Thursday, December 29, 2005

Home on Le Range

Cassis, a French restaurant on Pender before it turns Chinese. Had the coq au vin there in my previous visit. The wine-sodden chicken tasted like ham. Very, very good ham. Pigs reincarated as chickens. This time with Frank, I went for the daube de bouef. Frank's wife Kazu had had it before, and described it as melting in your mouth. That was an understatement. The molecules of beef were in such a hurry to get onto your tastebuds, you'd think they were headed home to the open range. The menu was so French you could make jokes about it. Almost none of this Mediterranean generality we had at Chez Michel. I noticed avocado used several times. If there is anything that tastes worse than avacado, I haven't had it. But Frank survived his Mediterranean panini. His water turned to wine. My noodly Daube was divine. Ten bucks. You can't get a good appetizer for that most places.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Le Bistro Chez Michel

This newish French place accross from our dentists has been tantalizing me. First its brochure, which even food-avoiding Fumiyo found intriguing. Then the tasty bites at the taste of Lower Lonsdale blogged earlier. Its really more Euro than French. Occasionally memoried Junko had told Fumiyo we were going out for lunch with her and Steph in North Van on Friday, and I persuaded Fumiyo that this was our chance to experience Chez Michel. We looked forward to it. And looked. And looked. Steph was unreachable by phone. Fumiyo finally reached Junko, who had forgotten our lunch date, thinking it was the following day, the dreaded busyness of the 24th. Chez Michel is closed for lunch on weekends. Or so I thought. Checking their website , I discovered that it had given us a vast present, hoping to cash in on all the busy, hungry shoppers, no doubt. Fumiyo and I stumbled off to the mall, panged with hunger from the missed Michel experience on Friday. Mall food smells aren't that enticing. But we somehow survived til Saturday and made it over to Chez Michel. We were asked if we had a reservation, but the spacious place was largely empty, and remained so.
The view, as we came in from the rain, was spectacular. The inside of my umbrella has its fine points, but the view of downtown Vancouver you get from Lower Lonsdale, and this is right on the water, is about as good as views get.
And then there was the food.
"Crepe" is a magically memorable word for me. When we were living near Granville in 77, there was a crepe restaurant nearby. It's Crepe St. Jacques was worth walking a great distance for, a celebration of scallops and brandy that made you seem to turn inceasingly French with each bite. Monet is peering at you from another table, wondering how to feature you in his next painting. Goddard sees legions of scallops overthrowing their plates and revolutionizing the next table. Marcel Mareau mimes a salt shaker impaled on dozens of plastic Eifel Towers. Rabelais adds some hemp seeds to his crepe, while Jean Valjean hides in the chandelier.
Those kinda memories.
When we first moved to North Van for Bit to go to 1st grade here in 1984, the library was a few blocks away. Accross from the library, the 80s restaurant provided delighful seafood crepes, not so literary, more family style, enjoyed by the entire hungry Ishikawa family. Bit, Fumiyo and I all loved their assorted crepes, and the seafood, a kind of malling of the classic St. Jacques crepe, varies immensely in quality from restaurant to restaurant. A lot of that is the sauce.
The Lonsdale Quay accross the street has a wonderful crepe I often have for lunch. "Seasoned chicken" mushrooms, ementhal and either artichoke hearts or roasted red peppers. A superb meal. Sauce-less, but this is an upscale Food Court, not a restaurant, eh?
Despite its French name, no St. Jacques but a Seafood Crepe awaited Junko and I. Fumiyo ordered her beloved paella and Steph had the penne.
"Tasteless" Fumiyo proclaimed. Except for the mussel. That was genuinely disagreeable. Her days enjoying food may be the past. Steph seemed to enjoy her Penne. Restaurant-worker Junko, just returned from the Really Good Food of Europe and soon back to the Unbelievably Good Food of Japan, was as amazed as I at our crepes.
If you asked a baby tomato what it wanted to be when it grew up, it would tell you that it wanted to be a part of the sauce on the seafood crepes at Le Bistro Chez Michel.
That is a taste memory that will last longer perhaps than my taste buds. When I'm dead, the memory of that perfectly sauced crepe will live on as new strings, vibrating off to tantalize other dimensions, an ever spreading empire of eternal pleasure. Dont die without trying this one.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mr. Clean Genes, premature ghost

During the California primary of 1968, my friends were pretty well split between those supporting Sen. McCarthy and the upstart, Bobby Kennedy. Two anti-war candidates to choose from, at least one of them would win, we thought. The whole "clean for Gene" thing repelled me, even though I had short hair and often wore a suit in those days. I did admire him for taking on LBJ BEFORE it was the popular thing to do. It was hard to trust RFK- the whole Kennedy thing seemed more about expedience than committment. Still, Bobby was a great speaker and Gene was interesting to listen to as well. Gene came to my university in Northridge to address the students and solicit our votes. Being a Canadian was yet another reason I couldn't vote, but I looked forward to meeting him. After he spoke (I remember nothing of the speech) he started shaking hands. When he shook mine, his skin seemed grayer than one normally observes in a living human. His handshake also didn't seem to be coming from this side of the grave. I had the odd premonition that I was shaking hands with a ghost. A few weeks later, it was Bobby that suffered premature ghosting, and Gene lived on and on. Seeing him repeatedly run for president was like watching an 80 year old Willie Mays try and make a basket catch. Now Eugene McCarthy is really dead. Will his supporters finally stop all that compulsive bathing? There's work to do, in the dirt of the world. Vietnam is back, only under a new name. Ghosts, even premature ones won't help America out of its latest folly.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Good Sandwich

Fumiyo had hired the Italian deli La Grotta Del Formaggio to cater a wake for her friend a few years ago. She said all the guests raved about the sandwiches, but she didn't get to eat one. That would change today. She wanted to buy some coffee from a store near said deli, so we went to the deli for some sandwiches early this afternoon.
While Fumiyo shopped for gift coffee, I ordered the medium meat sandwich. On a bun, with pesto mayo on one half and dijon mustard on the other, provalone, spicy marinated eggplant, artichoke hearts, green olives, roasted red peppers, fresh tomato and lettuce-the sandwich was already beginning to resemble a mountain before all the ingredients were topped with enough rosemary ham to frighten my arteries- and all of this grilled. It was hard to carry back to the car. Fumiyo had the same only without cheese and with red onions instead of eggplant on half a foccacia. Although a foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter than me, Fumiyo can eat twice as much as I can. I still have the other half my sandwich left which will make a splendid dinner. The first half was so good I can see it would have been perfect for a wake. The dead would come back to life to eat that sandwich. I think the whole Roman empire would re-coagulate. Romulus and Remus would swear off wolf tits forever after one bite of this sandwich. And all of this absurdly cheap. My mighty "Medium Meat" sandich a mere 5 and a quarter. It's great to see a sandwich taken seriously. Both of us are fans of Quiznos, its tuna, some of its chicken and all its beef sandwiches are fast food wonders (in this case, that's not a contradiction). I can't imagine why anyone would eat at Subway: tastelessness in a bun. No wonder Jared got thin: its like eating a picture of a sandwich. There are actually quite a few european delis around town spilling their lush sandwiches all over the city's waistlines and inspiring gym memberships galore. The sandwich is just as noble an art form as its cousin the pizza, which has enslaved the dreams of foodies everywhere. I will dream happily of this sandwich, or will it be a dream?