My second love, buildings, bridges and public spaces

I love many things in this world, my family is obviously first on the list. My second love may come as a surprise to some, unless you read the title. Buildings, bridges, public spaces, I love architectural design, industrial design and well planned neighbourhoods. A beautiful building or bridge is like art soaring into the sky or spanning a body of water, well planned public spaces energise the streets, bring foot traffic to local businesses and inspire families to move into urban areas.

Whenever I have the chance I take pictures of my favourite places using my Smartphone (Sony X12)  and Instagram. I’ve gathered up some of my favourites and wanted to share them with you.

1500 West Georgia, Vancouver.
1500 West Georgia, Vancouver.
Central City Tower, Surrey
Central City Tower, Surrey
Alexandria Bridge, Fraser Canyon near Hell's Gate
Alexandria Bridge, Fraser Canyon near Hell’s Gate
Athletes Village main square, Vancouver
Athletes Village main square, Vancouver
BC Place looking towards Mount Baker, Vancouver
BC Place looking towards Mount Baker, Vancouver
Burrard Street Bridge, Vancouver
Burrard Street Bridge, Vancouver
English Bay and the West End, Vancouver
English Bay and the West End, Vancouver
Georgia Street, Vancouver
Georgia Street, Vancouver
Granville Street Bridge and False Creek
Granville Street Bridge and False Creek
White Rock Pier, White Rock
White Rock Pier, White Rock

 

Granville Island, rust can be beautiful, Vancouver
Granville Island, rust can be beautiful, Vancouver
Granville Street Bridge, Vancouver
Granville Street Bridge, Vancouver
Harbour Centre and Hastings Street, Vancouver
Harbour Centre and Hastings Street, Vancouver
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver
Lonsdale Quay looking across Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver
Lonsdale Quay looking across Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver
Main Street, Whistler Village
Main Street, Whistler Village
Manhattan Apartments at Robson and Thurlow, Vancouver
Manhattan Apartments at Robson and Thurlow, Vancouver
Queensborough with the Alex Fraser Bridge in the distance, New Westminster
Queensborough with the Alex Fraser Bridge in the distance, New Westminster
Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Saint Paul's Hospital, Vancouver
Saint Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver
The DTES as seen from the Sun Tower, Vancouver
The DTES as seen from the Sun Tower, Vancouver

 

The Electra, Vancouver
The Electra, Vancouver

 

The Qube, Vancouver
The Qube, Vancouver

 

Tynehead Regional Park, Surrey
Tynehead Regional Park, Surrey

 

Vancouver Public Library main branch, Vancouver
Vancouver Public Library main branch, Vancouver

 

White Rock Beach pier, White Rock
White Rock Beach pier, White Rock

 

 

Grab your smartphone or camera and take some pictures of your favourite places, it’ll make you appreciate the place we call home and you might find something great that you didn’t know was so close to you.

Scott.

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Booze Reviews – Russell Brewing Company Brewmaster Series

Craft beer, really good craft beer, has been the sole property of the Pacific coast of the good old USA for a few years now. Enough hops to punch you in the face from the inside, Porters darker than night time at Mount St. Helens and every other bizarre infusion your could imagine have become commonplace in Washington. Oregon and Northern California. Canada has been left in the dust by a nation known for Bud Light and spray cheese.

Russel Brewing Company, located in Surrey, has posted a serious challenge to the supremacy of the Pacific North West of America with its Brewmaster Series. The only issue with these wonderfully crafted bottles and kegs filled with liquid gold is that they are limited quantity. From the Blood Alley ESB to the Black Death Porter every beer in this series is outstanding. My personal favorite is the Guuud! Ale designed specifically Kitanoya-Guu Izakaya restaurants as a palate cleanser.

Like I said these beers are limited quantity releases and are available at select private liquor stores including Central City in Surrey and Legacy Liquor Store in the athletes village. Get them before they’re gone, or contact Russell and demand they be put into full production!!!

Cheers

Scott.

How to ensure your restaurant fails

Pardon me for needing to vent a little but I have a giant pet peeve when it comes to restaurants and their websites. On my much publicized (by me) recent trip to Whistler I had lunch at Merlin’s Bar at the base of Blackcomb Mountain and noticed that they had a pulled pork sandwich on the menu, the Pork Barbacoa Sandwich. I thought perfect, I can add this to the WFLBC BBQ Challenge 2011. It sounded great on the menu, sourdough bun with citrus jicama slaw on the side, boy was I wrong.

