Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Brother is Watching You

Last night I had the great pleasure (and terror!) of attending a performance of Andy Thompson's new stage version of George Orwell's 1984 at the Cultch. It's billed as a multimedia adaptation, and it's a joint production of The Virtual Stage and Langara College's highly regarded Studio 58 program. E and I were blown away by the script, acting, and production values alike. I'm no theatre expert, but in my humble opinion, this performance was head and shoulders above the star-studded production I saw on Broadway a couple weeks ago. Seriously. You should go. (A few) tickets are still available here. And now I have to go read the book, because I'm ashamed to admit I have yet to do so!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The eastward migration continues

Something exciting is happening today, though I am so sleep deprived that I can't muster much outward enthusiasm. But anyway...everyone's favourite nurse/physicist team is moving to East Van! J has lived here before, but it's a first for A. I'm thrilled to have them closer, if not so much for the heavy lifting I will be helping with tonight. With this post I officially welcome you two into the East Van fold. I trust that you both will find much that pleases you. Also, I will try not to break any of your things tonight, though my apartment has already suffered one casualty this morning. It's going to be a long day...

Friday, March 25, 2011

My very favourite nightspot in Vancouver, and beyond

It’s no surprise that a single girl in Vancouver with a mortgage and a costly commute isn’t left with much in the way of disposable income. My disposable income, such as it is, is consistently funneled to two of my best friends (besides A&E): my aging dog and The Diamond.

I try to stay away for stretches here and there, so they don’t get tired of me hanging around, but the place exerts some sort of magnetic pull. Owing to my recent travels, it has indeed been a while, but a shortly upcoming visit is written in stone on my Google calendar!

When I describe the Diamond to friends, I often use the phrase “wonderland of beauty.” Truly everything is beautiful here: the staff, the filament bulbs, the stag's head chandelier, the exposed brick walls, the view of Maple Tree Square from the windows (especially when it snows!), the craft cocktails, and even the exquisite vintage glassware. Happily, it's an old-timey and warm type of beauty that was obviously not conceived in a Toronto boardroom, unlike the contrived corporate esthetic of certain other places. It’s just so easy to lose yourself here, and I’m always eager to show it off to someone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of an evening at the Diamond.

I’ve never been here for an actual dinner, since the Asian fusion concept is more small plates than anything, and the drinks are so strong that it’s unwise to go on an empty stomach. That being said, what I’ve nibbled on while lingering over cocktails has always been wonderful: olives, nuts, gyoza, subs, and panna cotta. The drink prices run high ($10-12), but we're not talking watered down rum and cokes. The booze forward cocktails are nonetheless so eminently drinkable that it took E making us journalists at our own New Year's Eve pre-party for us to realize just why we often end up unexpectedly blitzed at the Diamond.

A small selection of beer is available, but as I once unwittingly asked someone who turned out to be Mark Brand, "How can you drink something like that in a place like this?" PBR has its charms, I'm sure, but I remain immune to them.

The service is such that I felt like a regular on my very first visit, and by this point, I actually feel among friends. Impeccably dressed, attractive, sociable, and skilled friends who make consistently incredible cocktails from memory, (I'm talking to you, Donnelly Pub Group), and don’t tease me (much) when I’ve had a few too many. What more could a single girl ask for?

The Diamond on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back in Lotusland

Well, we arrived home bright and early on Monday morning. I've had a couple days to recover and now feel up to posting about my trip, bootcamp this morning notwithstanding!

It was a jam packed week, but we managed to spend some time relaxing in our gigantic hotel suite. Thanks for the mysterious upgrade, Salisbury Hotel!

I didn't avoid shopping entirely, but A&E held me back from doing any serious damage at Century 21. I did spend a glorious sunny morning checking out Park Slope in Brooklyn, picking up some sweet vintage deals (hello $35 Frye boots!) at Beacon's Closet, and a handknit scarf at Flirt.

Of course, we ate a wonderfully diverse array of cuisines, including Venetian at Osteria Laguna, wine and cheese at the Drunken Horse, and Persian at Persepolis. Modern American cuisine was well represented by The Red Cat, Stonehome, and 508, and those onion rings at the Heights Cafe can't be beat.

We added a few things (like MoMA) to our original itinerary, but most notable was riding our rental bikes through Central Park and Harlem, which was one of the highlights of my life. I still haven't made it to the Tenement Museum, but perhaps the third time will be the charm!

Our raison d'being there was for E to compete in her fifth straight American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. She made us very proud by placing 34th overall (out of 680!!!), and sweeping the foreign division handily.

