Monday, March 26, 2007

Kiwi Berry

I discovered Kiwi Berries last week! They're soft-skinned, hairless tiny versions of Kiwi Fruit, that you can just pop into your mouth directly, which most people don't do with the big hairy ones. I have actually seen friends just bite right into a regular kiwi, and enjoy eating the hairy skin and all. As a result, I've tried it myself, and it is indeed not as itchy and irritating as one might guess from appearances. But I still went back to just eating the flesh after that. With Kiwi Berries, you can, just like the marketing blurbs say, eat them like grapes. I tend to pluck that tiny bit of stem off them, so I think it's more like eating strawberries than grapes. They're sweet, flavourful, and addictive. I saw them in the little corner independent grocery store near my place, and decided to try them, but I wasn't expecting them to be as wonderfully sweet as they were. I first thought that they were "baby kiwis," but of course that doesn't make any sense, as fruit in general doesn't get sweet until they mature, whereas a baby vegetable like a zucchini is wonderfully sweet and tender. But then again, zucchini and other squash ARE the fruit part of the plant, bearing the seeds. They just have the capacity to grow huge and unsweet. Kiwi Berries are actually a marketing name for another species of fruit closely related to kiwi fruit that is called hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta), so this is as big as they get, and they grow in big, adorable bunches on the vine.

I can see them hitting the local fancy dessert garnish scene:
"What's this?"
"Oh that's a kiwi berry. Kiwi berries are the new gooseberry."

But I'm sure there will always be a place for the original kiwi fruit. For one thing, they have always reminded me of some particular private parts, perhaps like peaches, mangoes, and bananas to some. You do lose that pleasant body part association with these tiny, hairless ones. But I've had that conversation with a few people, and maybe this is one of those "is it just me?" things. But there's definitely a general fruit - body part association that doesn't happen, say, with dairy products. Um, wait a second...I mean, grain products (please don't write me to tell me about the history of sexual imagery in grain products. I am happy to be unaware, thank you.). For another thing, it's just kind of fun to scoop the flesh out of kiwi halves, kind of like eating soft-boiled eggs out of the shell. And also, I have no idea how expensive those kiwi berries were. I like my grocer, and I just trusted that it couldn't be too bad. But I suspect that I probably could have bought a lot of kiwi fruit for the same price. But certainly worth the splurge, if there was one. Anyway, have fun with your fruit...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Missing Pho-to

I just realized I had my camera with me while at a little Pho restaurant and didn't think of taking a picture. I was coming home from a great bike ride on my new super-cool folding bike, and randomly picked a small restaurant on Hastings street. Success! Pho 888 (2474 East Hastings, just East of Nanaimo St., 604-258-9092) was nice, clean, and had good food. I just had their combo that included a small house special pho, a salad roll (it had prawns and pork in it), and a can of pop. Not normally something I'd whip out the camera for anyway, but the food was good, and I was quite pleased. Maybe I'm easily impressed because the Vietnamese place closest to my place still insists of giving lemon wedges instead of lime wedges with their pho. The broth was decent, and the peanut sauce for the salad was good too. It really hit the spot. I also like the fact that the big pot of jasmine tea came out right away after I was seated (with no charge).

I also randomly picked a place on the way to the bike path (Brunette-Fraser Greenway, which I recommend also), and found a great little Chinese run diner/family restaurant place to have an all-day breakfast special. I've unfortunately forgotten the name, and wasn't really intending to blog it either. I do love those type of places, with the comforting old 70's style glassware and decor, and the Chinese owner lady who gives impeccable service (gotta love those bottomless coffee warm-ups) and a cook in the back who knows how not to get crusty bits on sunny side up eggs, and knows how to make a seriously fluffy pancake. There's also the great bonus of being able to read the day's paper, which is always kicking around places like this. I think this one was around the 4000 block of Hastings, just one door in from the Northeast corner, because I remember noticing the going out of business sale signs in the Helen's children's clothing store with the great girl-in-a-swing neon sign.

