3 days in Vancouver with the Kitchen Bachelor

For those of you who’ve been fortunate or unfortunate enough to be on an Air Canada flight, you may have come across their “enRoute” in-flight magazine.  I’ve always enjoyed reading the feature called “3-days in [fill in exotic city here]”.  If you’re a jet-setter and have experienced a layover in Barcelona, Sao Paolo or Paris, you may have taken advantage of enRoute’s recommendations.  However, if you’re the average commuter on United, your story is probably about being stuck in a snow-storm in Fargo, North Dakota.

Vancouver is no Fargo.  In fact, being my home-town and being a foodie – I’ve been tasked many a time to provide an itinerary for out-of-town guests, co-workers and even strangers.  Since my specialty is food, I thought I’d write my own little enRoute blog post about “3 days in Vancouver with the Kitchen Bachelor”.

 

Day 1

4pm - Friday - YVR Airport

Take note of Vancouver tax-dollars at work as you come through the international gates and witness the soothing sounds of first-nations music, first-nations scultures, chirping birds and some sort of water dripping.  Find a washroom – quick.

5pm - Downtown Vancouver

Hopefully you didn’t smuggle anything into customs and weren’t given the glove welcome to Canada, eh?  You jumped on the Canada Line train and made it to downtown Vancouver in 25 minutes – amazing, right?  Check into hotel of choice.  Celebrity spotting at Sutton Place Hotel is common.  Westin Bayshore or Fairmont Waterfront for views. Opus Hotel in Yaletown district for funky and beautiful people.

7pm - Cocktails

Uva wine bar (900 Seymour), Earl’s Restaurants (905 Hornby) or Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel Lobby (1038 Canada Place).

9pm - Dinner Options
  1. Chambar: Belgian cuisine with Moroccan influence; the chef  traveled through Morocco.  Try the lamb tagine – it’ll make you squeal – ok maybe not.  Great belgian beer list and great mussels as well. They have a great bottle of red called Pirramimma Petit Verdot from McLaren Vale – 70 big ones but damn! Resos at least a week in advance to be safe.
  2. Adesso bistro: Northern Italian cuisine – tucked in a cosy tree-lined residential street in the West-End of downtown. Great seafood appes; delicious pastas; fresh ingredients.
  3. La faux bourgeois: Cool French bistro with dark wooden bar; authentic and warm; servers are French-ish.  Make resos in advance.
1130pm - You're still up?

Call it a night – you know you’re not exactly looking that chipper after a day of travel and all that great food in your belly.  But if you’re loco, head out to Granville Street for some revelry with 20 year olds.

Day 2

9am - Rise and shine breakie.
  1. Café Medina: Sister restaurant to Chambar.  If you went there for dinner last night and don’t mind heading back to the same area.  Belgian waffles, I hear, are amazing.  I can’t believe I haven’t been there.
  2. Café Barney – 2 locations – Main street and Granville street.  Great egg-benes, breakfast burrito and non-stop strong coffee.
  3. Urban Fare – pricey grocer but good people-gazing.  A few different locations around town.
1030am - Sights and Sounds

Walk Commercial Drive – ethnic district. Rent bikes and bike around Stanley Park seawall – 10 km. Shopping on 4th avenue in Kitsilano.  Sun at Kitsilano Beach.  Take water-taxi to Granville Island.

1pm - Hunger strikes
  1. Go-Fish!: if you made it to Granville Island, check out the fish and chip shack on the south-west side of the entrance to Granville Island along the seawall.  Ask around if you can’t find it.  Fish tacos, fish & chips wrapped in newspaper, seafood chowder – all good.
  2. Japadog – famous Japanese hot dog stand endorsed by Anthony Bourdain.  A few stands around town, but a bricks-and-mortar restaurant has opened up on Robson street as well.
  3. Sushi – Vancouver probably has as many Sushi restaurants as Starbucks.  How can you go wrong with fresh Pacific seafood?  It’s hard to go wrong but some places I visit are Honjin and Shizenya.  Stay away from all-you-can-eat sushi – come on, man!
3pm - Repeat 1030am options or nap

Yeah, that’s right.  You’re on vacation.  Have a nap. You don’t have to be 2 or 70.

455pm - "...we interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for"

If you’re interested in an early dinner, scroll down to tonight’s dinner options and go to Vij’s.  As my mum would say – there’s no time for dilly-dally here – after 5pm you’re waiting in a 2 hour queue.

6pm - Cocktail time again

Repeat from last night or try a different location.

730pm - Dinner options
  1. Wild Rice – for a little off-the-beaten track venture on the edge of Chinatown and Gastown, check out Wild Rice. Owner Andrew Wong does my people right – yes I said it, my people.  Modern Asian food with creative cocktails at a fair price – what’s not to like.
  2. Vij’s: Indian fusion. One of Vancouver’s best known chefs. No resos allowed.
  3. Mis Trucos: Mediterranean tapas in what looks like someone’s living room.  Great wine list and date spot.
930pm - Live music, anyone?
  1. Libre Room – Commerical Drive, funky ethnic district with live music sets every night.  Check out your featured cocktail based on your horoscope.
  2. Fairmont Pacific Rim – see cocktail options from Day 1.

