Saturday, January 28, 2017

Two and a Half Days in Vancouver

On the second day of the New Year, we flew to British Columbia to try snowboarding in Whistler, but there was no way we were going to land in Vancouver and not indulge in a few meals, and absorb whatever bits and pieces of the holidays were left.  Like any place, the food scene always tells the story of the people who live or have lived there.  I'm not sure if there is another place in the world where you could find both world-class dimsum and bannock within a few miles of one another.  We tried to diversify what we ate, but even then, there's still so much left to try!

In many ways, it didn't feel like we were in an entirely different country.  People spoke English, there were still a bazillion Asians (Chinese in particular), and the buildings looked about the same.  But there were a few things that stuck out, like "boxing day," the weather, "whereabouts," ketchup chips, and the quintessential, "eh?" 

Day One: 
  • Dimsum at Kirin Seafood Restaurant (reservations recommended!) right after landing in Vancouver
  • VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights
  • Vij's

The Richmond area (SGV of Vancouver) is right by the airport, so it was perfect timing to swing by there to get some dimsum.  Most memorable thing: taro puffs.  OH MY, they were so good, and we weren't even about to order them.  Kirin serves up exemplary versions of the classics plus a few things that seemed a little more creative.

"Steamed prawn and Sakura Farms premium pork dumpling topped with flying fish roe." It really is just siu mai, in elevated speak.

"Deep fried minced fish and Chinese mushroom bean curd roll in steamed rice roll." 

The TARO PUFF that blew us away.

Chicken and mushroom bun.  

"Juicy pine mushroom dumpling in consomme." 

Deep fried eggplant stuffed with minced prawn and black bean sauce.

Braised beef tendon and beef brisket with flat rice noodle.  Maybe these noodles are everywhere in Hong Kong, but I've never had them and I liked how they were both bouncy and slippery.

And soon after we ate dimsum, the sun set.  Forgot about how early it gets dark in this part of the world.

We didn't realize that we'd be doing so much Christmas-light-chasing in Vancouver!  Caught the last day of the VanDusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights.  Thanks for telling us to come, Rosa!

There were also some fresh cinnamon mini doughnuts that felt super weird in my mouth because: hot doughnut on ice-cold teeth.

^ Haha, Rosa caught this moment.  Wes looks pretty fed up.

I'm not sure if I've ever seen a carousel in the snow.  It was pretty magical until it stopped working right when Rosa's kid was about to ride it.  :(

Vij's (famous hoity-toity Indian restaurant downtown) always has a line, but not when it's 9:30 PM...We weren't ready to be so impressed - I mean, how could upscale Indian curry ever be better than our favorite family-run places in Artesia?  I was shocked and sort of disturbed that I even allowed myself to fall so desperately in love.  Wes was equally confused.  We got the lamb curry and the special, which was a tomato-based sturgeon curry.  You'd just have to try it yourself to know.

Day Two:
  • Stanley Park
  • Salmon 'n' Bannock
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
  • Mak N Ming

The next day, we did some super embarrassingly Californian things to kick off the day.  I found the nearest place with green juice (which was more brown than green and came from a pharmacy) and Wes went to Starbucks and tried to order something that they simply do not have on their menus in the winter.  So, after they denied him his usual morning cold brew, he ended up with an iced Americano.  

Stanley Park is pretty - we wished that we could have biked here but the trails looked pretty slick. It's supposedly really nice to bike around here during the summer.

We had lunch at this First Nations place that Paulina told us to try - Salmon 'n' Bannock.  Bannock is a type of unleavened bread traditionally made by the First Nations people.  It's pronounced something like "ban-ik."

Salmon sampler of BBQ salmon mousse, a ceviche, and Indian candy.

Game sampler of wind dried bison, elk, and spicy venison sausage.  And a cedar jelly, whoa!

Halibut chowder - it was so good!

Salmon soup - also really good.  I definitely want to try to make this later.

