Let It Rain - Spring time in the Pacific Northwest
Vancouver is a city that offers a different and refreshing taste of traditional and Asian Fusion inspired cuisine and a place that you can go and walk and meander about for a few days, but unfortunately sometimes in late May the chance of rain and chilly weather can be challenging. This was an eating trip, especially with the amount of rain and cold weather, but other than that and some limited wine selections at most restaurants, Vancouver should definitely be on your ‘eat list’ of places to visit. Our first stop is always lunch at Shanghai Chinese Bistro on Alberni Street for a bowl of Shrimp and Pork Hot and Sour Soup; not the typical American Chinese version, but made in a flavorful ‘Cloudy Broth’ and then onto to a large selection of Dim Sum. Although this particular restaurant has been in business for quite awhile, they are always updating the food and menu offerings to stay current to today’s tastes.Granville Island is known by some as ‘Granola Island’ for its bohemian atmosphere and artistic colony businesses and residents. It also houses the city market where you can either get anything from the best selection of fresh fish, prime meats, fresh baked breads, fruit items from all around the world or also snack along the way at the plethora of quick service food stands. In good weather it’s great to buy some items and picnic - however when it rains, head straight for the Artisan Sake Maker, Masa Shiroki; he has the first boutique premium sake made in Canada. For a few dollars you can have a tasting selection and it will warm you up. Plus, it tastes delicious! Bao Bei is a relatively new Asian Brasserie on the edge of China Town and has already become the darling of the trendy, local crowd. Featuring a small plates menu ranging in price from $9.00 to $15.00CAD, with local fish, tofu and vegetarian and of course Steamed Buns and Pork Belly too. The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, but definitely the food preparations are well thought out and polished. Yaletown has multiplied from a small warehouse area just a few years ago into a bustling work-eat-live there environment. The anchor of the area is Urban Faire, a large bustling market with a selection of food items, take away prepared dishes, coffee and tea bar, made to order items and a vibe of guests that you typically don’t find in markets in the United States. They offer live music on certain days, along with a social get together, a great place to organize some food for a picnic or just hang out to sip some beverages and chat. Maenam, a postage stamp size restaurant on Broadway, and is turning out some of the most interesting and bright tasting Thai food, starting with Cloudy Hot and Sour Soup of Wild Baja Prawns, which we asked to have the Fresh Spot Prawns as a substitution since they were the first of the Season. Then on to Green Mango salad, with Grilled Albacore Tuna, which was more of a mid-course, but entrée sized. Dry Curry of Crispy Lingcod and a bowl of Jasmine Rice, rounded out the experience. If I Iived in Vancouver this is the type of restaurant I could eat in once a week! After a great meal and a rainy day, a stop at Urban Tea Company on Alberni Street, seems in order. A wonderful and comfortable respite in the middle of the shopping district in Vancouver. The selection of teas and proper service makes you just relax and is a great place to wait out the daily rain storm. No trip to Vancouver would be complete without a visit to Tojo’s restaurant for Japanese Cuisine. Hidekazu Tojo has been a fixture on the Japanese restaurant scene since the early 1970s and has had his own restaurant since 1988. He has served as the ambassador for not only his own restaurant but for Vancouver in the local scene and the international restaurant world. To fully understand his food, you should sit at the counter and let him prepare a tasting menu for you; he will tailor it to your tastes and also take into consideration your dietary restrictions, and get ready for an experience second to none. Tojo prides himself on constantly adjusting his menu to what is seasonally available, so the meal we experienced might not be available again, but each and every time I have dined with him, the experience fully exceeds my expectations. I remember on our lunch visit to Shanghai Chinese Bistro seeing the fish tank chocked full of Dungeness Crabs, so for our last evening a revisit was in order. A two-kilo fresh crab was flashed in the wok with scallions and ginger - nothing more to say! Portland and Willamette Valley Wine Country was next on the agenda. The first night a visit to one of our old haunts, Higgins’ was definitely in order. The bar was buzzing, even though there was a rain storm raging outside. To me this is a benchmark Pacific Northwest Restaurant; great local food selection, hard to beat wine list, and fair pricing, and attentive service and the professionalism of the service team. Housemade Charcuterie and Oregon Cheese selection, seasonal fish and vegetables and signature fruit desserts, a nice way to be welcomed back to Portland. Being the next day was Sunday, there was only one real choice, we knew we were going to have Dim Sum at Fong Chong in Chinatown, a somewhat down trodden old place but hey, are you interested in the food or the atmosphere?! You can eat till your stuffed and if your bill is over $25.00 for two people, I would be very surprised! The hills of Dundee were calling, so off we went for a day of wine tasting, great hospitality and conversation. Our first stop was Sokol Blosser Winery; the sun finally broke through so a tour of the vineyards was in order and they had a BBQ Lunch which they offer on various weekends and holidays, a few some tastings of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and the day was starting off just fine. Next was Archery Summit, they were tasting right in the wine cave and offering their premium wine selection, which I am told if you ask nicely, you can try too! No trip to Willamette Valley would be complete without visiting with Pam Walden at Daedalus Cellars; she has a small but very comfortable tasting room and offers some the best single vineyard Pinot Noir in Oregon. Our last evening was an easy choice for dinner. Keeler Hospitality had recently opened a new restaurant, ‘Portland Prime.’ We had dined on great seafood most of the week, so a Prime Steak and big bottle of red wine were definitely in order - let’s just say we were not disappointed!