Sunday Summer Morning

A morning walk....

These trees growing though the wire fence is one of the most astonishing things I've seen.

We're lucky to have patches of forest like these...

Yaletown Brewing Company

This weekend we went to Yaletown Brewing Company, a brew pub in the middle of Yaletown. Apparently, the restaurant is part of the same Mark James family as other brew pubs such as Taylor's Crossing in North Vancouver and Dix in Yaletown, among others. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon when we arrived. There was a large and busy L-shaped patio that lined Hamilton and Mainland streets, but we chose to sit in the quieter inside. However, the doors and windows were fully open so we could feel the breeze move through the restaurant. The space had a pretty nice atmosphere--wooden tables, comfy chairs, exposed ceiling ducts and pipes, and typical beer decor, ie. metal kegs transformed into light fixtures.

We had just eaten at Nuba a couple of hours earlier, so we weren't that hungry (side note: check out the updated Nuba entry here). Shane is a bit of a beer enthusiast and wanted to try their brews, so we got the Flight, which is a 6 once sample of each of their 7 brews in the cutest tiny glasses, plus their seasonal brew.

The glasses of beer ranged from light (Mainland Lager), to very dark Guiness-type (Warehouse Stout), to wheat-y (Hills Special Wheat), caramel-y (Downtown Brown), and fruity (seasonal Raspberry Ale). Shane's preferences veered towards the dark beers, while I mostly enjoyed the lighter and fruity brews, though we both liked the wheat beer. I must admit, I'm not much of a beer drinker--I'm more of a beer sipper. The weird thing was that there were no prices on their beer menu, so we were a little surprised to get the bill and see that the Flight sampler was a cool $14.

We ordered a couple of appetizers. I was surprised to see fried green tomatoes ($7.99) on their menu, because I never see it on menus in Vancouver. Maybe I'm wrong, but it doesn't strike me as a common dish. I have a particular fondness for fried green tomatoes. I learned about it after seeing the movie of the same name and learned how to make it. It's pretty delicious. Unfortunately, the dish that came was a big disappointment. There were four slices (maybe one tomato?), and it was on top of some pink mayo dressing ("red pepper rouille"), drizzled with balsamic and topped with slivers of basil. It was wrong. First of all, the slices were way too thick, and so it was really soggy to eat. Second, the tomato wasn't as green as it should be, which also made it soggy. The thin "panko" crust kind of just flaked off in large pieces. There was no tomato flavour; green tomatoes should have a tartness to it, and this tomato was a resident in Bland City. We both hated the sauce. It was weirdly Thousand Island-ish, and just didn't go with the tomatoes.

The hot wings ($11.99) were better. They are "southern buttermilk battered", and the batter was really good, quite different from the usual wings you get in pubs. However, the bad thing about that is that when you drench it in sauce, you kinda take away the crispy buttermilk batter crunch that is just so good. It was a conflicting mix of mostly soggy and sorta-crunchy. The hot sauce was a nice Louisiana style, so it had good flavour. The dish was a bit of a contradiction. I think it would be better with sauce on the side, as a dip. The batter should be the star here.

I can't say too much about the food here, as we've only tried appetizers, but I can say that Yaletown Brewing is a pretty good place if your wallet is feeling fat and you've got a hankering for good beer.

Yaletown Brewing on Urbanspoon

Just as They Were, They are Now...

We have a cat named Pique. She is a little roly-poly and a sucker for anything food related. And sometimes I look at her and remember other cats I've had over the years and wonder about them. Of course, the thing is, we can never know what a cat is thinking.

But I found a few very old pictures of cats on this flickr group and this one, and I had to shake my head and smile. They are so charming.

I'm always fascinated by old pictures in general; these photos portray creatures and people that are long dead, yet there they are, in your hands, having a kind of life, as it were. And of course someday someone else will wonder the same thing about us.

