Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cork & Fin

My mom and I decided to check out the Cork & Fin for their $28 Dine Out Vancouver menu. The Cork & Fin usually has a $30 three course prix fixe menu (+$15 for wine pairings), so while it was only slightly cheaper than usual, it’s still a good deal either way. My mom recently had knee surgery so I had asked (through Open Table) to be seated on the main floor. They led us upstairs and my mom decided she could handle the stairs, so we didn’t kick up a fuss. A few minutes after seating us our server rushed over and apologized because he had just seen our original seating request. Since we were already upstairs and loving the view and warmth, we opted to stay put.

We both started with the pomegranate and goat cheese salad and my mom added prawns to hers. The salad was flavourful and we both really enjoyed the unusual touch of pomegranate seeds. The second course of tuna negitoro was just as delicious as it was on my previous visit. Last on the docket was lingcod with tomato ragu for me, and steak for my mom. She enjoyed the flavour of the steak but remarked that it was a bit tough for her liking. My lingcod was wonderfully crisp on the outside, delicately flaked on the inside, and the ragu was a perfect complement to the flavour.

The portions are on the small side (as always with fine dining), but with one basket of crispy bread, we definitely left satisfied (and a bit intoxicated on my part, since I added the VQA wine flight for an extra $14!).

More adventurous seafood lovers than me will also find much to enjoy with the scads of fresh crab, lobster, and oysters on offer. If you’re looking for exquisite West Coast fare at a reasonable price point in a warm atmosphere, this is the place. It would also be a great choice for a romantic dinner for two, though I haven’t had that experience here…yet!

Cork & Fin on Urbanspoon

DTES Delight

This past weekend my mom was visiting from Calgary, and we embarked on an eating out bonanza, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in my life since the last time my parents visited in August. First stop: Acme Café for a cozy dinner on a chilly evening. My mom is one of those out-of-towners (and they are legion) who hear East Vancouver and think Downtown Eastside. In my time living here, I’ve been able to show her that there’s more to East Van than just the DTES, and it was finally time to demonstrate that this particular area has its own charms.

A short walk from our parking spot took us to the Acme Cafe. Much virtual ink has been spilled debating the wisdom and sensitivity of opening a café at this pricepoint in this particular location, but I don’t see any harm in a warm, welcoming and thriving business of any kind. Plus, I don’t think $12 dinner entrees homemade from quality ingredients are stratospherically expensive. Every time I’ve eaten at the Acme, I’ve been among people from all walks of life, which is part of what make East Van (including the DTES) so appealing. I guess it’s outside of some people’s comfort zones, but cookie cutter suburbs are waaaay out of my comfort zone, so there you go.

On this particular night, I overheard one of our fellow diners ask “Cocoa what?” when the server told him the daily crock pot special, which was coq au vin. I’m fairly certain another patron was a local character actor who I keep running across (at the Cultch’s Burlesque New Year’s Eve party, and then again at Canada Screen Casino Jack). It’s a small world, after all. A would-be customer tried to pass a counterfeit twenty, and he too was treated with respect.

But on to the food! I always have a cookie as an appetizer when I come here, simply because they’re so nicely on display and I can’t help myself. This time it was an incredible peanut butter sandwich cookie with chocolate chips.

For the main course, I went out on a limb and tried the High Falutin’ Grilled Cheese with the chicken noodle soup. The sandwich was good, but I think I would have enjoyed the classic grilled cheese more. I kept expecting non-existent turkey, since the High Falutin’ version comes includes some kind of cranberry spread. I usually order the chicken pot pie with salad, which is consistently perfect. My mom loved her shrimp guacamole sandwich with potato chips and broccoli slaw. The real stars of the show here are the desserts. I’ve tried the lemon meringue pie and countless varieties of cookies, but this time we split a slice of key lime pie. It was absolutely delicious: not too sweet, with a golden brown graham crust. Heaven.

Acme Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Canada Screens : A Drummer's Dream

The next Canada Screens event has been announced for Thursday February 3, and tickets are now available. I saw the trailer for this film at the last event, and it looked rather heartwarming, if somewhat ironically slow-paced.

The pre-show entertainment will feature drummer "Jon Morrison." I'm not sure if they mean this John Morrison, or if it's someone else. As an added bonus, there will be an in person Q&A session with the director, John Walker.

Unfortunately, I won't be there this time, because it conflicts with the first week of the new dodgeball season. More to come on that, don't worry!

I love Lucy's

Last Sunday I sidled up to the counter at another eastside diner, appropriately called Lucy’s Eastside Diner. I was meeting a carless friend who lives nearby so while it’s not the most convenient location for me, I can definitely see myself making a repeat visit, perhaps in the middle of the night, since Lucy’s is open 24 hours.

The place is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small, but this only adds to the charm. We received very friendly service that I suspect I can only partially attribute to the server’s obvious crush on my dining companion. The food was yummy, though again I didn’t venture very far off the beaten path (artichoke, mushroom, pepper, and goat cheese omelette). I’d better start being more adventurous lest I bore you with an endless parade of omelette reviews!

The décor is 1950s hipster, which I can really get behind. My very favourite part was the bicycle handlebars mounted like trophy heads on the wall. Very clever.

