The End of the Line General Store 4193 Lynn Valley Road North Vancouver, BC (604) 904-2366
Western Canada is littered with hundreds of communities that sprouted out of the massive project that was the construction of Canada’s transcontinental railway. Supplanting these major lines were other local tracks in some areas to support the local citizens and industry. In today’s day and age, its kind of hard to imagine an era where rail transportation was the primary way to get people and supplies around from place to place, but it sure is nice to know that some remnants of that history remains or is preserved in some other fashion.
Having just been in San Francisco where I saw the famous trolley cars yet again, I was reminded that here in North Vancouver, we used to have that same transportation system in the early years of the 1900’s. Beginning in the Lonsdale area, service was available to take people all the way up Lynn Valley, with the terminal stop being at Dempsey Road. And fitting with so many rail stations around the world, a little community flourished and was supported by local merchants capitalizing on the constant flow of people in need of daily goods.
Milano Espresso Lounge (Gastown) 36 Powell Street Vancouver, BC (604) 558-0999
The coffee scene on the west coast is a pretty vibrant one and Milano explains their heritage on their website in proud terms, noting their long Vancouver legacy and family traditions. Their location in Gastown is a fairly spacey lot, with high ceilings, clean lines and a mix of industrial, artsy and comfortable concepts, textures and patterns in their lounge’s design. The base of their operations – their roasting facilities – is situated in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, not too far from the likes ofMenya, the busy MEC flagship and the fun to browse Dunlevy Food Equipment store.
Claiming to be dedicated to the old school Italian coffee tradition, Milano notes their key differentiator when it comes to their coffee product is their knowledge and dedication to a unique roasting and blending method – one that is not openly taught. And with their belief that what makes a great espresso is the blend quality. So much so that they even jack it up by using up to 11 beans in a blend, formulating options that run the full roast range (dark, medium, etc)! Continue reading →
Beer is central to the lives of Czechs to a degree that few, if any, countries can match. One recent study shows that per capita, Czechs drink the most beer in the world, and it’s not all that close. They consume 20% more beer per person than the second place country, Ireland, with Germany a close third. I’ve always liked Czech pilsners that is far and away the most popular style with their dry, bitter clean flavor. I still remember the revelatory experience of trying Staropramen on tap for the first time at the outstanding pub Lucky Baldwin’s in Old Town Pasadena in the mid-90s. I finally understood what the inspiration was for all these American beer giants whose main purpose appears to be selling lifestyle or image rather than flavor.
Like in many European countries, however, the beer industry is dominated by a small handful of national (to international) brands such as Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar, Krušovice, Gambrinus and Staropramen (I prefer Budvar and Staropramen from the above list). I knew from a past visit that there are smaller, local breweries. Years ago I had visited the generally well-regarded tourist trap U Fleků which showed to me a different side of Czech beer, and on a recent visit I figured I’d try to learn more about the small artisinal producers in a country with a rich brewing history. A quick search led me to Restaurace Kulový Blesk, which is a fairly easy 15 minute walk (or one metro stop ride) from Wenceslas Square in central Prague. They pride themselves on a fairly extensive selection of beer only from small Czech producers.
Han Nam Supermarket (Deli) 106-4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 420-8856
Bibimbap. Quite possibly the best known and also most tongue twisting dish in Korean cuisine. Its a simple one-bowl combination.
Comprised of a base layer of steamed white rice and topped with a colorful arrangement of sauteed vegetables, often some kind of meat (like sliced beef), a runny fried egg and seasoned with the deep flavored and spicy chili pepper paste better known as gochujang.
With its balanced arrangement, it has a very eye catching presentation despite its simplicity. But alas, that’s not where it ends. For you see, the bibim in bibimbap really means “to mix”. Combining all of these ingredients, their distinct textures and flavors, so that in each spoonful you get the complete package of tastes available is what makes this dish come to life.
