Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel, New York City Eats

2013 Year in Review

FOOD_2013photos taken with instagram by iLuvpotato © 2013

It’s hard to believe another year has gone by and as I get older, “staying in” has a whole new feeling.  Maybe because I traveled more frequent than any other years.  I started 2013 with an annual sister bonding West coast trip from San Francisco, Seattle to Vancouver.  Went to Washington D.C with my family for the spring cherry blossom and visited my friend in Austin, Texas to soak up the summer sun on labor day weekend.  And joined a spontaneous, intense 6 days bus tour with my parents from Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, to Utah, which redefine my perception on how I see America and especially Chinese bus tours.

Or maybe because I will officially be in my “late-twenties” one month from now and in the latest Kinfolk issue covering the subject on Age in an article I can resonate with is David Coggins piece “Acquired Tastes: Only Time Will Tell.”  I’ve noticed my taste palette has changed, where some dishes have really grew on me with an appreciation. When I was a child I used to push aside soups, avoided hot pot and Chinese rice porridge aka congee or ‘jok’ but now I can devour an entire bowl.  Currently, I am passing the oatmeal with black sesame seeds and goji berries my mom prepares me on weekends, well, – only time will tell.

Sometimes it is necessary to “staying in.”  To catch up on personal emails, a book for leisure, or using kitchen tools.  It helps to recharge and rejuvenate from the work week whether in the comfort of my pjs or with a group of friends lounging where time feels endless.  The end of the year is a time for reflection and as we wrap up 2013 what I am most appreciative and find most satisfying is that one good meal.  The one good meal is define by the service, the quality, the environment and most importantly the people you share the meal with.  Here are my top 12 for the year 2013:

El Poblano Farm /// One of the highlights this year was joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with El Poblano Farm. A small one acre farm with varieties of produces to Mexican herbs like papalo, all grown in Staten Island.  By joining a CSA, it introduced and motivated me to cook something I would never have bought. Some of my favorites were, squash blossoms, papalo, acorn squash, and chamomile.  The experience of being part of a CSA that was most rewarding was being part of a community, a visit to the farm and a shared home cooked meal with CSA leftovers.  It also helps the organizers Erica, Ken and farmer Gudelio are all so friendly and such loving people. Thank you for a great season.

Cafe Mogador /// I rarely revisit a place for brunch twice in a year as there are too many choices in New York City but Cafe Mogador is an exception.  Primarily because I am obsessed with their harissa. It’s a condiment that comes on the side upon requested and it gives an extra kick to brunch. I especially love the hustle and bustle environment of the restaurant and the Moroccan inspired decor.  No wonder it’s a favorite for the locals and tourist alike since 1983 in the East Village and it’s certainly has become one of mine.

Dominique Ansel Cronut /// New York City is notorious for long lines for always something.  Since May 2013 when Dominque Ansel Bakery launched the cronut, there has been outrageous lines from 5am. These would be sold out from the moment the doors open, limiting 2 cronuts per person. I would have patiently waited but I’m not a early morning person.  My cousin however, crazily waited and hand delivered to my door and surprised me with a cronut – she is the best.  The flavors changes each month and I had the coconut. We both agreed it was not the best thing we ever ate but I must praise Chef Dominique Ansel for creating this hybrid dessert between croissant and doughnut where both two iconic pastries from France and America meets.  The idea is truly a masterpiece.

Bar-b-cue /// If it’s one cuisine that defines America, it’s barbecue and it’s hard to narrow down to only one when I had so many good barbecue this year.  Mighty Quinn’s who started at outdoor markets opened their brick and mortar shop in the East Village earlier this year. They’re known for their briskets but when I think of barbecue I think of finger food. Ribs is the way to go and their less traditional but creative side dishes like the edamame & sweet peas salads.  I visited my friend on the last days of summer, a native Texan with New York City at heart who drove to the outskirt of Austin, Texas where I witnessed and tasted how it’s really done at Salt Lick BBQ.  It is an impressive estate, there is bocce, a vineyard, a wine tasting room but the main attraction was of course the pit where the meats are smoked.  One of the best barbecue experiences. My friend even tied the knot at a barbecue joint this summer at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem, one of the married couples favorite spot and how barbecue and weddings is meant to be, pure fun.

