Saturday, May 3, 2014

Some More Vancouver Favourite Spots

With the improvement to my husband's health occurring so quickly, we were able to do several things yesterday that we had been hoping to do.  Mid morning we were able to meet our son at his favourite coffee bar, Elysia on the corner of Ash and West Broadway, where we survived the booming music, met the knowledgeable barista Christabel, and enjoyed the most delicious coffee we have tried in a long time.  Coffee and food pairings are as important as wine and food pairings, so it was fascinating how the same coffee paired first with a dill cheese muffin and then with a cranberry almond cake tasted like 2 different drinks.  Free still and sparkling waters were available on tap, which I appreciated.

We were fortunate to find a 2 hour parking meter within a couple of blocks of the area.  After our caffeine extravaganza we took a walk around several blocks, ending up at St. Andrew's church supplies where we picked up a gift for an about to be ordained friend.  The weather was perfect once again.  My son was amazed by the transformation in his father and the energy he possessed compared to our first few days here.  He has never before been present for "The Miracle of Vitamin B12".

By the time we completed our walking tour it was time for a very late brunch on our way to Regent College book store.  We decided to try somewhere we hadn't been before and our son decided on Hitoe Sushi...with the plethora of sushi establishments in such a large city, so many of them very poor quality and not operated by Japanese proprietors and staff, it is usually better to stick with what you know, but we were feeling confident and brave so....  It was a true treat.  The son chose wisely.  The sushi was average/good, about as good as it can be in a country without access to the particular types of fresh fish and vegetables available in Japan, but the little extra touches were what made it delicious.  Tiny bits of orange and persimmon decorated our plates.  The plating was truly Japanese: lovely dishes and trails of sesame seeds decorating the seaweed and rice noodle salad, light sauces and sprouts topping sashimi tuna that literally melted in my mouth, chicken teriyaki that had a light sauce so perfect it had to be made in the restaurant...none of that thick, gloppy, commercial sauce I can't abide and that is full of sodium and sugar I can't have.  The portion sizes were perfect as well.  I gave a few pieces of my sushi roll to my guys to keep myself from overdosing on rice carbs but was able to eat everything else.

We headed next to the Regent College book store and spent a very happy hour trolling the bookshelves.  The end of term is a great time to shop there.  The textbooks and popular book fads of the previous school term are on clearance pricing to make room for next term's new stock.  Nearly every book in the store was on sale for at least 20% off.  Our son found a wonderful book talking about art and space (euclidian space/non-euclidian space), my husband restrained himself admirably and bought only 2 volumes, then felt rewarded when he discovered our bill was sufficiently high that he qualified for one free book! haha  My son and husband in a book store are like two little boys in a candy shoppe.  I found a few things for myself as well, so we left the store clutching our bags of books and greeting cards and felt quite proud of ourselves for finding such deals.

It was mid afternoon at this point; time for a relaxing stroll through Van Dusen Gardens.  My son has a membership there and he goes there to relax and meditate on creation on a regular basis.  The rhododendron trees are in full bloom right now and are breathtaking in the array of colours they sport.  Again, we were so happy to be there before summer tourist season.  The one tour bus filled with folk that did arrive did not mean the gardens were crowded.  On a comparative basis they were rather deserted and we ambled, mosied and sloughed our way along the many pathways without seeing many other people.  It was lovely.  Everything in that garden appears to have been naturally seeded and only the identifying tags give away the fact that gardeners deliberately arranged each flower, tree and bush.  There are no forced flowerings to appeal to the eye.  Whatever flowering plants flower naturally at any given time of year are the only ones in bloom.  My parents would not enjoy this garden as much as the riotously coloured and flowered Butchart Gardens.  At Van Dusen some of the dandelions and other weedy plants are allowed to grow and thrive, keeping the natural look to the place.  There are bee hives at one side of the gardens and we enjoyed watching some very plump bees pollinating the various plants.  They are as round as they are long...perfect circles of buzzing, fuzzy, winged pollen planters.  We wandered happily for over an hour, then sat on a bench in the sunshine for a rest before dinner.  A highlight of our visit was a pair of large herons soaring overhead, giving the place a bit of a pre-historic feel as they flew about the place.  There was a family of ducks that gave us the giggles when one wee duckling insisted on forging his own path every so often before waddling back to the family group as fast as his spindly legs would take him when he would scare himself with his own attempts at bravely facing up to various large flowers along the pathway.  A brief, light rain sent us scrabbling for cover under a large Japanese maple tree, but it brightened up the place with a gleaming sheen of moisture on all the leaves.