Though these two restaurants probably don't sound all that blogworthy, there are two things that made them noteable for me. First, I like spinning the roulette wheel of unknown small restaurants. I was feeling lucky today. And just that element of chance makes the successful spontaneous pick all that more satisfying (as opposed to the intent research that usually goes into my restaurant picks for myself, and anyone who might ask for a personal recommendation). The Chinese family restaurant felt especially like a gamble because I walked into an entirely empty room on a Saturday afternoon, and almost walked right out (you could see my thought process all over my face, I'm sure, after I opened the door: uh oh, empty room, bad sign...oops, she saw me, too late!). Thus, when the attractive breakfast plate arrived, it was like a wonderful little jackpot...of fat and sugar. Secondly, I enjoyed these places because they really had a lovely neighbourhood feel to them. East Hastings feels more like a real community than dining downtown. In both restaurants, regulars walked in and were treated by the staff like old friends. I like that down-to-earth "homeyness." I guess I have a nostalgic fondness for East Hastings because it reminds me of my roots, having been raised nearby. Anyhow, I'd go back quite happily to both of those places if I was in the neighbourhood, and I would probably not ever go to Anton's - drove past the queue , which must have had about 20 starving student types standing outside to get their cheap pasta. I wanted to pull over and say, "People, this is don't have to line up for cheap food." Incidentally, the pho special I had was $8.25. Or $5.50 for just the pho. The breakfast special was about that too. The real question is, how expensive was it all calorically? Here's hoping my bike ride was at least enough to break even.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sentimental Saves

Have you ever had such a sentimental association with a restaurant that you wind up "saving" it and not returning, or alternatively, returning often to relive the memory? Minato Sushi (992 West Broadway, 604-732-6554), a little sushi joint in the mini mall at Broadway and Oak, is one of the former type for me. I had my very first official date ever in that restaurant, eons ago, while I was still in university. The boy I went with quickly became my first love, and it was everything I could have wanted from a first relationship. Let's call him Breadboy, since he was the one who taught me to bake bread, and in fact was the first person to ever teach me to cook. How funny it is to remember myself so timid in the kitchen. Cooking is really (as so many things in life are) all about just deciding to have the confidence that you can do it. Not being one to follow "the rules" of dating, or at that point in my life, to even be aware of them, I remember I wasn't shy with the ordering. I didn't hide my hunger, nor did I really comprehend that he would be so insistant in paying for the whole meal. Back then, sushi was still a big treat, even the mediocre stuff, and we both loved it. Yay! Something in common for the nervous young would-be couple. So we ordered. And ordered. I have this memory of boat-load after boat-load of sushi coming at us, and us both gorging ourselves happily, while getting more and more comfortable with each other. We're talking a fricken' fleet here, and all-you-can-eat sushi hadn't really descended upon the city yet. Anyhow, Minato still stands, and for me, it's like a little monument that holds that beautiful memory of that first date. I never went in again after that first date. I moved away, and I moved back, and I often smiled fondly when passing the restaurant, but I would never go back. It wasn't really a purposeful thing. Often, if I was looking for a restaurant in the area, I would be with another boyfriend, and always felt that I would wind up being too sentimental going back there, and figured that wouldn't be terribly considerate to whomever I was dating at the time. I mean, how boring would it be to have dinner with someone mooning over their first date at that restaurant. That's what blogs are for, hee, hee! Well, on the spur of the moment recently, I went to Minato's, alone, for a quick bite on my way from one place to another. It's just the same all these years later. It's good and reliable, and relatively cheap. And I know it's just a sushi joint. But it's made it through all these years in this town full of sushi joints. And I'm glad.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Name that Vancouver Restaurant No. 7

Okay, rev up those restaurant guessing engines. This one isn't exactly a full restaurant. It's a fantastic coffee shop with amazing food. Savories AND sweets! And oh my, those sweets... It's almost my ultimate dream coffeeshop that I'm still questing after. Great coffee, great atmosphere, nice staff, not too loud, and great food. Very reasonable prices to boot! The only things that are missing are 1. being open late night - it's current hours are 8 am - 8 pm (understandable as it's owner operated, and the fact that he's there is part of the charm), and 2. being closer to my place. It's on the North Shore, which I don't get out to that often, but that one is a minor quibble, since it's actually transit accessible - just a few blocks away from the seabus terminal. Are those enough clues for you? Okay, just one more, that should seal the deal if you have been there. The owner is an artist. Guess away!

