My birthday was a whole week ago now, and because I’ve decided I’ll be 28 for five to 10 more years there was little urgency to celebrate. The only thing I really wanted to do was drive to Hope for pie, because there is a place there that serves very good pie, and because when I get an idea in my head I can be a bit of a beast.

So we hopped in the car and we drove an hour and a half to Hope and the rain was torrential and occasionally turned to hail and Nick kept asking aloud where he had gone so wrong in his life and I didn’t care, because I had my Snuggie and a mix CD full of all the delightfully crappy music I like.

We stopped at a thrift store for a break from the rain along the way and bought a new stein for our collection, and when we got to Hope there was plenty of parking at the restaurant and they had all the kinds of pie.

For the past while, food has not been exciting. There was the lull of the end of winter and early spring; sometimes you can have too many yams, and sometimes the radishes seem like they will never arrive. There was so much rain. And my appetite had left me.

Then somewhere in the middle of that lull, I unexpectedly acquired a fetus. We have dubbed it Space Dinosaur in the hope that it turns out to be an actual extraterrestrial raptor (if it can’t be a dinosaur for whatever reason, I would also be happy with a panda). The tragedy of this event has been an utter disinterest in any food that is not canned peaches, York peppermint patties, or grilled cheese sandwiches. Until very recently, I could go all day on just a few bites of fruit and a Chai latte.

What has begun to replace that disinterest is a feeling I can only describe as “hangry.”

Midway through a meal I feel stuffed, but at the same time my stomach churns furiously, insisting that I am still hungry and that I need to put in more food, even when the urge to purge becomes violent. It happens without warning; I will go all morning or afternoon long without any desire to consume anything but ginger tea and then all of a sudden a malevolent pang will instantly rearrange my priorities and moments later I will find myself desperate, shaking the vending machine for another bag of chips, or chewing out the clerk at the bagel shop for giving me the smallest possible bagel on purpose. I am hangry then.

And I was hangry in Hope. After a reasonable breakfast of waffles and blueberries, hours passed without fussing and then we got to where I wanted to go and my grilled cheese sandwich came and I ate until I could eat no longer, and yet my stomach howled for more. I hoovered a huge slice of cherry pie and two scoops of ice cream, and I could have thrown up but still the knot in my gut suggested starvation. It was a fabulous piece of pie. Well worth the trip. And I demanded that Space Dinosaur get its shit together because we love and are satisfied by pie and this was unacceptable.

So there you go. Food was gone but is now back, even if in a modified capacity. I’ll try not to bore you with the details. Nick is relieved. Just in time for the season’s first radishes and, with any luck, a summer full of very good pie.

Salmon ‘n Bannock.

Salmon ‘n Bannock is a restaurant on Broadway between Granville and Oak (a longish stretch, but I can never remember the smaller streets in between), and it’s been there about a year and the whole time I have wanted to go, but for whatever reason had not. Salmon ‘n Bannock promised wild local salmon and game, and bannock, which is something I have loved since I was a kid.

My parents had friends, one of whom was aboriginal, who introduced us to bannock, that gloriously fried bread spread with jam or golden syrup. I was hooked. But when they moved away, so did my bannock connection. I tried making it a few times, but as the years passed, I forgot what it tasted like and it never turned out good enough to trigger any sort of nostalgia. The bannock at Salmon ‘n Bannock was a little more refined than I remember, but tasted just about the same.

We finally went because there was chatter about the place on the Twitters last week, and suddenly I remembered how badly I wanted to go.

We went with Paul, which worked out excellently, as we were able to try a good selection of things from the menu.

The first thing we tried after the bannock was the arctic prosciutto roll, which came stuffed with asparagus and Oka cheese. If I had one complaint about the place, it’s that the food wasn’t entirely seasonal, but generally that’s only of concern to me. We were delighted these. The prosciutto was made from muskox, and the Oka was creamy. It was a salty little bite, but a good one.

We tried the clam fritters and sockeye lox with cream cheese next, and both were delicious. I didn’t expect the clam fritters to look the way they did, but was pleased because one fritter offered four bites. They were soft, gently fried, and served with a caper-filled tartar sauce. Always a good thing. And the lox was so good I forsook my original entree, which would have been the bison tenderloin, in favour of a club sandwich with more smokey salmon.

Paul had the seafood stew, which was filled with clams, scallops, and salmon, and Nick had the seared duck breast, because Nick always has the seared duck breast.

The food was simple, but expertly crafted. There were a few items on the menu that I’d like to go back to try – the deer stew was one, and I’d love to see how they prepare their salmon fillets. In the spring, they offer fiddleheads for a price that makes me wonder why I would ever buy them and make them at home.

