Monday, July 31, 2006

Taste of Vancouver, Take 2

My 2nd Taste of the City, this one unfortunatley without previous Taste companion Frank. At the Plaza of Nations again, a relic of Vancouver's Expo 1986 Even the name sounds like a Communist World's Fair with an audioanimatronic Karl Marx greeting the workers of the world and selling them red T-shirts. The line was around the block, just like at the 86 World's Fair. Once I got my tickets, I had downloaded the menus of the participating restaurants online, so figured I could then save time going directly to what I wanted. Nah.
Fiddlehead Joe's Eatery and Bar headlined Halibut Ceviche, which seemed a perfect beginning. Unfortuately it did not exist. Instead, #2 on the weblist, pork tenderloin with banana vindaloo. Two bites consumed while waiting in line for the next. Thankfully it was the seafood wondon stack from Relish. It looks like a more solid chip but it sort of melts on your fork. Shrimp and vegies. Like having Asia on your fork. I was tempted by the brie & cranberry and the curry seafood hot pot but ate them not.
Another long line brought me to Cassis Bistro. I'd enjoyed its coq au vin and daube de boeuf - both magnificent. I ordered the chicken but a new pot had to be heated so instead I had the last of the daube and the bouillabaise. Finding a place to sit down and enjoy them was another event. And the daube tasted as good as it had at the restaurant. And than I have the boullabaise. It was like the first time a fish met a lemon. It was worth the walk, wait and crowds. The history of French food in a sip.
Peel n'eat shrimp with chippotle-orange sauce posed another seating problem. I eventually settled on a strange stone stool next to a garbage can. I felt like the gaurdian god of garbage, as people deposited their emptiness while I sought fullness. The shrimp were much better than the meal I'd eaten at Milestones. In need of fluid, I had to spend 4 tickets on a bottle of water. Should remember to bring my own water next year. I had some more French food at La Gavroche, beef bourgignon with explosively delicious pearl onions, not quite so flavourful mushrooms, and beef even better than the daube from Cassis. I was running out of tickets and didn't wish to risk the long line again. Not that much more food I could eat. I considered the brie and cranberry from Relish. Desert, as it were. Instead, when I got there I went with another helping of the wanton stack with Asia on it. It kept dissolving the continent wanton. I tried to scoop up India and Pakistan parts fell off.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Orange Club Cafe, old and new

From the lunch menu, I chose the pan-seared snapper with leeks, carrots and red pepper in coconut clam broth.

Fumiyo and Yoko went with the chicken and prawn with fruit curry sauce and rice, and were glad they did.

From the Tapas menu, chicken colombo with spicy red curry marinade. Is Peter Faulk in the kitchen? Fumiyo's penguins appear hungry.

Pork tenderloin with brandied apples in cream sauce. Apples and pork go together like white and black keys on a piano.

Eggplant cheese and tomato napoleon. Hold the Waterloo

The local Orange Club Cafe has been a favourite of Fumiyo and her friends for years, and a place I've never had a bad meal at. Unfortunately most of the meals have been lunches, when even my notoriously small appetite shrinks precipitously. Walking by the restaurant last week, I noticed they'd added a Tapas menu for dinner so we checked it out. The Napoleon was battle winning, if not emperor worthy. The goat cheese was just creamy enough to flow into the tomato and eggplant tower soothingly. Unfortunatley, by the time the pork arrived, I could only dream of eating. When I finally summoned an appetite for it the following day, it reminded me of a pork-golden mushroom soup-apple concoction that has been regular fare at our house for decades. There may have been brandy in the apples somewhere but it escaped me. Fumiyo is always happy to eat curry.

There were a number of items on the tapas menu I'd like to try. It was a very hot evening when we went for dinner, and pork is not a good idea in hot weather, unless it's a very air conditioned restaurant. On the night we were there, it wasn't. Next time I'll try the scallops and prawns.