I like these pictures and the others like them that are out there. It's incredible how cats are just cats, which is a bit tautological, but how true.

Lucky Gate

Last weekend after bottling beer with a couple of friends, we stopped by for lunch at Lucky Gate, a Chinese restaurant on Austin Street in Coquitlam (a couple of doors down from Macdonalds).

To be honest, the restaurant blends in with all of the other businesses surrounding it. In fact, I’d grown up in Coquitlam without even knowing that this restaurant ever existed! But I found out about the place through Sherman's review here. After that, my husband and I checked it out for dinner, and it was a pretty good experience.

The restaurant is on the small side, with booths against one wall and tables on the other, and had that typical no-nonsense utilitarian feel. The décor, if there is one, was not memorable. This time we ordered a variety of lunch dishes. First there was the Chinese donut – I’m familiar with these, but seriously, when these long golden twins arrived on the plate, I think these were the biggest Chinese donuts I’ve ever seen. Each one was probably 3 inches in diameter. They were light and airy but oh lord, there was so much grease! Perhaps if these were more properly drained we would’ve felt better eating it. Our friend also ordered soy milk to dip the donuts in, and by all accounts, the soy milk was unsweetened and bland. However, the drops of oil that coated the top of the milk after dipping the donut were a little unappetizing, to say the least.

We also ordered deep fried buns to share. The ten cute little buns arrived glistening with oil and surrounding a shallow dish of condensed milk. We love this—the dough was soft, chewy and slightly sweet, and the deep-friedness of it give it a particularly delicious dimension. Dipping it in condensed milk was also very tasty.

The Xiao Long Bao (8 dumplings in total) came in huge steamer. They were pretty large, and sat on a (much) smaller slice of carrot. Because they were so large, they were a little difficult to maneuver, but they filling had lots of flavor and the soup inside was delicious. It was supposed to have come with vinegar, but this wasn’t brought to our table.

One of the wonderful things about this restaurant is that they make their noodles by hand, and there is a glass partition in the restaurant where you can observe the noodle chef. Most of us ordered a noodle soup dish. I had the pork and preserved vegetable. The noodles were great, toothsome with a really good amount of springiness; however, the broth and the meat were entirely tasteless (kind of a boiled water broth). The preserved vegetable was just salty, without any sourness at all. I had to add quite a bit of soy to make this edible.

Shane ordered the beef stew noodle. It was a big disappointment. Again the noodles themselves were good, but the broth, while quite a dark colour, was terrible. It sort of tasted like Bovril—very artificial tasting and salty. We were very disappointed with the noodle soup dishes. One would think that for a place that has handmade noodles, they could have boiled some bones to make a decent soup.

A word about the service: it was quite bad, even to my lax standards. Our server was this teenage girl who obviously did not want to be working. We had to repeat our order a few times because listening was a problem, and had to wait a long time to get the attention of anyone to request the bill. However, the first time we came here, the service was quite decent.

The place is pretty affordable, except their dishes are on the small side, if you compare portions to other Chinese restaurants. All in all, we would come back here, though I would never get their noodle soups ever again. Lucky Gate strikes me as one of those restaurants in which you need to know what to order. If you order the right things, you’re singing, but if you order the wrong things, it could be a very bad experience indeed.

Lucky Gate on Urbanspoon

Meet Mr. Blue Bear

On the weekend I finished up my first real crochet project (that is, a non-scarf project): a stuffed bear designed by Camilla Engman, a Swedish artist/illustrator who does really whimsical work. She sells her art, illustrations and these charming creatures through the web. I first learned of this pattern through this talented blogger.

The pattern can be found in the great crochet instruction book, Stitch N’ Bitch’s The Happy Hooker. The pattern turned out to be quite simple, with the parts (head, ears, body and limbs) consisting of just slip stitched spirals. Mr. Blue Bear was made with a Red Heart’s Acrylic/wool blend and cotton, but I want to get some good yarn for the next creatures. I’m pretty pleased with the result.

