Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vancouver Getaway- Granville Island, Capilano Suspension Bridge & Foodie Fun

Above- Fresh sunflowers at Granville Island Market

Vancouver is close enough for a quick weekend away. However, the journey isn’t always easy if it’s a Friday, in the Summer, along with the rest of hordes crossing into the Great White North.  A trip that should be under 3 hours, took over 4 recently because of an hour long border crossing.Maybe a 4 hour drive seems extreme for a couple of dinners and a day and half of fun?  Well, not if you plan it right and embrace just the right combination of sightseeing and relaxation.
We like to stay near Stanley Park, as there is so much to do there, and it’s such a visually beautiful part of the city, with views of the bay, the bridge, and Grouse Mountain looming in the distance.  The Westin Bayshore is a great hotel with easy access to walking & biking trails in Stanley Park, or waterfront walks towards Gas Town sights and great restaurants, but more about that in a bit.
Our first night was an easy dinner at the Coal Harbor Marina at Cardero’s (a Sequoia restaurant chain).  The food was great, the service amazing and it was fun to see the boats coming and going as we ate outdoors on the deck. A little rain in time for dessert, but undercover of the patio awning, all was good. I'd recommend the salmon, and the calamari too.

Morning brought rain and mist, bringing visibility of the city to about nil.   
Ah well.... it is the NW, or wait a sec, this is Canada, eh?
Is it the Southwest???  
No matter, a little coffee and a light breakfast and then onto Granville Island Market.  If you like farmers markets, specialty shops. artist studios, restaurants and galleries, with some live theater options too, THIS is the place.   We drove to the Island, nestled under the Granville bridge, but you might be able to take a taxi, a bus, a water taxi, or even kayak there.  Very fun.  My advice, go hungry.  Skip breakfast and start tasting testing your way around the food stalls and fruit and produce stands.   
Above- Fresh berries, with more variety than I've seen in a long time.  Golden gooseberries in the middle, 'case you're wondering.

You could buy everything you need here for a fantastic picnic too. I wish I had taken pictures of the fresh bread, and the cured meat stores too. You might arrange your trip to hit Granville Island on your way out of town as you return to the US and buy some goodies for dinner when you arrive home too. If you like Pike Place Market in Seattle, you will love Granville Island too.   


Wonderful specialty items abound...

As well as some pretty common stuff that is pretty special too...

We did a little shopping, a little nibbling and finally ended with lunch at Bridges on the dock outside when the weather cleared. A great place to watch everything water related as you relax..  

LEFT:  A picture of my salmon with caper & tomato salsa and pesto with a kale barley pilaf.  Yum

We were with friends who hadn’t been to Vancouver in a very long time, so we were thinking and acting like tourists to get the biggest amount of fun in our day.  We set off to drive through Stanley Park, over the Lion’s Gate bridge to North Vancouver to visit the Capilano Suspension bridge and take the tram up to Grouse Mountain on the tram, up over 4,000 feet.  The Capilano bridge has been there over 125 years and spans a wide and deep gorge.  Kind of a crazy long swaying bridge (a la Indiana Jones) with about 100 of your best friends.  Ugh.  I have no issue with heights, but I do have a motion thing and an aversion to obnoxious people who like to dally with a death wish.  However, no issue with the crossing and I did make it to the other side.  I’d been over that bridge about 30 years ago, so I was surprised by the changes of the other side of the bridge.  Since we’d paid a very pretty  amount to cross a bridge (try $36.99 each, with 10% AAA discount), I made sure to get the full money’s worth of our adventure.  Lots of trails along the gorge on wooden walk ways,plus more mini suspension bridges from tree house to platform in the tree tops high above the trails.  Very fun, and exciting too, we even logged walking about 1.5 miles in the trails.  A kitschy gift shop, another “sky” walk along the cliff of the gorge and we were through.
Just up the road, about another 2 miles is the base of Grouse Mountain where you can catch the tram to the top.  As the mountain was still completely socked into the clouds and mist, we elected to save this for another day.  My advice, if the weather is good, try to do both in one day.  The views are spectacular from the top and there are more trails for your to adventure on too.  Bring a coat, it’s a lot cooler when you ascend over 4,000 feet, even from a sunny hot day below.

Back to the hotel for a rest (okay it was a NAP) and then to decide on dinner plans.   
We “yelped” a couple of places and decided on two, Salt Tasting Room (in Blood Alley in Gas Town) for some appetizers of meats, cheeses and wine pairings and Tuc Craft Restaurant, just a couple of blocks away for a 9pm dinner reservation... as it was the only thing we could get.



First of all, the wine room in the "Salt Cellar".  Lots of great wines from all over the world, where they will pair them with the cheeses and/or meats and the condiments you have chosen.  3 2oz wines for $15, isn't the biggest bargain, but the FUN factor is there.


Choose three cheeses, and pair it with three condiments.  
What fun!
Easier than it sounds, however the wait staff is awesome and patient and makes great recommendations. See below for what we got...


From left to right:
Hot Osmary and piperons peppers

Ciocco arancia (orange & chocolate salami) was WOW with the Basque olives

Hickory salami and Picalilli relish (pickled veggies with mustard)
From left to right:
St Andre triple cream brie with honey (our favorite)

Midnight Moon with Mostarda (perserved fruit in a mustard flavored syrup- really nice)

Avonlea Cheddar with hazelnuts



Here's our wine flights too, you can pick red, whites, or a mixture:



I wish I had better pictures of Tuc Craft Restaurant however, it was late, and we were enjoying ourselves TOO MUCH. 
The two things I recommend?  

Deep Fried Soft-boiled eggs with bacon... $3 for an egg, worth twice the price.  Next time I'm going back for brunch and have TWO of these.

Not a great photo, but Pork cooked Two Ways was wonderful and I think about $20 for the entree.  Perfectly cooked, tender pork chop with pork belly deep fried into cubes, served with Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes and zucchini perfectly cooked. Awesome.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grilled Salmon Kebabs with Lemon

Pretty, tasty, bright and healthy too.
 
I'm not ashamed to admit it, I do like the convienence of frozen salmon from Costco. 
I know, I know... it's farmed, however it is really good, and always easy to have on hand to make a quick weeknight dinner.
I usually take out the fillets in the morning before and put them in the fridge to thaw slowly.  However, they don't always thaw all the way, so this technique is a great way to use it.
Partially frozen salmon is way easier to cut into cubes than fresh salmon, but it would still work if you only have fresh salmon.  Poor thing.
If you're not convinced about the taste of the Costco salmon, here's an article from the Washington Post about a blind taste testing that might.


Serves 2
Ingredients

2 frozen salmon fillets, partially thawed
1 1/2 lemon, 1/2 juiced, 1 sliced thinly in about 20 thin slices
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
Salt & pepper

Cut the partially frozen salmon fillets into uniform cubes, I got about 10-12 cubes from each fillet by cutting them in half length wise then into cubes.Add the salmon cubes to a ziploc bag or bowl and add the lemon juice, the olive oil, minced parsley and add salt and pepper.  Marinate salmon cubes for about 30 minutes.

Slice the other lemon into thin slices, I got about 20 slices from one large lemon. 

Using skewers (best if soaked in water for a couple minutes to reduce burning on the grill) thread one salmon chunk, one folded over lemon slice, alternating until your skewer is full.  I got four skewers from my two salmon fillets.

Over a medium hot grill, cook the skewers about 5-6 minutes, turning the skewer over about half way.  It's easy to see the salmon is cooked as you will see a little white sweat appear.  
Serve at once, or they taste great chilled and eaten cold too.