Fried Chicken /// If barbecue is the cuisine that defines America, the one dish that defines America has to be the iconic fried chicken – sorry burgers and hot dogs.  Everyone who knows me by now, knows that I Love Fried Chicken and I’m not the only Asian or person who is fascinated with this fried bird.  Foodblogger Donny Tsang started a fried chicken project where he chronicles all the fried chicken he has eaten in New York City. For really beautiful fried chicken photos see his blog.  Chefs across New York City has taken this classic dish and elevated it with their interpretation including renowned chefs David Chang and April Bloomfield with their advanced reservation group fried chicken dining experience.  [Read my Momofuku Fried Chicken Dinner here]  There’s also Chef Robert Newton’s version on a boneless fried chicken at Seersuckers, although the biscuits with three way jams was what really stood out in the meal.  Then there is the Blue Ribbon empire where they finally opened a fast food style or 2013 update on KFC, Popeyes or Hill Country Chicken with Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken.  The wings are outstanding and spices on the fried chicken are flavorful with numerous honey options on the side to experiment with and where playing with food is encourage here.

Mission Chinese /// What’s great about New York City restaurants is, what is authentic when it is common to find a Mexican cooking a bibimbap and a Chinese cooking an enchilada, or who cares as long as it tastes good.  This goes for Mission Chinese, Chef Danny Bowien who is frequently spotted on Lower East Side or Chinatown with his striking long blond hair is Korean descent from Oklahoma and makes kick-ass interpretation on Chinese food including spicy sizzling cumin lamb platter and don’t be too surprise to find kale on the menu.  It’s ashamed the New York City Department of Health closed the location but a block away, visit Mission Cantina where he takes on Mexican food in which I have yet to try.

Lafeyette /// Formerly the Chinatown Brasserie, the location of what is currently Lafeyette has gone through multiple reincarnation and from the two experiences I had, I hope it stays in the years to come. Without having to travel to Paris, Lafeyette has one of New York City’s best croissants that consists the perfect amount of butter and flakey texture, let’s not forget the crumbs. I was lucky to get invited to one of the most lavish and delicious cookbook launch of The Way We Ate.  Where platters of cheeses, charcuteries, olives, mixed greens paraded out and was a preview to what Lafeyette had to offer in which I know I will be back in the nearest future.

Best of Gowanus: Four and Twenty Blackbird /// Lavender Lake /// Runner & Stone
My work office had temporarily relocated to Gowanus, Brooklyn from late April through October and boy did I eat well within the seven months. Gowanus, is sandwiched between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens and it is transforming with the new Wholefoods Market open.  A once industrialized neighborhood and the ever so infamous highly polluted Gowanus Canal is gaining momentum as a food destination.  While working in Gowanus, I got to explore the neighborhood and some of my favorites includes a humble pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbird.  Where pie by the slice or a whole pie can be ordered and flavors changes according to season. Right on Carroll Street near the Carroll bridge is one of the best bars in Brooklyn, Lavender Lake.  Named after what used to be the color of the Gowanus Canal and formerly a horse carriage house, the structure of the bar has excellent indoor and outdoor seating, with a terrific bar snack menu and the must try roasted brussel sprouts with aioli and beer on tap, although they need to bring the Lefthand stout back on tap!  Last but not least, Runner & Stone.  I’ve always been a fan of their pastries and brioche that they sell at New Amsterdam Market but the baguette is exclusively available at the shop and is incredible.

Egg /// Breakfast is probably the most commonly skipped meal, as I am guilty in being one of those people. We’re always on a hurry in the morning with the extra 20/30 minutes sleep or simply have no appetite.  Egg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn however, if you by chance have a weekday off is a nice trade for the daily bagel or toast.  There’s a set of crayons and white paper as table covering where your inner child or artist is encouraged.  The menu also reflects the contemporary fine art, with dishes like the Egg Rothko, probably inspired by the artist Mark Rothko, in which the tomato resembles that iconic Rothko “red.”

Walrus and The Carpenter /// I’m still Seattle dreaming from my visit to Walrus and the Carpenter in February. Those fried oysters, holy sh** [Read more here]  The team behind Walrus and the Carpenter had open this past year with The Whale Wins which by no surprise has already received critically acclaimed reviews. Walrus and the Carpenter has my dream kitchen and everything about it is spot on, even if you do not like oysters you will likely be converted, I promise.

