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Trip Report from a Half-Marathoner

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Well, my group and I had a wonderful time in beautiful Vancouver last weekend (April 29 - May 2). Although the main reason we visited was to run the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon (well, that's what we told our DHs, anyway), perhaps the best part was eating our way around your fair city.

We arrived late-ish on Friday evening, April 29, and followed the recommendation of our condo host to dine at Chambar. We had a small party (3) and didn't have to wait as long as the 1 hour quoted to us at the front. We started our meals with handcrafted cocktails: the Jamrock Mule (sounded like a Dark & Stormy on the drinks menu, but was really ginger-heavy--in a good way); Pomme Charlemagne (I didn't try since I'm allergic to apples); and Breakfast in Seville (yum--stiff and smooth--kind of reminded me of bourbon even though there's no bourbon in it). We were trying to keep the bill low so we didn't go crazy with appetizers, sharing only a mixed olive plate. It was decent but it had unfortunately only one Castelveltrano olive--my favorite. For our entrees, I had the canard et chevre. The duck was well-prepared (medium rare) and I appreciated the healthy portion of chevre, but the gnocchi were disappointing. There were only six of them and they were the size of bubblegum plugs and the consistency was chewier than I like. My companions had the moules frites vin blanc (crispy, delicious fries) and the chevreuil du printemps (this was the winner--maybe just because I'm a sucker for celeriac puree--but my dining companion expressed displeasure that the "brussels sprouts salad" was really just two brussels sprouts halved and strategically set in various points on the plate). We had a nice bottle of the cheap red blend ("cheap" being relative in Canada--$48 a bottle) to accompany our meals. Overall, it was a tasty, satisfying meal with only a couple of missteps. Following dinner, we went to Boneta for drinks.

On Saturday, April 30, we had lunch at Las Margaritas in Kits. Not worth reviewing. This was not my pick; my friends were desperately hungry and this was right in our path. All I'll say is that I ordered the Fajita Burrito and that I really, really do not like warm lettuce encased in a tortilla.

Saturday night's dinner was much better than the lunch. We met up with the rest of our runner's group and ate at Campagnolo (thank you, fmed!) for our pre-race carbo load dinner. We shared the crispy ceci (friend chickpeas with chiles, lime, mint and greens) and bruschetta to start. Our server explained the ceci are the most popular starter. They were delicious--crunchy, earthy, zesty. The bruschetta (trumpet mushrooms and buffalo mozzarella) was very tasty, even to the mushroom-hater in our group. For my entree, I ordered the large portion of the tagliatelle with the pork ragu. I was worried about whether I over ordered, since the rest of my group ordered smaller portions, but I was thrilled when I tasted my pasta. The ragu was gorgeous--not too sweet, not too acidic, and the pork melted in my mouth. I'm drooling even now. The noodles had a nice bite, too. Three in our group ordered the orecchiete with sausage and rapini. The flavor was good--salty, fennel-y, and spicy--but it wasn't too complex. The other diner in our party ordered the spaghetti pomodoro (I didn't try it). For dessert we shared the panna cotta (good, not great) and the confection plate (fantastic apricot delicacy, I wish there had been more of you...). After dinner, we turned in early for the next morning's race.

The next morning (May 1) we all ran 13.1 miles each and consumed energy jelly beans, Gu, and water. Following that, I snagged a much-needed Sausage McMuffin at McDonalds. Laugh if you will, but I needed the carbs and protein.

Sunday lunch was a kind of a boring--if satisfying--one. We were all very hungry and craving meat, meat, meat and fries. We decided to stick to something predictable and wanted to sit outside in the sunny weather, so we ate at Earl's on Robson. I hadn't been there since I was a 20 year old college student, and the waitresses still wear short skirts. The food wasn't great but it was good, and our short-skirted server was very sweet. I had the Earl's Burger (or whatever it was called--you get the idea) and it was exactly what a burger should be--big, greasy, mealty flavored, and with a flavorful slab of cheddar melted on it. The fries were really good, too. There were some other burgers in our group, and I think one of the girls ordered the veggie quesadilla, which looked quite good. Nothing to write home about but Earl's served its purpose.

We planned to have dinner at Bin 941 on Sunday. I hadn't been in years but friends had been in the interim and I wanted to try it again. Before dinner, we had some prosecco ($5.50 per glass-what a steal!) at UVA. I also ordered some arancini because I deserved it, having run 13.1 miles that morning. The arancini was good but the cheese had dissipated too much from the centers. After that, we walked to Bin 941 and were seated rather promptly. We decided to order a bunch of different things and share them. We ordered the following: shortrib (heavenly, falling-off-the-bone meat candy, and with a lovely cauliflower-cheese puree); grilled flatbread picnic (so good I knocked over and broke a wine glass to get more brie); crab cakes (fine, good, but nothing too special); duck breast (surprisingly and disappointingly overcooked); beef tenderloin, Wellington style (okay, I guess--I'm not a fan of Wellington); and ahi (fine, again, but something like this is served in practially every hotel bar across the continent). I may have been pickier than my dining companions, who had absolutely no complaints. Dessert was comped by our lovely server and it was a stunner: mascarpone cheesecake with a Bananas Foster twist. Great way to end a meal.

Monday morning, we packed up all our things and started driving south for the border. However, before leaving BC, we managed to stop in Richmond and have dim sum at Jade Seafood. I had high hopes because I'd somehow come to the conclusion from postings on this board that Jade had good HK food and that its food was superior to Sun Sui Wah. My DH had been to SSW about 5 years ago for dim sum and were impressed, so I thought JS would be great. The service was good but the food was just meh. I mean, it was good if all you know is Seattle Cantonese food, but I was expecting more with JS being in Richmond, the mecca of HK-style food (other than HK itself, of course). I'll be up in BC again in August and hope to hit a better dim sum spot on that trip.

All in all, a good weekend with good friends and good food.

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Campagnolo
1020 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A, CA

The Jade Seafood Restaurant
8511 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X1C3, CA

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  1. Great writeup, lw! And you're right, the less said about Las Margaritas, the better. I still remember with burning coals of hatred in my heart the salmon fish "tacos" I tried to eat there years ago...

    Re dimsum here, sorry you had a so-so experience. It's a tricky thing, the dim sum. So many places do some things and not others well. And then there's the whole consistency thing, from one visit to the next.