Tastes Like Summer

July 20, 2011

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The Waldorf Hotel is located on an interesting, if slightly isolated, stretch of East Hastings Street near industrial docklands a few blocks to the north,

The massive British Columbia Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. building (Rogers Sugar)

Called the worst building in Vancouver by the Vancouver Sun in 1975 because of the “sheer force of its industrial revolution ugliness”

and Commercial Drive a couple of blocks to the east –

a colourful shopping street full of boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and organic markets.

Marlena had to stop in here because of her (secular) fascination with the Virgin Mary.

A friend of Michael’s took us to a place just off Commercial (on Venables) called The Prophouse Cafe.

It’s practically a museum of kitsch decor,

except that everything is for sale (I think)

or for rent for your movie project.

The owner seems to have a fetish for all things panther

such as panther lamps,

but, really, you name it

and you can find it here.

Quite amazing.

I’m out of words.

Also on Venables is Casa Gelato, a place I go every time I’m in Vancouver.

One scoop lavender (green for some reason), one scoop basil & pernod

Never less than 212 flavors of gelato at any time.

Not a problem on the dreary February day we were there – the staff was practically foisting samples on us.

Closer to the hotel, East Hastings Street is a little less exuberant than Commercial Drive. It’s a commercial street populated by the kinds of unremarkable stores and services that working class people use on a daily basis (though some gentrification is starting to creep in).

There are couple of large thrift stores within a few blocks of the Waldorf.

Didn’t find anything here.

At the Value Village, this pair of awkward nature paintings appealed to me (except they were grossly overpriced).

I bought this Coco Joe “lava” letter holder and a couple of cds.

When we asked for a recommendation for lunch nearby, the staff at the hotel suggested The Red Wagon, a few blocks east of Value Village.

Grilled 3-cheese sandwich and tomato soup

An excellent suggestion – everything was fresh, homemade and delicious.

They’ve only been open a few months but already they’re a Vancouver favorite. Not busy when we were there, but apparently that’s an anomaly. Worth waiting for (go for the food, not the decor).

Business card

Near The Red Wagon is a beautiful French bakery called The East Village.

Callebaut chocolte banana cake with marzipan

Oh why didn’t I try one of these?

Sour cherry chocolate truffle tart

Ditto.

Butteriest palmier ever.

More to come

Waldorf! Waldorf! Waldorf!

Papua/New Guinea shield in lobby

With the Chipmunks movie closing down normal activity in the restaurants, Tiki bar, cabaret and club, the hotel was very quiet, especially at night. A good thing, as I’d find out. When the dance club, two floors below my room, reopened on the weekend, the music went straight to my room (the bass, anyway).

Carved wooden mask in hallway

If I’d been counting on a restful night because I had an early morning meeting or was travelling, I’d probably have been pissed. But I was on vacation and didn’t need to get up early, so I watched tv until after the music stopped at 2:30 in the morning. Here’s a helpful hint if you’re going to stay at the Waldorf and value quiet: Ask for room 131 – that’s where my friends M & M stayed and they say the music didn’t bother them (avoid room 125).

Beautiful painting in M & M’s room. Looks like velvet but it’s painted on wood.

This lovely lady was in my room. She creeped out some of my friends (the eyes are a little dead – they don’t have any whites or highlights). I think she’s a beaut. What do you think?

Funky chairs.

More original art.

Each room has vintage (70’s) stereo equipment. Mine had this gorgeous Marantz tuner amp. The sound was great. It’s hooked up to a dual cassette deck with mix tapes made by DJs in the Tiki Bar.

Comfy bed.

Not much of a view. The Waldorf is on East Hastings Street (not the scary druggy part, that’s further west), a few blocks away from the industrial docks (more about that later).

On the weekend there was a vintage clothing sale happening in the hallway right outside my door.

On Friday night the Tiki Bar reopened.

Atomic Al surveys the scene. Behind him is the DJ booth – the sound system is entirely analogue.

Pepino Magico – Tequila, cucumber, lime juice, agave sweetener, chili-salt rim.

Right now there are no classic Tiki bar cocktails on the menu. I was told they’ll be relaunching the bar menu soon with a Mai Tai, a Blue Hawaiian and some other drinks I forget.

Taboo Dan stuck with rum and coke

On Saturday night, M & M and I enjoyed a great meal in the hotel’s Leeteg Room.

Edgar Leeteg quote in restaurant: “My paintings belong in a gin mill, not a museum”

They bake their own bread. It’s wonderful.

Starters. Foreground: Pan Tomaca (crusty bread rubbed with garlic, tomato seeds, olive oil and fleur de sel). Middle: Manchego cheese and Serrano ham. Back: Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician stle octopus).

My main was Fabada Asturiana – a bean stew with bacon, pork shoulder, chorizo and blood sausage. Sort of a Spanish version of cassoulet. I didn’t like the beans much (no bean dish has ever measured up to the cassoulet I had in Spain in 1978) but I loved the meats.

