Category Archives: Vancouver

Vancouver Streetfood: Roaming Dragon Pan-Asian

I love streetfood: tasty, no fuss, eat-it-while-u-walk snacks that make my tummy happy without breaking my budget. I especially love the kind of streetfood that’s more than just a snack, it’s a real treat. The sight of a quality streetfood vendor should provoke the same kind of primitive Pavlovian response as the sound of the Ice Cream Man and make me come runnin’ with a handful of loonies. Gingerman and I have found exactly that vendor.

Four Little Dishes = One Great Meal

The Roaming Dragon is like a tapas bar on wheels. They offer a selection of fresh, fun, Asian-fusion goodies that go beyond preconceived notions of “food cart” cuisine. We spotted the truck visiting Kits Point near Arbutus and Whyte, and they have made appearances at Vancouver Farmers Markets. We selected 3 dishes for $15 and took advantage of their “Dragonista” twitter promo for a free Lychee Lemonade. Great deal!

Connect with Roaming Dragon for up-to-date locations and info!

Twitter     @Dragontruck
Website    www.roamingdragon.com
Facebook  www.facebook.com/DragonTruck

Things we love @ Roaming Dragon:

  • EVERYTHING! The flavours are there, man!
  • Perfect portions for a snack or light lunch.
  • 2-3 items + Lychee Basil Lemonade = a nice picnic for two.
  • Soba Noodles are vegetarian, and tofu can sub for duck in confit salad.

Lychee Basil Lemonade ~ Cool, tart, sweet, and refreshing.

Nice twist on a summertime standard. Basil is related to mint, and adding it to the mix was brilliant. The drink has unexpected texture, with little chunks of lychee swimming around, and is served with a wide straw. Personally, I’m not a big fan of lychee, but Gingerman liked the drink so much we came back later and bought a second one.

Duck Confit Salad ~ Savory, melt-in-your-mouth duck confit served warm on a bed of young green things with little chunks of pineapple and watermelon.

I loved the addition of watermelon. It gave a completely different contrast in texture and flavour than the pineapple, and both fruits make good company for duck. As a whole, it was nicely balanced and not too sweet. Requires a fork or chopsticks (if you’re the civilized sort).

Short Rib Tacos ~ Korean style shortrib cradled in a tiny soft taco with a little nori, some greens, carrots, and bean sprouts.

Nicely spiced sort of East meets West take on tacos el pastor. This was the dish I most wanted to try, and it was a NUMMY success!

Rice Balls ~ Crispy fried balls of fried rice.

I know, it sounds deadly, but taste was the payoff. The coating was crispy and quite thin, just doing its job at holding the rice in shape. The rice was a little creamy, with an aroma of 5-spice and the taste of soy in the background. On top, a little drizzle of golden sauce with hints of curry—yum!

*Pork Belly Sliders ~ Tender morsel of pork, thin-sliced cucumber, tasty sauce, soft bun.

Char Siu Bau magically transformed into a dim-sum slider! Skeptical at first, I took one bite and was hooked. Ingenious and delicious.

*NOTE: I confess, when Gingerman listed options from the menu, pork belly was not my first pick. I’ve had a few bad experiences with greasy, chewy pork belly at restaurants, and didn’t want to spend our dough on the possibility of disappointment. However, after we paid for our main order, the hubs let slip that I was planning to blog about the food, and Dragontruck threw in the sliders gratis. I thank them from the bottom of my stomach. Totally loved them!

Hapa Izakaya: small plates, big taste.

It was a patio evening in Kitsilano: the sun had just slipped behind Bowen Island, the breeze was slow and cool, and we’d had a busy day. Time for some “tapanese” food and sake at Hapa Izakaya!

Small Plates at Hapa Izakaya by Bill Stillwell

An izakaya is a sit-down sake shop, rather like a Japanese pub. The servers are quick and pleasant, and soon enough, someone places a tall slice of bamboo on our table, chilled and full of cold sake. Conversation is easy. There is no talk of work or responsibilities.

We refill each other’s little bamboo cups full as the plates arrive. The food is fresh and not overly complicated, delighting the eye and pleasing the palate. Halfway through the bamboo tube of sake, we’re full of easy smiles and laughter. The plates come and go, until dessert and a cocktail round out our evening. The chocolate caramel mousse is a little piece of heaven. I feel unwound, relaxed, and happy. The breezy summer weather is perfect for a seaside stroll, so we take the long way home.

