A Tale of Two Cities (As Seen Through My Stomach)

In my first week in Vancouver, I constantly went back and forth between totally ravenous and utterly stuffed, without any in-between. This is why. My day would begin with a fruitless effort to make it to 6am yoga. Instead I’d hit snooze, and try to sleep for another hour. The emails from New York would already be lighting up my BlackBerry, though, so I’d feel the need to get up and get to the press center, or as it’s called here, the MPC. I’d rush in, grab a bagel, get settled, answer my emails, start getting hit up with projects and blog posts and whatnot, and then before I would know it, it’s 9 pm, all I’ve had to eat is aforesaid meager bagel and some of Phred’s McD’s french fries, and I’ve never been so hungry in my entire life. Or so it feels in the moment. A trip to Subway would then ensue, since I’m not sure where else to get food in downtown Vancouver at 10pm, and then around 11 when I’d finally make it back to the Rads, I’d stuff my face. This is not healthy, I know.

There are only a few food options inside the MPC (and mind you it takes 5 minutes just to get out of here). The very words Far Coast now make me nauseous. I’ve already had McDonald’s for a meal a few times. They don’t serve sundaes at the McDonald’s. So there’s really no excusing its existence. It taunts me.

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Meanwhile, outside of the Canada Place walls, Vancouver is brimming with good food. And as I’ve gotten more settled, and had a few calm days, I’ve actually been able to get out and experience some of that.

Our first night in Vancouver, Adam, Phred and I took a walk down Robson out to Guu With Garlic, which was featured in the NYT piece about Vancouver food and which Abby had recommended to me — and when it comes to sushi, Abby’s word is golden. There are no words for how much I love the food at Guu. That first night, we shared a bunch of small plates: a few kinds of ceviche, Ume-Shiso-Udon, grilled beef tongue. It was all delicious.

I made a solo return to Guu last night (and then two nights later, with Taylor) after we discovered that there is a location in the Aberdeen Mall, directly across the street from the Rads. If I lived across the street from this place, I would never eat anywhere else. I had grilled mackerel with garlic, a seaweed/jellyfish/tofu salad that rocked my world, fresh scallops in a tangy, oniony mayo sauce and, icing on the cake, black sesame ice cream. Yuuuuum! Guu is Guuuuuud. Ok I’m repeating what they put on their promotional materials but I don’t care. I’ll be making it back there before I head home, for sure. (Update: one of the chefs now knows my name. Also, had the most delicious fizzy cocktail involving lychee, grapefruit, wine and “ramune,” a Japanese soda water that comes in a really cool contraption involving a marble that gets pushed down into the bottle when you open it. I love you Guu. I love you.)

Last week I also hit up a hot pot place in the Aberdeen Mall (which is officially the best mall ever, if what you require in malls is lots of good Asian food, slightly trashy looking clothing stores, a place to buy high-tech toilets, and in general not a single white person in sight) with some work people. I’ve never had hot pot at a restaurant before, only at home made by Mom. One doesn’t really make hot pot, I suppose, but the soup, the dressings and the ingredients can make or break it. In our “mini” hot pot sampler, we had delicious fish, thinly sliced beef, tofu skin, these ridiculously good dumplings, ramen noodles and — my favorite — oysters the size of my fist, I swear to God.

This place is a paradise for taste testers and taste mixers (not for you Jim), because they let you mix together lots of different sauces in which to dip your hot-potted food.

Living in New York, I’ve become very spoiled when it comes to food. Nowhere else in the world can you get such a diverse array of delicious food, from all regions of the world, at all price points, in any kind of setting. It has turned me into a real food snob, I’ll admit. The food in Singapore was unbelievable; I still dream about the pain-au-chocolate I had in France as a college student; but Vancouver may be the one place I’ve been that challenges New York’s food supremacy in both quality and diversity.