I was thoroughly pleased with this place, from the menu, which was small but full of good stuff, to the prices, which were more than reasonable. The service was helpful and friendly, but not intrusive. And they serve Lucky Lager, which tickled the two-thirds of our party that dined in plaid flannel and baseball caps. All in all, a delightful dinner, and a place we’d all go back to. If you’re in Vancouver, give it a try.

Salmon ‘n Bannock
#7 – 1128 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

Catching up, the 3-Day Novel, and Sushi Shelter 101.

You know how sometimes a week or more goes by and then you start to get these friendly reminders about that blog of yours that you enjoy writing that you’ve been neglecting because you’re busy lately and you’ve not just been neglecting the Internet but also your whole life? This week we actually ate a meal of bacon and deep-fried cheese bread. I’ve been totally wrapped up in work fatigue – the two weeks before school starts at a university are busy and insane and frustrating and holy hell why didn’t I plan my time around going to bed early and getting up on time?! – and my own whiny brand of anxiety over a little contest I’m participating in this weekend.

What contest, you might ask?

For some reason I thought it would be fun to participate in the 3-Day Novel Contest, in which I spend the Labour Day weekend on lock down, pounding out a novel in 72 hours. Not only that, but I paid $50 to do it, so, given my temperament and inability to function after a certain hour in the evening, I’m either an idiot or a masochist but it’s too early to tell which. I’m thinking of taking the Hunter S. Thompson approach to writing this thing, so if you find me bug-eyed and jabbering incoherently, clutching a quart of cheap dark rum and nine tubes of pickle-flavoured Pringles in the garishly lit aisles of Shoppers Drug Mart at 3:00 in the morning on Sunday, just hand me a sack of grapefruits and a hunting knife and point me in the direction of home. I’ll draw a map on my arm, just in case.

These long, meandering, seemingly pointless paragraphs do not bode well for success in this competition, and if this was to be practice, I’d have failed. The point of this blog post is a weird little restaurant called Sushi Shelter 101.

Last night we met up with a friend of Nick’s from work, Aaron, and went 90 minutes away from home to Port Coquitlam and this Sushi Shelter 101 place. Odd name, and I got the sense that the decor was themed along the lines of a luxury fall-out shelter. In the nuclear/zombie apocalypse, a hideaway like Sushi Shelter 101 is where I want to be. Even better if they bring me a steady supply of Ocean Delight, which is a deep-fried crab cheese thing that I am devastated I don’t have right now.

They have different things here, and Aaron classified it as non-traditional, modern Japanese. The Red Bamboo and White Bamboo were two things I can no longer live without – tender, beautiful cuts of salmon and tuna wrapped in nori, tempura-battered, and then quickly deep-fried, rarely have I had such a succulent bite of fish, so perfectly barely cooked.

I wish every single picture I took wasn’t a horrendous mess of blur, but the lighting was dim, and for it we were all infinitely more attractive. The beer also helped.

OH! And it would qualify as neglect if I didn’t tell you about the oyster, which isn’t on the menu, but which you can ask for with a wink and they’ll know what you mean.

The oyster comes on a tin-foil pedestal, cut into bite-size chunks and gently fried, then reassembled and topped with Japanese mayo, shredded seaweed, and something else which I couldn’t put my finger on, but which I need you to go and taste in case you can solve the mystery. There were also California rolls covered in peanut sauce, which was odd but good and I don’t know what to make of it yet. There were these vegetable croquettes, and this chicken yakitori … there was so much. And it wasn’t expensive.

The service is unparalleled – the nice waitress would ask if she could remove every single scraped-clean plate, and she would bring special treats if for some reason the chef thought we were waiting too long. We were gifted a plate of vegetarian spring rolls, a small bottle of warm sake, a plate of lamb maki, and a dish of mango ice cream that had the purest mango taste I’ve had in a dessert ever. If you are in Port Coquitlam for any reason at all, make a trip and go to this place. I am sure that you will come out of the whole experience equally as gut-busted full and delightfully perplexed as I did.

So, yeah. Sushi Shelter 101. Do it. And wish me luck in my contest. With any luck, I will win, become a famous author, achieve that rare combination of literary acclaim and obscene wealth, and then open my dream restaurant, the opening of which you are all invited to.

A day of fantastic meats.

If yesterday was all about vegetables, today was its happy opposite. Today we binged hard on meat, and sat in the sun and sampled beers and wines and this Serbian plum brandy that had me reconsidering my Dutchman.