About Hapa Izakaya:

Lea and Justin Ault introduced Hapa Izakaya to Vancouver diners in 2003. Now, three locations offer a variety of scrumptious Japanese tapas, plus cocktails, beer, wine, and premium sake. The decor is simple and clean, and the atmosphere is casual, with plenty of intimate tables for two. Interior seating can easily accomodate groups—perfect for sharing a little bit of everything.

Robson, Kitsilano, and Yaletown Hapa locations are open from 5:30 PM to 1 AM on Friday/Saturday and until midnight from Sunday to Thursday.

Website: http://hapaizakaya.com
Twitter: @hapaizakaya

Prices are reasonable, the sake selection is excellent, and the food has never disappointed me. There’s always something good on the Fresh Sheet menu—go when BC Spot Prawns are in season if you can! New things are fun, but I must always have the Ebi Mayo or Negitoro and a Harajuku Girl.

Harajuku Denizens by Jacob Ehnmark

I did not take snapshots of my meal, but you can see lovely pictures of several dishes and the restaurant interiors at Hapa’s online photo gallery. Lately, I find that taking pictures of food at a restaurant detracts from my enjoyment of the meal, so I quit doing it. All the fussiness of photography is distracting when really I just want to eat, drink, and have a good time.

things we love @ HAPA

  • Sake ~ served chilled in a bamboo tube pitcher
  • Harajuku Girl ~ Vodka, Sourpuss Raspberry, Butter Ripple Schnapps, Calpis, soda
  • Ebi Mayo ~ crisp, fat, juicy prawns tossed in spicy mayo
  • Renkon Gyoza ~ tempura of lotus root with savoury pork filling
  • Salmon Risotto Croquettes ~ crisp balls of creamy rice and salmon
  • Gindara ~ baked sablefish in a sake-miso marinade
  • Negitoro ~ luscious tuna belly and spring onion on garlic toast
  • Chocolate Caramel Mousse with poached pears ~ wonderful and rich
  • Caramel Pudding ~ light, creamy, and delicious
Flickr Creative Commons
enhmark ~ Jacob Ehnmark
icathing ~ Bill Stillwell

Leaving a comment? I’m curious . . . what makes a meal memorable for you?

Vancouver Farmers Market: Heirloom Tomatoes

I love buying tomatoes at the farmers market. Yeah, they sometimes cost more than tomatoes at the supermarket or local grocer, but not too much more. And these heirloom tomatoes are homegrown, with varieties of distinctive taste, texture, and colour that no storebought tomato can match.

~ lovely striped beauties fresh from the Vancouver Farmers Market ~

Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark

Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes…

Plant ‘em in the Spring, eat’em in the Summer
All Winter without ‘em’s a culinary bummer…

Only two things that money can’t buy
that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Support Free Folk Music @ FolkAlley.com

There are tomatoes for every taste: dense flavourful plum tomatoes that are excellent for sauces, as well as big juicy red, yellow, orange tomatoes that make the perfect slice for a BLT. There are citrusy tomatoes that add zing to your salads, and tiny pop-em-in-your-mouth-like-candy  tomatoes that taste like sunshine.

Look for homegrown/heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market [Vancouver].
Better yet, grow your own: Heirloom Tomato Seeds from Victoria.

For more farmers market goodies, see also:

To Market and Home Again ~ Sunday Morning Market Fare ~ Farmers Market Feast

Leaving a comment? I’m curious… how do you like your tomatoes?

Vancouver’s First Cupcake Challenge

The moment I found out Vancouver was having a cupcake bakeoff, I looked at GingerMan and said, “We’re going. They’ll have free samples.” He smiled at me and said, “You had me at Free Cupcake.”

My choice for Best Cupcake: The Neopolitan by Frosting Cupcakery

It was an overcast Vancouver morning, but it was all sweet frosted happiness at Yaletown Roundhouse. Throughout the day, 1110 people came by to taste the wares of top-notch local bakers and cupcakeries. My only suggestions for improvement: a slightly larger room and a free glass of milk. 8)

Vancouver Cupcake Challenge organizers Nicole Marie Events and Follow Me Foodie invited the public to sample delicious treats and help select the People’s Choice cupcake, while a panel of judges (including a few local foodies) put in their votes for the Judges’ Choice and Blogger’s Choice.

Fabulous door prize at the Vancouver Cupcake Challenge.

Congrats to Frosting Cupcakery and Big City Cupcakes! You guys take the cake. As a cupcake connoisseur, I appreciated the unique flavour combinations presented by all the contestants. Several memorable participating bakers (including the challenge winners) are profiled below.

Frosting Cupcakery ~ Winner of Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice

Smiling bakers from Frosting Cupcakery!

