Vancouver is a rather short three hour drive from our humble city and although its easily assumed that its American like any other city, there are certain things that make it apparent that it is not.
- No flags; not that there are Canadian flags but there are just no flags (oh, except we saw a few French flags)
- Poutineries on every corner
- You always pay for your check at your table with their little handheld scanners (as they watch how much you tip)
- Apparently they don’t know where Mt. Rainier is?
- Their accents are pretty sweet
- They start their Christmas before Thanksgiving…because they don’t have a Thanksgiving
- Tim Horton’s on every corner
Thus we did go to another country this past weekend and we had a good, indulgent Canadian weekend before the annual good, indulgent American weekend. And boy did we indulge…
Friday night we arrived in Vancouver to a late check-in and went to find ourselves a late dinner. We headed towards Stanley Park to a Spanish tapas restaurant called Espana that does not take reservations. And we had to wait. This small little nook of a restaurant was bustling and we decided to wait the quoted 45 minutes. When we finally got to eat (around 10 pm) we were in for a treat.
- Sangria for the table
- Fried cauliflower with cauliflower puree
- Roasted baby beet salad with lentils and yogurt
- Fried anchovies with aioli
- Seared hangar steak with patatas bravas and garlic cream
- Octopus and chorizo with white beans
- Crispy pork belly with romesco and white beans
- Churros con chocolate
- Chocolate and chestnut flan
Demolished everything and stuffed to the gills we were finally happy customers. The cauliflower, pork belly, churros and flan were the most remarkable but seriously everything was beyond delicious and I voted it best “tapas” I’ve had in North America.
Saturday morning we woke and headed down to the free hotel breakfast buffet that filled us up. We then set out in the sunshine to walk along the water, past the stadiums and to the Christmas Market. This outdoor Bavarian Christmas festival featured music, Bavarian food vendors, hot drink vendors (mulled wine, tea, hot chocolate, cider), and various craft vendors. We took our time exploring the different stalls, sampling whatever anyone would give us, and taking in the smells. Bryan and I shared a mulled wine and bought our friends a bottle of delicious tasting Aquavit and ourselves Absinthe as well as me some new fingerless gloves from the Sherpa stand. By the time we were done shopping we were in the shade and I was now freezing. We strolled through downtown doing some shopping before walking back to our hotel for hot tub time on the outdoor terrace.
Saturday night we set out for a reservation at the German Michelin-star chef Bauhaus restaurant in Gastown for our first ever Michelin star. We had purchased a deal for half off of their 6-course tasting menu. Bryan and I really fell in love with their cocktail menu and had the best margarita of my life, the Buttermilch Margarita, a Manhattan like drink called All Grown Up and another brandy drink, along with a glass of beaujolais. Our tasting menu was beautifully presented and was very unique in flavors. It was definitely a display of several different cooking techniques, ingredients and sauces and was fun to do once. Our tasting menu included:
- Amuse of venison terrine with beet puree and honey cracker
- Spiced salmon with salsify and toasted quinoa
- Poached sole with spinach and a hollandaise-like sauce
- Liver sausage tortellini with veal consomme and enoki mushrooms
- Sous-vide vension with parsley puree and chive sponge cake
- Braised venison shoulder with brioche dumpling
- Gingerbread “cake” with plums, meringues, custard, and cinnamon gelato
As well as the cocktails I also really enjoyed the dessert and the salmon. The dessert was the best gingerbread cookie that I have ever had and each bite with all the ingredients was so delicious. Even though we had 6 courses we always have to get the award-winning gelato from Bella Gelateria near the Convention Center so we topped off dinner with gelato before heading back to the hotel for the night.
Our last morning started earlier and more energetically with Bryan and I going for a near six mile run to and through Stanley Park and back. It was certainly brisk but there were several others out on the trail, the water was beautiful and we also almost tripped over an otter. Once back we quickly showered and packed before heading to Richmond, BC for dim sum brunch at Kirin which was recommended to Billy. Kirin did not dissapoint and the dim sum was probably the best I’ve ever had. Our table ordered several dishes including:
- Shrimp and pork shu mai
- Shrimp gar bow
- BBQ pork steamed buns
- Tendon and brisket with rice noodles
- Shrimp paste stuffed fried eggplant in black bean sauce
- Baby bok choy with tofu skin
- Rice rolls with scallop and green onion
- Turnip cake with pork
- Fried crispy taro dumplings
- Spicy spare ribs
- Egg tarts
The shu mai, which are my favorite at dim sum, were the best I have ever had. The turnip cake, and egg tarts with the flaky crust and still warm custard filling were also extremely delicious but everything was enjoyed at our table.
And with that we successfully stretched our stomachs before heading into Thanksgiving week!