Day 3

10am - Advil for the headache

If you partied it up the night before, you may need an Advil before breakfast.  But if you’re good to go, perhaps lace up your sneakers and go for a run on the Vancouver seawall.  Options include Yaletown, Coal-Harbour, or Kitsilano.

12pm - Lunch or see ya later

Make it out to one of the myriad restaurants you may have missed or catch the Canada-Line out of town.

We hope you enjoyed your 3 days in Vancouver with the Kitchen Bachelor.  Fresh seafood, international cuisine and a picturesque city with mountains in the backdrop.  Not bad for a layover?

Naramata Road Trip

I had about 3 weeks off this summer between quitting my old job and starting my new one.  It was a beautiful time.  It was sunny in Vancouver for once.  It was a sports lovers dream with The World Cup, Tour de France and Wimbledon all happening around the same time.  And I capped it off with a road-trip to Naramata, British Columbia in the Okanagan for biking and wine-tastings.  Tough, real tough, eh?

Naramata is chock full of B&Bs and it was actually quite painless to find a place with short notice.  Check out this link for bed and breakfasts.  We ended up booking with the Copper Goose B & B, run by a lovely couple by the name of Carolle and Gerhard.  Carolle looks after the amazing organic garden which grows the herbs and vegetables for breakfast, while Gerhard, a former chef, prepares probably the best breakfast I’ve had in a long while.  They’re super friendly and knowledgeable and were more than happy to make reservations for dinner for us.

Needless to say, the 10 or so wineries we hit up were amazing and I stocked up on a case of wine.

My favourites are:

1. Laughing Stock Portfolio, 2007 – to age for 10 years, who wants to share it in 2017
2. Lake Breeze Bench White
3. Lang Vineyards, Grand Pinot, 2008
4. Soaring Eagle, Syrah, 2006
5. Lang Marechal Foch, 2008 (this required 2 bottles)
6. Red Rooster, Meritage Reserve, 2007

For dinner reservations, Gerhard recommended a patio seat at the Hillside Estate Winery & Bistro.  The sunset, Coq au Vin and a glass of Cabernet Franc – nothing better!

The next time you find yourself between jobs, or craving a roadtrip, live your own version of the movie “Sideways” and head to Naramata.

la experienca de 3 semanas (part 2)

This is a continuation of the recap of my 3 week experience in Argentina and Chile.  Click here for part 1 of this post.

#7: Condiments: mayo, pebre, chimichurri

  • Mayo: both Argentineans and Chileans love their mayo – it’s on everything
  • Pebre: this is essentially home-made salsa with the freshest ingredients  – tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, lime, jalapenos – served with bread at pretty much every restaurant
  • Chimichurri: as I mentioned earlier, since Argentineans don’t like spicy food, this is as close to picante that I got.  It’s a marinade made with parsley, minced garlic, vegetable oil or olive oil, white or red vinegar, and red pepper flakes.  I had it with a pizza at a restaurant in Palermo called “Kentucky” – amazing!

#8: The Work/Life Schedule: Argentineans are sleep deprived.  They usually start work around 9 until noon; go home for lunch and siesta for about 4 hours; then return back to work for another 5 hours.  I would be so unproductive if I worked this schedule.  With a work day ending so late, it’s no wonder no one has dinner till about 10.  The party-goers, sometimes even on weekdays, then begin hitting the bars at 1:30 or later and party till 5am.  Talk about carpe diem.

#9: Generosity and hospitality:

It’s amazing the hospitality and overall kindness that I experienced on two occasions during this trip.  In Santiago, a friend and I were having lunch and the couple sitting next to us went out of their way to suggest dishes we should try and gives my Venezuelan friend their home address so that they can cook him a traditional Chilean meal.

In the second instance, I met Ornela, who’s a stunning Italian/Argentinean guide for the wine tour I did in Mendoza.  I coincidentally saw her the day after the tour and she invited me to an asado (grilled meat party) with her friends when she found out that I was going to have dinner by myself.  We crammed 6 people into her tiny Subaru and went to a friend’s place 45 minutes away.  I met a whole bunch of locals and expats and had an amazing time trying all cuts of beef and pork and drinking my first fernet and coke.  Dinner at 10 pm, conversations till 4:30 am.  That’s hospitality!

#10: Obsession with futbol: my experience at the Boca Juniors home game against Colon was by far the craziest sporting event I’ve ever attended.  Unbelievable energy, chats and songs by the fans, and young and old alike swearing at the opposing team – amazing!