Buvette /// One of my favorite neighborhoods in New York City is the West Village.  It’s one of the parts in Manhattan that is not a grid and every street corner has it’s own character. Buvette is one of the reasons why I love the West Village even more so than ever.  Voted by Village Voice, “the best cassoulet” and I cannot agree more [Read here]  In my recent visit, I had the opportunity to meet the man behind the design for Buvette, Max Poglia. over croissants and coffee.  It’s rare to find a restaurant that put so much thought into the food that also complements the visual aesthetic.  If you are still figuring out New Year’s Eve plans, why not ring in with their annual Nuit Blanche.

Chez Panisse /// “What is the best meal you’ve had this year?”  Well, it’s hard to pick that one place after eating at so many but the most epic, would have to be at the legendary Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. [Read more here]  The concept of the menu changing daily according to what is available on the day of the market is so simple yet brilliant.  That is how our grandmothers and mothers shopped for their daily cooking and luckily with walking distance to fresh produce, butcher shops and fish market is how I was raised to cook too. My impression I left at Chez Panisse is the definition of success.  Alice Waters has created an institution where like Chef David Tanis and David Lebovitz have all started their career in food.  When you measure success, it is more than your very own but those surrounds you and Chez Panisse has achieved that, in fostering these talents in today’s food industry.

Thanks to the dreary, grey weather we are having in New York City today has allowed me to “staying in” in writing this.  The blinking blank cursor can sometimes be intimidating and distractions from the outside world can get me sidetracked.  So a little encouragement from the rain goddess really helps.  I started writing my annual recaps in 2010 and have continued since.  [Read them here: 2010. 2011. 2012.]  It has always been one of my favorite pieces, as I get to highlight and share these listings.  Rather than one long end of the year post, I will do my best effort to write shorter but more frequent posts in the new year. Until then, it’s good to go out, explore, get a breath of fresh air, travel, get inspired, meet new friends, develop deeper friendships and reunite with old ones over a shared meal.

happy new year and best wishes in 2014!

Beyond 5 Boroughs Travel

Journey to the West

I recently attended a free talk at the McNally Jackson bookstore lead by Lucky Peach magazine on the topic food + travel writing, which is something I am interested in learning in crafting and potentially getting a few gigs (fingers crossed!)  eat, travel, write, repeat, that’s my dream job.  The subject on “authencity” was repeated multiple times but is that all there is to it?  What resonate with me from the talk was in reference to Columbus and how he discovered such and such food.  Which reminds me traveling is more than for leisure, it’s a continuing education.  It’s about discovering something you never had or experienced before or revisiting a place and rediscovering it.  One of my favorite cities is San Francisco, California.  My first time visiting San Francisco was in 2004 when I was 18 years old and I returned in 2007; six years later I am curious in how the food scene has changed in comparison to the East Coast.  I invited my sister as my eating companion on this nine day journey (2/23 – 3/3) starting in San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA and concluding with Vancouver, BC Canada.

sf_seattle_van_20132photos taken with instagram by iLuvpotato © 2013

2.23.2013 San Francisco, CA (Day 1):  I have been hearing a lot about the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and luckily we arrived on the day there was an active farmers market which operates only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. With a little bit less than an hour, closed by 2pm, we caught the last robust 45 minutes.  It’s a nice time of the year to visit SF farmer’s market as it is citrus season and it’s unusual to see an abundant variety of citrus at a farmer’s market because it is not locally grown on the East Coast.  More amazingly was walking through the market and absorbing the citrus fragrance and tasting the samples.  You would not believe the difference in how oranges taste in comparison to a seasonally and locally grown orange until eating a Californian grown orange in California, sounds crazy but now I know how oranges should taste like!  I wish I was able to stock up on cheeses, kale, mushrooms, romanescos, Meyer lemons and more but maybe another time.  Instead, we noshed on a few things: salmon lox, raclette, and mac ‘n cheese.  SF Ferry Plaza recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary restoration in the rebirth of a landmark, read more here.  The SF Ferry Plaza is a central and active port also with an interior retail space with shops including Blue Bottle Coffee and Cowgirl Creamery. In addition the farmers market is a formula to the success of the revitalization of Embarcadero neighborhood which creates a bustling marketplace for local and tourist who enjoys food to visit.  This is a dream in the making for New York City Fulton Fish Market site, a project I am proud to be currently involved with, visit here.

