A lot of time spent in airports usually means one of two things for me. Either i get caught up on my music by tuning out the world and listening to my iPod, or I spend a lot of time thinking. Lately, it’s been the latter.
I’ve noticed lately some interesting trends in how taste continues to evolve – both personally, and culturally. In part one, I discussed the personal, as i shared my thoughts on some things that have been bothering me lately. Specifically, how information I had posted a few years ago has gotten stale, partly due because my tastes have continued to evolve and change. Trying to think of ways to manage this has left me with nothing but a headache, but discussions about this are ongoing and i feel hopeful that someone has an ideal solution!
Today, i want to discuss the idea of a cultural evolution of taste. What im referring to specifically is how a culture’s culinary traditions and tastes continue to change, and how that impacts how we look at food experiences, especially when it comes to the idea of “authenticity”.
Why do i care and what does this have to do with Foodosophy? Well, when sharing experiences, providing context is an important part of what you are describing. They are like signposts for the reader – identification of things that are important to them, and things that they don’t value. Adjectives all have some personal meaning to readers. So does the word authentic. I wonder though, should the word authentic never be used when discussing food?
Pho Century Fine Vietnamese Cuisine 6701 Kingsway Burnaby, BC (604) 544-5028
Billed as a “Place for Noodle Lovers”, this second location of Pho Century recently popped up at the intersection of Kingsway and Sperling, basically directly across the way from the National Nikkei Heritage Centre where the beloved Hi Genki is located. I’ve never visited their first outlet (which is also on Kingsway – at Willingdon), so have no point of reference to compare, but this just opened spot sure took me a bit by surprise. While carved out inside a shabbier looking building that I think housed some kind of ESL/math school run by Chinese until recent times, they had really spruced up the tiny interior with a clean and fresh modern look. Parking is brutal – limited to a few spots right in front – and street parking nearby is hampered by the ongoing construction of a tall condominium building right across the street, with all the trucks and machinery needing to get through.
As you can see from the signage, there is a grand opening going on, with special dine-in pricing of 10% off, which is slated to end January 15th. So perhaps by the time you read this post, it could be over. Nevertheless, the price point for their main dishes are reasonable – case in point, the small pho is $6, and the large bowl is $7. Congees, and barbequed (insert any meat here) with rice dishes also fall in the $7~$8 range. There were also some Viet Subs (chicken, meat ball, minced pork, Vietnamese ham) available priced $3.95 and up; apparently they are only here at this second location. Combo plates with rice or vermicelli run in the $7 to $11 zone; this “touch of everything” caught my attention for my lunch.
London Pub 700 Main St. Vancouver, BC (604) 684-7732
A year ago this week I was in London, UK. So fitting that I should visit a gastropub that has taken that city’s name in its title. Nestled in a restored corner space of a brick building on the southern edge of Chinatown along Main Street, this still relatively new establishment seems to have a carved out a niche for itself with a loyal and locally residing customer base, judging by how busy and loud it got during the course of my stay. Large, spacious, things to do like some pool tables, video games and big screens to watch sports, it has none of that commercially produced feel of say a Boston Pizza, but rather feel just like the work of some folks who wanted to create a place to hang out, have some suds and meet up with friends for some pub grub. My kind of joint…
The London Pub while first and foremost a watering hole, did have some food on the menu to peruse from and with nothing in my stomach after a long day of work, we figured something to munch on would be good. Looking to split something more substantial the the listing of smaller appetizers shown, we opted to try one of their pizza’s, 11-inch I believe. The barbecue chicken seemed to be the most appealing and substantial of the lot, so that’s what we ordered from the personable young lass who was assigned to our table with the high stools. Fairly chewy and softer textured dough and on the sweeter side with the sauce, gourmet pizza it is not, but for someone who was in need of some sustenance, it fit the bill just fine. Size-wise, more than enough for the pair of us.
First off Happy New Year to everyone. Secondly a very big very thank you to Shokutsu et al. for keeping things moving in my protracted absence. I’d change the blog to be called shokutsuosophy, but it doesnt quite have the same ring. Hope you’re ok with that 🙂
Unfortunately, without a good internet connection, im not able to post anything with pictures, but i wanted to discuss a topic that’s been on my mind recently. It’s about the evolution of taste. What does it mean for people who blog, and how does it shape how we view food?
Let’s start with the definition of evolution: “a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”.
What im referring to is the natural propensity of taste to change over time. I feel this happens personally, as in to individuals, and it happens culturally as well. Today, i want to address the personal aspect.
Personally, i’ve noticed that my own tastes change and evolve quite often. The more repeated exposure i get to certain types of foods, and really, the more exposure to different tastes (in wine, coffee, food), the more what constitutes my “ideal taste” changes.
Myung-Ga Sonmandoo (Hand Made Dumplings) 455 329 North Road Coquitlam, BC (604) 939-8828
In an area already congested with places to eat, its always nice to discover the pending opening of yet another place to try some new food. In the shopping complex anchored by the H-Mart Supermarket, while getting some groceries there in early-December, I noticed a place with some paper up on the windows and some temporary signage signifying something was about to occupy the place shortly. From what I could make of it, it was going to be about dumplings. Yum.
And so at the end of 2010 I was back as the doors were now open and I quickly had my virgin meal at Myung-Ga, which was indeed offering dine-in and takeout service for its sonmandoo (or hand made dumplings). It was a small, narrow space with an open kitchen up front where you can see workers making the various dumplings they have right in front of you. A small window from the sidewalk allows you to peak inside, if they have the shade up. The steaming is also done right there, so if its chilly outside, you can get a noticeable amount of fog indoors with the constant opening and closing of the main entrance causing the ambient air temperature to fluctuate.
