Sunday, June 3, 2007
On Friday, we returned from a 10-day jaunt to Vancouver, and then to points north: Juneau, Skagway, the Hubbard Glacier, and Ketchikan, via the Celebrity Mercury. Vancouver is a beautiful city, with plenty of exceptional eating opportunities. (The cruise--not so much. Let me just say that a woman at our table (a very fine woman) remarked that the broccoli soup served for dinner was nowhere near as good as the cream of broccoli soup with cheese at Denny's.
But Vancouver....that's a whole different story. In the three days we were there, we concentrated our eating at several places recommended by Food and Wine--Salt Tasting Room, C Restaurant, and Tojo's. All were great choices.
Salt is hidden away down an alley; from one direction, the neighborhood is very hip and chic. From another, it's on the seedy side. We took the cute route there, but accidentally wandered down some of the less beautiful areas of Vancouver on the way back to our hotel. We ran into a man from Australia who told us a long and complicated tale of woe, which we could barely understand until he finally got to the end--he needed $11 to get a bus ticket. (Back to Australia?) Although I gave him points for making the request for precisely $11, we turned him down, whereupon he turned and yelled, "Fuck you!" Not very good customer relations, although I guess he figured he'd already lost us.
Salt is an oddity in that it's a restaurant with no kitchen--just tasting plates of cured meats, cheeses, and condiments, and a nice selection of wine. You order plates of meat, cheese, or both, with a specific condiment for each selection. Although the restaurant was not filled with the over-60 crowd, our tattooed and heavily pierced waitress was very friendly and helped us pick a cheese plate of manchego with Marcona almonds, smoked gouda with cornichons, and ash camembert with blueberry honey and a meat plate of New York corned beef with Guinness mustard, coppa with balsamic reduction, and salami with peppers.
We both had the same wine flights: Wild Goose Sauvignon Blanc, Joie Pinot Noir Rose, and Clos de Los Siete Mendoza.
This was great fun, and we thought about the possibility of returning there. But we had other goals!
The next night we were joined by our traveling partners, June and Dave Miller. The four of us went to C Restaurant, which is not located down an alley, but overlooks beautiful False Creek and the mountains. (For a prairie person like me, having both ocean and mountains to gaze upon is almost too much visual stimulation to bear). Jim took lots of pictures at C, but I can't identify all the ingredients except in mine. I started out with a watercress salad with sablefish and scallop sausage and a black sesame vinaigrette.
Watercress is my very favorite green, and it's hard to find in its perfect state, not to mention its perfect state embellished with a sablefish and scallop sausage--so delicate, and yet not overwhelmed by the peppery watercress.
Our waiter said the best things on the menu were scallops and halibut, so, since I'd done the scallops in my first course, I choose crispy halibut for the main.
C is routinely picked as the best seafood restaurant in a city of excellent seafood restaurants, and this halibut shows why. Perfectly fresh fish cooked very simply; every bite was the essence of halibut. It was accompanied by bits of Yukon Gold potato, spot prawns, and "melted leeks" in a saffron consomme.
Jim also chose a crispy trout with fava beans. (He always orders anything with fava beans after seeing Silence of the Lambs. Sometimes even with a nice chianti).
The next night we went to Tojo's. Tojo's is an institution in Vancouver--so much so that it's listed in the book 1,000 Things to see Before You Die. Being the kind of person I am, I check things off in this book after I see them, so naturally I wanted to visit Tojo's, which is described as "maintaining an unwavering commitment to fresh local ingredients."
Friends, it must be said that your blogger and your photographer failed you here. We all ordered the Omakase menu--omakase is translated as "trusting," and it's the Japanese version of a tasting menu. Although every course was unfailingly delicious, we were so enrapt with the eating part that we forgot the recording part. I have pictures of only one fish course--the halibut cheeks. I'm sorry because they were uniformly photogenic.
This was a leisurely dinner. Our waitress apologized profusely for the slow service. She said (or we thought she said) that the prime minister and his party of 28 were at the restaurant and that's why it was taking so long. Even though the real prime minister was probably still in Afghanistan, this person and 27 of his friends had convinced the friendly people at Tojo's that they were Important People, but we didn't care because the food was still terrific, and it gave us a chance to play Guess the Name of the Canadian Prime Minister.
We had a wonderful fish and vegetable mousse, as well as the best sushi I've ever eaten. But, alas, no photographs. We did manage to rouse ourselves from our greedy consumption to take a picture of the dessert--surprisingly good--fresh fruit with coconut ice cream and a sesame cookie:
And a picture of the final glasses of plum wine.
The next day was also a food day, as we trekked around Granville Island, concentrating on the Granville Markets. I especially loved the baskets and trays of breads, rolls, scones, and muffins at the Terra Bread stand. I got lots of new ideas for baking. (And to think that when I started the Bread Bible project, I thought maybe that by the end of it, I would have made every possible bread.)
There were so many little markets--I was fantasizing about living in Vancouver and going to the Granville Markets every afternoon to pick up something for dinner. We could have, but did not, taken photos of every individual seller--but we had to include one of the fruit vendors.
Beautiful, isn't it?