Later that afternoon, we encounter a couple of Chinese New Year floats parked not very far from the market and learned that there was going to be a Year of the Snake parade.  San Francisco has a long history of Chinese immigrants in the city and has one of the oldest Chinatown in North America and one of the largest Chinese community outside of China.  Even the current SF mayor is Chinese.  We stayed to watch the parade and was mesmerized by the quality in how well the parade is organized and the sense of community and respect in celebrating in more than a holiday but an heritage.  The lions, dragons, and firecrackers reminded me of my childhood before firecrackers were banned in New York City.  The SF Chinese community, not only do they know how to put on a party but reminded me in what it means to be Chinese and how these traditions needs to continue in the generations to come. 

2.24.2013 San Francisco, CA (Day 2): Since it is my third time visiting San Francisco, I wanted my experience to act as a local, so what better way than to jog the city.  My sister and I woke up early that morning and ran through Chinatown, Financial District, and Little Italy. We didn’t have a route planned and ran aimlessly with the goal of reaching the Golden Gate Bridge Park but how to get there, one tip is look out for other runners and so we did and reached Fort Mason and ran towards the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a whole new perspective on the city and a good one.  At the end of our jog, we ran a total of about 6-9 miles and even discovered Fort Mason Sunday farmer’s market and was rewarded with a heavenly fresh squeezed orange juice and had brunch at La Boulange Bakery which I saw on our our path earlier.

Being an instagram user, I have seen a lot of photos of Ocean Beach.  With only a bus ride away, the Pacific Ocean is right before your eyes and feet!  Without timing it, my sister and I were able to catch the sunset which was spectacular.  It happened to be a full moon that day and we observed while the sun was setting, the moon exactly the opposite was rising.  I’m not an astrological geek but you don’t have to be one to appreciate it.

Because it was the 15th day of the lunar calendar month which my sister observes, meaning she has to be on a vegetarian diet for that particular day.  To acknowledge that I also went on vegetarian diet for the day.  For dinner we went to a Chinatown vegetarian restaurant, Enjoy.  My sister and I decked out and ordered a banquet for ourselves, my favorite was as simple as it sound was the pine nut and spinach fried rice.  It was chopped really fine and stir- fried in what we called in a good Chinese prepared dish pronounced in Cantonese – “wok hay” and that dish embody that taste.  All the dishes had a great combination of fresh vegetables, flavors and had a great visual presentation with vibrant colors from the assortment of vegetables.  It was not drenched in oil as we are familiar with here in New York City Chinese cuisine and the SF Chinese food proves how Chinese food can be a healthy alternative diet.  This would probably be one of my staples if I were to live in SF and for a omnivore, this is a huge compliment.  Without doubt, I enjoyed Enjoy very much.

2.25.2013 San Francisco, CA – Berkley, CA (Day 3) Being that San Francisco is one of my favorite cities that I have now visited multiple times, I have a favorite restaurant spot located in Chinatown, Yee’s Restaurant.   It’s one of those old timey neighborhood spot where every waiter knows their customers and vice versa for their morning, afternoon tea and low key family meals.  I go back each time for their big bowl of congee and my favorite is the complimentary side dish stir-fried noodles and all for under $4 per person.  You know it’s good if it still exist since 2004 and what I love about it, is the restaurant hasn’t change and the food taste the same.  After breakfast, we made our way to the SFMoMA which will be closed by June 2013 and will go under renovation until 2016.

We then made our way on foot to primarily the reason in why I wanted to revisit San Francisco, Tartine Bakery in the Mission District.  The Mission is what Brooklyn is to New York City in terms of the young entrepreneur food scene.  Most businesses are coined with Mission “blank.”  You name it: cheese, bicycle, even Chinese food – Danny Bowien Mission Chinese.  The neighborhood is located adjacent to a heavily Mexican populated neighborhood and on my way to Tartine Bakery, there were so many Mexican restaurants I would have love to try, the more reason to go back next time.  I couldn’t resist at Tartine Bakery and ordered a number of things a mushroom croque monsieur on sour dough bread, a beautiful latte prepared with Four Barrel Coffee. And for take away, I bought a croissant, scone and a bag of crisp citrus peeled cookies for the next day.  It’s a local leisure coffee and pastry spot but also globally visited by many people from all over.

