The Crow and Gate Pub
2313 Yellow Point Road
Nanaimo District, BC
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.
130 W15th St
North Vancouver, BC
North Vancouver’s Laleh Bakery specializes in Persian cookies that you serve to accompany traditional afternoon tea. These melt-in-your-mouth treats pair well with tea drinking. They come in a variety of textures that complement the ritual – often slightly dry, flakey, and grainy – with crunchy punctuation provided by walnuts, or pistachios. Some are sticky sweet, or are covered in powdered sugar.
Butter and semolina lend their richness, and the subtle flavour of cardamon or rosewater permeate many of these confections. Date and fig jams are used as spreads sandwiched between cookie rounds or as fillings. Preserves such as apricot, or berry jam serve to fill thumbprint indentations.
4801 Victoria Drive
88 Supermarket is one of the many reasons why I feel privileged living in the East Side.
As an avid cook and general enthusiast in all things pertaining food, I’m always on the lookout for great sources for ingredients. When I am cooking Southeast Asian food, I would usually head on over to stock up.
Madras Dosa House
5656 Fraser St
Recently my daughter told me that her favourite cuisine is South Indian vegetarian…this is after many years of sushi as here top choice when dining out. A couple of years ago, I had taken her to the Vancouver location of Saravanaa Bhavan – a restaurant chain hailing from the city of Chennai that specializes in the cuisine of Tamil Nadu. She was smitten. She always asks if we can dine there whenever we are nearby and she held here birthday party with her friends there recently. (She and a number of her friends are verging on vegetarianism). I am only too happy to oblige her.
Being a carnivore, I find Indian vegetarian food to be the only meatless food that truly satisfies me. Unlike the typical “beans and tofu” vegetarian cuisines endemic to this city, I truly do not miss meat at all when I eat this food. Also, I had traveled through that part of India a couple of decades ago and fell in love with the cuisine and had always wanted to explore it first hand. With impetus, I am now in the midst of exploring this cuisine with my daughter by learning to cook it. I would like her to grow up knowing that vegetarianism can actually be a delicious lifestyle. I have stocked my kitchen with the requisite pantry items – luckily all very easy to find here in Vancouver. I already had a number of great cookbooks (I’m a bit of a cookbook hound), and there is no shortage of websites from which you can learn this cuisine.
5225 Victoria Dr
As far as Food Trends go, Pork is an odd duck. After many years (even decades) of virtual banishment from many restaurant menus, this “other white meat” has surged with a vengeance. Pork Belly Anything, Pulled Pork on Anything, and Bacon Anything is all the rage in restaurants from casual breakfast joints, all the way to fine dining establishments. It is getting quite tiresome to be honest. The Chinese diner, insulated and bemused by these strange Western trends, have never shied away from this beautiful meat. Kalvin’s – a relatively unsung Chinese restaurant on the East Side of Vancouver serves two of the finest examples of Pork dishes in town.
Kalvin’s Szechuan, is a Taiwanese-run restaurant that specializes in Sichuan cuisine by way of Taiwan. Taiwan became an incubator for Sichuan-Taiwanese cuisine when the civil war forced the defeated Chinese nationalists to retreat to the island of Taiwan and declare the Republic of China (Taiwan) as a sole governing authority over all of China. The connection to Sichuan (and thus its cuisine) is a primarily symbolic and spiritual one as Sichuan province was the last stronghold of the Republican forces and the last to fall to the Communist troops. Chongqing (in Sichuan province) was also the home base of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Republic for many years. The two dishes examined here, however, are not Sichuan in nature – they both probably originate from other parts of China. We will have a look at the Sichuan inspired dishes here in a later post.
Ayoub’s Dried Fruit and Nuts
1332 Lonsdale Ave
North Vancouver, BC
Along Lonsdale in North Vancouver’s Little Iran, is a seemingly non-descript dried fruit and nut shop called Ayoub’s. The green awning and the oddly chosen typography of its brand belie what is inside the store.
Ayoub’s interior is a caricature of opulence – crystal chandeliers, marble, and trimmed out cabinetry adorn the store and its displays. The product, however, is undeniably good albeit pricier than the nearby competition. You can get high quality nuts, dried fruits of all kinds, fruit preserves, halva, loukum (Turkish delight).
Kakuni: Guu Original on Thurlow
Kakuni’s origins, like many dishes in Japanese cuisine, are in China. This homey dish of cubed, slow braised pork belly is surely a descendant of one of China’s most iconic dishes: red cooked pork – or “Dongpo pork” mythically named after the man who purportedly invented the dish. Kakuni and Dongpo pork are both rustic dishes which require more time than effort to make.