You see that photo up top? That’s smoked tur-duck-in-hen-quail-con, which is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a Cornish hen stuffed with a quail stuffed with a piece of pork belly. And there was sausage stuffing off to the side, and cold beer to drink with it. Apparently it took a whole week to prepare.

It was moist, and succulent, and smoky, and since there are only 12 weeks until Thanksgiving, I’ve got to get on figuring out how to do this as soon as possible.

We ate a lot. So much so that Nick’s nap has stretched into its third hour. Dinner is likely still three hours away. We sampled ribs, and ceviche.

And we had skirt steak tacos topped with homemade radish kimchi and pickled cauliflower mayonnaise, but I accidentally ate it before I could take its picture. In other news, I will be kimchi-ing radishes as soon as this meat hangover subsides.

My favourite thing, aside from the bar, was the roast pork. It changed everything. I can’t really point to specifics, but I am quite certain that my life improved for the better after my first taste of the pork. After tasting everything, we had the option of buying plates of our favourite dishes – I went ahead and bought so much pork, and decided that in my next life I am coming back as a Serbian food critic, the kind who is paid in spit-roasted piggies.

And also baked goods. The kind that are stuffed with cheese.

It was all incredibly moving. And to finish the feast, there were even cookies baked over a fire pit. Which I also don’t have photos of, because I literally inhaled mine.

Here’s more info on the event, which I can only really describe in satisfied grunts – there are almost no words. I hope they have it again next year – it was a fundraiser for Growing Chefs! Chefs for Children’s Urban Agriculture, a very worthwhile cause. In the meantime, Grace and I are on a mission to become new BFFs with the host, the lady behind Swallow Tail Tours and the Swallow Tail Supper Club.


And since it’s now been ages since I’ve offered a recipe, stay tuned. We’re talking blueberry crisp, up next.

No wanting for waffles in Victoria.

This past week has been exceptionally busy – back to work, friends in town from all over, hockey games to be dragged out to the bar to endure watch, and a little day-trip to Vancouver Island to go see my friend Amber, who lives in Victoria which means that I don’t visit her enough, and who is an exceptional shopping buddy and shares my enthusiasm for eating. I didn’t cook or bake a thing last week, and yesterday set the crock pot too high and incinerated the ribs I’d left in it. Fortunately, Victoria was filling.

So instead of a recipe, today I am going to tell you about waffles, and a discovery I made that will enhance every trip anyone takes to Victoria ever. The place is called WannaWafel, and you smell it long before you get to Market Square and find it.

Unfortunately, I am still not a competent user of my shitty camera, and had it on the wrong setting, so the waffles don’t show up very nicely in my photos. I ordered the sugar waffle, a chewy, slightly sweet, somewhat salty round waffle, and asked for the fruit compote, which turned out to be a perfect combination of summer berries, cold and tart on top of my hot waffle. It was delicious.

I swear, I would move to Victoria IMMEDIATELY except that apparently it’s impossible to find jobs there and I should really be grateful that anyone was willing to hire me here. WannaWafel is very close to being enough to pull me back there forever. These are real Belgian waffles, and I’m certain once you try them you’ll never settle for an impostor waffle again.

We’ll be back to normal this week, so expect recipes and the usual blathering on and taking forever to get to the point. For now, though, think about waffles – my happy thought to you.

Things that are delicious: Pork belly.

Right up until the Olympics, every talking head on television and quote in the paper was saying that Vancouver would be nightmarish during the Olympics, and that residents should expect delays and difficulties getting around, and that they should leave their cars at home. The whole city (me included!) bought the hype, and now it’s quite easy to get around everywhere but downtown, where there isn’t much fun to be had on a Wednesday night anyway. So last night, I dragged poor, sick-day Nick out with some friends to the Westender Korean Café on Denman Street, where there is a place that only sells pork belly, and for which we had coupons that bought us 50% more pork belly.

Do you know what a pork hangover feels like? It’s as glamorous as it sounds.

The Westender Korean Café is a place that only sells pork belly, and they bring it to you with those hot-pot grill things that you use to cook it at your table. They bring you daikon pickles, kimchi, this shredded-lettuce salad thing, rice, and lettuce leaves, and you cook your pork belly and either pile it up with the Korean condiments on your rice, or load it into the lettuce leaves to eat like Korean fajitas.

From the outside, it doesn’t really look like anything but a dodgy old diner, which is perhaps why I’d never noticed it before Sooin brought us there about six months ago. On the inside, it’s usually packed full of young Asian ESL students from the various English schools in the city. They play nonstop Korean pop music videos – Sooin informed us that there are no fewer than twenty major girl groups in Korea, and as many boy bands, and that pop-culture is a huge deal there. She helped everyone out by pointing out which girl groups were comprised of girls too young for Nick to be ogling, and which boy-band stars we should pay attention to for dance skills and hotness. She says we can go to Korea and get thousand-dollar nose jobs and form our own group. If they’ll throw in free liposuction, I’m in.