A restaurant globally known and also visited is Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse.  My boss made a table reservation for me prior to the week I was visiting San Francisco and normally the popularity of Chez Panisse would have required months in advance. What makes Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse so special and for so many reasons,  it’s worthy of one entire post about it but in a nutshell if it’s even possible, Alice Waters redefined American cuisine in the 1980s and have influenced so many talents to start their own food careers.  This includes David Tanis former executive chef and now food writer of NYT, David Lebowitz former pastry chef and writer of several culinary books, and from what I learned while dining, Acme Bread which provides San Francisco including at Chez Panisse excellent breads.  Alice Waters is a chef, restaurant owner, a food activist and also runs the Edible Schoolyard which is a nonprofit organization committed to educating children in where food comes from.  She was currently involved with working with the state of California in passing the prop 37 in proper food labeling non-gmo.  She is one of the most influential women in the food world and I am all giddy and fortunate to be able to dine at Chez Panisse.  Located in Berkley, CA on Shuttuck Ave which is a beautiful and quaint town.  Chez Panisse immediately stood out with an unusual tree growing in front of the restaurant that no one else had on the block.  The structure and ambiance of the restaurant felt like a cabin.  The menu changes every day from what is in season to what is fresh and locally available at the farmer’s market on the day when conceptualizing the menu – genius!  Dining at Chez Panisse was like a well orchestrated symphony; it’s a masterpiece.  From the service to the taste of the food to the presentation was on key every second.  Every dish was thoughtful and executed so well and truly interacts with all the senses, especially sight, smell and taste.  Never have I ever had anything so aromatic as the pork shoulders both sense of taste and smell.  It’s a restaurant institute for everyone who is serious about food and I am a lucky gal.

Here’s what I ate:

February 25, 2013 Chez Panisse Menu
Sonoma county squab and duck salad with rocket radishes and sherry vinagrette
Red beet soup with horseradish

Wood oven braised pork shoulder with fennel seed and rosemary with cannellini beans, kale and herb salsa
California sea bass with celery root purée artichokes and tapenade

Pink lady apple and sour cherry galette with meyer lemon gelato

Flying disc ranch barhi dates and Churchill Brenneis Orchards kishu tangerines
a pot of Mint tisane tea

Unfortunately, an electrical fire broke out on March 8, shortly after a week and a half since dining there and damaged the facade of Chez Panisse, read more here.  Alice Waters announced it will be reopen for business by this summer and I am sure it will be better than ever.

sf_seattle_van_2013photos taken with instagram by iLuvpotato © 2013

2.26.2013 Seattle, WA (Day 4): Heading northwest to Seattle, Washington.  There is the iconic Pike Place Market, Space Needle Tower, the original Starbucks which I overheard from some guy who was leading a walking tour that it is not?  … jaw dropped, but whatever, I’m in java city!   Unfortunately, my sister was not feeling well and the cloudy weather in Seattle certainly did not help either but we manage to make the best of our visit there.  Geographically, the west of North America is closer to Asia, which Asians have a long history in settling in cities on the west coast, this includes Cambodian Chef Seng Kok Ung.  A refugee in 1980 who fleet from Cambodia to Seattle to achieve the American dream in making a living and sharing his culture through his passion in food and is the chef and owner of a humble restaurant, Phnom Penh Noodle House.  These are the reasons why I love food and travel; discovering these stories and flavors.  My sister ordered a tender duck noodle soup and I ordered a Battambang’s Favorite Noodle and an appetizer Hay Cung, which is an interesting version of a shrimp roll and delicious, click on the menu for a full salivating description.  One of my favorite cuisine is Vietnamese because it is light and always highlights the ingredients.  Because Cambodia is a neighboring country of Vietnam, the two cuisine is fairly similar and has influence from one another.  Phnom Penh Noodle House certainly knows how to use ingredients and it really defines the importance of the quality of fresh ingredients and it makes all the difference.  Also important to have a knowledge and palette combination and this is what Chef Seng Kok Ung does so well in all of his dishes.  I don’t think you can go wrong with anything you order from here and besides it’s modestly priced, I would try everything if I had the iron stomach to.  I’m not from Cambodia nor have I been to Cambodia but it has the quality of comfort food that warms your heart.  Who would’ve thought I would find such amazing Cambodian food in Seattle, WA?  Liking the city already…