The shining star of the meal was dessert. Marlena had this wonderful Arroz con Leche Quemado (caramelized rice pudding). Michael had a rich, dark molten chocolate cake with ice cream (Fondante de Txocolate).

My dessert was called Torrijas con Quenelle de Queso de Cabra – crsipy spiced cinnamon and red wine soaked bread with a goat cheese cream quenelle. Not so pretty to look at but intensely flavorful.

On Sunday morning we met Pepe le Tiki and Atomic Al for Brunch Mexicana in the cafe.

Heuvos Rancheros with Chorizo

The cafe has a beautiful, spare mid-century look.

After brunch, Marlena and I went downstairs to the Cabaret for “Day For Night,” an eclectic and ambitious Sunday afternoon film series.

This week they were showing a couple of NFB films – Claude Jutra’s charming Rouli-roulant (1965) about young skateboarders, and Don Owen’s feature length The Ernie Game (1967), a depressing film about a young man with mental problems. It’s probably best remembered today for a cameo appearance by Leonard Cohen singing a song at a party.

On Sunday evening before boarding the train back home, we had dinner at Café Nuba (in the same space we had brunch).

Najib’s Special (crispy cauliflower)

My Beef Tenderloin Kebab with pomegranate reduction was cooked perfectly.

I had a great time at the Waldorf, notwithstanding the whole movie thing (they gave me a special deal to compensate for the inconvenience – very generous and unexpected). The staff was wonderful to us, very friendly and endlessly accommodating. I’d stay there again, and I’d say go check out the Tiki Bar, restaurants, special events and gigs and so on, even if  you don’t stay.

Before I left, I asked for some hotel memorabilia with their new logo on it (matchbooks, postcards, etc.). They didn’t have any yet but they managed to find some really old ones for me.

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A vintage postcard showing the three theme rooms back in the day:

The Tahitian Cocktail lounge (top left), which is practically unchanged.

The Hawaiian room (top right) when it was a restaurant. Now it’s the Cabaret. The half moon window at the back houses a stage, the tables have been moved upstairs to the new restaurants, and the huge Hawaiian mural on the wall at the left has been covered with a curtain that can be pulled back.

The Menehune Room (bottom) was a banquet room, now it’s a club (a menehune is a little person, like a leprechaun, of Hawaiian folklore). The thatched ceiling had to be removed because it was a fire hazard. The carved wooden columns have been hidden behind bamboo for their own protection (one of the menehunes lost a nose).

And a vintage swizzle stick.

The figure is the drummer from one of the Leeteg paintings in the Tiki Bar.

Next time: Beyond Waldorf.

My dear friends Michael & Marlena and I went to Vancouver a few weeks ago to get away from this for a while:

We got a great express fare from VIA Rail for the trip there (unfortunately we couldn’t get the same great deal on the way back).

Train #1, “The Canadian” in Jasper Alberta. The Park Car at the end of the train has a bar, a lounge area with complimentary snacks, and a panoramic dome.

I was thrilled when Marlena suggested it because I used to love to take the train back in the day (the 70s and 80s) but I figured I couldn’t afford it anymore. In Western Canada, intercity train travel has become a tourist service – mostly patronized by retirees who have the time and the money for a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. The express fares made the trip quite reasonable – they’re about a quarter of the full price, and in Sleeper Touring class they include all your meals! I paid $207 (plus gst) for a lower berth from Edmonton to Vancouver.

Dining Car

Etched glass panel

Brunch: Potato pancakes with smoked salmon

Dinner: Rack of lamb with blueberry balsamic sauce

I know I sound like a shill for VIA Rail, but they didn’t pay me – I just love the train.

My lower berth in the daytime

It’s the antithesis of flying (I don’t fly, but I’ve been told): Comfy and relaxing, good food (cooked on board), friendly service, lots of room to stretch and walk around, you can take lots of luggage, there’s no invasive body searches, and on and on.

Marlena & Michael’s cabin for two

Michael snoozes in the dome car. That awesome Crown Royal sweater used to belong to a Seagram’s sales rep.

Marlena also has a funky vintage sweater – it celebrates Alberta’s Golden Anniversary in 1955 (50 years as a Canadian province). Most likely hand knit from a pattern.

When we got back on the train after the stop in Jasper there was free champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the park car. Swank! Later that night there was also a complimentary tasting of several local beers.

Cabin for two made up for bed

Lower berth: Chocolates and souvenir postcards.

If you have the time (the trip from Edmonton to Vancouver is about 26 hours), I highly recommend you take the train.

Next: Waldorf!

Tastes like freedom

April 1, 2010

I finished a contract yesterday and for now I’m enjoying unemployment. I slept in, did some chores (a long overdue car wash among them) then hung out at a café (Jojo’s) reading the weeklies.

Manhattan clam chowder full of chunky vegetables & a panino of Parma ham and double smoked Cheddar followed by

a blueberry pecan cinnamon bun and an Americano. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m overdue for my afternoon nap.

Foodtastic Friday

March 6, 2010

On Friday I had two excellent dining experiences in the same day at restaurants I never heard of before this week.

