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October 1-7 , 2006
Our feature length documentary MURCH played to a great audience at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The reporter for the Globe and Mail saw an early media screening. When we opened the morning paper we were met with a flattering review and three and a half (out of four) stars and had to surpress a spit take. This makes up for our culinary shortcomings over the last couple of days. Lots of food on the go.
...create a premium that a buffet:
... can't match.
Because of the manufactured scarcity of a walking tray of snacks, they become more enticing than their flavor usually warrants.
Due to the large Asian population, there are things on the menu beyond tuna, like grilled chicken gizzards and hearts ($2.50 Canadian):
... but they shower it with a teriyaki sauce that brings it down to the lowest common denominator.
Vancouver has so many Starbucks:
... per capita that each citizen must have their own dedicated branch. Not only are they on every block and in every shop, they are one of the sponsors of the film festival. You can't go ooot and abooot without being within striking distance of one.
The other ubiquitous Vancouver entitiy that we've noticed are little dogs. Lots of little dogs. Maybe all that coffee stunted their growth?
Vancouver bears some similarities to the Bay Area with it's mix of student friendly food, agressive panhandling and diverse opinions.
The 25th Vancouver International Film Festival has kept us too busy to engage in anything more involved than chowing down on party food or grabbing some average sushi from one of the cheap little shops:
... that spring up on just about every street corner.
Pizza seems popular:
... with the locals but from what we've seen, we won't be trying to blend in by grabbing one of these questionable looking slices (even if they do have real cheese on them.)
It makes me wonder what they top it with if they don't post a sign in opposition to faux cheese.
I'm glad we waited until after dinner to see Our Daily Bread, a feature length documentary directed by Nikolaus Geyhalter. There has been a lot of concern about food production and this picture will either convice a sensitive viewer never to eat anything ever again, or to reflect on how filling our bellies has become a mega-business. What is truly wonderful about this often clinical and occasionally prosaic encapulation of how food gets to the table is it's lack of narration. Nobody is telling you that you are witnessing inhumane, grotesque or beautiful acts. You must decide for yourself. The interesting thing is that sometimes the inhumanity is directed at the workers and not exclusively the animals.
There is a temptation to dismiss all large scale food production as evil, but it's not that simple. Yes, there are horrible things that have recently transpired that can be traced back to mass production, but there is also a scene of a huge, cathedral-like salt mine with gigantic harvesting machinery that displays no sense of menace. Big may not always mean bad, but this film does make me want to stick to Farmers' Markets.
Either the City of Oakland only understands the "shabby" part of "shabby chic" or they are rallying to be the subject of Extreme Makeover - Airport Edition.
This "beautification" has been in progress so long that it's like a regular visit to a disturbed friend who has stacks of empty pizza boxes forming a corn field maze through their living room. Familiar and disturbing, yet normal by virtue of it's tenure.
Today's inflight food:
... carried on that disturbing feeling. The comittee that selected this menu probably deemed it foolproof. I mean, how can you screw up raw vegetables, fruit, bread and cheese? It takes work to massacre this menu when all the food preparation consists of chopping. But the airline took the time to determine the true enemies of all of these foodstuffs. They aged all of the sliced veg and fruit to an oxidized perfection, the bread was chilled in a moist environment to rid it of all crusty texture (if it had any to begin with) and I'm not sure what they did to the cheese, but I don't actually want to find out.
To be fair, I shouldn't have an expectation of anything but the worst in regards to the Oakland Airport's interior decor or the food I will have once I get airborne. I should probably just take comfort that all of the attention and effort that is not appearing on my plate or before my eyes is being directed towards making me purchace a ziplock bag for fifty cents before I go through security.
On our way to Lime last week, we walked by Barracuda and decided that we should check it out next time we were in the ‘nabe.
Barracuda is a Japanese/Peruvian restaurant with a sushi bar, small plates and cooked entrees. We got some hot sake to sip on as we peru-sed the menu.
The seaweed salad trio ($8.00):
... had a mound of wakame dotted with an aji amarillo dressing which had a nice hot pepper kick. The hijiki with sesame seeds and lemon was good, but next to the bold flavors of it’s neighbor, it’s subtlety pushed it to the background. The Goma wakame with flying fish roe was flavorful and delish.
Just Met ($14.00):
... is what they call a steamed cabbage leaf stuffed with eel, yellowtail and enoki in a pool of thin cilantro sauce. The leaf was a little thick so the filling squooshed when bitten. It was good, but messy.
I liked the Seviche (sic) of hamachi ($12.00):
This dice of yellowtail with thin slices of red onion and fennel were topped with garden cress and a vinegar and yuzu jello cube. Chubby pronounced this the best dish of the evening and I would have to agree.
