Friday, March 30, 2012

Dining in Vancouver for the Congress....

I have a limited number of stops to discuss because the Sheraton Wall Centre took very good care of us at my conference. Unlimited, good coffee, water and intermittent appearances by smoothies and lemonade during the day were lovely. Adding in stand up lunches and snacks, as well as what amounted to a dinner buffet at our welcome reception has been great.

We receive muffins and fruit a couple of times a day as well as lunches. Of the two lunches I had the first was a fairly generic standing buffet but the food was of good quality and their ability to very quickly process 800 people with what seemed limited waiting was great. The second lunch was an interesting option, it was a boxed lunch, literally. They had set up multiple tables of boxes that held a roasted vegetable sandwich, small vegetable salad, a banana, a juice and a cookie. I could have wished for a bit of choice, but serving 800 people quickly does, I suppose, limit the viability of trying to customize things much. Again, the flavours were good and the service quick and efficient. If the weather had permitted I suspect many would have found their way outdoors, which would have been a nice treat after being inside all day.

The first day we also had food at our welcome buffet, which I know several made their dinner. They managed again to produce more than adequate food and provide sufficient placements to allow many to be served quickly. I had some sort of vegetable ball, some chicken satay and a roast beef bun. Salad rolls, caprese salad on a stick, chili and soup were some of the other options I saw or heard about.

Despite the options at the welcome venue I couldn't resist the easy walk to one of my favorite spots in Vancouver – the Gyoza King. This little restaurant on Robson near Nicola that makes it own gyoza and a whole lot of other Japanese food – but no sushi and they prominently point out. Generally I have gone there with others and ordered many plates for sharing with a focus on the gyoza they are named for. In addition to fabulous food this restaurant offers a very budget conscious option. My first visit was with three other adults and two small children and we all ate – and drank – for right around $100, including tip. This was my first solo trip there so I decide to go in a different direction. They had a spicy gyoza hotpot special for $10 and I accompanied that with a $6 glass of Asahi. Enjoy for a moment the wonder of a full dinner (not lunch), with a drink, for under $20 for a moment...and now let's talk about that cheap food. My hotpot experience has been limited and of the Chinese variety and has always been a hot, cast iron pot with something stirfry like in it. I was slightly surprised when I receive my sizzling hot (yea, I burned my finger so I can attest to the sizzling, and thank Asahi for the cryotherapy) bowl of soup...hmmm. Sceptical at first I none the less dug in.

This hot pot was great. I didn't finish the broth, given my healthy snack at the conference, but I did pick out most of the contents and enjoyed the broth I did have. The pot had 3 chicken and green onion dumplings, four pork gyoza, two pieces of deep fried tofu, carrots, red pepper, Asian cabbage of some sort and lots of bean sprouts. The broth itself managed to hit that wonderful level of spice where you taste all the flavours without suffering any burn. I did get my sinuses drained and could walk home without a coat thanks to the broth though so it certainly got a full body reaction.

Last night, the one meal I truly needed to buy, I ate in the hotel cafe in the main lobby. A bit noisy and exposed the cafe was still a good choice. Comfy seating, lots of light and slowish but good service. I had a truly yummy tomato soup with a Parmesan crouton, shredded basil and basil oil along with and a very nice Caesar salad. Dinner was more pricey, but still under $30 which included a pint of strongbow cider. Very much in keeping with the rest of my experience of the Sheraton's food services.

Today I am writing you from Pacifico Pizzeria at 970 Smithe. I decided to take some time away from the hotel and somewhat randomly chose this place located a short walk from the hotel. I have found out the I am next door to the restaurant that the Top Chef Canada winner has recently opened, Ensemble Tap. Torn about that fact. I have enjoyed my meal, a small brick oven Margherita Pizza and a side Caesar with San Pellegrino in a pleasant environment at a tall table, not bar tall, just tall enough to allow me not to bump my knees (this comment is mainly for my husband, but should be appreciated by tall persons everywhere). The lunch has cost me just under $20, with my bubbly water being a significant portion of the bill. I must mention that it doesn't live up to the Pizzeria Primastrada experience that Victoria has to offer. The crust and sauce were both lacking comparatively and the basil was skimpy. The portion was good though and the service good. Kind of wish I had tried Ensemble Tap though, but I suspect my budget and my husband will both be happier with this choice.

There is my food journey for the three days I have been hear. I will likely be finishing my day with some BC Ferries food so I am glad to have these happy memories to reflect on tonight! Sorry there are no pictures, my mind was too full of fascia to think of that!

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