The first was The 3 Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in a suburban strip mall in south Edmonton.

It was a semi-irregular meeting of “secret lunch club” – a group of  co-workers who will now assassinate me when I least expect it for revealing the existence of our little cabal (I don’t suppose they care that I’ve gone to the trouble of obscuring their identities in these pictures).

Friendly waiter.

Festive décor.

Music videos provide the soundtrack.

Mexican soda pop. Mmmm, Jamaica!

Delicious homemade tortilla chips.

We arrived slightly in advance of the lunch crush – students from the school across the street thronging the takeout counter for “Mariachi Donairs”

which aren’t Mexican at all except for the name.

I had deep fried empanadas stuffed with ground beef, which came with refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, and a green salad in place of the usual rice (which wouldn’t ready for a while).

J- had toastadas

M- had pork tacos

Can’t remember the name of the dish S- had. Looks like Mexican poutine, doesn’t it?

E. – a vegetarian – asked the waiter to surprise her. She was surprised, but not in a good way, by the browness of everything on her plate – beans, tortillas (filled with more beans I think?) topped with molé, tortilla chips. She added a little green to the palette by ordering sides of guacamole and salsa verde.

For dessert we all shared a Monte Crusto – strips of deep fried flour tortillas drizzled with caramel, served with ice cream topped with whipped cream. Heaven.

Best Mexican food I’ve had in yonks. I’ll be back.

The second was this newly opened Japanese restaurant in the recently refurbished Garneau Theatre block (restored to something very near its orginal 1940 look).

Don’t be alarmed by the porta-potty out front – it should be gone soon.

Kabuki has only been opened 2 days and they still have a few kinks to iron out – for instance, they didn’t have any booze yet.

It’s a lovely, intimate space dominated by a (fake) cherry tree growing up through a large table.

Spider roll (softshell crab).

Assorted sashimi.

Coho (?) salmon sashimi.

I see this restaurant becoming very popular once word gets around, which is going to mean lineups (it’s fairly small).

More good news – the space formerly occupied by Pharo’s Pizza (left) is going to be Transcend‘s second location. The original 1940’s tenant was a coffee shop called Joan’s.

Finally,

back to Bachelor Bastion for Mai Tais. Jessica is just about the only person I know who will cop to liking maraschino cherries.

Did I say “like”? “Greedily wolf down” is more accurate.

Thrift Item of the Moment

January 31, 2010

Novelty oversize brandy snifter

So many uses. Pefect for retro desserts:

Ice cream balls with creme de menthe.

Multistripe Delight:

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Some helpful hints for making Multistripe Delight: Use a smaller large novelty snifter than this one unless you and your friends looove jello. I’d also recommend you set it at a shallower angle. When I put the snifter upright, the jello came away from sides and shifted ever so slowly over the course of the evening, trying to level itself out (you might also reduce the amount of water in the recipe to make it firmer).

I used the six colours of the rainbow, our good friend Roy G. Biv (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet).

Gayest dessert ever.

Cook Book Report

July 17, 2009

ashercover

brazil

catbed

eggnchips

fish

mermaidcake

violin

Jane Asher’s Complete Book of Cake Decorating Ideas

Jane Asher was an icon of London in the swinging 60’s – appearing in movies like  Alfie (the original, with Michael Caine),  dating Paul McCartney (they were engaged apparently), and of course,  she’s the sister of musician Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon. I hadn’t really given her much thought since that time until I started finding her cake books in thrift stores. She’s been acting all along – mostly on stage and television – but she has another career selling rather expensive custom-made cakes and publishing books of her whimsical edible creations. You know I’m a big fan of novelty cakes, especially if they realistically mimic other foods, such as the egg and chips above (made entirely from icing, including the plate). Though out of print, used copies are abundant and cheap on the web, or try your favourite thrift store or the library.

Goosed

May 31, 2009

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I drive by the Red Goose Restaurant every weekday on my way to work. It’s in a small strip mall in the the Hazeldean neighbourhood.

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I’ve had breakfast there a few times in the past. This week I went for lunch.

redgoose06

It’s old school in a cracked red vinyl booth and basement wood paneling greasy spoon way. There’s hardly any of those left in this burg.

redgoose01

The food is old school greasy spoon too. I had a (processed)cheese(frozen)burger

redgoose03

and a piece of (nothomemade)apple pie with ice cream while I read The Sun that the friendly waitperson (an owner, I think) brought with my food. The menu also has some Korean items which I’ll have to try another time.

redgoose05

Curiously, each booth has sheets of scrap paper hanging from hooks. It’s not to write down your order so I have no idea what they’re for (to send love notes to other patrons?)

I’m glad the Red Goose exists, and I’ll be back (but not necessarily because of the food).

The Pie of Life

April 29, 2009

So this pie I bought at a church rummage sale this weekend…

saskpie01

was mislabeled.  It’s not apple at all, as I found when I cut into it last night…

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but is, in fact, a homemade Saskatoon pie. Sweet! Like buying an amateur painting at a garage sale and discovering it’s hiding a Monet.