The tai ($4.50), tako ($4.50) and hotate ($5.00) nigiri:
... and the rock and roll maki ($6.50):
...all were undermined by rice that was cooked softer than my preference. There was more wasabi on the scallop (hotate) than this delicate fish could tolerate.
The service was friendly and attentive but it was clear that there was a learning curve (that was still going up and to the right.)
It’s too early to tell but Barracuda shows some promise and a lot of imagination.
The line in ‘wichcraft moved pretty quickly during today’s lunchtime rush. It would have moved even faster if the menu was larger (lots of squinting people had to wait until they were at the register to read the board posted behind the counter) or if there were menus displayed that you could read as you waited in line.
The three cash registers were too close together. Most of the customers had to shift places as they ordered in this little bottleneck. These are minor issues, but as business picks up, the way people flow through the space will become more important.
We took our drinks and our plastic coated number to our table. I was surprised at how quickly our chow arrived, but it made sense when I realized that my Pastrami on rye ($9.50):
... hadn’t been heated all the way through. To be fair, they are listed on the menu as “warm sandwiches” but it would have been nice if the Swiss cheese was coaxed beyond that sweaty (or “neutral”) stage. It was as if the brown panini maker stripes were used to gauge doneness. The sauerkraut and mustard lent some tang to this lukewarm lunch.
Chubby got the slow cooked pork on ciabatta ($8.50):
... which had a nice crunchy exterior that housed some swine that was served before it’s time. The meat wasn’t cooked down to a tender yielding porkiness. Chubby liked the addition of mushrooms and slight peppery kick, but this sandwich probably wasn’t putting their best trotter forward.
The lentil soup ($4.00):
... was nicely seasoned and a hearty, warming dish for a chilly day.
Everything was okay, but one of the first directives
in sandwich making is that each bite should
taste good. The ingredients
in both sandwiches didn’t have even distribution. I think all
of their kinks will get worked out soon, but it’s not tripworthy.
It’s a good
place to keep in mind if you’re in the mood for a quick, inexpensive
bite (all the menu items are under ten bucks.) The breakfast sandwich
with bacon, eggs and gorgonzola looks tempting for the next time I’m
around in the a.m.
Those shelves that were so bare…
That non-existent fare…
at Westfield food centair…
Supernatural power is in full effect at Tom Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft given that they are closed today due to a lack of electricity:
... (yet their beverage cooler seemed to be magically illuminated.) I wouldn’t be quite so irritated if I didn’t see a number of employees leisurely eating sandwiches at tableside windows while I hadn’t the ability to conjure one up.
After being warlocked out, I headed in to the Westfield Centre Food Court to see what food I could court. There was still no sign of life at Out the Door so I took a lap and most of the chow looked uninspired. It wasn’t difficult to decide on the Korean BBQ at Sorabol.
They didn’t have the eel, mackerel or salmon that were on the menu, so I went with a two item combo ($8.45):
... of short ribs and spicy chicken. White rice and glass noodles provided the foundation for boneless chicken thighs and some thin cut short ribs. It was all tasty, but not trip worthy (since they have branches everywhere.)
The design of this food court doesn’t work for me. I like a subterranean food court to have to absolutely no pretense (like the one with the House of Lumpia on lower Belden) or a food court that has a vision and doesn’t feel full of compromises. The reason why the Ferry Building is a good food destination is that the vendors were carefully selected. That doesn’t mean all the food there is great, but it none of it feels like a retread. Westfield might take shape, but it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together to become the food destination that it was meant to be.
The word “barefoot” in relation to an eatery is usually discussed in the context of “shirt” and “service.” I’m not sure where the name comes from, but I’m always happy to see a small, neighborhood place spring up that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner so I put on my shoes and popped over to the Barefoot Café.
As I was being seated, I noticed large bowls of salad at a neighboring table but was put off by the telltale dark green ring around the yolks of the hard boiled eggs.
Instead of going with a salad or burger, I opted for a tuna melt ($8.50):
... which comes with a choice of soup or salad. The lemon chicken soup tasted as though they had pureed tinned chicken meat and used lemon to cause a diversion. Not my thing. Jame Gumb would have enjoyed the thick skin that formed of my Silence of the Chicken soup. I neither chose to make a suit of it or to eat it.
The sandwich delivered what was expected. The tuna salad on sourdough bread was topped with supermarket quality tomatoes and a slice of almost melted Monterey Jack. It was okay, but not interesting enough to distract me from the coagulating tuna of the land broth beside this chicken of the sea sandwich.
I could see how this cafe would appeal to people in the nabe with children (they have several kid friendly options.) Although I wasn’t wowed by my lunch, I may check out the breakfasts to see if that is their forte. Meanwhile, barefoot didn’t knock my socks off…
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