Kicked to the Curb

I received news recently from my landlord that they are putting my Yaletown apartment on the market.  Why! Good lord, why!

Even though I had a one-year lease which renews in February of next year, the landlord decided that the Vancouver real-estate market was heating up and their daughter no longer wants to keep the apartment in favour of her legal career in Calgary.  She did try to make up for the inconvenience by giving me an extra $300, 1 month’s rent and a Starbucks coffee card (it’s my 4th card from her).Yaletown view

Now comes the tough part.  I have just over a month to find a new apartment for November 1st.  Even though I can afford living in Yaletown, it’s getting quite ridiculous as a single bachelor to fork over $1500 (that’s the going rate) a month to live in this yuppy neighbourhood.  Yes, it’s convenient – it’s about 50 steps from my door to my desk.  Yes I’m close to the cheap good eats, the seawall and local bars.  But where do you draw the line between convenience and insanity?  $1500 a month works out to $18,000 a year towards a mortgage.

Getting a roommate is not an option.  And I do need to be in close proximity to great restaurants, grocery stores and great eye candy – and Yaletown definitely has that!  I’m not asking for the world here – throw me a freakin bone!

I have lots to think about….Should I buy another apartment in this market to avoid throwing away rent? Should I rent for the time-being while Vancouver figures out the consequences of the Winter Olympics on local real estate?  Can I live outside of the downtown core for the first time in 6 years?

Anyone else gone through this situation?  I would love to hear your opinions.

ps. I searched Craigslist today and there’s a unit 3 floors down from me which is exactly the same floor plan – how weird would that be!

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Got a Cold? Eat Congee.

Remember growing up when your mum would make you some special comfort-food dish when you were sick?  Perhaps some recipe passed down for generations?  For me and many other Chinese kids, this was congee or “jook” (as phonetically pronounced in Chinese).congee

The old wives’ tale has it that this dish can help boost your immune system and relieve you of cold ailments.  When I wiki’d congee, I found out that there are a few different cultures (Portuguese, Indian, Japanese and more) that have a very similar dish – check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congee.  I have introduced this dish to quite a few of my non-Asian friends with mixed reviews.  Some folks just can’t get over the consistency – I guess it reminds them of oatmeal.

After feeling run down last week, I took a day off and made myself a big batch of this creamy, soupy, delicious comfort dish which is essentially watered down rice that has been simmered for hours.  It works wonders as well when I’m hungover.

Growing up however, we always had a version of it that didn’t have quite the texture I would have in a restaurant.  I always wondered what the secret of the texture could be.  Through the magic of Google, as one could imagine, it’s simply the ratio of water/stock  to rice (try 12:1) and having the patience to simmer the congee for 3-4 hours.  Just bring the pot of your rice mixture to a boil, turn it down to simmer and let the magic happen.

I had some leftover condiments handy – which happened to be a roasted chicken.  I shredded a few pieces of chicken breast and marinated the shredded chicken in soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper.  Just before the congee is ready, I mixed in the marinated chicken and served it with some green onions and fried shallots.  Other toppings you’d typically find are sliced ginger, century eggs, fried bread sticks, quail eggs, and pretty much any other leftovers you can find.

Next time you’re at dim-sum, or spying on what those Chinese folks are slurping on, take a chance and order a bowl to see what you’ve been missing.

Big City Clubs versus Vancouver

Per my last post, I spent this past weekend in Toronto for a friend’s wedding.  On Thursday night which coincided with the Toronto International Film Festival, we were able to get into the Brant House by forking over $80 (for the guys) each for bottle service.  A little steep – but well worth it to get in without hassle.  Elegant ambiance and super hot staff combined with communal-style dinner tables which are then cleared out for the dance floor when the night goes off.

branthouse

Brant House Toronto

What I found was that ladies were generally more friendly and open to banter at this club.  We chatted with a couple of lawyers, danced with some random Portuguese ladies to some Calle Ocho (such a catchy tune), and just really had a dope time overall.  I reasoned that being in a large city like Toronto or New York City, there are a lot more single folks and everyone needs to step up their social skills with good manners when it comes to random conversations.

This is in stark contrast to the attitude that you tend to get in Vancouver clubs.  What is it with this city?  Is it a case of small-city inferiority complex?  Ladies trying to be “all-that and a bucket of chicken wings” when they’re not?  There are definitely places in Vancouver that have a laid back, chill vibe – the old Bimini’s on 4th avenue comes to mind.  Ahh, we had some great times there.  It may have been the $6.50 double high-balls on Saturdays that helped as well:)

Anyone been to other major metropolitan cities in North America and can relate to this experience?  Would love to hear your experiences.

The Burrito Showdown

As some of you know, I love Burritos.  This love started from a visit to a burrito shack in Southern California many years ago.

Whether it’s the lunch time walk over to Robson Street for Red Burrito, the hunger pangs after Kits Beach requiring a visit to Burrito Bros., or a delicious morning breakfast burrito made from mi casa, all things wrapped in a warm blanket of tortilla is usually magic as far as I’m concerned.

This past weekend I was in Toronto for a wedding and happened to walk by Burrito Boyz on Adelaide Street.  My friends were saying that this place is always super packed and great for the late night post-boozing munchies.  That night, after a bottle-service affair at Brant House, I was in dire need of late-night food.  However, being “slightly tipsy” really doesn’t help matters when you’re not familiar with the city.  I begrudgingly made my way back to home base with a growl in my stomach.

Toronto CityscapeToronto HarbourfrontGargoyles

The next morning/afternoon I decided to go for a walk and explore Toronto for the first time on foot.  I’ve been to this city quite a few times, but have always been chauffeured, subway’d or cabbed.  Camera in tow, I walked around and explored the harbour front and Queen Street to clear the cobwebs from the previous night’s debacle.

It wasn’t long before I started getting hungry and decided to check out the missed opportunity at Burrito Boyz.  I found it and at about 3pm on a Friday, it was already packed with a lineup of 15 people deep.  Chatting with others in line, I was told that this is normal and can get line ups out the door on busy nights.

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When I finally made it to the front, I decided on a large Halibut burrito with everything on it.  I’ve always loved the fish burrito at Burrito Bros in Kits, so this would give me an opportunity to do a taste comparison.  The lady at the counter must have known that I’m a newbie when I said that I wanted it hot with their xxx hot sauce.  She squeezed a drop of their hot sauce on a piece of lettuce and I tried it.  Within 2 seconds, a scorching red heat grew from my lips to my forehead.  She started laughing and said that that is why she loves her job.  Evil, I say!

After telling the first lady about the accoutrement I wanted on my burrito, I stood and waited another, what seemed like, 15 minutes as the burrito is put together and baked.  The burrito was huge, much bigger than the one in Kits.  Standard rice and beans.  Quite a few different sauces – sour cream, ketchup and hot sauce.  Veges were lettuce, green peppers and a few jalapenos.  The fish was lightly breaded and fried.  Overall, I give the taste a 6 out of 10.  It was good proportions for those that are starving but it was too Subway-ish for me – lacking the Tex-Mex or Mexican flavour I crave.  The long wait times didn’t win them any points either.

At Burrito Bros in Kits, it’s still a bit of an undiscovered hole-in-the-wall place which suits me fine.  I will continue to visit and have my Fish or Cabo Chicken Burrito Bomber, served with salsa, tortilla chips and the sweet Mexican lady who works there.

For the other burrito lovers out there, I’d love to hear about your favourite burritos in your city or what you put in your burritos!