Eating well in Vancouver, Family Edition – September 2013

This was my first week in September in food and activities.

I moved into the new apartment on August 25 and Lil’ Sis arrived for a week-long visit on the 29th so I had barely unpacked (everything) and hadn’t the presence of mind to call a Telus technician to set up the Internet and Optik TV connection. Thus, we were set up at the Urban Fare Express nearly every day to use their wi-fi. If you go before 11 a.m.,  you can get their “Coffee and Muffin” promo where you get the muffin for free. I kept ordering the largest size of tea as all of the tea sizes cost the same. Except for one evening when the outlets were really wonky, it was a pleasant teleworking experience and there were times when I really desperately needed that connection!

Friday 30 August

We were running around on Friday morning and I wanted to introduce Lil’ Sis to barre class but we were working at Urban Fare right until having to dash downtown to pick up a rental car, drive to New West for her dress fitting then we were on our way to White Rock to visit an uncle who has settled in there. That required – at least one of the routes – for use to pass through Surrey/Delta and I had the brilliant idea to go for Indian food. Okay, it’s not so novel or unique or anything. After a short search on Urbanspoon and deciding between two highly ranked restaurants, I decided on Desi Dosa Madras in the Newton part of Surrey. In the off-chance Lil Sis had not before had dosa, it sounded like the place to go.

We saw the Butter Chicken Lunch Special advertised at the window and I laughed and said I would not order that. But when I did order, it happened to be two dishes with photos provided and off the specials menu. I ordered the Desi Dosa Combo #3 for a variety platter and tried to order a lamb vindaloo. The latter was not available and so I just randomly ordered the butter chicken lunch special! I learned to be aware that the Desi Dosa Combo should be read as (Desi Dosa) Combo rather than my initial interpretation of Desi (Dosa Combo) and the carbs of that combo were not the dosas we were looking for. They weren’t bad and were very nice to dip in the butter chicken curry as the rice quickly ran out. Meanwhile, we saw that everyone at a table of Indian patrons ordered dosa that were enormous and teetered on stainless steel platters. To sop up the rest of the butter chicken, we ordered on innocuous looking plain dosa and that definitely sealed the meal and made us full!


Visiting our Uncle Henrik and one of his son’s family in South Surrey was a pleasant afternoon but all too soon we were dashing back to Vancouver to get into PNE as early as possible to spend some time on the grounds ahead of the Martina McBride concert. Martina McBride … isn’t she who did that … no, I am only familiar with one song from the ’90s from that one-hit wonder also named Martina. I did know “Broken Wing”. Just before the concert, we had some poutine from the poutine stand and it was not good. Overcooked hot dogs as toppings, soggy French fries and underseasoned and overcooked steak. During the concert, I looked forward to riding Revelation with S. That ride, with its nice premium price, is the one ride you need to go on. I can’t say I was disappointed at how much it freaked me out when it was going forwards (you think you might get tossed out and face-plant into the fair grounds) or backwards (feels like freefall) or upside down (thought I would just slide out head first) and I couldn’t stop scream – although the wind just ripped the volume away and my hair was completely tossed and I was kind of shocked and crying afterwards.

Saturday 31 August

Trying to keep active as many days as possible and to use the rental car as well as possible, I concocted the idea to do go to Grouse Mountain and hike. Lil Sis and I had done the Grouse Grind before together, years ago. This time, I thought I would try to hike the “other way up”, the BCMC trail marked with little orange triangles on the trees – not to be confused with Grouse Grind which is marked by orange squares. We started out immediately on the Baden-Powell and it was quiet compared to the Grouse Grind crowds. I could feel we were headed east and I knew the trail ends up in Deep Cove which is not desirable to us. Fearing we were going to end up out of the way and thinking the BCMC split was off the Grouse Grind, we cut through the forest to the Grouse Grind and never saw the BCMC split-off. That’s because if  we had stuck on the Baden-Powell, we would have seen the triangle markers. Since we were a little short on time, I didn’t want to risk getting lost and we continued up the Grouse Grind. It is dehumanizing but it’s a good workout.