He’s awfully cute.

Freedom to Lead

A few weeks ago the Shepard Fairey poster of Aug San Suu Kyi arrived. It is quite big, and to our delight the artist even signed the bottom corner of the poster. We haven't had a chance to frame it nicely, so it had just been sitting around rolled up in our living room.

But it is hung! It’s not framed yet, but it still looks pretty good on the wall, next to the painting of the monk and monster by my brother (a reference to the September 2007 monk uprising in Burma).

Kimbab Jeonkuk

Around where we live there are numerous Korean stores, markets, and restaurants. There are a few on every corner, it’s really hard to decide which ones to visit. One of our favorites is Kimbab Jeonkuk, which can be hard to find because the restaurant actually doesn’t have an English sign, just Korean. It’s located in a mini-mall on North Road, behind the Santorini Greek Restaurant on the corner of North Road and Lougheed. This place specializes in Korean rolls (maki-like with usually cooked assorted filling and flavoured with sesame oil), and cold noodles. The restaurant itself is quite small and utilitarian, with simple tables and chairs for about 30 people. Everytime we’ve been there, it’s full of Koreans, so it’s probably pretty authentic.

We’ve eaten there numerous times before, after recommendation from our friend Ana, and one of my favorite things they have is that instead of giving each table a kettle of tea, they give a kettle of beef broth. I love this—the broth is savory and warm and delicious. However, this time we went we didn’t get the broth, I suppose because it was kind of hot out. We ordered what we usually get, cold noodles and a kimbab. They have 3 kinds of cold noodle: plain, spicy and I think a seafood one (?). This time our choice was the spicy cold noodle, with kimchi kimbab. Note about the menu—most of the menu is in both Korean and English, but for some reason the cold noodle part is only in Korean. The servers are pretty nice, though sometimes the English is limited, but you can ask them if you have questions about the menu.

The kimchi kimbab arrived first. We’ve ordered this before, but the kimchi is a little different this time—it was a lot sweeter. I’m not such a fan of sweet and savory, so I didn’t like this too much. We were also given a small plate of yellow turnip pickles as a side dish, but again, I didn’t eat this because it was too sweet for me.

The spicy cold noodles consisted of chewy clear noodles, some cold beef broth, Korean chili paste, slices of pork, boiled egg, cucumbers, sesame oil, and thin slices of pickled turnip. Once you stir it up the dish becomes an impressive red. It has great flavor and is very aromatic, and gives a nice heat to the tongue.

We like this restaurant—it has simple food and décor, but you can tell that a lot of love went into the dishes.

Kimbab Jeonkuk on Urbanspoon

Tamarind Hill

On Friday night we visited Tamarind Hill, a Malaysian restaurant in New Westminster, at 6th Ave and 7th Street. I'd been there before, and was very impressed by the flavours. The restuarant itself is small and colourful, and there are pretty touches in the decor, like the antique door that decorates the waiting area, and the amber 'tear-drop' light fixtures. We arrived at a quarter to 6pm, and we were the only ones in the restuarant, but as we dined, the restuarant quickly filled every seat.

The first dish we ordered was the lamb satays. They were okay, though I'm not a fan of lamb in general. The meat was flavorful (but it could be MORE flavorful), but the portion was small and the meat was also a bit on the dry side. This is served with a chunky peanut sauce that could have been spicier.

Next came the Mee Goreng, a spicy noodle dish with tofu, shrimp and vegetables. We love this. The noodles were delicious and spicy, with a hint of smokiness and sweetness.

We also ordered the okra, green beens and eggplant in a sambal sauce. The veggies were perfectly cooked, with the beans and okra still crispy, and the eggplant soft and yeiding. The sambal was a bit sweet, but there was balance and a salty complexity to the dish. This is great with rice. However, I had a couple of pieces of old (ie. stringy and tough) okra.

