Food


I’ve been blessed with two incredibly good days.

Yesterday

First of all, it was my day-off. And I was feeling physically well. It was partly spent at Regent College, where Dot and I registered for a writing course to be taught by one of my favourite contemporary writers. Bought my required texts for the course from the very addictive bookstore there and then took the opportunity to check out the newly renovated and expanded library.

Because thefourthpotato happened to lunch at the University Golf Club nearby, we made plans to meet him in the atrium at Regent. He has come all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun to celebrate the J&J wedding this past weekend. Because he’s only staying for two weeks, we’ve been making plans to meet up whenever possible.

We also looked up Joe, who works in the IT department at Regent. He played host to us by treating us all to coffee and tea at The Well, a coffee shop that shares space with the bookstore. As we leisurely sipped our hot beverages, we amused ourselves and each other by talking piffle.

Afterwards Dot, Derek, and I went down to Spanish Banks for a walk. We walked as far as the concession stand, where we picked up some snacks to tide us over to dinner. Then we made our way to the beach, sat on a log to enjoy the view, and talked more nonsense.

Dot and I had an early dinner with Cat and Yvonne at the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company. Derek came along for the ride and just watched us eat, as he had separate dinner plans. It was my first time there, and I was impressed. The toppings lean towards the gourmet and the crusts are not greasy at all, being made out of flatbread. Because I can’t stand the feeling of grease on my hands, I generally pooh-pooh eating pizza, unless I absolutely have to out of convenience. So I’m happy to know there are options out there for high maintenance people like me.

After dinner, we went to the end-of-the-season Chor Leoni concert held in the Bard on the Beach Mainstage Tent at Vanier Park. It was two and a half hours of good fun and music that I could relive over and over again. I’ve attended a few of their summer concerts over the years, and I notice that the performances have become more choreographed, cheeky, and playful. A very naughty rendition of the panto, “If I Were Not Upon the Stage,” had everyone in stitches. Some special guest appearances: Judith Forst and Dal Richards.

Spent from laughing so hard, Dot and I grabbed a late night snack at a HK cafe where we did some catching up.

So a very satisfying day it was, filled with good friends, books, and music.

I’ll try to write about today tomorrow.

If you want a unique and tasty hot dog experience, you must pay a visit to the Japadog man, who has a stand on the corner of Burrard and Smithe Streets. A. introduced me to the Japadog man a few months ago, and since then, I’ve been going fairly frequently with my co-workers, whenever the weather is good. My favourite menu item is the Oroshi dog, topped with finely shredded daikon.

The hot dogs in NYC were quite disappointing, even at the world famous Nathans and Gray’s Papaya. The hot dogs there were really skinny and too salty for my taste. There wasn’t much substance to them, especially after unwrapping them from the foil and the buns have somewhat shrunk from the steam. The drinks, however, (i.e. the lemonade and papaya juice respectively) were very refreshing though.

Anyway, the hot dogs in Vancouver kick butt. The Japadog man sets the bar, and apparently, according to Jen, there are some amazing hot dogs to be found in the market at Granville Island.

I think thefourthpotato will get a kick out of the Japadog man. We must go when he comes for a visit later on this month.

In addition to live shows and performances, I’ve had no qualms about spending on food during my stay in NYC.

Yesterday, we started our day in Chinatown, where we bought a dozen sponge cakes that my family loves so much. Our NY relatives always bring a box of these amazingly soft treats when they visit Vancouver. They are made in this hole-in-the-wall shop called Kam Hing, on Baxter Street just off Canal Street. The bakery is operated by some Puerto Ricans who can speak and understand Cantonese! A & I wolfed down a couple of these cakes right in front of the shop. Jen was hugely amused by the ferocity with which we ingested them.

Next, we wandered aimlessly into Soho, where many delightful boutiques and various clothing chain stores can be found. We visited Kate’s Paperie, where there was a major moving sale. At John Fluevog, Jen bought a pair of commanding red patent leather open toe steel reinforced heels. A picked up a couple pairs of Campers. I was tempted at the Camper store, but refrained. May go back when I make a second round in Soho with Dot.

For lunch, we ate at Dean and Deluca, a really high end market in the centre of Soho. I was overwhelmed by the assortment of fine goods and delicacies there. Jen introduced me to Fiji water there, and I must say it’s the best bottled water I’ve ever tasted.

Then it was back to shopping. A purchased a leather bag from Bag. The bags are quite fun, stylish, and affordable there, but I wasn’t too keen on the feel and quality of the leather. Call me a leather snob, but as a fan of Coach products, it hard to settle for anything less. I took a nasty spill in front of the store because of an even step and ripped a small hole in the knee of my FAVOURITE jeans. Booooooooo! I guess I’ll have to shop for another pair, perhaps when we go to Woodbury this coming Monday.

Because we had the Itzhak Perlman concert to attend, we decided to have supper back at the apartment. We made a meal of assorted cheese, crackers, pate, and bread, which we acquired from the nearby Whole Foods. Incredibly rich and filling.