A workout such as the Grouse Grind certainly merits a good meal afterwards and I knew just where I wanted to try in West Vancouver.  A couple of months ago, I organized a day trip to Bowen Island and while four of us met up at McDonald’s as I suggested, three others got breakfast at the Savary Island Pie Company. I love a savoury pie with buttery and flakey crust and although sweet pies are Savary’s specialty, I still wanted to try their pies. Since that Bowen Island day trip, I noticed that S was frequently checking in to Savary Island Pie Company during repeat visits. We shared one tourtiere and then a lemon buttermilk pie with berries. I didn’t know the lemon buttermilk – which was very good as it was – did not have a pie crust top so I will be back for a good ole apple pie later!

We got back to the apartment after hiking and pie-eating and cleaned up ahead of a trip to the tailor. I was on time fo the appointment but the dress wasn’t ready yet – “Half an hour more! Please go have a coffee!”, the owner implored us. I had a better idea and took Lil Sis to La Taqueria on Cambie. We shared a four meat tacos deal and selected our four including Al Pastor, fish, chicken and beef. Lil Sis took a bite of each one and selected al pastor and chicken for the two she would finish eating.  While it hit the spot eventually, immediately after polishing off the taco platter, Lil Sis wanted the vegetable sampler, too, but I had to put a lid on it.

It almost slipped my memory at time but our dinner plans on Saturday were to go to Bao Bei in Chinatown. My cousin Alan worked there at the time of Lil Sis’ visit and all of my relatives have been curious and baffled by the modern Chinese brasserie concept. I dined at Bao Bei in a mini New Chinatown crawl years ago when it was new and Lil Sis was tasked to try it while visiting. It was helpful to know Alan as we were put on the list and barely killed 10 minutes at the Chinatown night market just outside before we were seated. We ordered some drinks and a server brought cold pickled vegetables as treat from Alan. We ordered three dishes to share: colourful and eclectic pork jowl that just worked altogether, sticky rice cake which I read as (sticky rice) cake instead of sticky (rice cake) that was a fairly Chinese dish and handmade-by-Helan wontons in a cilantro-laced XO-curry broth. Alan also sent us a trifle dessert which wasn’t overly sweet and we left very pleased.



Sunday 1 September

Our activity of the day was not so very active but interesting nonetheless. I wanted to take Lil Sis stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and at Deep Cove where I haven’t been for years. But good luck reserving a SUP the very same day on Labour Day weekend! I called Windsure at Jericho where I was recently for my cousin’s stagette and they had plenty of boards available. Fortunately, it was not as windy and water seemed a lot cleaner than the last time I was there and we had a pleasant time on the water. Since we were out near UBC anyways and to further use the rental car, we drove onto campus to visit Wreck Beach, Vancouver’s nude beach. There we got an unexpected workout climbing down and up stairs to access the beach. I had heard there were stairs but didn’t know there are 480 (or 482) each way! The beach is consquently much quieter – the sand was the nicest of the city beaches and the sights were interesting. No only that, we ran into one of cousins and it shouldn’t be so surprising – both she and her sister love and rave about Wreck Beach.

I was watching the clock and we sped back to Olympic Village to go to the Food Truck Festival. It was new last year but I wasn’t in town and it was out in east Vancouver. I’m back this year and it’s a stone’s throw (almost) from my apartment and it was also an inefficient way for Lil Sis to sample Vancouver’s food trucks in one fell swoop. We had mango chicken naan from Soho Road, jerk chicken roti from The Reef, sweet corn blueberry crumble ice cream from Sunday Morning Ice Cream, almost chocolate smoothie from The Juice Truck, a fish taco from Tacofino (all for Lil Sis, not pictured) and an acai smoothie from a green beverage truck. It was food festival indeed!



