On our flight home in April 2017 from Stockholm, we had a 20-hour layover in Amsterdam. We enjoyed Amsterdam on our last visit, so decided to splurge on our hotel stay since it was the last night in Europe. It was a pretty last minute booking, but we ended up choosing to stay at the W Amsterdam due to its close proximity to the downtown core. Out of all the hotels available, I chose this hotel as the W brand is pretty synonymous for luxury hotels, and caters toward a more younger generation.

DISCLAIMER: This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.



We arrived at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol with the worst news ever - all trains were stopped. A man decided to get super drunk and passed out on the train tracks. He was grazed by an incoming train, so they had to stop all service to assist him. Most trains in the city share the same tracks, so this man's action stopped all incoming and outgoing trains. Luckily, he wasn't severely hurt. Anyway, we didn't arrive at the hotel until a little after 4 pm and didn't get to really enjoy the amenities like the pool or lobby as we wanted to eat lunch (a very late one).


W Amsterdam is a modern and hip upscale hotel located near Dam Square. The hotel is split into two buildings, a former telephone exchange building, and a bank. We stayed in the bank building, which was an intriguing design mix of heritage and contemporary style. Our room was the Wonderful Exchange room with a King bed. We opted for the Atrium view in the Exchange building, and it was €322 for the night. That converted to $481.80 CAD a night. For a few euro more, you can get a city view for €340. At the time, I didn't really take many pictures for my Instagram (and I don't think stories existed yet), so I didn't care to have a city view or not.


The hotel room was pretty well-stocked with all kinds of amenities and drinks. Some were free, while others you had to pay.


Two cons - it can get loud on weekends and the layout of the hotel was a little confusing (a lot of different glass doors on each floor). While it is a luxury hotel, the above outdoor pool turns into a lounge on the weekends. So, it can get loud as the lounge goers come/go. We stayed there on a Saturday, so it was pretty bustling. Luckily, we were exhausted after a day of exploring and shopping, so we slept pretty well despite the noise (you don’t hear the music too clearly, but the beats were noticeable).


Just a heads up that upon checking out, there is also an additional 5% city tax (of the room) collected by the hotel on behalf of the Amsterdam City.



This particular stay in early 2017 was very memorable to us, as it was our first luxury hotel experience. Our logistics and e-commerce business was starting to do well at the time, and it really made us believe that we were heading in the right direction. We no longer regretted quitting our full-time careers to become entrepreneurs. It was the right decision! To this day, I still believe in experiences over materialistic goods, so I do think it was money well-spent. My parents would contradict that though cause you know ... Asian parents =)

Address: Spuistraat 175, 1012 VN Amsterdam, Netherlands

[Hotels] W Amsterdam

by on Wednesday, June 26, 2019
On our flight home in April 2017 from Stockholm, we had a 20-hour layover in Amsterdam. We enjoyed Amsterdam on our last visit, so decided ...
About two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending one of Toben Food by Design‘s pop-up dinners at their new partnered venue, Grace. Guests were treated to an amazing family-style dinner in a multi-faceted space. Grace was the perfect backdrop for the evening: a beautifully designed space using a mixture of heritage tones and contemporary touches.

Blog by me, and edited by EventSource.ca. Read my blog and more pics here.


For those who desire some Asian influence and nostalgia in their meal, I highly recommend checking out Toben Food by Design‘s Lǚkè Pop Up Series: I. “Meaning Traveler in Mandarin, Lǚkè transports each guest to a different location by combining flavour, design, style and service for a full globetrotter experience in your very own city.”



Pop-up dinners are not new in Toronto, but to execute one with such exceptional food is what sets this one apart. The Lǚkè dinner embodies the small community closeness of the Asian culture, without sacrificing the privacy and space to which western dining culture is accustomed. Having traveled all over various parts of Asia, both Chef Toben and Chef Liam brought forth their inspiration from their trips straight to the dinner tables in the most wonderful way.

Upon entering Grace, guests are escorted to their communal tables, and drink orders were taken. The inspiration from their Asia travels is quite evident right from the presentation of the tables to the subtle nuances across the 8 courses we had the pleasure of enjoying. Each course was carefully prepared with consideration of its Asian influence such that the overall experience was an adventure in itself.

The three specialty cocktails (Taramind Sour, Sake Cocktail and Thai Coconut) perfectly complemented all of the Asian-inspired dishes.  I opted for the Thai Coconut, a sweet mixture of white rum, lemongrass syrup, lime bitters and coconut water. Yum!



As a seasoned traveler myself, I’ve had the chance to experience my share of Asian cuisine and can attest to the fact that the best cuisine out there really stimulates all five taste senses: saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and umami. The dishes prepared by Toben certainly did just that: it is clear that a lot of attention was placed into ensuring that each one of these flavors was incorporated and balanced across the 8 delectable dishes.

We began dinner with three snacks. First up, deviled eggs which were carefully crafted with miso-crème fraiche yolk – a sensational taste of its Italian origin coupled with an Asian accent thanks to the red shisho, and Liam’s cured salmon roe. These were to die for, and the general consensus of our table was that we wished we had more of them!



The second snack was the Vegetarian Hot and Sour soup, which was the dish we found incorporated the greatest amount of Asian influence. With its exotic mushrooms, and 5 spice lotus root chips, this soup did not shy away from its Asian heritage leaving a very savory experience in one’s palette.

The third snack served as a tasty palette cleanser to the first two dishes, “resetting” our respective palette in preparation for the main meal. I cannot think of a better way to do it than using Hamachi Crudo paired with baby cucumber, and various herbs. This dish’s origin is actually Italian and serves as an answer to the Japanese Sashimi. The idea here was to bring the ocean to your dish without countering the natural flavors. This dish itself was light, gentle and served its purpose in preparing us for the main courses.