Fumiyo had planned to eat lunch with her friend Yoko so I went along, not realizing that the lunch menu did not include tapas. Still it looked appettising. I was tempted by the fruit curry. A great idea. Some of the first and best curry's I've eaten were full of apples, raisins and other fruit. The meal that Fumiyo and Yoko enjoyed had a few pieces of fruit on the side, not part of the curry at all. The one prawn Fumiyo shared with me reminded me fondly of the exquisite prawns I had had Joe Fortes Seafood House, reviewed in April. My snapper smelled fantastic as it arrived on the table. Mostly the coconut. There was a lot of snapper with the vegies, and intriguingly they paired with each forkfull of vegetables in subtly different ways. Orange Club Cafe has long done fine lunches, by North Van standards. I look forward to sampling its tapas possibilities when greater hunger gives me the opportunity.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday kitten blogging

My cat Phoebe had kittens. Is there anything cuter?
OK, this was 1965, but the cuteness is eternal.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Prawns and Papaya, accompanied by steam clock

I was invited to lunch at the Water Street Cafe in Vancouver's tourist-drenched gastown, with the appropriately named Patricia Chew of West Coast Environmental Law.
Although I've now lived in Vancouver for 18 years continuosly after several years intermittent residence in more distant decades, this was only the 2nd time I'd dined in gastown, named for pioneer tavern owner Gassy Jack. Instead of gas, steam emerges from the clock outside the cafe on a regular basis, enchanting tourists who cluster around it with their cameras. "Looks like they're practicing Fa Loon Gong," observed Patricia, who also commented they must come from someplace where there is Nothing To Do and a steam powered clock deserves rapt attention. My Papaya and Prawn salad deserved every bit of attention I gave it, as Ms Chew told me about her worthy organization. I love the idea of mixing fruit with seafood and meat, and have fond memories of drinking papaya juice in my childhood. The bits of papaya were like buried treasure amidst the lettuce and enough prawns to fill me up in a thick sauce, sweet but still light enough for lunch on a hot day. Patricia had another salad, a Lui of some nature with crab, small shrimp, eggs and probably some lettuce down there somewhere. Her sauce (dressing?) came on the side so as not to drown the tiny shrimp, perhaps.
Watching the tourists and enjoying the splendid salad, I was reminded of my first meal in gastown, at an Indian restaurant whose name I've forgotten and indeed it may no longer be there. This would have been 1989, at the dawn of Adbusters, a magazine I was involved with since before the beginning. My fellow editor Kalle and I were lunching with people from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee which has its offices nearby on the appropriately named Water Street. In those days, Adbusters was primarily trying to bust the ads of the provincial forest industry, and WC2 was the main source of our information and indignation. Although I frequently encounter people who are familiar with Adbusters, it is rare to meet anyone who is familiar with its beginnings. Patricia was surprised that the magazine had ever been an ecological periodical. West Coast Environmental Law is twice as old as Adbusters, and another Vancouver organization I joined when it was starting up in the early 70s, Greenpeace is older yet. All this ecological activity in our beautiful city for decades now, and how much good has it done, we pondered between bites of succulent salad. We spoke of Al Gore's new flick, a fine piece of film making but how much good will it actually do? Apprarently GW Bush was so persuaded by a Jean Michel Cousteau film that he declared a protected zone outside of Hawaii, something that was in apparent contradiction to everything he's done since becomming president. Look at all the good Rachel Carson's Silent Spring has done. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Dickens' tales of British poverty actually helped rescue people from it. Tom Paine's Common Sense brought forth the birth of the United States far more than the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the usually cited founding documents of that country. I'd rather have a lawyer on my side than a writer, in the coming battles, but we need both.
Although this "working lunch" reminded me of that long ago Indian lunch at the dawn of Adbusters, I can still recall how good that fish was. I dont normally think of Indian food as fish dishes and that novelty for me may be why I remember it. What causes something to be so deeply imbedded in memory? Patricia spoke of a gloomy future, if the ecology movement is no more successful than it has been, when the generations that come after us will never taste fish. What meals will they remember?