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Peter Green

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That seems like an amazing amount of drink and I can't find the first food...other than at Bonita?

(Ah, this was later in the evening, post MB?) Thank you for the food trip - Vancouver is fun that way. Travel is really.

Yes, we did go into the fray girded with burgers and fries from Moderne Burger earlier in the evening.

Still, I'm pleased to be an amazing drinker.

We thought we were rather restrained.

:smile:

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Snow! :biggrin:

Trip to airport! :wacko:

(I'll be catching up over the next week or so....you know what I'm like)

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I beg to differ. One time they were de-icing my plane in March! We almost couldn't take off there was so much snow. They canceled the remaining flights that day about a hour and a half later.

But that won't happen today. Safe trip Peter!

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Thanks, everyone!

The good thing about hours spent in airports is that it gives me time to write.

I did hit up DB Moderne today for lunch. Scud and I were going to do Moderne Burger again, but DB was open, and we were there......you know how I am.

It was their first lunch, after the dinner opening yesterday, but everything was working with a degree of precision. The man himself was there checking on things, and I must say that I was quite pleased with what I ate.

I'll put some thought into comparisons of this with some of the other places I've been recently (like Rhodes W1 Brasserie, which I also enjoyed).

It'll make a good penultimate piece for the trip.

(The ultimate, of course, will be sake, which I'm reviewing in a liquid manner at this point, as I wait for my brother to collect us for the airport run)

On the bright side, Vancouver is back to normal.......it's raining! :smile:

Bye for now (if KLM lets me on).

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Oh, man, do I ever hate going transatlantic.

Jet lag is never kind.

I guess it's time to get back to work.

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December 4 wasn’t much of a day.

That was a good thing.

I drove to the North Shore with dual purposes.

One of my goals in life was to stop by and visit with Yoonhi’s side of the family.

My other goal was to buy pepperoni.

Yes, I do get somewhat obsessive.

I worry about that.

A lot.

My visit with the in-laws was pleasant, as always. I would have stopped for lunch with them, but I had a later appointment in the afternoon, and couldn’t cut the time. And they were busy, too.

Yoonhi’s middle sister was tied up with things when I first dropped in, so I cruised down Lonsdale for a look-see.

It’s an odd strip, and one that I’m always of two minds about.

It’s busy. Busy is good. But the population density and profile never quite pushes it over onto the fine dining side.

There’re plenty of Thai places, but nothing that really catches my eye. And there’s more than a few sushi places. Some Korean, which can be good; Kokoro I think is Japanese – and is now doing lunch; and a whole slew of Chinese run places (some of whom have, as I see in the Province today, some interesting software packages).

The Greeks are still up here. I remember when I was a kid that Broadway was where we’d go for souvlaki, and domates, and retsina (and pool tables), but now the North Shore seems to be better hunting.

And, across the span of Asia Minor, the Persian places, and the Iranian delis, are well represented.

Yup, it’s a bit of everything. But nothing really caught my eye and held it. Instead, I dropped in at Jack L onsdale’s to look over what wines were on.

The locals are doing well, and doing proud, I must say. It costs more for domestic wine (at a glance) than for the imports.

It all made me quite thirsty.

A wander back up, and I checked in with the family. As I said, I needed to run, as I had an appointment.

But, first, I had orders.

There’s a debate over butchers in the Lower Mainland in eGullet. Heck, there's a debate over everything, if you just look. There are actually quite a few interesting butchers around, and amongst those are quite a few good ones. I’ve been happy with the fellow in the Lynn Valley mall in the past, who’d order in foie gras for me from Quebec; you've already suffered at me salivating over Oyama; my friend Russ swears by Windsor Meats, and Rick, the guy who takes care of things there ("A dozen partridges for Christmas"); and when I’d looked at the steaks in Granville Island….well, I won’t put my feelings in print.

But, that’s beside the point. I won’t get into whos meat is bigger, but I wasn’t here for steaks. I wasn’t here for free range chickens. I wasn’t even here for lactating sows…..

Hmmm….that sounds interesting.

Come to think of it, is Sav-On Meats still in business down on Hastings? With their big neon sign of the flying pig?

It's an interesting time to be in the meat market. On the one side, the economic issues may force people to go for the cheapest, but countering that is the recent listeriosis outbreak at the big meat packers out East (mind you, I grew up referring to everything beyond Granville as "Back East").

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Mom sent me to the British Butcher for meat pies, and Yoonhi wanted pepperoni. It’s an out of the way place, but I was over here anyways, so they’d put in an order.

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I must say, I quite liked the pepperoni that Yoonhi brought back for me: both pieces.

Between the Girl and the Boy, there’s not much left for dad.

I muscled up to the counter (with some blood pudding already firmly in my sweaty little palms), and asked for some sausage.

“Twenty hot, twenty regular.”

pause

“You certainly do like pepperoni a lot, don’t you?”

I mentioned the sad demise of the last batch and she surprised me.

“Oh! That was your wife. I remember her!”

I’m just not used to people remembering their customers. It’s kinda nice.

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I stocked up here, with the pepperoni, some blood pudding, a steak and Guiness, a steak and kidney, and a large steak and mushroom for Mom.

With my sister living in Lynn Valley, they’ve grown somewhat addicted to the steak and mushroom. They sell them both pre-cooked, and ready to bake. I went for the pre-cooked.

They’re a very nice pie. But I’ve decided I don’t like the steak and Guiness match very much. I’ve done this before in London, and it tasted just like this.

I just don’t like this very much.

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I did try a bite of mom and dad’s steak and mushroom. That was much more to my taste, with big mushrooms and chunks of steak wallowing about in the gravy like hippos after a good work out.

Oh, my appointment. That didn’t work out. But that was okay. I owe my parents a meal at home from time to time. Pile the plates up in the kitchen, and then congregate downstairs and watch the news.

Unless there’s a hockey game, of course.

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And I had that retsina to finish. For some reason, when I think of a British-style vacation, I think of meat pies and cold retsina.

Next /b] – okay, I’m going to have to get settled back in.

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December 5 – A Pie Too Far

We’re told a lot of things as we grow up. Native truths that we come to take on faith.

The trick is that not all of these are fully explained.

In this particular instance, it was a matter of “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.

We were never told what was important about it.

I have now discovered that my original premise, that it just gets in the way of mid-morning snacks and a hearty lunch, was correct. The important part of breakfast is that you don’t overdo it.

It seemed like a good idea. Up early, and pop another one of the meat pies into the oven for a warming. Steak and kidney, this time.

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Steaming hot, with a mug of coffee and a computer to get some work done with.

The pie itself was very good, much more to my taste than the mushiness of the steak and Guinness. But by the time I was finished, it was apparent that this was going to be with me for some time.