The meat was flavorless and dry, the bun dry and a little bit stale and the fries were lukewarm and greasy. The biggest disappointment however was the jicama slaw, it tasted like dirt, like actual dirt. Jicama is a root vegetable that is sweet and happens to be one of my favorite treats that my local farmers market carries on a regular basis. The slaw was not fresh and the jicama had obviously not been prepared or washed properly. So with their entrance in the BBQ Challenge quickly becoming improbable I thought that I would have a look at their website just to see if I could formulate a reason for this awful dish.

There in lies my “peeve”, there is no website. To have a good restaurant you need 3 things, good food, good service and a way for your current or potential customers to find you and find out about you. So with the food part of their business not being up to par it came down to the  other 2 categories. The service was good, not great, nothing to worry about but their web presence consists of a Facebook page, that’s it. This isn’t a huge deal as a Facebook page can be just as effective as a website if it has 3 key ingredients, location, menu and hours of operation. Merlin’s page has their location and hours but no menu.

Let me say this very clearly, if you have a restaurant and use the internet then you need a website. Your website, at the very least, should have your location so customers can find you, your menu so customers know what you serve and your hours of operation so customers know when you’re open. Without these 3 things potential customers will go elsewhere.

In the end I think that Merlin’s has little to worry about as they’re mostly known as a place to drink until you’re sick and repeat as needed. The menu is of little concern to their customers which explains the food. Websites are easy, making money as a restauranteur is hard, give yourself a fighting chance with good food and use the internet to spread the love.

Scott.

Panoli’s Pizza in Whistler

Did you ever have one of those nights where you knew that you had been drinking far too much to eat anything but your craving simply bullied your common sense to death? Unfortunately this happens to me on a semi regular basis, a little less now due to fatherhood, but every now and then the call of late night drunken food is too powerful to ignore.

There is only one acceptable choice for late night drunken food and that is pizza. Pizza rules and more importantly pizza places are the only places open when my beer fueled urges start. On a recent trip to Whistler I was told that Panoli’s was the place to be for late night pizza by my friend Bert who you may remember from last years Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar post. Bert spent a lot of time in Whistler giving them gas…and I trust his pizza judgement.

I use my Blackberry to make notes about places I eat and my notes on Panoli’s are EXACTLY as follows. “Super drunk. PiZza is awesome. Carnivore sPecial. Canadian ham, Italian Pepperoni and sausage, ground beef and smoked bacon”. That’s some world class note taking. So as you can see I had the Carnivore Special because there’s nothing like a triple bypass to end a night of drinking at Tapley’s in the Village. From what I remember the pizza was actually very good, good crust that wasn’t too thick, nice sauce, lots of cheese and, as you can see, copious amounts of meat. I ordered a medium, ate the whole thing and then had the worst sleep of my life. I don’t blame the pizza though, I’m fairly certain the beer had a hand in it as well. The picture at the top of my kick ass wooden glasses was meant to give a reference as to the size of the pizza but I think it really shows that there may have been a little too much grease in this pie, but I hear that’s good for the wood, of my glasses.

Next time you stay out WAY too late and drink WAY too much remember that pizza is the answer, I just don’t remember the question…and make sure they deliver or are within stumbling distance, it’s the right thing to do.

Scott.

The Campfire Grill – Smokin’ Barbecue

The WFLBC BBQ Challenge has officially begun, first stop Squamish!! Squamish? Yes, Squamish, I recently spent a week in Whistler for work and did a lot of eating all around town and I now have a stockpile of restaurants to reviews for this blog and for the Vancouver Observer.  On the way home I wanted to stop at a BBQ place I had heard about via Twitter called The Campfire Grill – Smokin’ BBQ. I had no idea what I was in for.

I don’t know what I was expecting but this certainly was not it, and what a nice surprise! Located at the Eagle Vista Resort and Campground at 1940 Centennial Way in Squamish it’s about as inconspicuous as it gets, it’s actually in the campground! Thinking that the GPS had led me astray I finally noticed the trailer and assorted small structures around it and headed over to say hello. Chef Mike McCrea and his wife Inger, aka the boss, greeted me with a smile and gave me a tour of the truly unique and pretty awesome setup they have. You really have to see it to appreciate it but it is very cool with gas heaters in a outbuilding filled with picnic tables, a fire pit surrounded by benches and an ordering area with another heater and a nicely done menu board along with very professional brochures and business cards.