Refuel 1944 W 4th Avenue Vancouver, BC (604) 288-7905
[This report is from an outing from this past fall – it had been sitting in the incomplete queue for a while, various travels led me to leave this aside until now, apologies.]
Putting on special events is something that a restaurant can do to draw some attention to itself and cut through all the clutter of marketing hype and word-of-mouth buzz generated among regular patrons and prospective new customers. With so many ways to do this, I think a lot of them are really lost when it comes to pulling off a creative concept. Refuel, with its strong pedigree from its previous incarnation as Fuel, and the strong reputation of its lead man Rob Belcham, have found a way in recent years to conduct an annual event that has now led to a trio of seatings in a single night to commemorate a pig-fueled anniversary celebration.
This year for the Whole Hog Dinner, they brought in a partner to compliment their set course, family-style meal by adding some cask beer creations from the local R&B Brewing Company. This even involved the participation of some of the brewers themselves who were responsible for concocting the brews that were on hand this particular evening. They were as follows and recommended pairings with each of the three food courses that were served.
1. Lemongreass sungod ale
2. Oaked raven cream ale
3. Bacon stout
The experienced beer drinking fellows in our group had favorable comments on the course one paired lemongrass ale. In fact, many noted they wished they’d just stuck to that for the other two pints they had instead of following the recommendations and falling victim to the curiosity factor. Especially when it came to the bacon stout, which had a hint of the pork product, but frankly felt weak overall. The thoughts on the cream ale were that it wasn’t creamy enough too.
I hate to use the term “reviews” in this case, as frankly I don’t think that’s what we’re really doing here on this site that is being used by our crew of writers to rather just share experiences and ideas more than anything else. They just happen to take place most of the time in places to eat or where one can purchase food and drink for basic sustenance our just outright pleasure. But the triple-R alliteration was just too hard to pass up…
A reason for me drafting this commentary today is that I noticed that yet another active restaurant with its very own online presence has linked back to one of our previous posts by one of our stronger and frankly more food knowledgeable writers. I think you’ll see a trend in this regard when we continue to see who’s posts have gained some external recognition. No shokutsu in sight. 🙂
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria 1417 99 St NW Edmonton, AB (780) 468-0000
O-toro previously wrote about this now five-location strong pizzeria based in Edmonton known as Famoso that is trumpeting some true ingredients that go into a classic Neapolitan pie. So on my recent visit to the Alberta capital, I knew I had to give it a try myself, as there is no sign of it coming to the west coast any time soon, and I don’t have immediate plans to visit Calgary (where they have one of their five locations).
As it was on the city’s south side and thus closest to the airport that still is way too far for my liking from the city’s downtown core, the South Edmonton Common location was visited for this lunchtime meal. [I did manage to see the location for the one downtown later during my stay]. It was quite busy for a mid-week day, although I’m sure the pending holidays had something to do with it, but the access to this shopping area wasn’t as bad as it ended up being days later (and of course for Boxing Day). First impressions were positive. Bright, clean, with a nice buzz about the place. The centralized glass display that housed many of the desserts and drinks anchored the room, with the pizza cooks working in the open towards the back where I could also spot the wood burning oven. Everything fit the “fast casual” claim they spout out in their marketing.
Twisted Yogurt #650-3803 Calgary Trail Edmonton, AB (780) 440-4955
New concepts, especially in the do-it-yourself kind seem to be sprouting out all over the place these days. Perhaps its a way to cut labor costs, but having customers/diners do all the heavy lifting and giving them countless choices to suit their every need and desire, seems to be partly (in my opinion) due to the ever burgeoning something-unique-for-everyone ethos that has arisen from the Starbucks business model (“super venti mochachino with quarter-whole, quarter-skim, and make the rest half & half, decaf with a few shavings of nutmeg”” anyone?). No single item will do, you get as much leeway as you want. Kind of a steroid-driven upgrade on the old “have it your way” style of one of the major fast food burger chains.
I wouldn’t even try to come up with all the permutations of configurations you can get with your Twisted Yogurt dessert. Rather than try to come up with something both accurate and witty, I’ll let the marketing gurus of the operation themselves tell you how they would give their elevator pitch:
“Twisted Yogurt is all about exploring your creative side, because you get to create your own frozen masterpiece. You start by choosing one of our eight flavours of fresh, natural non fat frozen yogurt and then add on as many of our over 50 toppings as you can load into your bowl.”
Shogun Japanese Restaurant
10125 – 121 Street NW
With one of the oldest pedigrees when it comes to serving Japanese cuisine in Edmonton (in particular being home to the first real full-fledged sushi bar in the city) and still in the same location when it opened back in 1983, Shogun is one of the real classics that has survived the test of time. Despite this longevity, I have a sense its not really well known by local bloggers as I don’t really hear much about it through other sources. If you’ve been around as long as yours truly has and are as familiar with the Alberta capital, you might recall the current major longtime stalwart in the Japanese food genre in Edmonton, Mikado, did have a much smaller location on the north side (not the present flagship spot near Grant MacEwan), also in the Eighties. But it was Shogun who really brought to Edmonton a full scale Japanese restaurant complete with the culture-crossing phenomenon better known as teppanyaki.
Inside some of the display cases lining the restaurant floor, you’ll find some of the artifacts of yesteryear; Polaroids of some of the local celebrities that frequented the place back in the day. Personally, I still have some autographs direct from the hands of the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe from the early- Eighties that I collected from them when they were spotted dining here numerous times during those Oiler glory days (including one from their night of dining on New Year’s Eve 1984!). The decor hadn’t really changed much from its early days – the dark wood beams, the noren, the general layout of the tables and tatami rooms. Though I did note that in the ten years since I last came here, the sushi bar is now at the front of the house, where the former bar/lounge used to be.