Cursing lividly (my Mom was still asleep, so she couldn’t hear me) I bemoaned my fate. There wasn’t going to be any room for lunch.

I was wrong, of course.

I popped out to Central Canada (Burnaby) to visit my nephew Clark and his family. They’ve just moved from what I consider to be the Maritimes (Coquitlam) and it was appropriate that I stop for lunch and catch up on family business.

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A good wine, which Clark opened with one of those new fangled gas-charged openers – one of Ridge’s Lytton Springs – and we had a very pleasant salad of mushrooms, greens, and mikan.

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For me, growing up, mikan were always a big part of Christmas. We brothers would each buy a box of the green paper wrapped oranges, and happily peel away at them over the run-up to Santa Claus’s Day of Loot. So, with the cold weather upon us, it just seemed appropriate to have these somewhere during the trip.

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And, for the mains, asparagus and meatloaf. If there is a stereotypical Anglo-Canadian dish, it’s meatloaf. (I had to catch myself on being too encompassing there. Poutine has its own place in the cosmology).

Lunch taken care of, I headed back West to get ready for dinner.

That meat pie was really weighing on me.

Dinner was out again with Aidan and the family. Angus always likes sushi, and his favourite place for this is Tojo’s, so we were going to Tojo’s.

I’ve been of mixed minds (don’t ask me how many) regarding Tojo’s. I’m always hesitant about places where the famous go. But this is one of Angus’ favourite spots, and I was interested in sake, so off we went.

I arrived a bit early, and sat at the bar to look over their sake selection. Not extensive, but not bad. They’re getting their own bottling from one of the Niigata breweries – Masukagami Corporation. I went for this, and it proved to be very neutral, well balanced - a good sake for food. The rest of the selection looked good, with a price for everyone. And they carried the Granville Island Osake. This was looking good.

The bar itself, up front near the entrance, isn’t bad. Nice wood tones, and a knowledgeable bartender. The seating could be a bit more comfortable, though, but I think it’s a bit more about the style to this than the serious drinking element.

Aidan, Jackie, and wee Angus entered just as the sake was ready, and we repaired to a booth, having the flask sent over in it’s tidy wooden bucket.

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The rooms rather daunting. Shiny, slick, and well-lit, but I generally look for a coziness to Japanese dining. This was, well, rather fresh and Canadian. It’s a new venue for Tojo’s and I wonder what the old place was like?

The family had certain things they needed to do, and so they set about their ordering. Myself, I’m bone lazy, and so I just left the matter to the chefs, simply leaving them with their own initiative and the high end of the budgets.

Aidan has had a lot to drink in his life (okay, technically we had “a lot to drink” just a night or so ago), but he’s not done much with sake, which seemed a shame, given the similarities between sake and his beloved beer.

It was a joy to see his reaction to a decent sake served at a temperature at which you can taste it.

This reaction had me so pleased that I decided to do something different.

It was nigori time.

I’m really fond of nigori. Since my first milky white animal-husbandry-like glass in Kyoto, I’ll always try and fit in a glass when I can find it. Fresh and bubbly, it’s all the fun parts of makkoli without the sour, bitter elements. More like dongdongju in the finish, and likewise lacking that strained diarrhea consistency that puts some people off of dongdongju.

So, as you probably gather, I ordered a bottle of the Granville Island.

The waitress brought the bottle and a bucket. The lees lay white and heavy at the bottom, and then she gave it a good swirl to get the action going. It opened with a bit of a pop, and poured with that sibilance of effervescence I was looking forward to with glee.

It was quite good.

By this time, food was arriving.

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For the family, there was a tuna tataki, with some very attractive daikon. A nice bit of fish, lightly beaten up, soft on the bite.

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Angus went for asparagus and avocado, and then we head to order up some kappa food for him (kappamaki – kappa love cucumbers).

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My first course was also a tataki, but presented as a “salad” with a tangy brown dressing (miso?) to accent the flesh.

At this point, the nigori, which our waitress had recapped to keep it fresh, blew its cork out.

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Next was a mushroom, a large, fresh shitake. Not one of those dried restored thingies, but a mushroom from the forest to us, topped with daikon, in turn capped with a crust of sesame.

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And then, back to salads. This one a Dungeness crab affair, the meat worked up with fresh vegetables and wasabi. This was quite good, with large, thick chunks of crab.

Needless to say, the nigori was great with this, complementing the crab. The Masukagami, in contrast, played a more femine role, pushing the crab flavour forward.

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Across the table, there was a selection of salmon and tuna, and one of the rolls, whose name esacpes me (I was busy eating).

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Fish was the theme of the evening, and a snapper was next. This was served with a miso base and a drizzle of reduced sweet soy sauce. The fish was very nicely deep fried on the underside, and set off by edamame on the base.

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A traditional presentation. A red cypress leaf on a paper wrap, sealing in the dish below. This took me back to Kyoto, and, strangely, to Bangkok, when Mick Edwards was showing us that neat trick for steaming rice paper over a bowl, trapping it like a snare drum.

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Inside was the fish of the year – sablefish. It’s all over the menus on both sides of the Atlantic. Mind you, it’s a good fish, so I won’t complain. Golden brown skin, a thick, sweet sauce, and a caress of a wrap around some pretty little asparagus tips.

When the next dish came out – a taimai hand roll, served hot and crispy – I was having so much fun with Aidan, Jacky, and Angus (and the nigori) that I sort of, well….forgot to get a picture.

So shoot me.

This was a soft, smoky fish, with big pine mushrooms.

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Mortified at missing the shot, I did get the next dish, a selection of sushi; their Great Canadian roll – Atlantic lobster with asparagus and wrapped in smoked Pacific salmon; a Pacific Northwest roll – Dungeness crab, avocado, and topped with scallop and flying fish roe; a sweet prawn, some tuna, and another roll of unknown origin.

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Another Great Canadian came out, this the full presentation. Crispy asparagus (there’s a lot of asparagus on the menu today – from my nephew’s place all the way out to here).

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And the finish is a green tea brulee. You have to like macha in just about anything. Berries and sesame don’t hurt either.

So, overall I felt it was a good meal. But places like Tojo’s suffer from the hype they pick up along the way. “Is it as good as the hype?” is probably more the question?

Well, let’s consider things in perspective. And let’s also bear in mind that Tojo himself wasn’t in-house this evening. I know, a solid restaurant should run well when the chef isn’t there, but that’s tough to do with an omakase approach.

For Vancouver, I felt that it was a very good meal. I would not say that it was up to the level of some of the meals I’d had in Japan earlier this year. If you asked me about my favourite Japanese meals of this sort, I would have to give pride of place to Ryugin and Kadowaki.

Mind you, this was nowhere near as expensive as those meals. Kadowaki was double the cost (at least), so there’s nothing wrong with the price point. Of course, if you compare this with Isao in Bangkok (which I need to write up before I the next Bangkok eating binge), then it comes out way expensive.

