Usually on Saturdays I sleep in, eat some of whatever C made for breakfast, and then spend the rest of the day being a productive cleaning/errand/fixing stuff/finishing projects machine. But on Friday I was feeling particularly liberated thanks to my new enhanced driver’s license (since my passport expired over two years ago, I haven’t made the mere 45 journey in too long) so we decided to bail the next morning and spend the day in Canada looking for something good to eat. I can’t believe I’d never really explored the city until yesterday…and Chinatown was my absolute favorite.
…and not just because every knick knack shop we went into exploded with paper lanterns and pretty lovely things all crammed together in a sardine tin of concentrated happiness, either. Nope, it was also the open markets filled with so many strange seafood smells and mounds upon mounds of ingredients that even if given to me in neatly labeled jars I would still have NO IDEA how to go about utilizing… dried massive mushrooms, scaly sea kelp, still-wet jellyfish, or crispy, shriveled octopus, to name few.
There were so many unrecognizable piles of ingredients that any awkwardness I felt from being the only English-speaker clutching an oversized camera was totally diminished by the total awe and respect for the little old ladies scooping up bags of the stuff… what were they going to make? Alls I know is that it was probably going to be AWESOME and I WANTED IN.
C and I were particularly enamored with the butcher shops- since we don’t even have one in our town, it was really refreshing to see so many offering cheap cuts of quality meats, kidneys, necks, tripe, piles of pork belly and chops and pretty much any part of the animal you’d ever even consider eating… just hanging out, ready to buy. I was feeling pretty flush with jealousy since when I want to buy, oh, I dunno, ANY PART OF A DUCK the whole damn town of Bellingham only seems to be able to offer me a shrug when I try to figure out where to find it. And those display cases with juicy red rabbits and glazed ducks and chickens… seriously. I started drooling once.
Though, when one butcher entered the window with a bus tub sloshing with thick meat juice, the outsides coated in a sticky film, from which he pulled bare-handed handfuls of chicken feet to add to the display, the drooling stopped. Also, this little guy made me feel really, really sad:
But that’s only because he looked a little cold without a sweet sticky glaze and a couple hours over an open fire- HEY YO! Honestly though, the gizzards hanging out in the doorway on top of milk crates DID freak me out a little bit, though.
When it comes to food handling and making my own personal food, I’m no stickler about things sitting out and I’m not afraid of a little bit of bacteria, but honestly those gizzards were probably so far in the danger zone they went right past in and ended up in Danger City, USA. Which leads me to CLARIFICATION ZONE: I realize that last sentence is probably disconcerting to some since I do work in an industrial kitchen, but don’t worry… since I’m getting paid and most certainly watched by my superiors I DO FOLLOW HEALTH CODES AT WORK. ALWAYS. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I’M LIKE THE PATRON SAINT OF HEALTH CODE FELLOWSHIP. Fear not. I will not poison you.
Anyhow, that doorway was like the polar opposite of the place we visited next, which was tidy and very western and tastefully lit with a short line of mildly purse-lipped upper middle class white people waiting for their food. Obviously, we meandered out of Chinatown.
A friendly older British fellow offered us some really delicious samples of chicken something… I was stupid and forgot to write it down, but it was kind of like a pate, infused with loads of pepper and sage. We also tried a bit of his bacon meatloaf, which was great and surprisingly well priced. No one there was ordering meats from the case, as I would probably be doing ALL DAY EVERY DAY if I lived near Gastown, but they had some fancy looking hot dogs and Banh Mi sandwiches that the well-dressed folk seemed to be holding out for.
After four hours of walking the city we’d ended up in the West End, and had passed approximately one million gazillion restaurants we wanted to eat in. We were suddenly overcome with an urgent need to eat. Like, NOW. After realizing I was hungry, I suddenly became INSANELY HUNGRY, which was verging on CRANKY ZONE CENTRAL so I turned to C and was all, “I don’t care what we eat, but it has become abundantly clear to me that if I do not eat within ten minutes I will make the rest of your day a living hell,” which kind of scared him, I think, so we dashed for a little place called the Falafel King, which sounded promising, because I love middle eastern food and I want to be a princess so it worked out. I was eyeballing those racks of gyro meat, so when I ordered my “lamb wrap (?),” I expected them to do the best thing in the universe and freshly shave it off the hunk of lamb. BUT! To my horror he actually pulled a couple flat brown strips from underneath the line, put them on a plate, and microwaved them. I almost died. I was so hungry though that I snatched my pita wrap thing away, plopped down on a plastic chair outside, and devoured it.
All things considered, it was still pretty good, and my hunger-fueled hatred of the world quickly dissipated after I ate it, so I guess it did its job.
Plus, C looked really cute outside the Falafel King.
Afterwards we hopped over to The Junction, a bar kind of resembling the Copper Hog, and drank wildly overpriced cocktails for a bit. Tromped around town a bit more, looked in some windows, got freaked out by the numerous hoards of crack-addled vagrants, and generally had a great time.
Check out Sally’s Cake House in Chinatown… pretty bummed that it was out of business because I would’ve been ALLS OVER IT.
All in all, now that I can go over the border whenever I want, I want to go there every weekend. So much food! So many weird things and people to look at! And the Duty-Free shop on the way back has $9.95 liters (Liters!!!) of Premium Canadian Club Whiskey… of which I bought several for my upcoming birthday party refreshments.