When I say that it’s a pork-belly-only kind of place, I really do mean just that. When you sit down, the waitress will pretty much just bring your table a certain amount of food, which is determined by how many people make up your party. Be sure to also ask her for beer or shoju, which is also pretty cheap, and which you simply must have as an accompaniment to a pork binge.

All that food, and it costs practically nothing. Dinner for five, including four pitchers of beer, and more food than we could eat, was $125, including tax and tip. The only problem was that we were in such high spirits after dinner that we thought the fun ought to continue, so we stumbled down Denman past Robson to an izakaya Paul knew would be open, and then there was sake, and Nick held his head in his hands and waxed poetic about bedtime, and then Steve ordered us mackerel sashimi and a big bowl of edamame, and I was all, “We just ate and I’m too full!” “But we didn’t eat JAPANESE,” Sooin replied, and so we ate even more and drank the best cheap sake ever and now this morning I am not sure if I should bother eating or just go back to bed because I am still so full. I am not even sure I want bacon.

I’m sorry. I should never talk like that. Of course I want bacon. But maybe this morning, I’ll wrap it around a vegetable.

A Notte morning for three.

I woke this morning to sun beaming through the slats in the blinds, and it was marvelous and it took me by surprise – the previous million days have been relentlessly rainy and dark. Today was warm and dry and I remembered how much I love it here.

Until yesterday, I was tossing around the idea of Toronto, and of running away, even though it snows there. The idea might come back on Monday when I have to go back to work, but for now: Vancouver, I love you. James said I want too much anyway, and that I should be happier with what I have.

Today I met Tracy and Miss Rosa at Notte’s Bon Ton, a bakery on Broadway where you can get cups of tea, small bites of sweet things, and your fortune told. James, the tarot card reader, was entertaining, and surprisingly insightful, even to those of us who doubt everything we can’t see and most of what we can.

The tea was nice, and the sausage rolls were teasingly tiny, and I had to have four. The cream puffs were my favourite part, as big as baseballs and filled – FILLED – with whipped cream, and Tracy and Rosa enjoyed the buttery little cakes. It’s not a place I’d go every weekend – it’s a treat. Which is perfect, because I feel like it’s something I can look forward to.

It was cheap, too. Ten dollars for the tarot reading, five dollars for tea and a sandwich. A dollar and a bit per little treat, and two dollars or so for the cream puff. It’s the kind of place you’d take your grandmother to, and which she’d be delighted by. You can buy cakes and cookies to go, and they make wedding cakes, which I imagine would be delicious, and swathed in shiny butter cream.

If you’re in the city and you want a nice little morning in a pleasant little tea room, Notte’s Bon Ton is probably the way to go. And don’t pass up the chance to talk to James. Even if you don’t buy the whole fortune-telling thing, he’s got an arsenal of interesting stories and fables that go tremendously well with pastries.

When it’s rainy and windy and there are boxes everywhere and if you live in Vancouver, go to The Three Lions Café.

It was Nick’s birthday, and we are in the throes of moving. I got him this. There are boxes everywhere, and I am not buying much in the way of groceries until we get to our new place. So for Nick’s birthday, we went to that most glorious of gastropubs, The Three Lions Café. It is a place where we are regulars, and where I always leave utterly satisfied, completely at peace, mumbling adverbs and rubbing my belly. The beer list is eclectic and always delightful, and the waitresses are personable and funny and always recommend something I’ll like. Kayla is my favourite, although she wasn’t there Wednesday night. There are at least two bartenders that I am aware of, and both are extra attractive, but not in that aloof, self-important Vancouver way that actually isn’t very attractive at all. Everyone is really, really nice.

And the food.

The food.

They’ve switched over to a fall menu, with sumptuous game meats, rich curries and stews, and warm, bright tastes in addition to their regular menu items, which are classics no matter where you’re from. We usually order fish and chips, or bangers and mash. But this time, I ordered the rabbit.

The rabbit ragoût. Though they called it ragu, which is also acceptable.

That was some tasty Thumper.

It was perfection. Delicately spiced, though bursting with black pepper and earthiness – those mushrooms. The bartender, who was also our waiter, Victor, recommended it and he was absolutely right. Just look at it.

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but I don’t believe that there’s a camera out there that would. The spinach – so creamy. The capers – so crispy. And I would quit my job and leave my husband for those mushrooms. We would run away together and be so happy.