Mike was kind enough to make me up a one man sample plate for the purposes of my BBQ Challenge that consisted of pulled pork, pork ribs, beef blade, chicken, and a stuffed burger. The pork was juicy and well seasoned, the beef was fantastic and savory and the chicken, dark meat by request, was cooked perfectly with the skin on. The ribs, which I ate before I remembered to take a picture, had a nice smoky crust and were tender and juicy as well.  The stuffed burger which is only available on Friday is made with locally sourced organic beef stuffed with pickles, banana peppers, cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. Great texture and flavor from the beef and the stuffing was awesome, plus it was cooked a nice medium, perfect. Over all this is some of the best food, let alone BBQ, I have ever eaten.

Then there are the sauces, oh my god the sauces! All made by Chef Mike they are a foursome of mouth watering accouterments to go with the fantastic meat. There is a trio of BBQ sauces, bourbon, apricot and chipotle and a honey mustard sauce. The Honey mustard goes great with everything but pairs best with the chicken. The apricot paired best with the pulled pork and the bourbon went great with the ribs. The chipotle was my favorite and went great with everything, especially the beef. I also tried Chef Mike’s home made pecan tarts cooked on the grill and they were fantastic!

So BBQ challenge 2011 has it’s first official entry and if this food is a sign of things to come I’m in for a great ride! If you’re passing through or visiting Squamish, or if you just want to go somewhere incredibly cool to eat you need to make a stop here. Based on my BBQ experience this place may be hard to beat. I may have to rearrange my categories a little but I think the WFLBC BBQ Challenge is going to be a big hit!!

Scott.

Thank You.

This has been one crazy year, easily the most rewarding of my life. I learned a lot, met some great people and became a father. I have learned that Fish Sauce tastes awesome on everything, Bristol Palin lists one of her qualifications for paid public appearances as “unwed mother” and at the risk of upsetting most women and teenage girls I have discovered that the true message of the Twilight book series is that all men are monsters who crave young flesh. That last tidbit was revealed to me on a new TV show called Community staring a much older looking than anticipated Chevy Chase, and it’s really not that funny. Well done Stephanie Meyer, you have solved the mystery of men once and for all.

As the year approaches its end I feel like I have really found a rhythm in my life, one that has really never been there before. I have a great family, wonderful friends, a good job and the coolest dog ever who is soon to have a little sister, sorry Cooper but you knew it was coming. To top off all of that awesomeness I have THIS. This blog has given me a release for some creative energy that my day job can’t provide. I have met some cool people, found some great food treasures and figured out that I am a total social media junkie. I am hopelessly addicted to Twitter and I find myself scanning my Twitter feed looking for tweets from my favorites. They include @therealcabbie, @SandraOldfield, @jminter, @hummingbird604, to name a few. I also have some ACTUAL PEOPLE I KNOW who I follow on Twitter such as @HeatherVince, @eye_candy_photo and @dylan_redekop.

I love the local blogging scene and without my old pal Dylan I wouldn’t be doing this at all. His Blog, More Than A Feeling Music, was my inspiration and I still read every post he writes, really good stuff. My friend Erika was inspired somewhat similarly by me! Totally flattered and I think she is an amazing photographer. Her blog, Eye Candy Photoworks, has some great stuff, including some shots of yours truly and my little girl. There are some other local blogs that I read on a regular basis as well such as Miss 604 by Rebecca Bollwitt and Hummingbird 604 by Raul Pacheco-Vega. I have discovered that this city has infrastructure to support freelance writers and bloggers in the form of co-working spaces like The Network Hub.

This year has been full of great food discoveries like The Roaming Dragon, Argo Cafe, Nuba, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Michi Waffle & Espresso Bar. I have received great feedback about my posts from all over the world and I am continually evolving my writing style and content to try to make it as appealing and user-friendly as possible. I have also launched a new company, Ninety3 Days Media, to oversee this blog and act as a promotional arm for a book I’m writing about my daughter Hayley.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me by reading this blog or following me on Twitter or Facebook. It still amazes me that people take time out of their busy lives to read what I write. This will be my last post this year so that I can take it easy over Christmas so whatever and wherever you are celebrating this holiday season I hope it is fantastic and I look forward 2011 and everything it will bring.