Burger - sage smoked wild sockeye filet, house made dill pickles, lemon-garlic mayo, kale.  Why Wes didn't move the spoon out of the way before taking this picture, I do not know... maybe he was really hungry.

Went to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (soo touristy) right at around sundown to see their Christmas lights.  It wasn't all that scary.

It's where this epic photo was taken - me and my golden boy.  We realized that we didn't take many other photos of/with the famous longest bridge, but this one is perfect.

It's just a bunch of bridges that you can walk on.  Probably a little more fun for kids, but it was something on the bucket list to check off.

It was soo cold, that we had to sit down at their visitor center and have some drinks.  The hot chocolate and earl grey latte there were actually really good!

For dinner on our last night before driving out to Whistler, we had made reservations to Mak N Ming, which was a bit of a splurge.  This was a very sleek, yet woodsy restaurant, with Asian-inspired Pacific Northwest small plates.

Amuse bouche - cheese ball for Wes...

Amuse bouche - wild chanterelles on a housemade rice cracker for me.

Kombu cured snapper, tofu sauce, with its scales fried on the top.

Mushroom chawanmushi.  I want to re-eat this!

Nori brioche.  Loved this.

Pork chop, black truffle, cauliflower three ways (pureed, pickled, and riced - not pictured).

Dungeness crab noodle soup.

Pretty interesting that they'd have a ramen on their chef's tasting - we liked it a lot though.  Good for the weather and probably the most delicate ramen I've ever eaten.

Dessert: pistachio & honey cigar, milky hot chocolate.

More dessert?! Hibiscus pear pavlova. The top part was hollow!

Day Three:

  • Cartems Donuts
  • Porchetta sandwich from Meat & Bread
  • Road snacks to Whistler (chips and salad, for balance, right?)
  • Shannon Falls Provincial Park
  • Stopped in Squamish to use the restroom and found a ski outlet store...did some damage there.

Probably the moist-est (ew!) cake doughnut I've ever eaten.  Plus, it was EARL GREY.

Smoked maple walnut doughnut.  Loved it so much, that smokey flavor was really interesting and helped offset the sweetness of the maple.  Can't go to Canada without having something maple.  It was weird because as we ate, we started thinking that it tasted more and more like soy sauce...which wasn't really a bad thing.  And also, the texture was pull-apart perfect.

Meat & Bread has 4 sandwiches that might switch off daily, but the one that is always there is the porchetta one.  Wes says that he likes it even more than the Roli Roti one in SF.

Got on the road for Whistler.  We thought it'd take a long time but it was really, really easy.  It takes no more than 2 hours to get there, unless you stop in Squamish and outlet-shop...

We did also stop by Shannon Falls, which was frozen over.  It was quite a slippery walk on icy trails over there, but it was very short.  It's supposedly the third highest waterfall in BC.

Arrived in Whistler as the sun was setting and explored the little town.  Snowboarded for three days and then came back to Vancouver to fly out.  I'm working on another post devoted completely to Whistler!

Last Day in Vancouver (after three days in Whistler):
  • Shishinori for lunch
  • Museum of Anthropology

This dessert parfait looked like it came straight out of Japan!

Just when we thought that Vancouver was mostly about glamorous food, cheesy decorations, and bougy Chinese people, we were let in to an experience that cut to the core of our existence.  The Museum of Anthropology.  We were instantly immersed in endless displays of human artifacts from all over the world that were everything from frightening to confusing--things that were once essential to the survival and vitality of our race.  Some were tiny little trinkets or utensils and some were monumental, like the totem poles made by the First Nations people of Canada.  We got to read about their beliefs and reflect on how these people, and others on other continents, made sense of the harsh reality of life.  It was an interesting ending to our trip, putting everything into perspective.  We humans have come a long, long way, and it's all too easy to forget about our roots.

Vancouver, thanks for the fun times and good eats!

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