As I’d mentioned, I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the room. I would comment that it lacked “wa”, but really, there was nothing wrong with it, and I believe my edginess is more of my own expectations and biases, so you can toss that in the bin where it belongs. My idea of “comfortable atmosphere” can often be another person’s concept of screaming nightmare.

If the worst thing I can say about a room is that it feels too “Canadian”, and I’m in Canada, well……

For the West, I was happy with his sake selection. And I give him full marks for supporting his local suppliers – be it for vegetables, fish, or sake. Perhaps that’s a part of my issue here, too. I was seeing some ingredients too often. But it is winter, for Heaven’s sake. I’d do better to come back here and try this again in the growing season.

Of course, the opinion that really matters is Angus’.

Angus was happy.

Me? That pie was really slowing me down.

Next – Long, Dazed Journey Into Night

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Fabulous writing. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and opinions. It's always nice to see what outsiders* think of the scene here.

*at least someone that doesn't live here permanently

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Fuel reminds me very much of Degustation

It's been on my list for so long. These pictures really make me want to go now! Great writeup!


"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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A Hard Rain’s Comin’

We were out on the street, and the rain was back.

Jackie and Angus were headed back home, so it was just going to be another bad night out for the boys.

Tiki Time

We started by taking a cab out to the Waldorf. Our plan had been to check out if the Tiki Room was open. In the last few years the Waldorf, with its distinctive palm tree singage, has gone back to their roots, with the Polynesian décor of the function rooms being opened back up again for general use.

(And, if you’re a big fan of little umbrellas, cocktail glasses, bamboo, and torches, then you’re already probably watching Tiki Bar TV – another product from Vancouver).

The hotel itself goes back to the 40’s but the Polynesian-theme was added in ’54 and ’55., with a lounge described as featuring “a midnight blue half-domed ceiling, reflected in a wall of mirrors to complete the illusion of a night sky, with inset twinkling star lights. The effect is heightened by fake palm trees, bamboo

matting, floral carpets, and a series of superb black velvet paintings, produced by the Hawaiian artist who invented the genre.” (ref: Heritage Vancouver, Jan 2003)

They had me at “black velvet paintings”.

But the Waldorf wasn’t what we hoped for. It wasn’t an “event” night, so the Tiki rooms were shut down, with only the beer parlour open. The crowd consisted of Aidan, myself, four customers, two waitresses, and the bartender.

It was kinda quiet.

This was the down side. The Waldorf, in recreating itself, worked on being a “location” (have you noticed how the world has been sprouting quotation marks these last two decades?) for specific events. While this has increased the revenue stream, it’s hurt their ability to operate as a neighborhood pub.

As much as I would’ve loved to take in the Tahitian Lounge, the Polynesian Room, and the Menehune Room, it wasn’t in the cards for this evening. I’ve seen pictures, read the reviews, and they’ve been in a few film and tv shots, but that’s not the same as getting that real aloha feeling. It’s one of those things I’m just going to have to come back for.

We finished up our beers after talking with the bar tender about the place, and then flagged a cab out on Hastings. We figured downtown would be livelier.

Shore Me Up, Mate

Hastings & Main was hopping, at least in a Night of the Living Dead sort of way. The crowds that milled about in the rain didn’t really seem to be going anywhere, or doing anything. We passed more of the homeless, milling about across the street from what used to be Woodward’s department store (I remember Mom bringing home their Black Forest Cake as a treat from time to time). That stretch, which was once home to city hall before the new place went up on Cambie and 12th, is now all plywood windows and abandoned shopfronts.

Walk in the alleys at night, and hear the crunch of hypodermics under your boots.

We drove past.

We were thinking Granville, down towards the bridge. There was word of a new Russian place – Red? – with a very good selection of vodkas. That sounded interesting.

But we get distracted easily. As we looked down Dunsmuir there was a sign up for something called the Shore Club, so we paid off the taxi and wandered in.

Big, big space. It took a few minutes (normally seconds, but we were well on the way) of sitting at the bar for it to register that this was the old Science and Technology Centre (or whatever it used to be called). Now it was dining upstairs, and a very upscale bar on the main floor.

We went for martinis. Magellan gin, from France was worth a taste, and then we looked over the bar eats. I was still fairly full, and pushing unconsciousness (jet lag takes its toll), but Aidan hadn’t done the omakaze at Tojo’s and still had room.

Aidan was talking about the place with the bartenders. The Shore Club is part of the group that owns the venerable Hy’s, and Gotham, just around the corner, and it has that same “solid” feeling about it.

Whereas Gotham is steaks, The Shore Club is intent on seafood. In the way that Gotham reminds me of American steakhouses, this felt a lot like the Oceanaire group that I’ve eaten at in the States.

The menu wasn’t bad – a good fresh sheet of fish, oysters, and strong on crab, mussels, and clams. We’re a soft touch for ceviches, so we went for their scallop and prawns, done in an apple cider vinegar marinade, with a touch of orange zest in the there.

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Very well done. It took a little while to come but when it did, the seafood was just turning over with the acids. The scallop in particular was very fresh and good. A nice tang with the gin, and then we switched over to Tres Generaciones anejo just to make certain we didn’t have to risk sobriety.

I looked about. There were millions in this place in mahogany and stone countertops. I’ve been in Gotham before, and many of the places have that “oozing money” dark feel to them. And a few blocks from here we’d been passing through something best described as a cancer.

No wonder I like Blade Runner.

Lock, Stock, &…

I was waking up again. This had me primed for more food and drink. We figured it was still early (before 10) and so we wandered about seeing what was what.

Vancouver is bound to yield up one or two interesting things in the dark hours. But the chipper advertising for Pad Thai at the White Spot threw even me off of my imperturbability.

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That shook me enough that we decided we needed some mussels. And if I’m downtown and want mussels, I go to Chambar.

Okay, beer might have something to do with it, too.

We walked right past it, getting all the way down the street almost to the Geologic Survey building. We turned around and went back up.

It was still there, not fallen victim to the fickle natures of downtown dining. But it was crowded, with people falling out onto the street. No orderly queues for a booth, or quiet conversation at the bar. This was a party.

We had a feeling it was a closed event, but in our state, we figured we’d give it a try. I hitched my umbrella into the inside of my trenchcoat, and we strode purposefully into Chambar.

Yes, it was a closed party, as we found out from the staff who were relaxing in the back. Apologies all around, and they’d be open for regular business on the ‘morrow.

We worked back through the crowd with surprising ease. I put it down to natural grace, of course, but Aidan later pointed out that a big, ugly bloke, walking purposefully, with something long and barrel-like strapped to the inside of a trenchcoat, can generally get people to give way.

