Don't worry, folks. I'm still sick at home, resting, and taking my antibiotics. I thought this might be a good time to work on my backlog a little.)
(Oh Canada, our home and native land...)
Built on a man-made peninsula in Vancouver's False Creek, Granville Island is a twisting warren of shops, museums, and eateries, and boasts one of the largest farmers markets in North America. An industrial production center during both World Wars, the island was abandoned in the 1960s and used as a dumping ground by city residents. In the 1970s, an ambitious reclamation project was begun, designed to transform the island into a commercial center while preserving a number of the areas historic buildings. It was a success. Since it opening in 1979, Granville Island has served over 8,000 visitors each day (250,000/month) and is a favorite stop with locals and tourists alike.
Whenever Cat and I visit Vancouver, we like to get a late breakfast at Granville Island. We wait until morning traffic is over before leaving our hotel in Richmond. Since most people are at work, parking is never a problem and we get to avoid the crowds.
(Prettiest sardine cans ever.)
On our first day in, if the weather is good, Cat likes to ride the Aquabus around False Creek. Aquabuses are these little, brightly painted boats that make a circle of the entire inlet, stopping at several points to take on or let off passengers. A number of locals use them to get to the island. Cat likes them because the Aquabus captains give silly tours as they pilot their tugs. I like them because they give great views of Yaletown, a modern, high-rise housing development with the highest population density in North America, and second only to Hong Kong in the world.
(Steam table flavors of the world.)
Then, it's off to the food court in the public market for an international blend of mediocrity. I won't lie to you. Most of the food you'll find here is decent at best, and can get downright lousy at times. However, there are tasty gems just waiting to be tried for someone with a little patience and a good eye.
Take these potstickers I picked up at the Gourmet Wok. Everything else they had? Crap of the "deep fry the same meat and toss in a variety of different sauces, then sell as different dishes" kind. But these potstickers...
Thick, chewy, handmade skins fried to a crispy brown on their bottoms and filled with a balanced blend of ground pork, cabbage, and seasoning. I swear, these were some of the best potstickers I'd ever tasted.
(Dumpling, master! Dumpling!)
See? Even this cute doggy thought so. He was tied to the door since doggies aren't allowed in the food court.
(Apple? What apple? *munchmunch*)
However, the food court is just the tip of the dining iceberg. There's much more to see and eat in the sprawling, meandering building that houses the Granville Island public market. For starters, there are produce stands offering a dazzling array of farm-fresh items. I even saw Nopales, which are pretty darn exotic as far north as Canada.
(Free samples are always good.)
Cat's a big fan of the fruit stands. Nothing like a fresh piece of fruit for breakfast, although trying a find a place to wash the fruit is a challenge. We usually just take our chances and eat them as they are.
The real money when you're looking for pleasurable, cheap eats on Granville Island lies in the public market's specialty food stalls. Since most of the stalls are willing to heat, slice, package, or otherwise serve their goods ready for immediate consumption, they transform a simple, if large, farmers market into a Canadian street hawker paradise.
For our flaky pasty needs, Cat and I like to hit up Laurelle's Fine Foods.
Laurelle's Fine Foods
1689 Johnston St., #148
Vancouver, BC V6H 3S2
(Homage to flour and fat.)
They have everything; pot pies, meat pies, quiche, pasties, sausage rolls, salmon rolls, turnovers, etc. I can't resist their siren call. Plus, they'll warm up anything you like in the toaster oven so you can enjoy it nice and hot.
(Innocent little pasty.)
Check out this cute little Cornish pasty. It's about the size of half my fist with a light, flaky crumb. But inside...
It's chock full of ground lamb, peas, carrots, and potatoes in a rich gravy. I've never seen anything like these in California. I wouldn't even know where to start looking.
(Can't eat just one.)
How about these sausage rolls? They look small and harmless, but each one has a core of solid pork sausage wrapped in an airy, delicate pastry crust. It's enough to make my arteries wail in terror.
Writing about food that turns my cardiologist's eyes into dollar signs always makes me think about the Oyama Sausage Company, our one stop shop for cured animal product goodness.