Sometimes a meal is so good it’s just worth sharing, and I wanted to share it with you.

Even if there wasn’t a bite left over for anyone to try.

If you’re in Vancouver, check out The Three Lions. You will certainly love it like I love it, I’m sure of it. But don’t go too often – I would cry if I ever had to wait in line. It’s that kind of delicious. And, the way I think about it, it’s mine.

The Three Lions Café | 1 East Broadway | Vancouver, BC V5T 1V4 | (604) 569-2233

Eating in Portland: Touristing for the Gluttonous.

And this post isn’t about recipes, because I am currently in the process of inventing one, although maybe it’s already been invented but I’m not going to search online for it and then once I post it, if I Google search for it, then my post will come up first and it will validate me AND the creative process. Tomorrow: Recipe. Today: Portland Love Fest.

With the exception of a few racist billboards, America proved to be pretty awesome. And not to be totally unpatriotic, but I think Canada has something of an inferiority complex as far as the US is concerned. I think it’s because we don’t have Happy Hour here. Or Crunchberries. It’s like America is Canada’s cool older stepbrother – we don’t really get some of the things he does, and sometimes he’s an asshole, but mostly we wish we could be as cool as him. Unless he’s Republican that year.

In America, they have a special line of Doritos just for stoners.

"Tacos at Midnight," anyone?
"Tacos at Midnight," anyone?

It was a hot one, registering 103°F, or 40°C, so we were parched the whole time. We got some lemonade, which I was totally going to make fun of until @katarnett posted her discovery that blue dye is actually good for you now, so now I guess I’m jealous that in America, raspberries come in blue.

It was freakishly good!
It was freakishly good!

Although it’s only a five-hour trip to Portland from the Canadian border, it took us closer to nine hours to get there, because of all the stops. Theresa’s dad’s truck, which we borrowed, had air conditioning, but old cheapness habits die hard for Theresa, who couldn’t bring herself to turn it on because of the chance that using the air conditioning might eat up all the gas in the truck, which might mean we’d have to get more gas, which was expensive. So we drove fast with the windows down, and stopped a fair bit for cool drinks and swims in lakes.

When we got to Portland, we refreshed ourselves with some deliciously cold, enviably cheap pints of good microbrew.



Rogue Dead Guy Ale


We stayed in a hostel called McMenamins White Eagle Saloon, and even though it didn’t have air conditioning and we were sweltering, it was a pretty awesome place to sleep for $50 (total, not each). Except that sometime after we returned to the room from the bar downstairs, I remembered that I once heard that there have historically been more serial killers per capita in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else in the world, so then I couldn’t sleep in case one lept out of the closet or climbed through the open window to serial kill one of us. I never think of these things at home, which is also Pacific Northwesterly. It could be time to get serious about medication.

At the bar, we ate and drank for cheaper than we may ever have done either before.

Delish.And we learned about this amazing beer called “Ruby,” which is the most perfect girl-beer ever invented. It tasted like raspberries (the red kind), and it was magical and cold and everything great about the world in a single pint glass.

And we drank and drank and laughed and laughed and The Exhasperated Ex-Ex-Patriot came from across town to join us, and a marvellous time was had until I dumped too much dijon onto my $3.00 burger and then I felt sad but then more beer came and life was good again.

The next morning, after several cold showers and night terrors over serial killers, we went for breakfast at Voodoo Doughnuts. Prior to the trip, my two goals for my time in Oregon were simple: eat a foie gras jelly doughnut, and also eat a maple bacon doughnut. Turns out, the foie gras doughnut is sold somewhere else, and the maple bacon doughnut sells out like crazy at Voodoo, so much so that when we got there around 9:00 am, they were completely out of stock. I settled for a PB&J doughnut, which was a delicious combination of peanuts, peanut butter, deep fried dough, and raspberry jam. Manna.

Voodoo Doughnuts.


Voodoo Doll doughnut



And so we took to the road again, sad to be leaving so quickly, but delighted at ourselves for all the gluttony. And I shall return to Portland very soon, as it turns out I am madly in love with it for the same reasons I am in love with Vancouver but somehow Portland managed to out-doughnut Canada and also the drinks are very cheap there.

Also, in America, they still have POG. No. Fair.
I hog POG too.So, I guess what I mean to say is that you should come back tomorrow, because I mean to tell you all about brandied apricot cobbler with ginger, and it will be all kinds of delicious and completely new because I will have invented it. I think. It’s very warm out still and that could be why I’m finding it very hard to have coherent thoughts, never mind the struggle it’s been to try and write them out.