“Who you calling “big?”, said I.

We probably should have stayed. When we got to the street we were calling a cab when a number of the people in the group tried to get us to stay. Tempting, but we’d made a decision regarding drinking.

We’d go where we knew we could get good beer.

House Music

Jackie was very patient with us.

We rooted about in the fridge for a bit, like pigs on a truffle hunt, and then Aidan suggested we work through the collection and see what looked good.

To keep us going through this, we cracked a Le Freak, from Green Flash in California. It’s a double IPA, which we were hoping would keep us cranked enough to complete our mission of going through the collection to find our second beer.

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Excellent head, and an interesting cross of IPA and Belgian styling. Paul Weller on the turntable, and we were off.

Aidan has quite the collection.

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It’s a great selection of the world’s brews to have to choose from. The “fruity pink beer” just looked too much like something we’d need an Austin Power’s movie to enjoy, so that was a pass. And I couldn’t bring myself to poen the Budels taster set, knowing that I’d probably be on the floor after three of the six. Thomas Hardy’s Ale had a good look to it, while Tin Whistle’s Chocolate Cherry Porter just seemed too much like a dessert. Dubuisson’s Scaldis “The Stronest Belgian Beer” (an Amber) was put aside in a brief flash of sobriety; and there’s something that seems wrong to the Scott’s claiming anything is “distinctively rich”.

Affligem, Cantillon (Rose), the Bornem Dubbel, Antares’ Barley Wine (something that brought back memories of Tokyo), Chapeau Lambic, Phillips Grand Barely Wine, the neo-Soviet worker’s beer from Phillips – Hammer Imperial Stout, and Forbidden Fruit, and “apple ale”. These ones we admired (“Keep it down, you’ll wake Angus”), but moved on,

The Bornem Triple was in there, just dayring us, as wahs a Scourmont Abbey Chimay. Le Guilotine looked a little too cutting edge, and the Bisbock was purple. Never drink anything purple that late at night (and that goes dubbel for bright pink).

Port Townsend had a seasonal Winter Ale (with their catchphrase from the crow’s nest “there she brews”), and there were Half Pints’ The Father (12%) and Burly Wine.

And there was Dragonstooth Stout. I might’ve chosen this, but it broke both the pink lable rule, and the unwritten rule that tells me to avoid anything that looks like it came out of World of Warcraft.

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By this time we were getting thirsty. But there were too many choices. The Poseidonis was another Imperial Stout, and too dangerous in our state. The Night Owl was a pumpkin ale, which I’d rather be able to taste. The Immortal was getting back into the realm of WoW again, so it was out. The Special Christmas brew from La Manense (Speciale Noel) did seem appropriate, but then again, it was something we’d like to really enjoy. And Black Label’s Extro Old Stock….well, there’s a whole world in that beer.

As an aside: I was always a fan of Extra Stock, with its rich malt flavour (maybe that’s what I like in Ebisu?). Extra Old Stock, or High Test, as it was known, was a secondary beer, but, like Beer Chang in Thailand, something you could rely on for a rough Saturday night at the beach after listening to your Grade 10 teachers try to make a good citizen out of you.

But, of the higher alcohol beers of that era, the one that really stands out was the late lamented Ranier Ale from South of the border, also known as Green Death (it was in a green bottle) which weighed in at a healthy 7.2% abw. I still remember the poster - all you saw was the top half of someone’s head, eye’s bugged out, staring over a countertop. The headline was “Beyond Macho”. Okay, in this age of 12% strongs and lambics, that doesn’t seem like much, but we were young, and our livers were smaller.

Anyways, where were we? Oh yeah, the last line on the second collage.

The Duchy Originals Organic was a very distinguished label, and the Ephemerie was everything a lover of Hieronymous Bosch could ask for in a label.

And then, there was the Frank Zapa commemorative beer. That obviously called for an important Frank date to be celebrated. This was not the time.

Echigo had an art series label beer. Aidan had brought this back from Hawaii. It had completely escaped me that I’d been drinking a selection of Echigo at Popeye’s the March before. Now I know.

Another Winter Ale – Father John’s – was a contender. But the label (from Howe Sound Breweing) looked too much like me with an opium pipe, so we passed.

And that left the Deus. We’d decided on this earlier, and had brought it down to temperature by leaving it outside on the patio.

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A satisfying beer from Flanders, with a fine head and a champagnois finish.

Obviously, the world was badly in need of correction, and beer is the proper solution for this. But Aidan had work the next day, and it seemed wise to beat a retreat before it became to late. We were only barely on the other side of midnight (by an hour or two), so I made a graceful exit, and wandered back through the chestnet trees to home.

Next – Awakenings

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My nephew in Seoul emailed me to tell me that White Spot, that Vancouver standard, is open in Seoul now.

Triple O's and a side of kim chi?

(Yeah, I'll have to go back)

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Whew! I almost passed out from holding my breath for the return! :biggrin:

White Spot has pad thai? That is just sooooooo wrong!

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December 7, 2008

It was a bad morning.

Why are you not surprised?

First, my phone was missing. But I distinctly remembered taking those pictures of beer at Aidan’s place, so I wasn’t too worried. Then I drove to Granville Island to meet up with Masa Shiroki.

That was a mistake.

Never try to drive down to Granville Island on a weekend.

After an hour of circling about, I returned home and made my apologies to Masa over the phone. But then things brightened up.

He suggested that we meet over coffee somewhere off the Island.

Heck! This was Kitsilano. Meeting over coffee meant that our options were infinite.

Just down the hill, past my old Alma Mater of Kits High (brought to you by the same architectural genius who did Okalla) was Bennies. I’d long passed it by, and figured this was as good an opportunity as any.

So, with a phone call, we made our arrangements.

What followed was a happy few hours of talk on the business of making sake, and how Masa got into that business.

As that’s much more a discussion of drink, I’ve provided the write up to Dipsophilia, so I’ll post the link once it’s up over there. That’s part of why I haven’t been posting much these last couple of weeks (along with Scud’s visit, the help going on leave, Christmas, New Years, and my being a sloth) as I’ve been trying to put together something coherent. I failed, of course, but it’ll be readable.

Back to the then (which was “the now” at the time, but moved on).

After talking with Masa, it was pretty much the remains of the day. Seriously dragging, I made my way back South to home, and settled down to my notes for an hour or two, enjoying some of Oyama’s product, and a glass of junmai genshu.

Come the dark, and I offered to fetch my parents some dinner. Tang’s on Broadway was fine by them, so I popped over and picked them up a selection of chili prawns, kung pao chicken, Shanghai noodles, and beef with brocolli.

Then I told them I was going out for dinner.

I needed cheering up.

Masa had talked of how Gastropod was working to match sake with different dishes. That was enough for me. It was a Sunday, and, with the financial crisis striking left and right about me, I figured a table wouldn’t be too hard to come by.

