For my 50th post: a photo from the 50th state. I took this shot of Waikiki Beach in December 2008. That’s Diamond Head in the background.
I felt right at home in Waikiki. Hawaii has a large Asian population ― as does Vancouver. And the labyrinth of hotel-filled streets that make up Waikiki is just like Vancouver’s West End ― but with better weather.
Today is Saint Jean Baptiste Day, so I’m posting a photo of the man himself. (Er … make that a photo of a statue of the man himself.)
This is on the Charles Bridge in Prague. That’s the Castle he’s pointing to.
Update: ensemble closed in August 2012.
A number of months ago, my friends took me out to celebrate my turning another year older and (this is debatable) another year wiser. I chose ensemble for the event ― it’s yet another new place on the north-east corner of Thurlow and Smithe in downtown Vancouver that has seen a high turnover of restaurants over the past few years. But, more than a year after its opening in May 2011, it looks like ensemble is here to stay. The executive chef is Dale MacKay, winner of Top Chef Canada Season 1, and one reason, in addition to the reviews I had read, why I chose this particular restaurant. I was curious if the judges at Top Chef Canada knew what they were doing when they gave MacKay the top prize.
Two of my friends were waiting for me when I arrived; we ordered cocktails while we waited for our fourth companion, who finally showed up 45 minutes later. But, despite the busy room, there was absolutely no rushing us on the part of our server. The atmosphere was lively ― a perfect venue for a birthday party and for four boisterous, laughing friends who were in the mood to make a lot of noise.
Like many of Vancouver’s fine dining establishments, ensemble characterizes its food as “Contemporary French meets West Coast.” All of the dishes are tapa-sized, and we opted for the four-course tasting menu with wine pairings.
First up was a Dungeness crab crêpe with pineapple, daikon, and avocado. This appetizer was picture-perfect, served cold, fresh, and crisp, and the pineapple gave it the smallest hint of sweetness. I absolutely loved the wine choice: a bubbly Spanish cava.
The second course was Moroccan spiced black cod, with chick peas, cashews, and black trumpet mushrooms. I’ve never had cod so delicate and light. The black trumpet mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment, as was the 2010 Pinot Gris from Penticton’s Poplar Grove winery.
The meat course was beef shin and fries, with watercress and a carrot purée, paired with the 2011 Enrique “Icque” Foster Malbec. Like the cod before it, the beef was melt-in-the-mouth quality. I’ve often eaten steak et frites in France, but have to admit that I’ve never been overly impressed with French frites. The fries that accompanied the beef shin, on the other hand, were the best any of us had had in a very long time.
To finish: chocolate fondant with hazelnut-nougatine ice cream. Chocolate fondant was a new experience for me and I loved it. Its soft pudding-like centre reminded me of a dessert a long-ago roommate used to make, with the rather ordinary name of Brownie Pudding.
In honour of my birthday, I was also presented with a cone of piping-hot sugar-dusted madeleines, which I gladly shared. For the dessert wine, we returned to the Old World with a glass of Broadbent Madeira.
By the end of the evening, both my appetite and curiosity were sated. Dale MacKay is certainly a Top Chef, and my friends and I were so impressed with our first experience at ensemble that I am sure we will be back.
I chose the quotation for my last post very carefully. Yes, it’s finally happening. For the first time since I started this blog (six months ago today!!), I can write about the anticipation of travel, not merely about a recollection.
The destination: New York.
(And, on the way home: Baltimore, Washington, and Toronto.)
Flights are booked, home exchange is arranged, guide books have been bought. Anticipation is growing.
Stay tuned …
Travel is ninety percent anticipation and ten percent recollection. ― Edward Streeter
Last week, my dad and stepmom were in town, and my stepmom told me she wanted to go for Chinese in Chinatown. That was easy enough to arrange: there are oodles of restaurants in Vancouver’s Chinatown, one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in Canada.
Afterwards I took them past the Millennium Gate. It was built in 2002 and serves as the unofficial entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown, which was declared a National Historic Site in 2010.
There’s an awful lot of history in Chinatown to explore and to write about. For now, I’ll leave you with this photo of the Millennium Gate, and the promise of more posts to come.
All eyes were on London this past weekend as it celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. I would have loved to have been there in person, being the sap that I am for all things historical, royal, and British.
Here is a photo of the statue of Queen Victoria on the northeast side of the Victoria Memorial that stands in front of Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria is the only other British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, which she did way back in 1897.