Oyama Sausage Company
1689 Johnston St., #126
Vancouver, BC V6H 3S2
(Meat lover's heaven.)
Just look at that selection. They have every sausage and cured meat product under the sun, including confit and terrines, all artisan crafted by themselves. There are two more cases that I didn't take pictures of. If my friend, Mr. Big, believed in Heaven, he'd want it to look like the counter at the Oyama Sausage Company.
This is what I call our "Starter Pack". Two snack sausages each to nibble at while shopping (Minds out of gutter!), and something new to split. This time, it was the hauswurst.
(Can't be good for me.)
Hauswurst means "house sausage". Check out those listening nodules of fat. You just know when you bite into this thing that it can't be good for you. I could actually feel my pants size changing as I ate it. Thank the gods I only do this once a year.
I'm also partial to their aged cheeses, which aren't made in-house. Sadly, unless I've got help to finish a piece, I can't buy cheese very often. Large pieces and lack of refrigeration in hotel rooms mean it's eat it or toss it.
Their dry-cured, farmer’s hams are great for a bit of do-it-yourself sandwich making, or for a rustic charcuterie platter. These paper thin slices of Holstein ham went down a treat just by themselves.
This stronger Yorkshire ham, on the other hand, was great with the cheese and a spot of bread. A simple, fun, cheap, and absolutely delicious brunch.
(Bring out your bread...)
While we're on the subject of bread, Stuart's Bakery churns out a dazzling array of baked good every morning that's practically inspiring for anyone who kneads dough.
1689 Johnston St., #123
Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9
These are just some of the single-serving breads they have ready for breakfast shoppers. There's so much more to choose from. I honestly can't remember ever asking for a type of bread that they didn't have. Cat and I tend to hit Stuart's Bakery and the Oyama Sausage Company in the same trip.
Our favorite baked good from Stuart's is this butter bun, which is like a cross between a popover and a croissant. Flaky croissant dough is baked in a muffin tin, which results in a light, buttery bun with a crisp top that comes apart in layers when you eat it.
Unfortunately, Stuart's changed bakers/owners sometime between 2005 and 2006. The last time we were there, the new bakers were putting much too much yeast into the breads, which made them dense, gluey, and very yeasty tasting. I'm hoping that when we go back this autumn, they'll have ironed out the kinks.
Fortunately, there's always Terra Breads, a small chain of three bakeries and a kitchen centered in Vancouver.
1689 Johnston St., #107
Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9
Their selection of rolls and breads is great, but they don't have my beloved butter buns. *sigh* I miss you little butter buns.
(British Columbia's totem fish.)
We tend to be in Vancouver during salmon season, and during salmon season, everyone in Vancouver eats salmon. Everyone. There's no escaping it. No matter where you go, your server will try to sell you on some dish involving wild caught salmon. Repeatedly. All the bakeries have some product involving salmon. Even Chinese restaurants have salmon dishes. I'm surprised Tim Horton's hasn't invented a salmon doughnut up there. You have about as much success avoiding salmon in Vancouver as you do getting a burger without corn in Japan.
With that in mind, I always figure I might as well just get it over with. What better place than the Salmon Shop?
The Salmon Shop
1689 Johnston St.
Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9
(No cooking needed.)
In addition to a great selection of fresh seafood, including salmon, the Salmon Shop also offers marinated, hot smoked, cold smoked, dried, and jerked fish. Almost all of it's salmon. You were expecting tuna?
The spicy salmon jerky has sort of a peppery, teriyaki thing going for it. It's tougher than beef jerky, since the muscle fibers are thinner and longer, but goes down all right with a bit of strategic mastication. The salmon flavor is pretty mild.
The plain salmon jerky is like salmon scented Kevlar. I chewed, worried, and gnawed at that thing for a reward that tasted like soap. Get the spiced salmon jerky. Easier on the jaw and taste buds.
Granville Island - Tasty eats, great food products, and farm fresh produce in a really fun atmosphere. The best time to go is mid-day during the work week. I keep hearing that the restaurants there are really good, but Cat and I can't tear ourselves away from the market long enough to find out.