I was right.

They’re cheek by jowl with Fusion, so I knew the location from my dinner a couple of nights before.

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The décor borders on the austere. Clean lines, diffused lighting, no fuss. The bar is the centerpiece, set in the middle of the dining area, and open on two sides, fronted by five inviting stools. The lit bottles provide one intense burst of light in the room.

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One section at the back of the restaurant is slightly raised, and there are mirrors to extend the view, but otherwise it’s a tidy little distribution of white linen’d tables and functional chairs. After some of the places I’d eaten at the week before in London, this was refreshing, and I had no problem negotiating my bulk about the seating.

Having bad mouthed London just in the last sentence, I would say it reminded me of the places I had enjoyed – Hereford Road coming immediately to mind.

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The bread was soft and pliable, with a bit of sunny fat on the side in the form of butter. Two different breads, and neither was going to cause my molars any harm.

Vancouver Magazine had a piece on Chef An back in September p><p>These are words which echo <!--url{

Plus, it meant I didn't have to make any choices.

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My amuse was a chanterelle veloute topped with kelp. A thick brown sauce, almost liverish in texture, reminding me a little of the sauces in Tokyo that were worked up from fish livers. The seaweed gave a pleasing crunch, and overall I felt we were at a good beginning.

My opening wine (I went with their pairings, giving only the one instruction that I wanted some sake) was a Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs, NV Napa, California. Thin strings of bubbles, and a pleasing dryness making this an easy wine to cut through the thick sauce I’d just had.

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Oyster

Gastropod’s signature dish, shallot reduction (shallots cooked in rice wine vinegar), sauternes jelly, horseradish snow (yoghurt infused with horseradish)

I’ll come out now and just apologize for the camera. I didn’t want to bother anyone with a flash, so these things are a bit of a stretch. You just have to try and imagine how they looked in the soft glow of low lying candlelight, backlit by the bottles on the bar.

So, the oyster was much prettier than it appears here. Elongate, and nestled in a cozying shell, topped with the texture of yoghurt and the flavour of horseradish. The sauterne jelly gave a sweetness as a backdrop, and the onions (okay, shallot) were there as a thicker sweetness twisted around.

The bubbly was still a good match, waking up differently to this. But I could see how Masa had been taken by the match of this with a good, dry sake.

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Scallops

Dry aged Canada prime beef tartar, seared Qualicum Beach scallop, crispy beef tongue (braised then fried), sauce Gribich (mayonnaise with capers, cornichons, tarragon, parsley, hard boiled egg), tempura egg yolk (made by freezing egg yolks then battering then thawing), micro mixed.

Kruger-Rumpf “Munsterer Kapellenberg”

Riesling Kabinett 06, Nahe, Germany

The good thing about steak tartare is that I don’t have to worry about it going cold on me. As tartars go, it’s well enough done, but I would still give pride of place to Michael’s kobe from the WGF. The crisp tongue does a nice job of lifting the mix out of the cold raw meat thing, but, still, what makes this dish (besides the crisp happiness of the seared scallop) is the egg. The yolk is well retained runny amid the deep fried tempura, and sauces out to fill out the Spartan protein of the meat (I love writing stuff like that).

The Riesling is quite good, sweet and fruity (I’ll abstain from German jokes), but I still find the Napa from earlier (yes, I still have some left) works well with the egg.

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Salmon

Cured then cooked gently sous vide, wrapped in rice paper with mint and lemon zest. Ikura, beet pearls (made by dropping a solution of beet juice and agar agar into cold oil to form spheres). Mint and basil oil powder (made by mixing infused oil with tapioca maltodextrin). Beet cloud (beet juice whipped with gelatine and reset).

Ch. Gaudrelle 05, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France

I’d had the menu by my side, but refrained from looking ahead to see what was coming, or what I was having just at the moment. The red, fluffy thing had me stumped. It was the “beet cloud” (which would be a great name for a band). The “pearls” were definitely beet, and went well with salmon roe, and, again, brough back fond memories of Paul Pairet’s cognac caviar.

The tables, set close, allow one to eavesdrop (with discretion). All the talk about me is of foreign shores and exotic foods.

I’m quite happy here.

The salmon is soft and well flavoured. Unless you eat BC salmon, it’s hard to explain what it is about the oils and fullness of the fish that’s so exciting. So, I won’t even try to explain. What I will say is that this fish isn’t about complications. There’s no need for sauces and rubs and such. You just want to pull all the flavour that you can out of this fish. Cooking it in a plastic sack makes sense, although I found that the fish had lost some of its texture in the process.

And the basil and mint powders are cute.

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Sable Fish

Seared sablefish (Queen Charlottes, Ocean Wise), Sloping Hills pork belly (cured, braised, seared). Cod udon (fish mousse of egg white, corn starch, white wine, pernod) piped into water to set proteins creating noodles). Dashi broth (tradition Japanese broth: kombu (seaweed with naturally high umami, smoked bonito flakes, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and mirin), carrots, chanterelle mushrooms.

Osake Junmai Nama Nigori, Vancouver, BC

Fish with sake. I was happy. Actually, I was downright thrilled. It was the cod noodles that had me. Yes, pork belly is the definition of “goodness”, and sablefish is the “fish of the year”, but since I’d listened to Sam Mason talking about the prawn noodles they were doing, and then seeing Paco Rancero doing olive oil noodles, I’d been waiting for something like this.

They tasted like a fishy spatzle……but that’s a good thing!

They pour in the dashi, in the current Euro fashion. At first, you think it’s a consommé, but one sip and you can taste Japan.

The nigori is perfect with the sablefish, and lifted up by the dashi. It’s a little more challenged by the pork belly, but the natural sparkle of the sake holds its own against the heavy beauty of the pig meat.

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Turkey

JD Farms (Fraser Valley) naturally raised, brined, and rolled, cooked sous vide, dusted in flour and seared. Salad of stuffing flavours (bread crumbs, sage, parsley, chive, cranberry, pinenuts, celery leaves)confit shallots, confit then brulee yams with cumin. Cranberry puree and natural turkey jus.

Seven Stones “Speaking Rock” Chardonnay 07 Similkameen Valley, BC

Brining is definitely coming back. Heck, turkey on a tasting menu. I’m impressed. I think turkey and the words “tasting” and “menu” don’t come to mind. But, having said that, we’ll cook turkey just about any old time, and have done some interesting experiments. It’s a versatile bird, and deserves more of a look at like this.

Generally, a successful dish. The meat is soft and giving, and has that something beyond chicken, while not moving into the game market. The cranberries, of course, are great, the jam underneath getting my attention. This is where the low quality of my photos really hurts, as this was a particularly pretty dish, with lots of colour.