The violin concert was mind-blowing. Itzhak Perlman’s virtuosity is absolutely dazzling and wondrous to behold. I forgot that he is crippled by polio, so I was taken aback to see him hobble onto the stage in crutches. The program was quite varied, from romantic to modern pieces, from unknown to popular.

A was curious to check out Serendipity 3 afterwards, so we went to see what the big deal was. It turns out that the famous chocolate frozen hot chocolate is highly overrated and overpriced. It was essentially a chocolate milkshake that is waaaay too sweet. Was glad I went, just to see, but I think I could have better spent the $8.50 elsewhere.

This morning, I indulged in sleeping in, while the girls went up the Empire State Building, which I’ve visited many years ago. They came back for lunch and we finished up leftover cheese and pate before setting out for Greenwich Village.

Enroute to the Village, we stopped briefly in Soho where we checked out a few stores that we missed yesterday (e.g. BCBG, Anthropologie). Also made it to a yarn shop (called Purl) that I discovered through blog surfing.

Our excursion to Greenwich Village was rather disappointing, probably because we didn’t give ourselves enough time to explore the best parts of the neighbourhood. Maybe I can redeem the experience with Dot next week. We tried hot dogs from Papaya Dog and they were totally unremarkable, despite the rave reviews from NYC guidebooks. For a great hot dog, just go to the Granville Island food fair, or the Japadog man on corner of Burrard and Smithe. A & I tried hot dogs from Nathan’s on our surreal visit to Coney Island on Wednesday, and they were also unremarkable. The lemonade in Nathan’s is something else though. It’s the best lemonade ever! I’ll try to post about Coney Island when I find the time. To sum it up quickly, it was like a setting for the end of the world, ghost-town-like, creepy and queer.

Then we split up to do our own thing. A went to get tickets to a show starring David Hyde Pierce, and Jen and I shopped around Rockefeller Centre and parts of Fifth Ave. before our dinner at BLT Fish. We each picked up a dress at Ann Taylor.

I will have to write about my experience at BLT Fish another time, as it is late here and my brain is too tired to try recalling specific details. It was a GREAT fine dining experience, from the food to the service to the ambience.

Later on, we met up with A at the Artisanal Bistro, which is famous for their cheese selection. Jen and I were too full from dinner to eat anymore, so we simply watched and interrogated A as she polished off three unusual cheeses. I just had a glass of red wine, while Jen capped her evening of good eating off with a raspberry sorbet.

Okay, time to hit the sack!

Yesterday was one of the most pleasant days spent in NYC so far. A & I set out mid-morning to walk the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. The weather was perfect for our hour-long meandering over the bridge, sunny with a light warm breeze. The view of the Manhattan skyline was very pleasing. We took plenty of pictures of the views and ourselves as we crossed. Although it wasn’t crowded, there were more people than I expected to see also walking the bridge.

Next we took the subway to Columbus Circle, where we planned to buy food for a picnic lunch at Central Park. Columbus Circle is located at the SE corner of Central Park. Overly enthusiastic and indulgent, we splurged on groceries at Whole Foods that totalled almost to $50. We found a flat rock in Central Park that served as a tabletop and enjoyed an assortment of antipasti, a chicken wrap, some incredibly sweet strawberries, olives, bocconcini cheese, chilled fizzy drinks, a raspberry chocolate tart, and a key lime cheesecake. It was waaaaaaaay too much food. So much so that I didn’t get too upset when I accidentally pushed my cheesecake off the plastic-lid-turned-plate into the ground. A offered some ideas about how to salvage it, but I quickly assessed that I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of it that much, being so full.

Next, we took the subway to the Cloisters, located on the northern tip of Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park. The park is unexpected gem of green space, overlooking the Hudson River and providing relief from the hectic pace of the city. We sauntered up a winding path that lead to the Cloisters, an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring medieval architecture, art and tapestries. Upon arrival, we discovered that we would only have 30 minutes until closing to see the collection, but since we had travelled so far, we decided to go in anyway. The admissions person was kind enough to waive the admission fee.

We are soooo glad we went in. The art and space is breathtakingly awesome. The Cloisters is truly a place of sanctuary. Each room inspires a quiet hush, inviting each passerby to be reverent and attentive. The series of Unicorn Tapestries was particularly impressive, considering the amount of detail involved for such a large work.

After leaving the Cloisters, we lingered at Fort Tryon for a little bit, snacking on icy treats and taking more pictures. Because we had a couple hours to kill before The Drowsy Chaperone began, we returned to the southern end Central Park and walked to Times Square from there.

A & I were looking forward to seeing this musical, written by the same people who created Slings & Arrows, which we are fans of. It wasn’t a packed house, so we got to move up quite a few rows. The show was great, very funny, a mockery of its genre, very Canadian in its humour. We headed right over to the Virgin Records in Times Square to pick up our own copies of the original cast recording. The production is so new in its run still that many of the cast members that we saw perform are on the album.