Email Eaten

Was my email yummy, Hotmail monster?! Just a note to say that I really do appreciate any and all correspondence through the email account I set up for this blog:, but being a hotmail account, it actually resets itself and erases all emails and saved emails if the account isn't checked regularly. Oops! My apologies if any of you have written me at that account in the last while - they're all gone and that's why you haven't heard from me. Please do write again. Feel free to put a message in the comments section of any of the posts to direct me to your private email as well. Thanks!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I am alive!...and more importantly, still eating!

Sorry for the absence, Nancylanders. I have been distracted, working lots, and also in a mild state of hibernation for this winter, but things are warming up, and I'm going to chew my way out of this coccoon. But not to worry, I have not been starving these last few weeks, and I have some great finds to post. To start, here's one a wee bit further out of the city core than my average post.

Looking for a lazy weekend day adventure now that the weather is warming up and the days are longer? Be a tourist in your own town. Toss your bikes in your car and visit charming Fort Langley. Bike the Fort-to-Fort trail from the original Fort Langley site in Derby Reach Regional Park to the town of Fort Langley, if you like that sort of thing, then wander around the cute shops, historical museums, have a coffee at Wendel's, the coffee shop/bookstore right in the middle of town, treat yourself to a funky hat (or two, like I did when I went) at the hat store, and then have a nice dinner at the Lampliter afterwards. I asked the hat lady what her favourite restaurant is, and she really came through for me. She recommended the Lampliter Gallery Cafe (9213 Glover Road, 604-888-6464) a few doors down, and also the Adobo Grill for something a little more low-key. Incidentally, I've tried the "what's your favourite restaurant?" tactic with a couple of gas station attendants while in unfamiliar territory (because I usually have to stop and get gas), and I haven't been all that successful. Usually the answer is much too diplomatic, such as "there are lots of restaurants on so-and-so road." So it was a real pleasure to get this tip. Cosy little room, wonderful fine dining service, complete with confident and friendly wine reccomendation (which was also a real pleasure to get considering I wasn't really dressed for the restaurant, as it was a last minute decision after a long work day), and really tasty food. I had the cornmeal crusted mahi mahi special ($17.95), which was served with a delicious ratatouille, vegetables, and choice of starch. I chose the potato, which was a lovely potato strudel made with phyllo pastry. The fish was served with a creamy leek sauce. Very tasty, and the meal was that much better because this restaurant experience was way more refined than I was expecting to be able to find "out there" at the last minute. Mind you, I was drinking a little wine, and I was very hungry after work (just a cold cheese sandwich for lunch), so that always makes everything taste even better. Another little pleasant surprise there too (wine snobs may look away now) - I really enjoyed the local pink wine I had - Jackson Trigg's white merlot. The best part of the meal was the dessert, with a really good cup of coffee to accompany. Having resisted the temptation of getting an appetizer, I was able to fit in their amazing dessert sampler ($8.50). It consisted of three small portions of some beautifully high quality desserts, nicely plated with fruit and whipped cream: passionfruit mousse that was intensely flavoured with the fruit, yet totally cloudlike in texture; a warm maple bread pudding with ice cream; and a really delicious Belgian chocolate mousse torte . And for me, a good chocolate cake is hard to find. This dessert sampler is worth the trip in itself. Afterwards, ride your bikes back to your car to burn it all off (if you have time before dusk, otherwise, drive your car to town before dinner). The restaurant takes reservations, they're open for lunch and they're closed Mondays and Tuesdays. I remember dropping by Fort Langley in hopes of Sunday Brunch one summer day, and the restaurants were just packed, so reservations are probably a good idea.