Sunrise, 8:02 AM, Sunset 4:15 PM and counting (only 4 days until the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year).
I was a little tired from the week, which showed just how out of shape I am when it comes to working. Only 4 of the 5 days and here I am waiting for the first weekend! Thank goodness, when the weekend counted, the sun came out. And boy, was a it a beautiful day today. More about that in a bit. First, about last night: My company had a Christmas party. I only found out about it the morning before, and fortunately was dressed well enough to go there directly from work. I didn’t know that spouses were allowed or I would have had Pam come as well, but only found out too late. I hope there will be a next time, and I’ll have a bit more notice (like a couple months rather than hours!)
In Canada, workers (and bosses) take their holiday parties much more seriously than they do in the US. In the States, I remember some half-hearted attempts at a little party, often for employees only or a pot-luck for employees, spouses and children. This is after the cutbacks from the dot-com crash of the 90’s, and I think we just got used to that level of austerity. In Canada, I think it’s seen as an important perk of employment. Even for the tiny company I’ve just joined, there was a huge spread at a local hotel, with prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, salmon, door prizes, games, and wine or beer (cash bar for other drinks). I actually won one of the (several) drawings, and the prize was a gift certificate at the excellent Canadian hi-tech chain, Futureshop. I was very impressed (and perhaps a little embarrassed. After all, I had only been with the company for 3 days!)
Anyway, that brings us to today. This morning, to be exact. Pam and I took a short trip to Main Street, which is indeed one of the main streets into Vancouver, although it’s a good 2 kilometers or so from us (we took a Broadway bus there to make the trip a bit faster).
Among our stops along Main, we went to the KEA food store, a very ‘crunchy’ organic grocery, which has really good raw peanuts in the shells (we roast them in the oven and the house smells wonderful from the peanut-y aroma). We also visited Urban Source, a fantastic resource for the creative person hopefully lurking in all of us. Urban Source is a sort of scavenger of industrial waste — not the scary, poisonous kind, but the more banal, and potentially useful junk that comes from light manufacturing and the like. Looking for some small dolls heads, cardboard cones and cylinders, silver mylar, glitter, foamcore scraps? This is the place for you! You don’t have to be even that handy or skilled. Sometimes projects can be found-art from the combinations of the above items. On high shelves above much of the stuff (and there’s really no better word to describe what they sell), are toy robots, the skeleton of a wicker basket outfitted so that it looks like an enormous housefly, and other assemblages that look down like in a dare to all below: ‘See how cool I am? Bet you can’t make something this neat!’ That may be true, but the other customers (and there are tons of them) and I accept the challenge. Pam did, too. Nothing involving power tools or welding. A couple of clay tiles and silver mylar will do just fine, thank you.
After that we met Oana and Matt for a walk and eventually dinner at the very unusual and fun restaurant the Liliget Feast House, on Davie Street (not too far from the hotel where Pam and I had stayed a few times before moving into our current place). We hadn’t planned going there, but both Matt and Pam had heard about this restaurant that specializes in First Nation cuisine and had wanted to try it out (and I was certainly interested as well). I had a very tasty Alder-Grilled Venison Chops marinated in Maple Syrup and Vinegar and served with Mashed Russet Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Wild Blueberry Sauce (as the menu describes it). Pam had their Vegetarian Meal, which included Toasted Seaweed (Kelp) on a Wild Rice Medley, Sweet Potato Pie, Spinach Quiche Pie, and the same vegetables. She liked it a lot, and I sampled some of those pies, which were really charming single-serving size tarts. Oana and Matt went for the Lileget Feast Platter for two, which included Alder Grilled Wild Salmon, Halibut, Mussels, Venison Strips, Buffalo Smoky, Duck Breast, Sweet Potatoes with Hazelnuts, Liliget Wild Rice Medley, Vegetables and Wild Blueberry & Dill Sauces. It arrived in a very impressive ‘boat’ with First Nation decorations at each end. I’m very intrigued by this kind of cooking and hope to get some recipes for these dishes or ones similar to them. In some ways, it was very much like the kind of cuisine I used to love in Vermont, where you could really enjoy and appreciate the specialness of the local produce. I’m not a macrobiotic zealot, but I can certainly see the advantage in making the most of your local game, fish, fruits and vegetables, especially if there are lots of them year-round, as they are here in the BC area.
I should add that desert was particularly memorable. It was a sort of syllabub (whipped cream, no wine or sherry though) made with Sopalali berries. What do they taste like? Actually quite bitter, like Angostura Bitters, or tamarind. It was a surprisingly complex tasting finish, and definitely not something for the kids.
After dinner we all took a chilly walk by the north shore of False Creek toward the Burrard Bridge. By chilly, I mean right at about freezing. The night was lit by a huge tree by the beach with Christmas lights all over it, as well as the the lights of the city and ships offshore. I think Matt got some good night photos.
Update: Matt’s pictures came out pretty well, especially of the food at the restaurant.
Also, a very dramatic, if subtle pict of 3 of us in front of that tree: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mussels/74829338/in/photostream/