Probably our favorite dish of the night (aside from the noodles) was the Beef Rendang, which is essentially a beef curry with lemongrass and spices and looked a long time. The beef was tender, and the sauce had a underlying spiciness that was very pleasant. This and a bowl of rice is a kind of heaven.

The biggest surprise of the night was the dessert Ais Kacheng (sp?), which is shaved ice with grass jelly, corn, red beans, green chewy things, and sweet coconut milk. The last time I was here they served it in a tiny bowl, but this time it came in a huge soup bowl (there were 4 servings in this). What a deal! There is a version of this in Thailand as well, so the taste was familiar to me. It's so delicious and refreshing. It might look bad when stirred up, but don't be fooled by appearances! So yummy!

We had no idea the other dessert was going to be so big, so we'd ordered the deep fried bananas with ice cream. This is a pretty standard dessert, I don't have much to say about it.

We sure were stuffed after the meal!

Tamarind Hill Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon


After the movie on Saturday, we headed towards the Granville/Broadway area for dinner. My DH is a great fan of Indian food, and we wanted to try one of Vij’s restaurants. Since we are money-conscious, we decide on the more casual and less upscale Rangoli, on Granville and 11th. The restaurant is good-looking, with freezers full of elegant takeout pouches and shelves of spices on one side, and banquet style seating in a L-shape on the other side. There are tables along the windows, and lots of seating on the patio.

We arrived at about 5:20pm to see a huge lineup for Vij’s next door. Wow. I guess the economy is not doing so bad after all. We snatched a table inside, next to the window. Shane ordered a porter and I had their chai. This was disappointment: the chai was overly sweet (other Indian restaurants the chai comes unsweetened and you can add sugar to your taste), and it wasn’t spiced enough. Still, we we pretty excited about the food. For appetizer we ordered the Lentil, Paneer, and Chickpea Katchori, which was 2 round crispy buns stuffed with the filling ($8.50). The dish seemed like of…small. It tasted ok, but the flavors of the components kind of blended together, and the spice was at a minimum. It came with limp and drenched salad. The highlight of the evening was a cilantro-jalapeno chutney, which wasn't too spicy and had a lot of flavour.

For our mains I got the Lamb in Cumin and Light Cream Curry ($14.50), and Shane got the Goat Meat and Jackfruit Curry ($15.50), both of which came with naan, rice and salad. The Lamb was wonderfully tender, but a disappointment. It was quite bland, and seemed like a toned down version of Indian food. I tried the goat meat and again—lack of spicing, and heat. The naan was not very good either—kind of flat and dense, and Shane thought the portions (especially of the rice) were small. Maybe my expectations were too high, and maybe my palate prefers strong flavors, but I was sorely disappointed and a little pissed off at the experience, because for the money, it seemed like a tremendous waste. I wanted the flavors to knock me over, but it sorely didn’t.



The service was kind of weird—the space was cramped, so the servers hand to constantly slide between my chair and the one next to me. Also at one point a fruit fly got into my husband’s beer, which was about 1/3 full. I told him to drink it up, ha ha, but he wouldn’t. So we told the server about it (the fly was still wiggling in the beer), and she sort of looked confused and didn’t know what to do. It was really weird. So another server came back with the glass….1/3 filled... It was again, really weird. What should have been done? I have no idea.

I was so disappointed. I don't think I would ever go back to Rangoli, but my husband would (though he agrees there are better places out there). In my opinion, there are a lot more tasty and cheaper places out there.

Rangoli on Urbanspoon


Potatoes, Pita, Baba Ghanooj, Najib's Special

On Saturday before going to see Ponyo at Tinseltown Theatre in Chinatown, we had lunch at Nuba. They have two locations, a sit down eatery on West Hastings and Cambie, and more take-out orientated place on Seymour and Davie. This restaurant was a new discovery for me—I went there with a bunch of co-workers in the middle of the week for lunch and it was packed. In contrast, the crowd on Saturday was quite sparse for lunch. The last time both of us were in that space was when it was the Mouse and the Bean—the restaurant looked beautifully transformed, with mosaic-like mirror walls, white lanterns, and simple and elegant tables and chairs. The floors and the bathrooms needed work though.