 

The first main course was Jumbo Fried Chicken Wings accompanied by its own set of Bachan – Kimchi, Cucumber Salad, and Picked Daikon. Over the last several years, Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) has popped up everywhere and has earned its staying power for a very good reason. The idea of having bachan Korean sides that are light and breezy, followed by fried chicken really elevated the flavours as opposed to fried food on top of fried food that you typically find at most fried chicken restaurants.








The next main course was the Charred Octopus, another very well-known Italian dish, seasoned with Black Bean Pineapple, and Lime. The two chefs cleverly fused an Asian staple food to this dish that every Asian household is very well aware of: Lap Cheong Sausages. The sausages were cut into tiny pieces to create a visually pleasing presentation, but also added flavor that complemented the octopus.



We ended off the main meal with a rather intricate salad consisting of many ingredients. The Shaved Winter Vegetable Salad composed of Kohlrabi, beets, heirloom carrots, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, radishes, pumpkin seeds, heirloom cherry tomato, and drizzled in a creamy golden miso dressing. I liked that it was filling and packed with flavor.



Wok Fried Water Spinach is an essential dish in Asian home-style cooking and restaurants. Toben’s version mixed oyster sauce, lemongrass, galangal and garlic to re-create a classic vegetable dish.

The night ended off on a sweet note with the Black Tea-Sea Salt Creme Caramel. Simply divine!



Overall, the evening certainly lived up to its goals of delivering guests that true globetrotter experience. Every detail of the dinner from start to finish was meticulously arranged, which culminated into a fantastic dinner and overall guest experience.

We look forward to the next pop up event hosted by these two seasoned traveler chefs! If you’re interested in giving this meal a try, the next event in the Lǚkè Pop Up Series: I will take place  at Grace on April 5th at 7 pm.
 In the early afternoon of a weekday back in December 2016, we headed to Ikebukuro to check off one of my bucket list items - visit an Owl cafe in Tokyo. I researched a bit before our visit, and found one that was easily accessible by metro. We went to Ikebukuro Cafe, and put our names on the list to return at 4:30 pm. You don't need a reservation, but it is highly recommended. We went on a weekend and it was ¥1600 an hour and the price includes a drink of choice.


Upon entering, we were given a laminated sheet with the cafe's request and rules.

Request and Rules


Then we were escorted to the play area, where we were greeted with various owls of different shapes and sizes. Most of the smaller owls were pretty playful, and seemed OK with the constant light petting from guests. Unfortunately, each owl had one of their legs tied with a long string, but I read somewhere that they do get breaks to fly.




Although not pictured, I also got the opportunity to have one of the larger owls sit on my arm. I was a little hesitant, as I saw this very same owl flapped its large wings at a guest before me. That owl also ended up attacking me a little bit lol. Overall, it was still a fun and memorable experience. 




Address: Japan, 〒171-0022 Tokyo, Toshima, Minamiikebukuro, 1 Chome−17−1

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If you are an animal lover, why not check out the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama in Kyoto? Read my experience here.


[Tokyo] Ikefukurou Cafe

by on Friday, February 01, 2019
 In the early afternoon of a weekday back in December 2016, we headed to Ikebukuro to check off one of my bucket list items - visit an Owl ...
Cinnaholic is an American cinnamon roll bakery franchise founded in 2010. They appeared on Shark Tank in 2014, where they got an offer from one of the investors. The company then adopted a franchise business model in 2015, and there are now 3 locations in Ontario. 


Recently, I had the opportunity to visit their Danforth location to try a few cinnamon rolls myself. The store was small in size with a few long-standing tables at the front. I'd say this location is more for take-out orders. When I was there, there was a constant flow of customers taking the buns to go rather than eat-in. 

To be perfectly honest, I usually don't care for vegan food as I have had some pretty bad experiences. So my expectations for vegan cinnamon rolls weren't very high. However, I was pleasantly surprised as to how good these rolls were. It was hard to distinguish these from the non-vegan ones I have had in recent years. 



Cinnaholic's cinnamon rolls are 100% vegan and made with the highest quality ingredients. What makes the rolls vegan? It's dairy-free, eggs-free and cholesterol-free. The one thing is that it's not the healthiest dessert, as I believe the calories count for each roll is at least 600 calories. However, if you're not counting calories and love chocolate. Then definitely get the Cookie Monster. It's a roll with vanilla frosting topped off with cookie dough, chocolate chips and chocolate drizzle. 



Out of the two rolls, I liked the Raptors on a Roll more. So fluffy and soft! I'd get this same roll again if/when I am in the area.



If you don't like their pre-made combinations, you can also customize your own cinnamon roll from a variety of Cinnaholic’s signature frosting flavors and toppings. The original hand-crafted custom cinnamon roll starts at $4.95, and you can add a frosting flavor for $0.25 and each topping is $0.50. My fully customizable cinnamon bun consists of cream cheese frosting, marshmallow and sprinkles. 

The buns are made to order, and it tastes great when you eat it right away. However, the frosting does tend to harden overtime, so I'd recommend heating it up in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds if you don't eat it right after purchase. It was a very sweet treat that I thoroughly enjoyed! 



Address: 319 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON, M4K 1N7

Cinnaholic Canada

by on Thursday, January 03, 2019
Cinnaholic  is an American cinnamon roll bakery franchise founded in 2010. They appeared on Shark Tank in 2014, where they got an offer fro...