The Similkameen is competent enough with this dish, but I can’t say that it was memorable. Again, I’d have preferred a stronger sake here.

Venison

In house butchered whole Okanogan venison, leg for ALC, lon and rack for tasting. (Leg is deconstructed and cleaned, then glued with transglutimate, rolled and cooked to medium rare sous vide). Quince fondant roasted in butter then glazed with maple syrup, sherry vinegar, and spices. Quince puree, roasted chestnuts and yellow foot mushrooms. Crushed sunchoke, mustard green stems, sauce of cocao, brown butter, and tamarind.

Perrin & Fils Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages, “L’Andeol” 05, S. Rhone, France

The wine was a fight. They were looking to the tannins in the Rhone to put up enough fight to highlight the game in the venison. Myself, I argured for a Malbec (yes, I always choose “rock” as well, in rock, paper, scissors).

“I like Malbecs with meats. The smell of the wine makes me want to kill something and eat it.”

“Sir, you’re scaring me.”

The solution, of course, is Solomonic – that is, I have both wines.

The Rhone does well. I can see what they mean of the forwardness and tannin drawing out the flavours in the deer. But I still love that carnal feeling that a Malbec draws out of me.

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This is a technique I remember Sam Mason talking about a few years back. . The welding together of different meats, making a Frankenstein creation of a meal. With that touch of cocoa in the sauce, I was quite satisfied.

The roasted chestnut was a little bit too much of a chew for me, but everything else on the plate worked. And it’s nice to see quince being used. I’d enjoyed those ones that Doddie had sent my way.

Fennel Orange

Mille feuille of fennel seed tuiles and orange fennel mousse, salad of oranc and fennel tossed in simple syrup, orange fennel snow

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An interesting dessert. Soft and enticing between the crisp layers, and offset by the crunch and citrus of the fennel “salad”. Definitely a dessert for those that like fennel.

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And this was followed by more dessert, and undocumented dish of peanut butter mousse, nougatine, and a dark chocolate sauce.

Peanut butter is one of the great flavours of this planet. Using it in a mousse is something I’m going to have to try back in my kitchen, if I can find an apron that will still wrap around me.

Going with the dessert was a cocktail.

Amaretto sour

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This was (according to my notes) “a good, well balanced cocktail. Not too sweet, more about citrus and the pursing of the lips, drawing out the sweetness in the cream and sugar in the desserts.”

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And to finish, brown butter and shortbread cookies.

A fine meal. While Chef An eschews technique over ingredients, his work is very good. A lot of sous vide, some good Dr. Moreau stuff, and the reworking of material, such as the cod noodles. Interesting methods, but still delivering a satisfying meal.

Service was excellent, and I was very happy with the write-ups that came with the meal. Nothing was hidden, as is often the case, and much was well explained (sometimes, perhaps, too much….most people know what ikura are). I’ve kept most of their text here. I did make a point of not looking ahead in the menu, as this was a meal of one surprise after another.

Again, I see a lot of parallels here with what I ate in Shanghai at Jade on 36. If I had to choose, I would probably go with Paul Pairet’s place as my first choice, but I’d be quite content to do the two restaurants one after the other.

I suppose I should write about cocktail culture in Vancouver, but it was late, and I had to walk home.

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Chowtime

I’d liked the feel of Chow when I’d ben through here a few days back. Comfortable neighborhood dining, similar in many ways to the meals I’d enjoyed across the Atlantic (patience, Rona, I’ll get to them).

When Lumiere opened just down from my Mom’s place, I had to rub my eyes. In the old days, if you were going out for a nice meal, you had to “go” somewhere. Restaurants of note were invariably either downtown, or associated with a tourist attraction of some sort. You didn’t just walk down to Broadway.

But these past few years things have been spreading out. Perhaps the most notable expansion was the Broadway and Main phenomenon, which saw very good restaurants attracted by very good rents, and a clientele that were happy to eat. Sadly, Monsoon is gone, and Aurora has shut their doors.

But, now, 4th bustles with good eating, and West and Chow, up here on Granville, are a pleasant stroll on a wet Sunday night.

I’d talked a bit with Mike Thompson, and had arranged for some of Masa’s sake to go with the dinner. I was very interested in making the most of this opportunity, and so had worked myself up to a certain level of obsessiveness.

I need some direction.

It was also an opportunity to get together with the siblings. Or at least a majority of them. Finding all of us in one place isn’t that common an event, so we made do with my sister, Martha, the middle brother, David, and his wife, Sandra.

My parents are of a generation that every time I try to take them out, I just hear about how horribly expensive things are, and how “I could make this at home”.

And there’s a thread from Aidan and I’s ramblings of the night before. The chains – Earl’s, Chili’s, TGIF, etc – all seem to do a regular trade by working to formula, delivering food that’s safe enough, but lacks that extra bit of care and, well, personality. But they fill with people who are out for a meal. What gets us is that these places aren’t particularly cheap. Without too much effort you’re spending $30 a head before getting into the liquor. For $5 to $10 more, you could be eating somewhere where the food will be that much better, and have that much more character.

Of course, if people followed this rule, I’d never be able to walk in and get a table.

I’d enjoy likening the four of us to the Horesemen of the Apocalypse, but, truth to tell, none of us would be able to pass for Famine.

Mike recognized me, which is always pleasant and the mark of a good manager, and we took up our table. Whereas at lunch it was quiet, a place to listen in on details, at dinner it was a buzz of conversation - a vibe that reminded me of what I liked about Biscotti in Bangkok.

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I was feeling relatively unstructured, so we decided that it’d be easiest to order lots of stuff, and then go for it once it hit the table. If we were hungry, we’d order more. We’d stop eating when we stopped.

We opened with the sparkling sake, Masa’s seasonal brew.

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We figured this, along with being a good bit of bubbly to start out with, would match nicely with salads. So, to begin, we ordered a salad of poppy seeds, fennel, and blue cheese, with a pear-chardonnay dressing.

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Masa had talked about pairing sake with blue cheese, and this was a nice match. What worked particularly well, though, was the pear in the salad dressing. With the fullness of this sake, your whole mouth woke up.

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And the same went for the other salad, one of golden candycane beets. The sweet pickled firmness of the beets was accented by the bitterness of the endives, and then perked around the edges with dehydrated citrus, tarragon oil, some pistachios, and a bit of goat cheese. Toss in the full fruit mouth of the sake, and I was thinking what a shame it is that this isn’t a regular product from the brewery.

We drew the sparkling out into the next set of dishes.

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We had a risotto with a very pretty foam, aroma of truffle oil in the air, and a nice roasted Portobello acting as is base.

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Across the table were some grilled scallops from the Island, with a curry froth and sserved on eggplant carpaccio and with cauliflower.