#11: Buses and coins: you need coins to take the bus. No change, no bus for you.  Apparently there’s a shortage in coins being minted, so Portenos hoard their coins – don’t bother asking for change, you will get a “no es posible”.

#12: ATMs: I left my credit card at a restaurant and had to deal with ATMs for the rest of my trip.  Argentina is a cash society.  It’s common that ATMs run out of cash on weekends and at the end of the month.  Makes for interesting budgeting.

#13: 20k, 1 year of travel: I met quite a few backpackers at the hostels that were truly getting to experience all of South America.  Many of them were in their early to mid 20s, just out of university but some had been working for years and decided to take a year off for adventure.  With the availability of cheap meals in South America and lodging at hostels for typically less than $10 a day, you can get by with $50-60 a day.  So if have $20k burning a hole in your pocket and want to travel for a year, check out South America!

I loved planning this trip.  It worked out beautifully to take in 2 big cities, hiking and the outdoors in Patagonia, and wine tasting galore in Mendoza.  I met great people, tasted great food, experienced the kind of hospitality you only read about and will most definitely return to South America.  I think Columbia, Peru and Brazil are next on the list.

la experiencia de 3 semanas (part 1)

I had great ambition to blog on the KitchenBachelor for the 3 weeks I spent in Argentina and Chile.  Alas, a few things quickly sidetracked this notion.  For one, most of the computers in hostels are with Spanish interfaces, which means that something I take for granted like saving an image becomes a chore.  Two, at a hostel, there’s always one or two people waiting in line to use the computer and taking time to draft a blog and upload photos is just not practical.  Three, the wine consumption was definitely up while I was there for 3 weeks, which made for little inspiration to sit in front of a computer.  If I decide to blog on the road again, it’ll most definitely be with my own netbook.

In the absence of a real-time account of my 3 weeks in South America, I have decided to do a recap of the amazing people I met, weird quirky things I experienced, delicious food and drink delights and brief glimpse of the South American culture.

#1: Best Spanish (swear) words I learned: boludo (assh*le), suertodos hijo de puta (lucky son of a bitch)

  • picked up from tour-guides and from the mouths of portenos (locals) at the Boca Juniors futbol game

#2: Street food that we need to import: empanadas, completos, churrasco and choripan

  • Empanadas: similar to the ones my Filipino friends make at parties; but in Argentina and Chile, you can find pretty much any variant of ingredients that are filled into a beautiful doughy goodness
  • Completos: hot dogs topped off with mayo, the freshest of avocados and tomatoes
  • Churrasco: same as completo, but replace hot dog with thinly grilled steak
  • Choripan: chorizon sausage and toasted bread – unbelievable!

#3: The Argentinean Steak Obsession: Argentineans love their steak.  The huge country and open land means that for generations Argentina was able to raise organic cattle fed on grass (the healthy way).  Apparently, they’ve now started to use some antibiotics to treat infections, etc, but nonetheless, succulent beef.  Portenos however love to eat their steak well-done.  This is by default.  Only if you’re in a nice steakhouse will they ask you how you would like your steak done – which I reply with medio.

#4: Spice: Argentineans are not used to spicy food.  My palette was definitely craving spicy food after 4 days in Buenos Aires.  Fortunately, Chile is quite different and every meal came with pabre and pan – essentially spicy salsa that you eat with bread.

#5: Drinks: mate, fernet, pesco, cafe

  • Mate: this is a bitter tea steeped (pun intended) in tradition.  With gaucho roots, the cowboys used to drink mate as a way of staying awake and warm in the open fields.  You drink it in a gourd, made of pumpkin, wood or metal, and sip the tea from a metal spoon with a strainer at one end.  It’s quite an acquired taste and there’s quite the etiquette involved with drinking mate.  You never ask to drink someone’s mate, unless you’re offered.  You receive it with your right hand and finish the mate, as opposed to taking a few sips and returning.  I quite enjoyed the experience on two separate occasions and bought myself some.
  • Fernet: it’s quite hard to decipher what this spirit is made of but wikipedia suggests it’s a type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit.  This is quite popular with the locals and I tried some with coke.
  • Pisco: pisco sours are huge in Chile – they taste like a lime margarita and are usually served as a pre-meal cocktail.  There’s quite the rivalry between Chileans and Peruvians on who makes the best Pisco sours.  Roberto, my guide, told me to tell my good friend Carlo who’s from Lima, that I had the best pisco sour in Chile!
  • Cafe: I OD’d on coffee in Argentina – sometimes up to 4 strong cafe con leches, solos or cortados a day.  The coffee is so good here, especially when you can loiter. See below.

#6: Cafes and loitering: As I was travelling on my own, when I didn’t have the company of other travellers, I would spend hours sitting in cafes reading and people watching.  No one ever tries to rush you or kick you out for savouring one cup of espresso or water for hours on end.  Brilliant!

That’s all for part 1 of my recap – check out part 2 here.