At last it was time to head over to the culinary event of our trip: dinner at The Acorn on Main.  The Acorn is a vegetarian's delight.  Our son's friend Shira is the proprietor and she has cornered the market on vegetarian fare.  For a city so filled with vegans it seems there are few truly exceptional restaurants to accommodate them, but The Acorn is fantastic.  We arrived a few minutes prior to opening and there was all ready a lineup outside the front doors.  We were fortunate enough to be seated right at the open window to Main and for me it was the perfect balance between dining al fresco while not having to battle the bugs for my meal.  The interior of the restaurant was designed by another friend of my son's and the colours were serene green and acorn brown, classy and classic without being boring.  The wooden bench seat  backs are perfectly sloped so as not to need any cushions or upholstery for comfort.  It is a hopping place, loud, fun and filled with people of all ages.

The Acorn destroys the stereotypical notion we non-vegans sometimes have of vegetarian establishments.  Here there are no pale faced willowy servers dressed in moth eaten sweaters, ankle length cotton skirts and sporting orthopedic sandals on their feet.  Our servers were fashion plates, healthy to look at, wonderful advertisements for the food they delivered to our table.  Once again we were fortunate to have beautiful plating that had us drooling before setting our forks and spoons to work.  There were no plates of half baked navy beans sprinkled with bean sprouts anywhere in sight.

We ordered 3 dishes to share:  halloumi, kale salad and asparagus pasta.  O is a good thing we shared all 3 dishes.  The portion sizes were certainly large enough to share and the foods were very rich and filling.  The halloumi, cheese sticks made on site and fried in a thin, tasty batter, arrived atop a large spinach cake, atop fresh green peas, with a large smear of mint yogourt for dipping filling the rest of the plate.  That dish alone was nearly sufficient to fill the 3 of us as it was so rich and delicious, but there were 2 more dishes on the way.  The asparagus pasta was fantastic: small chunks of pasta in pureed spinach with little else in the way of herbs or spices and long spears of asparagus over the top,  it was simple and delicious.  The kale salad had a light creamy dressing, shaved strips of parmesan cheese and a combination of tofu and bread croutons that were crispy without being tooth breakingly hard.  Each table gets a bottle of sparkling water and there is a bar with a goodly assortment of alcoholic beverages.  I enjoyed the sparkling water that is carbonated on site and has a good zing to it.

As our dining came to an end we were hit with the realization that we have only one more day to enjoy this wonderful city before it is time to fly home and resume real life. Sigh.....   We dropped our son off at his studio so he could paint for a few hours and had a rather quiet drive back to our hotel.  One more day to see The Son and have a few more treats before going back to home and work.  My husband begins work as soon as we land  back on the prairies, with hospital visits and trying to bring some encouragement to ailing parishioners who are having a very difficult time.  It will be very good to see them even though it means our delightful time of escape is at an end.

So, our finances are drained for the year, summer holidays will be rather subdued and close to home. No regrets about it.  This has been a perfect time to be in Vancouver: so few crowds, decent levels of traffic to contend with, pre-summer pricing, excellent weather, time with our son before he experiences what has become an annual summer burn out from his intense university programme.  Each year he has been impatient to return to school, but this year he can't wait for it to be over so he can move on to whatever new adventures await him.  The initial 2 drafts of his thesis have been submitted and adjudicated, his final paintings for end of school exhibition are well on the way to being completed, his suite is sublet for the summer, paperwork for student loans and visas sent in to the appropriate government departments on both sides of the border and he is watching the slowly rising Canadian dollar with hope that it may be a continuing trend as his final tuition bill comes due. He has plans for the fall and winter that he hopes can come to fruition.  It is a stressful but happy time for him.

Well, since this is our last day here I had better get dressed and make the best of it.  My husband and son are going to repair my son's bicycle that was left outside rusting in the winter's rains while my son battled 2 months of pneumonia and I am going to take a final walk down to the beach, hopefully beating the arrival of the rains that are settling in for the next few days.  When I checked the temperatures at home I started to shiver just looking at the forecast.  Spring is so late arriving this year on the prairies I am wondering if our farmers will even get much of a crop planted.  I suppose everyone will have to switch over to a crop that can be harvested after a very short growing season.

Hope everyone reading this has had as wonderful a week as I have had.  Besides all the fun, it has been good to realize we have to make some very specific changes in how we are living our lives at home so that we can keep our health and emotions moving in a better direction.  Looking forward to what we can come up with.

Thanking God today for this very meaningful and fun time away.

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