Cake and ice cream is a birthday party classic. Frosting Cupcakery immediately won me over with their Neopolitan cupcake: a vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry combination that really tastes like ice cream! Their exotic Love Potion cupcake marries flavours of mango and passion fruit, and the Caramel Crunch is a divine confection of buttery caramel and madagascar vanilla with bits of Skor Bar.

Based in Langley, I’d say this cupcake shop is definitely worth a trip! They have a fantastic assortment of delicious treats and wonderfully creative recipes for holidays or any days, plus they host birthday parties for kids and offer custom cupcakes for special events and weddings. Take a peek at their cupcake menu!

Scrumptious samples from Frosting Cupcakery

Big City Cupcakes ~ Winner of Blogger’s Choice Award

When they say “big” the’re talking about the cupcakes, too. Way more than a mouthful and loaded with yummy frosting. No skimping on the good stuff. Many of their cupcakes also have fillings! The best of the bunch is the Lemon Drop: Vanilla cupcake with tangy lemon filling and lemony buttercream frosting. They also offered samples of the Strawberry Cheesecake (yes it has cheesecake filling) and the Truffle, which has a ganache truffle filling.

Big City Cupcakes has three Vancouver locations: Downtown (1015 Howe St.) ~ Kitsilano (2206 West 4th) ~ Point Grey (4481 West 10th). See their website at bigcitycupcakes.com for a complete list of locations and menu of yummy flavours, including gluten free or egg & dairy free options.

Indulgence

Sweet ladybugs and flowers!

Pastry chef Clare Thomas offered three luscious little cakes including Pistachio Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Tangy Lemon Buttercream, and a perfectly delectable Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Sweet Caramel Buttercream. The texture of the cake was divine (moist and not too dense) and it had a lovely deep chocolate flavour. I loved that some of their baby cupcakes were topped with candy flowers and tiny little ladybugs. So cute!

Cake Tease

Really creative and artistic bakers in North Vancouver with excellent taste. Their unique Oreo Cookie cupcake even had cookie crumbles in the cake! NOM! Not only does Cake Tease make yummy cupcakes, they also do fabulous structured and sculpted cakes, too. Have a look at their photo gallery.

Pink Sugar Cupcakery

Fresh ingredients, small batches, and no dairy or eggs! Pink Sugar calls their sustainable goodies “eco-chic party treats” and offered three fantastic little cupcakes to sample. The toasty coconut cupcake was a huge hit with Gingerman, and the Peanut Butter filled Chocolate cupcake was moist and delicious. An excellent flavour combo! The Chocolate Strawberry cupcake was also supertasty, with real strawberry puree in the frosting. People in Victoria are lucky to have Pink Sugar in their neighbourhood. Check out their inspiring menu of designer cupcakes.

Vancouver Events: The Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat racing began in southern China as a Summer Solstice fertility ritual to ensure a good harvest. During the fourth century BC, the story of  patriot-poet Qu Yuan becomes integrated in Dragon Boat history. Qu Yuan was banished from his beloved country and, in despair, leapt into a river clutching a heavy rock. The people tried to save him, racing out in their fishing boats, defending his body from fish and water dragons by beating drums and splashing with their oars.

#5 crew looks relieved to cross the finish line first

Modern Dragon Boat races still occur near the Summer Solstice and at the opening ceremony for race events, a Taoist priest performs an “eye dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragons and bless them, cleansing the racecourse and envigorating the paddlers.

2010 marks the 22nd Annual Dragon Boat Festival taking place in the waters of False Creek in Vancouver, British Columbia. Admission is FREE. Festival entrances are located near Concord Place and Science World. Take the bus or skytrain, ride your bike, or just hoof it and leave the car at home.

A gorgeous day for festival fun.

Of course, there’s plenty of festival food, from dim sum and perogies to Jamaican patties and kettle korn. Vera’s has a burger stand set up, and there’s no shortage of those cute and tasty Mini Doughnuts. Food vendors take Dragon Dollars instead of cash. PURCHASE Dragon Dollars at booths near entryways. Grownups can also buy beer/wine tickets and relax in the Beer Garden hosted by Granville Island Brewery.

About 180 Dragon Boat teams will participate this year, and races are frequent. There’s plenty of fun to be had, so go down and enjoy music from the World Beat stage or peruse goodies and info offered by vendors, companies, and local organizations. Don’t forget to see what’s cookin at the Aluminum Chef contest (finals on Sunday). You might even get to guest-judge a dish!

Find out more about the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.

