Pounding the Pavement

| August 8, 2009

This isn’t a beach story. This isn’t a vacation story. It’s August and I’m at work.

Although I suppose I cannot complain when work takes me to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the week. As far as conferences go, this one was quite nice with several rather inspiring speeches about the future. However, sitting in the underground bunkers all day long while cool summer weather and culinary delights beckoned from beyond the walls was tortuous. Vancouver is one of the meccas of fine cuisine, and as soon as the last session of the day was over, I put on my walking shoes and booked it.

Please walk with me for a culinary tour of some of Vancouver’s neighborhoods.

vancouver1I’m American and proud of it. But boy, those Canadians sure know how to do some things really well. Bicycles get their own lanes, pedestrians get the right of way, taxis are Priuses, recycling bins sit at every street corner, yoga by the water, and fresh produce markets abound. And people slow down to eat.

vancouver2Downtown Vancouver and Robson Street is full of trendy shops and trendy people. It is also where one of my favorite Canadian stores, Roots, has two large stores and a wonderful Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, from which the smell of warm caramel and freshly baked waffle cones waft out into the sidewalk, tempting every passerby like the Sirens did to Ulysses.

vancouver3On one lunch break, I walked over to nearby Yaletown, a hip, urban area with reclaimed warehouses turned into lofts and studios. It was a trendy version of my more rough-and-tumble warehouse district back home, but those of you who know me know I am a big supporter of urban redevelopment. Upon a recommendation, I went to Glowbal, a satay bar which served some juicy looking burgers on wooden boards overflowing with freshly cut fries served in little white boxes. As I sat out on the former loading dock, I was served fresh crusty bread accompanied by three dips: olive oil (yum), red pepper hummus (yum), and balsamic vinegar (yuck, read my piece on yogurt if you wonder why yuck). As I had limited time, I opted for three tapas from the satay bar. The presentation was immaculate – beautiful and trendy like the place, but rather overpriced for ONE piece each. The kobe meatball was juicy and well seasoned, the diver scallop was perfectly seared, but the braised short ribs with truffle was a bit dry.

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I ventured out to Gastown, a historic district lined with cobblestone sidewalks. In the middle of a back alley called Blood Alley with not much going on sat a nondescript storefront, home to one of the most acclaimed restaurants, the Salt Tasting Room, famous for its cured meats and cheeses. I took myself to the Water Street Café, which was perfectly situated at a corner across from the famous Gastown steam clock that sang on the quarter hour. The prawn bisque was so fresh, I thought my prawns would start jumping from its flavorful bowl. The seared ahi tuna encrusted with black sesame seeds disintegrated into my mouth in a symphony of sweet depth.
vancouver5Now no visit to Vancouver can be complete without Chinese food. It is said that the best Chinese food outside of Hong Kong is there because all the great chefs moved to Vancouver before the handover in 1997. I was excited. As Vancouver’s Chinatown is supposed to be the third largest in North American behind New York and California, I was expecting a bustling, crazy Canal Street-like experience. As I walked closer and closer and watched the neighborhoods started to change until I reached an…empty Chinatown. It was only 6:00PM and many of the stores had already closed. I finally found a little unpretentious Kam Gok Yuen which specialized in Chinese BBQ, but of course, they had sold out. So I took out a pork rib in black bean sauce, and while the presentation was not as fancy, it was delicious!

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I was determined to have a dim sum experience, so the final day, I hiked for one hour across the bridge to Granville, a neighborhood of young professionals dressed awfully familiar to me (aka yoga pants and walking shoes) and finally arrived at Kirin, hungry and tired. Kirin is a refined place where you order and the waiters bring you your dishes rather than carts bustling around the place. The dim sum was pretty pricy, but also pretty darn good. The sticky rice with pork, dried scallop, and duck egg yolk wrapped in lotus leaf was comforting and well flavored. The steamed rice rolls were stuffed with fresh prawns and fresh scallions – the freshest I’ve ever had. The deep fried rice rolls with prawn, bacon, and scrambled eggs were perfectly balanced with the hot chili dipping sauce. As I drank my pot of Po Li tea, I was more than satisfied. The Chinese food in Vancouver definitely does not disappoint.

vancouver6Ambling through the Granville Island Public Market, full of vendors and fresh West Pacific Salmon, I had to admit: work is sometimes pretty fun.

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Category: Featured Articles: Travel & Culture, Travel & Culture, US & Canada

About the Author (Author Profile)

With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: www.hummingbirdrcc.com or more about her portfolio www.belindachiu.com.

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  1. Thank you for such a wonderful walking tour of Vancouver, my home city. How I miss it! It was so fun to read your blurb on Water Street Cafe, where I worked for several years and my husband and I held our wedding rehearsal dinner. You brought back some fond memories for me.

  2. Belinda says:

    Thank you for reading! =) How lovely the dinner must have been! Absolutely wonderful place.

  3. Downtown Barry says:

    Thanks for taking me back to some of the joys of Canada.