2.27.2013 Seattle, WA (Day 5): It was our second and last day in Seattle, WA, too short indeed!  During the day, we visited a historic neighborhood in Seattle, Pioneer Square and visited the Smith Tower.  Afterward, we had an early lunch at Salumi which is all things pork and cured meats by salumist, Armandino Batali, Mario Batali’s father.  This narrow storefront with no more than 20 seats would have a line out the door and wrapped around the block during lunch.  All the cured meats are made in house including mozzarella.  For lunch, we had a porchetta and a salumi with mozzarella sandwich to share. The little storefront/ restaurant felt like we were invited to a house party with a mantle of figurines, you guessed it, pigs!  Family portraits hung on the wall and cookbooks stacked on the shelf.  It is nothing like the restaurant empire Mario Batali has built, quite the opposite and what I generally prefer, the ambiance and taste of grandma’s home cooking with a lot of love.

We spent the afternoon sipping coffee, watching the rain fall and listening to music from my high school days at a cafe.  Before our dinner spot, we took a stroll at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Then headed to the outskirt of Seattle, a town called Ballard which seemed far more interesting and wished we had the time to explore the neighborhood more.  We decided to conclude our visit in Seattle at the critically acclaimed  Walrus and the Carpenter.  This place is a hidden gem and literally very hidden; located in the back of what seemed to be an office building.  As quiet and deserted the neighborhood may have seemed on a Wednesday rainy night, entering Walrus and the Carpenter was like time traveling to a vibrant, sunny, warm, happy place; after all what an awesome restaurant name.  Without a table reservation, the wait was no longer than half hour and we were seated at the bar which is my preferred seating where I can observe the oyster shucking, cooking and mixology action.  My sister is not the biggest raw oyster fan and it was only in recent years she started eating raw fish.  On the other hand, I like raw oysters but I now officially love west coast oysters!  And Walrus and the Carpenter does a fine job from sourcing to shucking.  It even changed my sister’s perception on raw oysters on a half shell which is that good.  We ordered only a half dozen and selected: Barron Point, Blue Pool, Hama Hama, Sun Hollow and 2 Totten Virginica – cool names huh?  Each oysters is named after the inlet of the bay the oyster is harvested in and the Pacific Northwest is one of the best, learn more here.  With only a light squeeze of lemon juice, sip and slurp paired with a pint of local Georgetown Porter, was refreshing.  The best was probably the fried oysters.  The panko battered fried oysters with aioli sauce melts in your mouth and plenty to go around until satisfaction for only $8!  We celebrated our last day in Seattle also with a cabbage salad, cured salmon, salmon roe with asparagus and to top off our meal, a creamy panna cotta with a hint of lemon zest and berry.  Walrus and the Carpenter is a young, up and coming restaurant that has already received top reviews from New York Times to Bon Appetit.  I can see what the buzz is all about and it’s definitely worth traveling to Seattle for and solely for.

sf_seattle_van_20133photos taken with instagram by iLuvpotato © 2013

2.28.2013 Seattle, WA to Vancouver BC, Canada (Day 6):  O Canada!  I think taking the train is underrated and not enough travelers take advantage of this experience in seeing America.  It’s a beautiful scenic route on the Pacific Northwest on the Amtrak from Seattle, WA to Vancouver BC, Canada and rather inexpensive ($28 one way per person).  The train ride was 4 hours long.  It was a perfect way to gather thoughts.  We arrived to Vancouver around noon with rain. There was apparently a tropical storm while we were there called Pineapple Express which the meteorologist explained it was a warm air mass from Hawaii.  Not far from our hotel was a strip of shops and many were Japanese and Korean restaurants.  We had lunch at Ramen Jinya.  A bowl of ramen was spot on and perfect for the Vancouver kind of weather.  We took a stroll at Stanley Park but it was raining quite heavy and decided to spend most of the afternoon in the hotel which was nice to wind down and laid in bed and watch television.  I later caught a PBS series called The Mind of a Chef.  It is food series narrated by Anthony Bourdain in the footsteps of Chef David Chang from the Momofuku restaurant empire.  It’s a travel, eating and cooking show and both entertaining and educational.  That evening, we had Korean food at Red Chicken.    As you can tell, we’re taking the Asian cuisine route in Vancouver!