Vancouver Street Food: Caramel Corn

It’s Italian Day today on Commercial Drive, and pedestrians own the streets. On either side for blocks there are ethnic restaurants of all varieties, organic markets, boutiques, cafes, and strange little hole-in-the-wall shops. The Drive is an interesting and diverse community, and every so often, they throw a pretty darn good block party.

We’ve been to The Drive a few times for festivals and events. They close the street to traffic (except for certain crossings) and vendors set up shop along the sidewalks. The smell of grilling fills the air, and there are so many tempting treats it’s hard to choose. Today, we were won over by a container of delicious caramel coated popcorn with nuts. It is perfectly crisp and buttery and mouthwatering—better than any other I have ever tasted—and I wish I could remember who sold it. Our supply will soon be gone.

Read more about Commercial Drive @ http://www.thedrive.ca/

Vancouver Farmers Market: Homemade Homous

Spread it on a cracker ~ Dip it with a chip ~ Slather it on pita

Bean Boy Creations makes Homemade Organic Homous in delicious flavours like Smokey Tomato Chipotle. Our favourite was the Curry Currant shown in the closeup. Smooth texture and vibrant flavour.

Excellent healthy snack treat under $5 and worth every penny.

The Barnyard Burger @ The Wolf & Hound

Once upon a time, Patty O’Lamb went out upon an Irish green and landed upon its buns. And so barely blushed inside, under a blanket of crisp wavy bacon and creamy cheese of yon goat, was drizzled with BBQ sauce. Verily, it was delicious. And so was my Manhattan. Did I mention there was live music and hockey on big TV’s?

The Wolf & Hound

3617 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

Afterthoughts: Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games

My Olympic Fever has faded, and my Paralympic Hangover has passed. The city has more or less returned to normal. No more concerts or crowded streets. No more flag waving and fireworks. No more singing “Oh Canada, we stand in line for thee!” All in all, it was an amazing thing, being in an Olympic city.

I got more information about the protests and riots from Twitter than from CTV News. Yes, there was a mild riot in which some masked hoodlums busted display windows at the Hudson Bay store downtown. This act of vandalism did nothing to further the concerns or causes of those who protested peacefully. With the amount of money thrown at prettying up the city, trucking in snow, and installing temporary attractions (among other things), somebody is going to have to pay in the end. And it will likely fall on current taxpayers and their offspring to share the load. All that money could have been spent on social programs, schools, hospitals, any number of long term beneficial things. Oh, and they’ve raised bus ticket prices again to boot. Thanks so much, not really.

A number of restaurants around the city had a spike in prosperity, partly due to the practice of adding a 20% Olympic surcharge to each bill (see article at Spiffle). That was pretty sneaky . . . but people complained, especially the locals. During the Olympics, we went to Society in Yaletown with some friends, and yes there was a 20% addition to the bill. When we went to Earls downtown during the Paralympics, we asked our waitress before ordering if the surcharge was still being applied. She said they stopped doing it after getting backlash from unhappy customers (not surprising). We did have a fantastic lunch at Earls, by the way: Orchid martini and grilled chicken sandwich with melted brie, roasted apples, and fig jam. And dessert was ridiculous! Rich chocolate cake with caramel sauce and ice cream. If you’re going to go out for food, go all the way out.

The Paralympics were like Olmpics Lite. Fewer events, less uproar, shorter lines (the Zipline wait was only two hours instead of 7), and significantly cheaper tickets. We actually managed to snag seats for the USA vs Japan sledge hockey prelim and the wheelchair curling semifinals (US v Korea and Canada v Sweden).

The sledge hockey match was a lot of fun to watch, and very fast and physical. Athletes sit in a sort of single-track sled and use a short hockey stick in each hand  like ski poles to push off down the ice. Their arm and upper body strength must be amazing. It was fun being a fan in the stands that day. The US trounced Japan in the prelim (6-0), but the Japanese team fought their way back through the final games to meet the Americans again in the Gold Medal match (US won 2-0). Norway defeated the Canadian sledge hockey team in the Bronze Medal game (2-1).

Read more about Paralympic Ice Sledge Hockey.

Wheelchair curling was quite different than regular curling, as there are no sweepers. The Paralympic teams are co-ed, and the play was a bit like shuffleboard. It was my first opportunity to see a live curling match, and it wasn’t boring in the least. I suppose people are expected to be quiet during a match, but there were some great fans in the Korean corner, complete with a drum and a catchy cheer. I was really surprised to see both matches end in forfeit (which I don’t quite understand), but it was fun to sing Oh Canada with the crowd. The Canadian team went on to win Gold. Korea took Silver, and the Bronze medal went to Sweden.