We moved onto the Osake Junmai Nama (or the “Red Label” as my notes go). This is a clean sake, very fresh on the palate, and did well to chase both the spice in the curry froth, and the earthiness in the risotto. I’d say that, while the sparkling had been good with this, the Red was the better match.

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Next was a sablefish (black cod) from the Charlottes. This was served with marinated daikon, miso eggplant, puffed quinoca, and a pinch or two of shiso. David and his wife had the sable fish, and both were enthused. It is a very nice fish, and, so they say, a sustainable fishery in the wild, but it’s drawing some attention as the prospect of farmed sablefish is becoming a reality.

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More fish at this stage. The BC Albacore tuna was served as a tartare, which sounded pleasant enough, but what grabbed me was the avocado carpaccio. That just sounded good. And it made for a wonderfully alien backdrop to the pinks and reds in the tun and the grapefruit. This came with some taro chips. These give a nice colour, and they are crisp, but they’re not something I go looking for. The Junmai didn’t have any problems with this, but didn’t quite jump out at you as it had with the sablefish.

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It’s a sad state, but I was losing steam by this point. And there was a whole section of meats still to go. But we’d been ordering multiple versions of these dishes for the table, and my siblings don’t have my training in these matters.

We opted the for dessert.

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The chocolate brownie came with a caramel peanut butter emulsion, caramelized peanut nougatine ice cream, and chocolate ganache. A trio of meringues anchored this oddly geometric plate. How can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, I ask?

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Martha had the crème brulee, served with two crisp meringues. It had that smokey campfire flavour of burnt marshmellows, which my sister liked.

Service had been excellent. Our initial waiter had turned us over to the bartendress, as she was making the recommendations on what to drink when (and her choices were pretty much spot on).

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I finished with an espresso and a cocktail of calvados, tia maria, and steamed milk, a concoction that she had brought back from a visit to Sambar across the border.

As I’d noted at Gastropod the night before, I could spend an entire vacation studying the cocktail culture in the NorthWest.

I’d just need a driver.

We wrapped up at Chow. I wish we’d had more appetite, as the meat dishes were calling to me. But when you dine in a group, you do have to accommodate their schedule (and that of their babysitters).

A sensible day, without too much fuss.

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Well, in typical old-guy fashion, I started to get my dates out of order. I went back and checked on my computer, and the photos are tagged from December 8. However, I know I was at Chow on a Sunday night.

This brings into play the old fully interactive date search gui, known as a wall calendar.

So, I figure next time I'll set my computer and camera for the time zone I'm in.

Next, we'll have a group meal of an Asian theme. And I know if I get the date wrong on that, I'll be in trouble.

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I think that that meal was on a Tuesday?

ETA: After doing research.....nope, Monday.


Edited by Irishgirl (log)

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See, I knew I'd be caught out if I didn't fess up!

Honesty is always the best policy.

:smile:

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December 8 – Salt. If you can’t join it, lick it

It was Monday, a fine day when the world was going about its business. People were moving with purpose about the streets of Vancouver, and I ambled amongst them, taking in the not quite raining atmosphere of a winter’s morning.

And it was a day for walking. I crossed the Burrard Street bridge, giving my regards to the old brewery, and made my across from there to the far side, taking in the view of the mountains and the water.

And then I turned right, and headed down to Gastown.

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I stopped first at Boneta, wanting to give them a more sober going over than I’d afforded the other night (hey! At least I could remember what I ate!). But they weren’t doing lunch, at least not until after Christmas. I was surprised at this, I must say, as the lunch trade can make or break a place downtown, but they must be content with what they have.

They did make two recommendations. The one was Jules, which I’d passed up the street and around the corner; and the other was Salt, just in the alley behind us, the space that had been Shebeen before (I believe).

I’d had it in what passes for my mind (the fourth episode of the Tick cartoon would give you some insight into this) that I’d like to try Salt. Masa had talked about it, my sister had talked about it……and I just like salt.

The debate on the King of Seasonings has been back and forth, bunked and debunked, and it’s one I’m lectured on often enough, my wife having this inordinate fear that I might suffer heart failure and stop making a mess about the place. But I take all such talk of coronary failure with a grain of salt. (Also, check out The King of Town and his relationship with salt in the Strongbad flash stuff).

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The Blood Alley approach always feels a bit strange, but Sean Heather - the mastermind of the empire stretching from the Irish Heather, Salty Tongue, Limerick Junction, and, of course, Shebeen – which used to be here – has always been wise to the value of leasing space, and has done well by creating opportunities around them.

I wouldn’t say things are gentrified, but the neighborhood does seem cleaner than I recall. It was always s close thing how far away from the touristy Gastown you strayed, but Blood Alley used to be a bit more…..sketchy.

Hmmmm….now, what could an enterprising lad do up at Main and Hastings?

But, back to the meal at hand.

For those that don’t know (and I didn’t a few months ago) Salt Tasting Room is a concept in food and drink pairing. You can put together a plate of cold cuts, cheeses, and condiments, and play with the wine, beer, or spirits that you want to match up.

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Or sake. You can always work with sake.

As I’d said, Masa had spoken well of them here, and so I wanted to give this a try.

The fixings are up on the chalkboard, and the drinks are in a menu.

I went for an English brawn from Oyama, some smoked pork tenderloin, and a triple cream riopelle from Quebec.

For condiments – honeycomb from Similkameen, cornichons, and “picallili” relish (on the recommendation of my waitress, good lass).

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The brawn was quite good. It’s that Outer Limits zone of meats – vaguely discernible chunks of stuff congealed in jelly from the dissolved ligaments – brown things in a sea of brown. Reading up on it in Demetre’s Today’s Special, the English name “brawn” comes from it being made from wild boar “the flesh of which was then known as ‘brawn’”. Interesting, as I look over this, that Demetre also puts it out with homemade piccalilli. Good solid flavour to this, with the pickled vegetables spiced up as a relish setting it off well.

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And the cheese was a nice thing. Pliable might be a good word. It wasn’t runny, but still soft enough for me to appreciate it. Match it with the pure sweet of the honeycomb, and it was, as I said, a nice thing.

And, oddly, I’d never had honeycomb before. How did I miss this over all of these years?

The pork didn’t have the drama of the other two, but was good enough in its own right, and, perhaps, worked best with the drink.

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For drink, unfortunately, they were out of Masa’s sakes. But they did have the Toshimori sakehitosuji junmai ginjo that he’d recommended, so I ordered a glass of that. Clear, clean, but with hint of licquorice. As mentioned, it was good with the pork, and went well enough with the brawn, particularly with the jelly-feel of what is, really, head cheese. The bottle was freshly opened for me, which is always a good thing.

But with the cheese and honeycomb it felt a little overwhelmed. I decided to try something else. The carried the Toshimori koshu, a 1994 vintage sake.

