Friday, July 30, 2010

Lolita's and our Lack of Tlayuda

I fiiiiinally dined at the West End's Lolita's this past week, after several years of hearing good things about it and seeing it as I have walked/run along Davie, en route to Stanley Park. My family tried Lolita's older, brash cousin - Me & Julio - last year and I have discovered that I feel the same way about both of Jaison and Lila Gaylie's establishments.

Vancouver doesn't "get" Cal-Mex, let alone authentic Mexican cuisine. The appeal of West Coast Mexican food is its bold flavours, value, and satisfying simplicity. From Whale's Vagina (San Diego) to Blaine, every US city worth its salchicha offers an array of cheap and kickass Mexican restaurants. But nooooo...all you can get upon entering hoighty-toighty, chi-chi Vancouver is designer desayuna and yuppified yerbabuena. Yes, Lolita's has stellar cocktails and beautifully-plated entrees. Yes, Me & Julio's specials are super creative and will start a party in your mouth hole. But this is beside the point because Vancouver needs some Mexican restaurants that are somewhere between a taqueria and a boutique eatery, such as Lolita's.

My foodie pal and I ordered the Plantanos con Creama, the Turkey Tostada, and the Brisket Taquitos. To reiterate, the food created under the Gaylies is always punchy and pretty, so I cannot state that I did not enjoy my meal. I'm just getting sick of enjoying these types of $16 dishes, when what I would really prefer is a $5 tamale or $7 birria like I have had in countless Mexican cantinas and restaurants south of the border. I would definitely go back to Lolita's for a cocktail and those delectable plantains, but I'd probably eat somewhere else along Davie.     

One final thought: would you naturally want to dine at a restaurant owned by a guy named Jaison Gaylie? It's like wanting to listen to the music of a singer-songwriter named KT ("Katie") Tunstall or wanting to read a book by an author named Poppy Z. Brite. I should trust my gut more often, before I fill it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Doesn't Like "Pea-ness"?

Since many of my posts are food related, I just had to share this classic food-television blunder. I've probably seen it over thirty times in the past couple years and it never fails to amuse:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Earl Muldon Snags Order of Canada

Prolific Gitksan artist Earl Muldon has been working as a full-time artist for over 50 years, and he is one of my favourite Northwest Coast Native artists. Having carved innumerable totem poles, created the monumental entrance doors for Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology (with several other renowned Gitksan artists), and lead a restoration project for the Gitanyow (Kitwancool) Hereditary Chiefs, Earl has an endless number of accomplishments under his belt...and he is still creating wonderful works. His pieces can be found in galleries around Vancouver and museums around the world.

His early years were absorbed by wood carving and teaching, at the highly influential and recently defunct 'Ksan School of Northwest Coast Indian Art, but he has been focusing on jewellery for the past decade or so. His work is characterised by traditional Gitksan formline design, flawless technical skill, and playful detail. 

Earl recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award for Aboriginal Art from the provincial government's Achievement Foundation. In June of this year, he also received membership to the exclusive Order or Canada, becoming one of the few Northwest Coast artists to ever receive this award.

*Photo courtesy of Lattimer Gallery

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hastings Park - Friday Night Light Beers

Hastings Park Racetrack, just north of Vancouver's Playland and PNE grounds, can always be counted on for mediocre horse racing, successful Mexican jockeys, expectorating old Asian men, spectacular views of the Coast Mountains, and sweet sweet gambling. While Hastings Park sits cantle to most of North America's racetracks (including Ontario's Woodbine, which just hosted the Queen for the annual Queen's Plate), it definitely has its charms and I enjoy supporting it.

Although Hastings Park has drastically cut-back their number of racing days over the past 10 years (there are only races on three days per week now), the management is trying hard to promote the joys of gambling, and to lure some of the hipsters in from Commercial and Main. Since last summer, races  run on Friday nights - instead of the afternoon - and these seedy soirees come complete with DJ spinning, $3.50 domestic sleeves, and movie nights. For example, they will be showing Top Gun on July 16th, and Beverly Hills Cop on July 23rd. Movies start half an hour after the last race, at about 10:30pm.

While I will likely be skipping these 80s gems, I do hit-up Hastings Park a few times every summer. I have a shameful addiction to hotdogs with grilled onions and $1 Exacta Box bets, and my incessant yearnings for broiled byproduct and cautious wagering are always satiated at Hastings Park. Plus, entrance to the racetrack is always free! You now have no excuses to avoid supporting this aging Vancouver landmark!

Keywords: Alex Dawkins, "Vancouver Event Listings"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Main Street Ping Pong

I miss Ping's. Of course, the co-owners of La Buca and Pied-à-Terre will always produce innovative dishes and perfectly-prepared ingredients at the new Cafeteria, but I believe that the funky Japanese yoshoku of Ping's was better suited to Main Street. Main Street already has restaurants that fit the Cafeteria mould: Grub, Latitude, and Crave. My friend and I really enjoyed our meals, but there were a few flaws that both lost this restaurant a letter grade and will likely dissuade me from returning.

First, the entrees were all one or two dollars overpriced...and the prices of the appies were too close to the prices of the entrees. For example, my duck confit was $16.50 and my starter was $12.50. Second, there was a flaw with each dish that we ordered, which prevented this Cafeteria from being upgraded to bistro or brasserie in my mind. My pal ordered the chicken schnitzel with shredded cabbage, spätzle, and sautéed morels. It was a colourful and comforting dish, but the chicken was dry. Don't get me wrong, it was well seasoned and flavoured, but it was anhydrous. My duck was served with a chorizo-lentil melange and - surprisingly compatible - peeled orange slices, but some of the lentils were hard. Lastly, the draught beer is available at market price, but Cafeteria serves it in a 12oz glass! This isn't even a cheapo North American 16oz pint! This was disappointing.

I must say that the starter/salad we both ordered was a bat mitzvah in my mouth. It was an embellished bacon and eggs, with the bacon wrapped delicately around asparagus cladodes, and a perfectly poached egg placed atop a stack of arugula and grape tomatoes. To confuse my mouth and enrich this awesome saladfast (half breakfast, half salad), the chef placed a small pool of salsa verde on the plate, which went very well with both the asparagus and egg.

Cafeteria is worth trying, but just like Parkside, it likely won't be around for long.
Keywords: La Buca, Pied-a-Terre, Cafeteria Main Street, Alex Dawkins