) and mini-cream puffs from the chocolate fountain in the middle – which was wonderful.

My advice, if some cruel, sadistic person insists you go here, skip the food and go straight for the chocolate fountain.  It was the best thing about the meal.

The few positives… If you really like Asian Buffets and want to eat a LOT of food (and don’t mind limited selection), and can tolerate the smoke/etc – this might be ok.  There were several families there with plates piled HIGH with food, who seemed to be enjoying their meals.  Also, there were AMPLE servers, and my water glass never went empty before it was refilled, and my used plates were usually (not always, but usually) taken away swiftly.  The door staff seemed overworked and irritable, but the servers were very pleasant.

So, not a place worth going or that I would ever go to again.  While the stench of smoke wasn’t really noticeable within the restaurant, just the walk past the untended garden-turned-enormous ashtray outside should have been a signal that this was not going to be a place I would enjoy.  And I didn’t.

Grey Eagle Casino Buffet
3777 Grey Eagle Dr S.W.
Calgary, AB T3E
(403) 385-3777

Grey Eagle Casino Buffet on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in South-West Calgary, Sushi, Treats

 

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Treats: Red Velvet Cheesecake

Lately I’ve been infatuated with Red Velvet cake – and it has manifested itself in cupcakes, cakes, ice cream, and other treats.  Not too long ago, I found Red Velvet Cheesecake at Co-op, and of course, I had to pick up some for a treat!

Of course, because I’m a klutz, I bagged the cake myself.  (And tipped it on it’s side..) then it tipped again when serving it… So – the photo isn’t fantastic.

Red velvet + cheesecake = irresistible!

But, looks aren’t everything (so say the pretty boys and girls…) and taste is what we’re really after here!  This one had an icing-sugar-heavy style topping (which I found way too sweet) and the cheesecake itself was kind of crumbly and dry.  It was as though instead of adding the flavours and colour of Red Velvet – they added proper cake batter inside an otherwise plain cheesecake.

It was tasty, but didn’t really have the red velvet flavour that I was after… plus the texture was kind of.. well, not ideal.

So, maybe next time I’ll try this recipe from My Recipes dot com instead!  However, if you like the cake + cheesecake idea, The Sweet Wife has some beautiful photos and a recipe instead!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Treats

 

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Sushi: Genki Sushi on Maui

The conveyor belt with signs letting diners know what they are choosing.

Well, it is highly unlikely that I’ll ever get back to Maui’s Genki Sushi in Lahaina, but I thought that I’d share some photos and thoughts from my vacation with the readers of Happy Sushi Belly!

Preamble

The menu from Kai Wailea

Our first sushi attempt was in the Shops at Wailea – an open-air mall with some really high-end shops (Betsy Johnson, Versace, Gucci, Rolex, etc..) at Kai Wailea.  Of course, one look at the menu, and we decided not to stop in – the prices were just too high to justify a quick lunch, especially since we were hot and sweaty – hardly feeling up for something posh.  (For an example of the prices, two Ikura is $8.95, a California Roll is $8.00, and 5 pieces of Tuna sashimi is $14.95…. this is about twice of what I’d pay back home…)  I’m sure the food was good – but not what we were in the mood for.

So, we headed down the road to Sansei Seafood & Sushi in Kihei.  Tucked into a little strip mall, we didn’t think this would be nearly as posh as Kai – but unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to find out – because when we got there (about 2:30pm… I never seem to want lunch at “lunch-time”) they were closed.  Bad luck for me – apparently they’re only open for dinner.  Looking at their menu – we might have been missing out – it looks delicious! (Though prices aren’t listed…)

Ok.. third time is the charm, right?  We headed into Lahaina and went to Zushi.  This is a TINY place in a strip mall.  I had seen the back of the shop from the highway, and found our way over there – only to find that it was also closed.

Giving up, we headed to the other side of the highway and over to the Outback Steak House, and instead found Genki Sushi!  I was really happy to finally get my fill of some Maui Vacation Sushi!

The Main Event

Chopped scallop

Like Sushi House Banff or Kinjoin Calgary, Genki Sushi is the “conveyor belt” style sushi restaurant, with limited table service (the server brought us water, but even juice and pop are available on the very long train) for additional items.  The menu, soy sauce and chopsticks are on the table, but everything else comes off the track.  (Including both wasabi and ginger.)  There is a menu on the table showing everything they have to offer, but before each of the items there is also a picture with the name of the item and it’s price which is really helpful and fun!  We did order two items (Cream Cheese & Salmon roll – aka a Philadelphia Roll, and an order of salmon sashimi) but everything else we picked off the track.

First up – chopped scallop roll.  This is normally one of my favorites, but this honestly wasn’t good and it set me up for low expectations.  The scallop had likely been sitting too long, and it was dry and a bit fishy tasting.  Not good.  Of course, if you read Happy Sushi Belly you know that Ikura is my other favorite – but they didn’t have any at the time being – though it is on their menu.

Volcano Roll – yummy!

Next up – I loved the look of the Volcano roll – a California-type roll, covered in mounds of chopped raw tuna and lots and lots of spicy sauce (not the spicy mayo, but rather the clear spicy sauce).  I grabbed it off the conveyor belt and had my expectations return – it was delicious, with tender tuna, hot spicy sauce (but not TOO spicy) and a nice fresh roll under the whole thing.  If I hadn’t wanted to try some of their other flavours, I probably would have had another!