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On its own, this came out more “breadllike”, with a touch of sherry finish. But it seemed a little thin when I compared it with what I’d had at Ryugin a few months before.

But, it had enough to it that it countered the strength in the cheese and honey better than the sakehitosuji, albeit that’s the one I’d prefer to drink just on its own.

It was a nice place to be in the early afternoon. Not much of a crowd. A young couple back from travels at the table behind me talking of eating on Snack Street in Beijing, and another trio finishing up what had been either a photoshoot or a video piece. The light was good, and this low level of interesting conversation had me feeling quite mellow.

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The sake probably helped.

I asked, as usual, for recommendations. More names were coming up common; the Russians on Granville; Le Brasserie (which was from the fellow who did Bin 941 and 942?); Vij’s; and the Cascade Room on Main.

I thought of a bit more to eat, and looked in on another couple of places, but the hunger wasn't upon me now.

I needed to save myself for dinner.

Next: Out East

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Thank you Peter, loved reading about your experiences "back home." Come again - soon!

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Thank you Peter, loved reading about your experiences "back home."  Come again - soon!

I'm not quite done yet! I'm just really slow. :smile:

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December 8, 2009 – Fast

I was heading East, and it was raining. Traffic moved politely enough, but 49th had been a mistake on my part, stop and start traffic, the red lights dominating the spattered wind-screen of my car.

But I had time. The single wiper cleared the window, and I could see clearly again.

Sympathy For The Devil played on the radio, and I had all the time in the world.

East. This would be the farthest I would go into Eastern Canada this trip.

Metrotown.

Well, not really Metrotown. We were behind it, East of the cemetery and under the Skytrain, where it crossed over Imperial. Low buildings, not the towers of the Mall.

I’d been lured out here by the good graces of the Vancouver dining community. Gingerpeachy had put the word out for a Chinese meal, and a group (including myself) was up for it.

This would be Hunanese, not Cantonese. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’d just not associated Hunan cuisine with Vancouver. I think Cantonese (when I think at all). But the variety of immigration is such now that I’ve been left far behind.

Dinner would be at Alvin Gardens.

Shortly after I arrived and took over the one big reserved table, the others filtered in, winding through the packed tables. It’s fun meeting up with people from the community, putting faces to the names, and this was a good group – singles and couples, with most people already on speaking terms.

For a meal like this, you want numbers. You want to be able to try as many flavours as possible.

And you know you’ll be eating with people who have a shared interest – eating!

We fought our way through the menu. It covers more than a hundred dishes (and I won’t count the lunch specials). There was a lot of very good looking stuff there, things I wasn’t used to seeing in Burnaby. Heart, ears, and lots of tripe. We ordered what we figured would be enough, and then backed off of a couple of items out of common sense and the limited space on the table.

A curiousity of the menu was that it was labeled as Xiang. I gather that Alvin Gardens is the reincarnation of an earlier Hunanese place – Crystal Hunan.

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Pork heart with five spices. Heart meat, like tongue, is just plain good, and this was delivered with enough burn to get my immediate attention. Not over the top stupid-spicy, but really worked up to open up your mouth. This was a good intro.

The Hunan pickles, however, which you can see fluorescing pink, yellow, and orange up there, were just a little disappointing, not having quite that “pickly” flavour to them that the table remembered from other meals here.

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Seaweed with garlic and ginger. It’s that crunch I admire so much in this dish. Not quite crisp, but, well “crunchy”. And crank up the garlic level, and I’m a happy low-tide sort of guy. (And there are the pickles again, lurking at the edge).

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Pickled long beans with minced pork. This was excellent, and not what I’d expected. The sourness of the pickled beans was very good, but the mix of textures, with those beans chpped down in size, with the pork, beans, chilis and whatever else was in there all of an evenly coarse, aggregate-like texture. Sort of like gravel you can eat. Completely different in flavour, it still had me thinking of the beef and olives at the Montien Hotel’s coffee shop (best enjoyed around 1 a.m.)

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Stir fried lamb with cumin. Okay, I’m not 100% certain I’ve got the right picture here. Irish Girl, Ginger, Keith, anyone, chime in if I’m off base (I really have to be more timely with my posts, I know).

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Spicy and sour potato shreds. I always like this handling of potatoes, coming across with the crunch of a vegetable.

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Hunan Spicy Duck Hot Pot wasn’t a great success. We’d originally ordered the smoked duck, but it wasn’t on tonight. Duck this way is always a fight, scouring through the broken parts for some of the meat. This wasn’t bad, though, as there was a fair bit of bird in there, it’s just that it didn’t have that wow we were getting from a lot of the other dishes.

The Home made tofu in the foreground was very pleasant. Not a soft tofu, like the Korean’s soontubu, but one with a harder crust, sliced into fingers and highlighted by red bell peppers, spring onion, ginger, and the usual suspects.

I’m throwing in another picture of the potatos and the pickled green beans with pork just because I liked them so much.

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Dongting Broiled fish in chili soup. There’s a lucky colour for you on the dinner table. Water cooked fish. Not as heavily chili laden as in Sichuan, but really, really good.

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Smoked bamboo shoots with smoked pork. And we’re talking pork belly here, folks. Lots of oozing goodness to this, and a very pleasant smokiness as you’d expect from a dish named like this.

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Beef with pickled green chili. I must admit, this wasn’t particularly memorable. My notes have no complaints, but it isn’t a flavour or texture that’s stuck with me over the last month.

The restaurant was nearly full when we’d entered, and was doing a roaring trade by this time. When I occasionally raised my eyes from our speeding lazy Susan I saw some interesting plates heading for the other tables – blacks, bright reds, vibrant greens.

But I didn’t take my eyes off the rotating table too much. I might miss something in front of me.

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Green onion pancake. These were almost like roti. Well crisped, and stuffed with green onion and whatever it is on the inside. This had me thinking of Thailand again.

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Shanghai bokchoy was our safety valve from the heat. A good seasonal green.

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Free run chicken with ginger was a pile of shredded chicken (white cooked?) with long crunchy sticks of celery.

We talked of the trade in town. Of who’s opened and who’s closed. The upcoming reincarnation of Lumiere was in the forefront for awhile, with Bouloud’s imminent opening for later in the week.

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At the end of it, we did grind to a halt. I think we did a fairly good job of working through the dishes, with not too much left behind in our wake.

I would’ve enjoyed getting to some of the other dishes on the menu, but that’ll have to wait for another trip. Not having the smoked duck available was a pity, and there were at least three tripe dishes I want to get to. And “double cooked marinated pork giblets” still cries out to me.

A very good meal, and a change of pace for me from my solo dining of late. Like I said at the start, it's good to meet up with the people we read about all the time.

Thanks very much, Gingerpeachy, for getting us together.

Next: Time runs short

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