All in all, a truly memorable vacation with two of my very favourite people in the entire world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Taking a bite

Tonight I'm heading to New York City for a girls' week with my two besties, A&E. We'll be doing lots of eating and sightseeing, of course, and if I learned anything from last month's trip to Orlando, the most you should probably expect is a name-dropping post upon my return.

We've got big plans, including the Museum of Sex, the Museum of Natural History, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and That Championship Season, for starters. Then there's what may well be the pièce de résistance of our visit: the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and the partying that is sure to ensue.

With the support of my non-shopping friends, I will try to resist the lure of Century 21. The plan is to spend all the money I would have spent shopping at eateries like Eataly and The Red Rooster, and, in my case anyway, copious numbers of black and whites. I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Escaping the cold

I've been to Havana several times now, most recently for a lovely dinner on Friday night. I have a very happy memory of mojitos and guacamole with an old friend on their patio during one of those perfect Vancouver summer days last year. This is definitely an experience I hope to repeat this summer.

The other night, we braved a pitcher of the Champagne sangria, which wasn't as boozy as I feared (hoped?), but was nonetheless delicious. Guacamole with corn and the best chips I've had anywhere kicked off our meal. I opted for the tuna tacos, which I've had before. I don't remember the tortillas being so big last time, and they were folded in quarters with the tuna on top, which was sort of awkward to eat. If a die-hard bread lover like me thinks there's a bit too much of the accompanying carb in a dish, it probably means there's room to cut back. The tuna was as perfect as ever. My dining companion's nicely flavoured ropa vieja had a great texture and arrived in an ample portion size. The chocolate cheesecake was a wonderful finish to an all-around great meal. The website says the restaurant is inspired by the "faded glory of Old Havana," and as far as I can tell, they nailed it, atmosphere-wise. It was easy to pretend we were someplace much warmer than drizzly Vancouver, if only for a few glorious hours.

Havana Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Urban Fitness Movement

A couple of months ago a friend sent me one of those daily deal links to a bootcamp package from Urban Fitness Movement that was too good to resist: 15 classes for $20! This morning my decision to partake was brought to bear, and in the cold rainy non-light of 6 am, the whole thing seemed very resistable indeed. I perservered, however, and made it through (sort of) my first class, which involved testing like a timed obstacle course and how many reps we could do of certain exercises. I set myself a lofty goal, (do not throw up), and was pleased that I reached it. My friend and her husband amazed me with their strength and stamina and I assured myself that I was merely leaving lots of room for improvement as time goes by.

Sadly the picture I've included is not of me, but look how happy she is! Coach Allison Tai (also not pictured) is wonderful. I was sort of worried about being yelled at, but it's not that kind of bootcamp. She is very knowledgeable and encouraging, and in unbelieveable shape after giving birth scant months (weeks?) ago. Very impressive indeed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Prophouse Cafe

After many a time peering forlornly through the windows of the Prophouse Cafe after dark, I finally managed to make it there during opening hours. I was rewarded by a vast selection of loose leaf teas, and a rather delicious chocolate chip shortbread square. The food and drink here are almost secondary, though it certainly helps that both are tasty. The real draw is the setting, amongst thousands of pieces ranging from antique to vintage, from kitsch to quirk and back again. It feels distinctly like settling in for a cuppa at an antique/junk shop, which is very much up my alley. Apparently it was (is?) a functioning prophouse for the film industry, and the owner so enjoyed entertaining in the space that his friends suggested he open it up to the public as an actual cafe. I didn't spend much time exploring this time, but I'll certainly be back to give it another go.

The Prophouse Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dinner and a movie with a twist

Tonight promises to be one of those perfect East Van evenings…dinner at El Pulgarcito and Hey Rosetta! at the Rio Theatre. E and I are big fans of El Pulgarcito, after having eaten there many a time. It’s not much to look at, but the food is delicious and plentiful. I usually get the chicken enchiladas with salsa verde, while E prefers the same dish with less spicy mole sauce. Try the pupusas; you won’t regret it! I’m also madly in love with their horchata, which is available in either the Mexican and Salvadoran styles, both equally creamy and excellent as hangover cures. It’s a two person show, but the service is always cheerful and prompt. I spent some time "studying" in Mexico during university, and this is the type of place that comes as close to an authentic experience as you can get this far north. The prices ($7 or $8 for a main with all the fixings) are also reminiscent of Mexico, which is much appreciated.

I’ve never been to a concert in a movie theatre before, and I am definitely excited to see how it’s done. I’ve read that Hey Rosetta! is one of Canada’s most underrated indie bands, particularly in terms of pure musicianship, but we must be on top of things here, because both their Vancouver shows are sold out!

El Pulgarcito on Urbanspoon