Cheers,

Scott.

Argo Cafe

Argo Cafe has been around since 1954 and I recently discovered it while working at the Athletes Village. Chef Denis Larouche and brother-in-law Kirby Wong took over in 2004 turning Argo Cafe in to a culinary diamond in the rough where you can find great food at realistic prices. The atmosphere is that of a classic dive with great service and a hint of hipster cool.

Having already tried the House Chow Mein, which is fantastic, I decided to give the Spaghetti Carbonara a whirl. It came with a bowl of bacon and lentil soup and a package of saltines. The soup was a great starter and tasted very fresh with lots of tender lentils and salty bacon pieces.  Carbonara is an easy thing to screw up and/or fake with cream but Chef Larouche does it the right way with bacon, black pepper, Parmesan cheese and an egg yolk.

I was seated close enough to the kitchen to watch my lunch come to life and from what I could see it was made fresh just for me, with the egg yolk and cheese added away from the heat to avoid cooking the yolk and keeping the dish creamy. This kind of cooking is generally reserved for fine dining establishment at a much higher price. To see the care and effort put in to the dishes at Argo Cafe is really amazing considering the surroundings. The Carbonara has some shrimp in it as well as you can see from the photo but I started eating them before I remembered to take a picture! That is the ultimate sign of great food, when a food writer is so taken with the dish they forget that they need to take a picture and start devouring it.

You can check out their website to see the rest of their menu and to read about an upcoming feature that Food Network Canada is doing on them for a show called “You Gotta Eat Here”.

Scott.

Random Tuesday thoughts and a new Dive

For the last 2 days I have been working at the much publicized Athletes Village, aka Millennium Water, aka Vancouver’s Olympic burden. The whole development  is a triumph of modern architecture, urban planning and should be a shinning example of the Olympic legacy in our city. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell Millennium, the developer of the Athletes Village, that they were supposed to be building something great and that beauty should be more than skin deep.

From the outside the project is stunning but once inside the illusion quickly fades away and you are left with poor workmanship and unsellable homes that are priced at the upper end of Vancouver’s real estate market. I was able to view the nearly 4700 square foot penthouse in one of the units recently and was stunned by the quality of finishing and material used in this supposed premium home. I’m not going to go into detail about what building or what penthouse other than to say that I know people who were involved in the building of all of the units and the quality is consistently poor throughout the entire development.

Just out of curiosity I decided to do a little comparison shopping in the area between 2 bed 2 bath units around 1100 square feet. At the Village the typical price for something in that configuration runs between $700k and $1.1 million where as a comparable unit closer to Broadway and Cambie runs between $590k and $1.4 million. The lower end is older buildings but the price actually compares quite well which leads me to believe that I am not the only one who noticed the poor quality at Millennium Water.

I suppose that’s why Millennium recently went into receivership and I strongly believe that once Ernst & Young, along with condo sales ace Bob Rennie, get a plan together the issues will be solved and the units sold at reduced values.

On a happier note I have discovered a great new dive in the same area called Argo Cafe. Located at  1836 Ontario street, just across from the Village, I am apparently the only one I know who had never been there. I had the House Chow Mein with BBQ pork, chicken and shrimp. What a great Chow Mein!!! Crispy and soft noodles, bok choy, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, so good from a place that you wouldn’t expect from its outside and inside appearance.  You can read more about the history of this great little spot here as well as drool over their menu and read about their upcoming feature on The Food Network.

My Movember Moustache is still going strong and I am eagerly looking forward to the Gala Party at Fortune Sound Club on December 2nd. I recently had a little Movember get together with some close friends and raised an additional $300 to add to the $1200 we have raised so far in the fight against prostate cancer. If you would like to donate you can do so here. I am officially dedicating my Movember efforts to the memory of David Lam who was taken from us on November 22nd after a battle with prostate cancer. He was an inspiration to all Canadians and you can learn a little more about him here.

Thanks for reading everyone and I hope you have a great week!!!

Scott.