In the evening, we tried to watch Elysium at the theater but the men in our movie-watching party were not feeling so well after the previous evening’s excesses and the shaky cam of Elysium did not sound like it would bode well for them. We ended up watching World’s End which Lil Sis was championing for anyhow. It was one crazy movie.

When the movie let out, we sped down Fraser to try to get into Deer Garden so I could show Lil Sis DYO noodle soup but it was not meant to be and we went to good ole Beefy Beef instead for Taiwanese noodle soup.

Monday 2 September

Errands I needed to run on Labour Day Monday morning ahead of noon dim sum were downtown, picking up ribbon from Michael’s and vases from Dollarama. So I plotted a little route from the apartment that allowed us to visit the new Faubourg, then Michael’s, then Thierry across from Michael’s. On our way to Dollarama, we stopped in Bel Cafe and from Dollarama, we took the Skytrain to Main Station and then took the bus down to 23rd Avenue. Faubourg is like the girly and French pastry shop and we split a pistachio croissant there. The service was so very nice. At Thierry, Lil Sis got her own croissant and I ordered a lychee macaron just so she could have a nibble (their macaron center is very buttery and creamy). The service there – from one particular cashier at the time – was not so nice. It was like she was doing us a favour. I wanted Lil Sis to try a Bel Cafe croissant but she had no more appetite and we were scheduled to have dim sum for lunch!

Labour Day dim sum lunch was set up by cousin Alan and his two business partners and we met at noon at Sun Sui Wah on Main. It’s not like we got seated then, though, even though we had a reservation. A lot of food was ordered, everything was good. Better, yet, was the conversation.

We kicked around Coal Harbour so that Lil Sis could set her eyes on the Olympic flame and I was too full to try Bella Gelateria. I have plenty of other chances later.

In the evening, our friend Randy hosted his end-of-summer barbecue and it was a smashing success in no small part because in addition to the usual suspects, Lil Sis and all of NPY’s siblings and significant others were in attendance. That’s cool because we’re all old enough to get along. :D

Tuesday 3 September

It was really hard to go back to work on Tuesday after a dream, draining four-day weekend! After work I gave Lil Sis the choice of sushi or vegetarian food but yanked the sushi because we would go really soon anyhow. I’ve wanted to try The Naam in Kits for a really long time and am surprised that some Vancouver lifers hadn’t been there. In the past few years, I have hilariously dragged mum and Lil Sis to various vegetarian Chinese restaurants in Toronto with the similar conclusion – not that great and overly greasy. The Naam is most decidedly not a Chinese restaurant so with some optimism, we took a bus out to Kits.

I can never remember where The Naam is located on 4th Avenue because it tries hard to blend into the surroundings, to look natural. Immediately upon entering, it is a very down-to-earth, hipster and Kits place. I knew it was a bit of a diner/dive but it was further cemented with visual confirmation. I considered getting a rice bowl but those are too easy for me to make so I went with a burger platter. It was substantial in size, overloaded with salad with a green dressing and filling baked potato wedges. I barely dug into my burger. It wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t great and the location and vibe and food is enough that I don’t need to pressure NPY to try this Vancouver institution.

Wednesday 4 September

Wednesday was the last day before another long weekend for me and NPY so we were working really late to finish the printables for our party on Saturday. Dinner kept being pushed back until was simply a super late dinner and we went to Deer Garden Signatures because it is the best for DYO noodles and you can design your own satiating dish. We ordered like kings – haha – with chicken wings and bubble tea for the drink. Since NPY and I were not sharing, I could order a spicy broth and there are a couple of broths I have for some reason been wary about trying after trying tom yung goon and laksa. I still don’t have the courage to try Szechuan chili but I tried the chili peanut (dan dan) broth which is a little thicker. I selected Korean sweet potato noodles which is a chewy noodle and a current promotion allowed us to select three topping instead of the regular two. I ordered my “usual” fish filet and “almost usual” pork liver. My extra topping was watercress for the greens quota.

After I made my way through the toppings, I was too full to have noodles but since the broth did not really soak into the noodles, it was actually a perfect combination to bring home and eat at midnight when I was still working on the handmade deliverables for the party.