We ordered 4 mezze plates, which ranged from $3.40 to $6.25 in price, and came with bracingly sour Lebanese cabbage pickles and thin pitas. The falafel was a wondrous creation: little pucks of deep-fried chick pea cakes that were really well seasoned (I’m not a fan of falafels in general, but these turned me—they are so yummy!). The Najib Special, cauliflower fried and seasoned with sea salt and lemon and tahini was good, though it wasn’t as good as earlier in the week (the cauliflower was a bit overdone, and there wasn’t enough tahini this time round). Still, it is an outstanding dish. We also ordered the Baba Ghanooj, a roasted eggplant puree, which was lemony, creamy, and with a hint of smokiness. The roasted potatoes with olive oil, herbs and seas salt was standard, but still good. For dessert we shared the baklava (no picture on this one), which was good, though not outstanding. I like that it wasn’t cloyingly sweet like others I’ve had.


I love this restaurant—the flavors of the food are clear, bright and zingy—lots of lemon, spices—and your mouth becomes alert. And falafels you dream about.

UPDATE: We returned to Nuba on Saturday, August 29, with a couple of people who had never been, and it was a great experience. They're converted.

Shane ordered the Najib Special Plate (above), while I got the Falafel Plate (below). The pita came in a separate bowl. Yum! The weekend is the best time to go, most definitely. I hear from co-workers that it gets really hectic and you're likely to get ignored during the mid-week lunch (in this case, make sure to arrive at 11:30, when they open).

Nuba (Hastings) on Urbanspoon

The Hidden Instinct

Some girls have fantasies of getting married, but my childhood dreams were of always my dream house. It would be quite small, made from wood, and with lots of nooks and comfortable corners. In one version of my dream I have a house with secret passageways, narrow paths behind walls that opened up to a little attic corner….

Imagine this leading to a secret room....

Or wanting to feel hidden in plain sight?

I found these real hidden doorways on the excellent interior design and ideas at Apartment Therapy. Check out these images—some of them are quite cool. If you actually want to have a hidden door in your home, the place to go is here.

We Stain Our Fingers

Yesterday I was walking home from skytrain along Lougheed highway and noticed that the blackberry bushes already had ripe berries on them. So I picked a few and ate a few. They are quite small this year, probably because of the heat, which accelerated ripening; however, they were delicious--sweet, rich, dark, and slightly warm from the sun.

I love blackberry season--it turns the regular Vancouverite into a livin' off the land gatherer and scavenger.

Capilano Hike and Hatchery

View from Cleveland Dam (look how low the water is)

Life-sized models at the Hatchery

Fish and dirty glass no. 1

Fish and dirty glass no. 2

On Thursday I met a few friends from my ESL teacher days. We had planned to go for a long hike after work, but it was raining off and on all day, but we decided to proceed anyway. We took the seabus to North Vancouver from downtown, and drove to the Capilano area. Our first stop was the Salmon Hatchery. Now there had be talk that the salmon run was unusually low this year, so we weren’t expecting much. However, there were so many fish! We saw quite a few of them jump form one level to another.

The fish still looked healthy and silvery—some of the were enormous, some quite small. I’d visited the hatchery before, but never saw any fish, so it was so thrilling. After the fish we hiked for about an hour on the trails up to Cleveland Dam and back down. The forest is so quiet and beautiful when it’s not crowded! So from that perspective, the rain was quite a blessing.

After that we shared 5 appetizers at Taylor's Crossing, a brew pub in North Vancouver. The food was average, but for half price 'ladies night' appetizers, it was a great deal.

It was fun. Hanging out with these friends make me miss my teaching days...but not much!