My only complaint is the lack of depth between the stools and the counter. I’m not exactly working with Gisele-style pins here, and my knees had no place to go. It’s a small quibble though, and one that’s easily solved by sitting at one of the tables. Then again, maybe they’re just keeping it real; surely those midcentury types were shorter on the whole than we are now.

Lucy's Eastside Diner on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Canada Screens

When is a night at the movies more than just a night at the movies? When it's Canada Screens. I used to refer to it as Vancouver's best kept secret, but the cat has long since gotten out of the bag, and these monthly events routinely sell out in advance.

The most recent incarnation was held this past Thursday, as always at District 319, a very discreet, very posh event facility in the heart of the DTES. This go 'round, I brought along a friend who thought we were just plain going to see Casino Jack. Imagine his delight when he realized the tickets come with a complimentary glass of wine, and much, much more!

Canada Screens is a program of First Weekend Club, which aims to promote and raise awareness of the very best in Canadian film. The pre-party for every Canada Screens film offers up a bar (which you're free to patronize beyond that first free glass of vino), live music (this time, courtesy of Jim Byrnes, legendary bluesman), and appetizers (more finger foods than canapes, but still). You view the film itself from your very own red leather club chair. Very often, (perhaps every time?), there's a post film discussion with a cast member or the director either in the flesh or through Skype on the big screen.

All this for only $18 in advance. That's a great deal itself, but they also have gift cards available online or at the door (10 tickets for $100 or 5 for $60), which are almost too good to be true. I'm told the prices are going up a bit very soon, so act quickly to get the very best value.

A quick tip: arrive early and stake out your seats with your coat before hitting the pre-party, otherwise you'll be stuck in the very front row!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jump on the Red Wagon

With the Canucks doing so well these days, the buzz word around town seems to be bandwagon. I'd like to talk about a wagon of a different colour, that is, The Red Wagon. I've been a couple of times, most recently this past Sunday for brunch with a friend/former co-worker and her lovely cousin. It's the brainchild of Brad Miller, late of Au Petit Chavignol, Bistro Pastis, and West.

I arrived first at 11 am, and found myself third in line for a table since the "neighbourhood joint" was jumping. Why, yes, I would love a cup of tea while I wait! What a nice touch from a very friendly server. It is a diner after all, so we didn't have to wait more than 15 minutes for a table. There are also a couple of seats at the counter, which I would love to try out solo or en deux someday soon.

The menu is part standard breakfast fare (such as my perfectly turned out spinach/'shroom/cheese omelette), and part more inspired creations like the pulled pork pancakes with Jack Daniels syrup that my friend ordered. These looked so incredible that I almost abandoned the no-red-meat ship to have a bite (I know, I know, it's the other white meat, but still). G assured me they tasted as good as they looked, and I managed (barely) to take her word for it.

As of this writing, they're still closing daily at 6 pm, but various sources state that dinner is coming soon. I'll certainly be back to check them out once that comes to pass, if not before.

The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Here we go...

Well, it only took a day for me to find an East Van blog I'd overlooked. I've seen their branded merch on lamp posts and torsos around my 'hood, but I didn't realize this was but a piece of a larger pie. From what I can gather, (the website's not super clear in this regard), Welcome to Eastvan is a clothing and gear company with an expanded online presence. The blog seems to support the stuff they're selling, not the other way around, so I don't feel too badly about missing it. At any rate, I'll be checking it out from here on in. Maybe I'll even get myself an apron. The stuff is locally designed (natch) and made (bonus points!), and accordingly a touch pricey.

Interestingly, Mark Brand is listed as one of the owners of the company. He also happens to be an owner of one of my very favourite places in East Van, nay, the world. It won't take long at all for me to blog about that place, so I'll leave it as a teaser for now. Of course you could always spend 0.11 seconds googling Mark Brand Vancouver to narrow down your options.

That's the thing about East Van. The more plugged in I get, the more connections I can draw between the artists, proprietors, and general gadabouts such as myself who call this place home. I hesitate to use the word incestuous for obvious reasons, but golly, is this place ever interconnected! The great thing is, these connections seem more natural and grassroots than they probably are in other urban areas of comparable renown, such as it is.

Until our next...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hello East Van!

Can it be that East Van has no real presence in the blogosphere? Really? Nobody’s devoting their public keystrokes exclusively to this bustling and diverse enclave of arts, culture, food and (it has to be said) hipsters? Yes, it can…well, it was. My fellow East Vanners, I am taking up the torch. My apologies if I’ve overlooked an active local blogger. If that’s the case, I’ll just be adding my voice to the chorus. The more, the merrier, right?

A little history: I moved from Calgary straight to the UBC campus for grad school in the summer of 2005. After a two year stint in Kits (and some experience writing for, I had a somewhat regrettable sojourn in the ‘burbs before returning to this amazing city in October 2009. I live in Grandview-Woodland with my shaggy grey mutt, and I try to eat, shop, drink, and hang out local as much as possible (boo to driving!).

Since my arrival here a little over a year ago five friends have moved within a 5 minute radius. There’s always been something special about East Van, and more and more people are cluing in. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up for debate, but it’s happening, folks.

I’ll be talking up whatever it is I’m buying, eating, drinking or doing in East Van, and wherever said consumption is taking place. No shortage of newsworthy action (good and bad) here either, so you can expect my take on that too. Send me your ideas of places I should check out, and I’ll do my level best to hit them up.