3.1.2013 Vancouver BC, Canada (Day 7):  The beauty of the cities in the west coast is the proximity to the great outdoors.  Within 30 minutes on a public transportation it literally transports you to the wilderness.  We visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge which is a national park surrounded by acres of evergreen from red cedar wood to douglas fir trees to ferns dating back to more than 1300 years old!  Incredible.  It’s an oasis for urbanites.  While we visited, there were downpours and rained especially hard because we were more north; after all it is a rain forest.  Despite the weather the rain, mist and fog created a beautiful also a mysterious visual landscape, it smelled absolutely wonderful, clean crisp oxygen exert from the trees and the rain drops like soothing music to my ears.  I can spend all day at the Capilano Suspension Bridge park and by far one of my favorite destination of the trip.

That evening, we had dinner plans at Dinesty Chinese with my sister’s friends from her study abroad in Beijing, China.  It has been 10 years ever since and two of them coincidentally resides in Vancouver.  Dinesty Chinese, a Shanghai restaurant and is known for their soup dumplings. It was a fairly new restaurant on the block and pretty high tech, taking orders on ipod, waiters communicating with each other on blue tooths.  I was most impressed with their menu design.  All the dishes had a photograph of the dish with English and Chinese translation and icons of the type of meat or vegetarian friendly.  The food reflects the authenticity for flavors, technique and creativity.  It was the first time I probably had such delicate thin soup dumpling skins and still maintain the broth innards which is a technique that is hard to achieve. The Chinese food in New York City has got to step it up!  I agree with Chef Hung Huynh in a recent interview with Serious Eats. We are spoiled with the $1 dumplings in New York City.

3.2.2013 Vancouver BC, Canada (Day 8): Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic and we were hoping to visit Whistler and ride the gondola to see the wintery scenery, except it was just our luck that our Greyhound bus had broke down on the middle of our journey or the bus driver was playing hookie. All for nothing waking up at 4am!  Nonetheless, we took it easy and had brunch at Two Chefs and a Table in a nice part of town known as, Gastown.  I was craving for fried chicken and luckily there was chicken and waffles on the menu.  The waffles was a home run, it reminded me of Hong Kong hot cakes and the pecans added a nice nutty and sweet touch.  The maple syrup was…well, we are in country of the maple leaf.  Although, I still prefer my Pies n’ Thighs fried chicken or deep south New Orleans fried chicken.  Later, we spent the afternoon on Granville Island for some public market reference.  Granville Island is a combination of artist studio space, artisans hand made crafts from yarn, soap to textiles and a public market food hall.  It was an urban redevelopment project and have done a good job in preserving the facade and feel of an industrial mill but made to be a destination for shoppers and visitors from all over.  On our way to the Oakwood Canadian Bistro for our last meal of the trip, a peak of sun came through the clouds.   The sky cleared in beautiful shades of colors and finally we were able to see Vancouver.  There was the landscape with the snow cap mountains on the peak, the tall evergreens follow by the Vancouver cityscape.  Where we were viewing this magnificent view was on a beach.  I cannot think of any other cities in the world where the landscape and the cityscape juxtapose and for this reason is probably what makes Vancouver such a unique city and so desirable to live in.

3.3.2013  Flight back to New York City (Day 9)  After a whirlwind west coast dining tour, there is always something magical about home cook meals and a simple bowl of white rice and being back in New York City.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting the west coast and America & Canada!   I’ve always dreamed about moving out there and according to plans which have been derailed I should have moved to San Francisco at 25.  The trip assured me that it is possible, maybe… maybe, in six months or in a year from now, I will be writing in the pacific time zone?  A thought to be continued…