Read more about Paralympic Wheelchair Curling.

It will take a while to see how hosting the Olympic Games will affect Metro Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia in the long term. It was all very exciting and dynamic from my perspective. I met some amazing random people and had a few rare experiences, and I’m glad for it. It’s time to retire my red-striped Olympic socks and put Quatchi on the shelf until the next Canucks game (which is tonight, by the way. Quatchi loves hockey!). Now I suppose I should get back to writing about food and go buy some peeps for Easter. Smeeps ahoy!

2010 Olympic Hangover: Hockey IS Canada’s game!

Wow, what a party. Over the past two weeks, the city of Vancouver has been bursting at the seams with an incredible positive energy, and it has been amazing to witness. For months (years, really) it built up slowly, crawling across red tape and protests and innumerable concerns and hopes among the populace who wondered if it would all be worth it. Well, I think it was.

post-game celebration downtown ~ photo by nofutureface

During the Olympics, I wasn’t just watching the games, I was also watching the people. I saw great displays of sportsmanship and comeraderie, not only among the athletes but also among the fans. There were a few sour grapes and some nasty attitudes about who won which medal, but that was mainly among those who believe that “second is the first loser,” and well, that’s not how everybody looks at it.

The media (yes, CTV, I’m talking to you) was for a while complaining about the dissapointment of not “owning the podium” but my how they changed their tune when Canada won all that gold. They’re so fickle, those newsmongers. For myself, I can say I was proud of every great performance I saw. To every athlete who gave their best, laid it all on the ice (or snow), and came in 4th or 10th or dead last, you should be proud. You should be really proud of yourselves, because I’m really proud of you.

Truth be told, the Olympics are just another competition, albeit a REALLY significant one. If you’re going to pick a time to shine, do it when the world is watching. These athletes have been training day after day—with a conviction and dedication I have never achieved myself—suffering injury and pushing forward through rehab, overcoming their fears and self-doubts, perfecting their techniques, so they can bring them to all of us and let us share a little part of their “thrill of victory, agony of defeat.” And I am fortunate enough to live in one of the cities that brought such a spectacle to life.

And on the last day, I watched the game of a lifetime. Two nations that hold my heart met to compete for hockey gold. No lie, I wanted Canada to win, but I wanted a good game, and I got a GREAT game. It wasn’t lopsided, and it was a real nail-biter. Oh, Luongo, I’m glad you were minding the net, but I think Sid the Kid had a little hockey angel on his shoulder that day.

high fivin' on the streets ~ photo by Michael F. McCarthy

After the game, Canada literally poured into the streets to celebrate, and I did something I never thought I’d do. Well, a couple of things, actually. I walked across the Burrard Street bridge, and I drank a Canadian beer. I’m afraid of heights, and I don’t like beer, but under the circumstances, how could I resist?

There was red and white everywhere. Flags were waving, fans were wooing, horns were honking, and people were high-fiving right and left. The atmosphere was electric and incredibly friendly. Here and there you’d see an American flag and a Canadian flag hugging it out. It wasn’t an “in your face” victory, at least not where I was standing. I watched a crowd of people pass by a group of US fans, and there were handshakes and high-fives and “good game” comments passing between them. We were all just happy. And the US team looked really pretty in silver, even with a few sour pusses in the picture.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics reminded me a lot of Burning Man. Being a part of this was like being on the playa, except with a lot less dust and a few less naked people. I have to say, kudos to the Vancouver Police Department for providing a security presence that was effective without being oppressive. Shutting down the booze markets early was a smart thing to do. It kept the crowds a little more family-friendly.

Sochi Mascot = Cutest thing ever! ~ by Duncan Rawlinson

I will remember you, stranger who took a bite of my pizza. I will remember you, the girl who gave me a Go Canada bracelet. I will remember you, Alice Cooper impersonator and Sochi mascot and crazy balloon-hat guy. I will remember you, too, smiling faces from far away places.

The Olympics are done, but the Paralympic games begin when the cauldron is relit on March 12th, and we’ll get to see a whole new kind of incredible. In the meantime, I really need to do some cooking and have a nice long nap.

P.S. HUGE THANKS to the people who shared their Olympic moments via Flickr Creative Commons so I could share them with you. My poor little camera is currently being held together by masking tape—no kiddin!

Flickr Creative Commons
nofutureface
Michael Francis McCarthy
Duncan Rawlinson @ The Last Minute Blog