Phillips Seafood (Flagship) 900 Water Street SW Washington, DC (202) 488-8515 Monday–Thursday & Sunday, 11am–9pm Friday & Saturday, 11am – 10pm Weekend Brunch, 11am – 2:30pm
Overlooking the Washington Channel on the Southwest Waterfront, Phillips Seafood (Flagship) is reputed to be the only all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Washington DC. A large buffet of fresh seafood selections, as well other cooked and dessert specialties, make up an glutton friendly display. A traditional a la carte menu is also available. For those coming by car, you can swing below to an underground parking garage (complete with a man standing by the payment machine to help speed up the process at dinner time when the line can get long). Its a pure tourist destination however, so be warned…
The choice for this massive group dinner was left to someone who’s been here before and thought the simple venue and dining style would be conducive to our party – filled with a bunch of big strapping fellows associated with a certain active military outfit and accustomed to big eating of the seafood variety (as they are based on the west coast). I wasn’t particularly thrilled but decided to chalk it up to one of those unfortunate outings when one’s interest in eating well (and perhaps in more moderate quantities) was thrown to the wayside in the greater interests of group harmony and wasting time arguing about where to eat. I guess I can be accommodating to a fault.
Desi Dosa House 8859 120th Street Delta, BC (604) 591-1591
I have recently committed to exploring Surrey to mine it of all its gastronomic goodness. To me, this is frontier territory. The distance from my home and my reluctance to drive on the highway have always been blockers to my exploration of this sprawling city. Surrey, of course, is the center of the Indian community here in the Metro Vancouver area. And like Richmond is to Chinese food, Surrey is dotted with true Indian gems. One such place is Desi Dosa Madras on the same strip mall as the more well known (and decidedly mediocre Desi Junction).
Zakkushi Charcoal Grill 4075 Main Street Vancouver, BC (604) 874-9455
As the boom in interest for the izakaya genre exploded in recent years on the Canadian west coast, there were a few that stood out for me in terms of offering something that I strongly felt would appeal to the local market and tastes. Zakkushi was on the top of this list, especially when you consider their base premise is something that North Americans can relate to – that being charcoal barbecue and grilled meat-on-a-stick. For the newbie, it is a lot more understandable and palatable than say someone just getting introduced to say sushi for the very first time as their initial foray into Japanese cuisine.
So it was quite fitting that I visited the Main Street (one of three outlets of this business that is fast becoming a growing chain) with a friend of mine who self-admittedly noted that he didn’t grow up with a lot of “ethnic” food in his parents’ home in rural Saskatchewan, and even today, his folks aren’t that adventurous but he’s learning to branch out his eating repertoire now that he’s based in Vancouver. I thought I’d try and shock his system by introducing to him something that I was positive he would find odd and wonder why anyone would want to eat it.
Bistrot Du Coin 1738 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC (202) 234-6969
During short, non-leisure trips I’m often forced to put my interest in eating out and trying new things on the backburner due to various reasons, including unfortunate hinderances such as lack of free time and fussy travel companions. But there are those occasions when my interests do find a fortuitous match and I meet like-minded folks who know a good meal when they see one, and are willing to seek them out. A well travelled businessman, who was born-and-raised in the DC area introduced me to Bistrot Du Coin, which turned out to be the gastronomic highlight of my trip.
The sweltering heat of the DC summer did put a bit of a damper on my dinner experience as the inside was absolutely packed and the air circulation was minimal at best. We were seated on the upper floor overlooking the main dining area below, which perhaps made the stuffiness seem that much worse. With the boisterous crowd and plentiful tables full of wonderful smelling food, it felt part American overindulgance and part French bistro casualness. I was so insanely hungry after another long day that I was willing to put up with the discomfort as long as the food was satisfying, and thankfully it was.
The Crow and Gate Pub 2313 Yellow Point Road Nanaimo District, BC (250) 722-3731
In 1972, the government of BC relaxed truly some truly Victorian liquor laws to allow neighbourhood pubs to operate for the first time in the province. The Crow and Gate made local history when it became the very first of such establishments. Jack Nash, Sussex native and the former owner, built this place as a labour of love — importing timber beams, furnishings, windows, memorabilia, and other objects to provide the raw material to build a truly authentic southern English pub. He provided a sort of template of how neighbourhood drinking holes could be built and run. Soon it became a local favourite.
Since then, however, the big factory breweries such as Molson’s and Labatt’s have managed to use their hegemony to infest just about every neighbourhood in the province with cookie cutter pubs serving their swill. Things are definitely getting better now in the urban areas with the recent ascent of modern microbreweries and “gastropubs”….but for the rest of the province, Big Brewery mediocrity still rules.