While I had sushi, my companion (who isn’t a sushi-lover) was in the mood for some edamame – they had both a spicy version and a plain version.  I had one or two, and wasn’t overly thrilled (I like them when they’re freshly steamed and still hot) but she liked them well enough.  She also picked up an order of gyoza, which she said were very good, though I would have hesitated – since part of what I love of gyoza is that vinegar-sour sauce.

Tempura California Roll

She must have really liked what she tried, because she got adventurous, and tried their Tempura California Roll next.  This is a basic California roll… which has been battered and fried, then topped with spicy sauce (the clear one rather than the creamy one) and green onions.  It’s a bit too much for me – but I did try one piece and it was remarkably good – not at all greasy or heavy – though I don’t think I’d want more than a few pieces to myself.

Cream Cheese Roll – aka Philadelphia roll

Salmon Sashimi

My salmon sashimi came up next, and while it was good, it wasn’t remarkable.  The Cream Cheese roll (aka Philadelphia Roll) was next, and it was good, though not as well blended in terms of flavours as I was expecting. Of course, I picked off the onions, but I really liked the extra salmon on top!

Crab-mayo sushi

My companion was once again feeling adventurous and picked up an order of Crab Mayo – basically shredded crab meat mixed with Japanese mayonnaise in a battle-ship style sushi.  She said it was good, but not fantastic. Still… small steps!

Tasty Red Velvet cupcake!

Finally, I picked off the red velvet cupcake from the belt.  I have no idea how red velvet cupcakes fit in with sushi… but it looked delicious – and it was! Since we were pretty full, we split it, but if I hadn’t had so much sushi, I definitly could have eaten a whole one myself – with lovely light cream cheese frosting on top, and a nice moist cupcake with a squirt of chocolate sauce on the inside. Yum yum!

The conclusion

What I loved most about Genki Sushi was all of the selection.  There were so many different flavour combinations and new-to-me flavours(Spam sushi, onion-salmon, garlic-ebi(raw sweet prawn), garlic-salmon, yaki (seasoned and seared)-salmon, abalone salad battleship sushi, ahi (tuna) poke battleships, hot dog rolls, garlic-ahi, their Genki burger, and a bunch of vegetarian options like spring bean tempura, cold and cooked tofu, eggplant fry sushi, ocean salad battleships, plus several non-sushi items to like several salads, and cooked dishes.)  With that being said, since I don’t like onion or garlic, those ones weren’t on my must-try list… and many of the other unique options weren’t available at the time we were there.  Others I might have tried if I had seen them on the belt, but I wasn’t up for ordering a full order sight unseen.  Next time!

The sushi approaches!

Also, the prices were great.  All the reading I’ve done about conveyor-belt style sushi makes it sound as though it should be a fast-food price-level experience. You don’t get lots of personal service, and the chef can make whatever is selling best or whatever he has the ingredients for.  With this in mind, the price point SHOULD be lower than a la carte sushi IMO.  Genki Sushi finally lives up to this.  (See my price chart below.)

What I liked least – was that almost none of the dishes were covered in any way.  The salads were mostly covered (likely to keep them fresh longer?) but very little else was.  I suppose it’s my paranoia after seeing people at other conveyor-belt places pick things off the belt, look at them (and breath on them) and then put them back that puts me a little off the lack of coverage – especially when the restaurant is long and narrow.  At a place like Sushi House Banff you can see what all of your fellow diners are doing – here you wouldn’t be able to.  (Which certainly has it’s advantages as well…)  I guess you just have to trust your fellow diners to maintain the same level of cleanliness and tact that you yourself have!

Our final bill

Genki Sushi has locations in Hawaii and Washington state in the USA, along with locations in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong… if you’ve traveled to any of those places (or, if perhaps there are some international readers!) and have tried Genki Sushi – what do you think?

Price chart

Sushi Menu price
Salmon sashimi $3.95/ 4 pieces
Special scallop $2.30 / 2 pieces
Edamame $1.55 / 1 bowl
Cream cheese roll / Philadelphia roll $3.95 / 4 pieces
Volcano roll $4.95 / 4 pieces
Gyoza $2.30 / 3 pieces

Genki Sushi‎
345 Keawe St # 301
Lahaina, HI 96761-2731
(808) 661-0333
genkisushiusa.com‎

Genki Sushi on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Gyoza (Dumplings), Out of town - USA, Sushi, Treats

 

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Coffee: A bit of holiday cheer

Shocker, I know, I’m posting about coffee for a change instead of tea.

I have been seeing the poster for Red Velvet White Mocha from Good Earth Cafe for a while now, (since I pass it every day at work) but held off until the other day, when I succumed, desperately wanting that red velvet flavour.

Red Velvet Latte

Well, my red-velvet craving will go unsaited for another day – since there’s nothing about this that says “red velvet” to me at all, or even chocolate for that mater.  It’s not even red.  😦

With that being said, it wasn’t particularly coffee-like either, and tasted delicious.  Last year I tried the egg nog latte and was horribly disappointed (I like a little more egg nog than they prepare..) but although this time I didn’t get what I anticipated, I still really enjoyed my drink. It’s seasonal though, so it won’t tempt me for much longer with the promise of holiday cheer in a paper cup!

So, do you have any ideas how I can fill this red velvet craving?  Let me know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in South-West Calgary, Tea & Beverages

 

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