Thursday 5 September

Thursday was another day of trying to go to barre class to show Lil Sis but we were at Urban Fare instead trying to wrap up all of our work before our parents arrived in town and we truly didn’t have any time. Another dash downtown and the queue to pick up the car was tedious. I need to sign up for Fastbreak at Budget Rent-a-Car. When we worked backwards from when our parents would land and when dinner was scheduled, there really wasn’t a large gap between “lunch” and dinner. Nevertheless, I wanted mum to try the grandeur that is Sushi California so Lil Sis and I dined in and then we ordered salmon sashimi and a sushi combo for mum and daddy to split.

Mum was wholly impressed with the pieces of salmon sashimi and guessed that such an order would cost $30 in Halifax. Just $9 in Vancouver and I have no idea where you can get the like in Toronto. Vancouver is nothing if not known for its sushi.

An event at the airport made that afternoon even more unpredictable. Our parents’ flight was delayed by nearly and hour and we sped to the airport because we hit up Ikea just beforehand. There was no chance they were leaving. While they landed and deplaned, a lightening storm had begun and their baggage was not being unloaded. We waited and waited and mum and daddy came into the car to eat the take out sushi we got for them and we waited some more. I drove to the gas station near the airport and parked their until security came out and shoo’ed away all the cars also parked there. I parked in airport parking for half an hour just so we could stop circling. Two and a half hours later, we were still seeing lightening and the carousel had not started and we left the airport in order to make it to a 6:30 dinner reservation in Richmond. Crazy!

(When we finished dinner after 8:00 p.m., the luggage was all unloaded and waiting in the terminal.)

Dinner which was a Parents Meeting one and all Vancouver grandmothers (three of them) and siblings were present. Upon my suggestion, we went to a Shanghaiese/northern Chinese restaurant and MIL had done her research, selected Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant and dishes and placed an order immediately. No need to confer about individual tastes and deliberate on the best and adequate dishes for dinner. It was a wide sampler and I like the whole meal pretty well. To not raise questions. I did not take photos but the dishes we ordered included Shanghai dumplings, mapo tofu, hot & sour soup, Chinese meat ball, smoked duck, crispy rice with seafood stew, “that chicken dish” and others.

Friday 6 September

On Friday, nothing was going my way at all and I was starting to have a meltdown. I had been fairly cool about things that were not turning out as expected but not making it to appointments well within my capability was really frustrating me. When the dust started to settle and a miss appointment was just going to be the case, I took my starving parents to Congee Noodle House where NPY and I go once every couple of weeks. It’s the no-frills, Cantonese-run kind of place where my parents would feel at home. NPY and my usual order is a congee, a bowl of noodles in soup and a sticky rice wrap. With four of us, we ordered slightly differently: congee, noodle soup, steamed rice roll, fried dough stick and pan-fried radish cake. To my disappointment, most of the dishes did not shine (even within the no-frills diner parameters) with the dough stick being too chewy and the pan-fried radish cake was not tasty or fried well. What the establishment is named after – congee and noodle – were just fine and dandy. I hope they appreciated that.

Saturday 7 September

Saturday was the Big Dinner. It was at Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood Restaurant in Aberdeen Centre in Richmond. The menu was a set one of the auspicious wedding variety and it was probably very good. I was cliche and didn’t eat much. It wasn’t because I was so busy but because I was so anxious about speaking in front of people that anything seafood or with a goopy white sauce was not appetizing in the least to me.

Dessert was part of the menu but was supplemented with a Chinese fresh fruit sponge cake from Yan Bakery.

Sunday 8 September

I didn’t see my parents until the afternoon when we went to Coquitlam for a family barbecue. My aunt and uncle who were hosting pulled out all the stops and all of the food was delicious and the conversation was even better. After dinner, it was time to get my parents and sister to the airport as they took the same flight to Toronto and then my parents would go on to Halifax.

That wraps up this epic family visit!


On this day..