Right now, I’m writing from the Gramercy apartment that my girlfriends, A & I are renting for the week. We checked in tonight, and are enjoying having our own space immensely. A & I stayed at my aunt’s in Brooklyn for the past couple days, which served as much-needed breathing space from staying in Times Square last week and the trip to Philly. Good to have wholesome Chinese home-cooking too! But it is nice to have one’s own space.

Still waiting for Jen to arrive. There was big thunderstorm tonight, and I suspect that might have caused some delays.

This year’s Wharton Graduate Commencement Ceremony takes place on Mother’s Day. Because of the former, the latter has been an unusual configuration of family members. It’s been a long time since we celebrated Mother’s Day with the complete immediate family. Nor can I recall ever celebrating it with my paternal grandmother in person. So that has been cool.

Just before the afternoon ceremony, we managed to squeeze in brunch at this very hip restaurant called The Continental Midtown. It’s one of the many famed restaurants owned by Stephen Starr and we were lucky to get a table with no reservations. Actually, due to time constraints and not having a reservation, our group had to be split into two tables, one of five and another of two. A & I opted for the smaller table and made up for it by ordering some pretty amazing menu items. A ordered a Tiramisu Waffle while I indulged in a Liquid Chocolate French Toast. Yum yum!

After that, we taxied to the football stadium at Wharton where the ceremony was held. It was a looooooooooooong afternoon. There were many speeches and hundreds of student stage crossings to sit through. Also, we were all wilting under some pretty strong sunshine. Luckily, we had the option over moving into shaded areas of the stadium as the sun moved across the sky. Sitting exposed in the middle of the field, the grads had to suffer through 3 hours of sun while wearing their black gowns and caps.

Post-ceremony was pretty crazy. There were tons of people milling around and the reception area, which was poorly organized, was plugged up to the point of being a fire hazard. After taking photos and such, I was very glad to leave. We took a leisurely stroll back to our living quarters. With sun on my back, breeze on my face, good company at my side, I was very happy and content for an all too brief hour.

Then we got ready for dinner. My sister had made reservations at Roy’s, a Hawaiian fusion restaurant, very trendy and stylish. For the entree, I ordered the Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish with Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette. Yum yum!!

We return to New York tomorrow, where I will stay for approximately another two weeks. A couple of dear friends will be joining me this week, and I’m REALLY looking forward to that. Although I’m having fun, I miss home, especially my own space and my faith community.

Apparently, macaroons are making a comeback in France, according to Lidia. Lidia is my friend who’s studying in the Baking and Pastry Arts Program at VCC and the one who baked a lemon loaf especially for me last summer. A couple of nights ago, she made us a generous heap of chocolate macaroon sandwiches for dessert. Though I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I shamelessly helped myself to four, maybe even five. Which actually meant eight as each pair of macaroons was held together by a thick dollop of chocolate ganache. The filling was moist, warm, slightly melted, and made each bite into the macaroon cookie divine. The puffy crustiness of the macaroon collapses into the filling in such a way that elicits appreciative eating noises and heavenward eye-rolls.

Unbelievably, there were six left over. So Lidia gave them to me to bring to work and share with my colleagues. I passed them out discreetly this morning (since I only had six), and as I returned to my desk, I heard a chorus of “Mmmmmmmmm!” down the length of my department, which gave it all away.

Thanks, Lidia, for an incredible treat!

There is nothing like cradling a sleeping baby to dig oneself out of the dumps, which was what happened last night (reminder to self: I really should go see Children of Men sometime soon). Yesterday after work, I paid a visit to Joe and Christie, who have been enjoying and adjusting to the arrival of baby Caitlyn born exactly a week ago. She is a sweet bundle of joy and almost as round as her big brother Caleb. The newness and innocence of her little being imbued in me some hope that I needed to get out of a slump. Or, maybe babies naturally trigger a hormonally sedating effect in me–either way, she unknowingly set something straight on my outlook on life. I gratefully accept this experience partly as an answer to a prayer in which I called to God for some relief.

Prior to visiting, I had stopped by the T&T near work to pick up some green tea ice cream, which Christie was craving. To my disbelief, the frozen treats section was practically cleared out. The only flavours remaining were durian, coconut, mango swirl, neopolitan … weird and unremarkable stuff. I was so shocked at the diminished supply that I paced up and down the aisle for about 10 minutes, neurotically checking the freezer as if the green tea flavour would magically appear. My reasoning was that maybe I had overlooked some container or misread the label.

Just as I was about to give up and go hit the closest Safeway along the Skytrain route, I noticed a dorky-looking aproned T&T employee standing nearby and so I inquired him about the ice cream. He was surprised to see that there wasn’t any of the green tea flavour left. Then he told me the most wonderful thing: that there should be some in the storage. He went to the back to check and procured a box of Island Farm green tea ice cream. It was not quite the brand I wanted (I wanted Mario’s), but I was pretty happy nonetheless. Beggars can’t be choosers here.

The lesson I learned: always ask someone to check for extra stock in a supermarket! You don’t know for sure that something isn’t there until someone in the know says so.

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