Saturday, August 29, 2009

PNE 2009 - Headpins / Randy Bachman

This was a night for nostalgia.

It had been a really long week at work, so a chance to unwind at the PNE was foremost in my mind for the better part of Friday. I had a small lunch in anticipation of some good fair grub and a couple good shows.

Stop number 1 - Hunky Bill's Perogies, and my first brush with nostalgia. You see, Bill's been at the fair for a very long time ... 43 years to be exact. Which means when my parents took me to the PNE for my first time, Bill was serving his perogies at the PNE for the first time. Hunky Bill's at the PNE became a special treat for me. More so than the cotton candy or corn dogs.

As an added bonus, THE MAN was in DA HOUSE! Bill is a grascious host and denies nobody a photo opportunity ... much to the annoyance of his staff since the stand can be slammed (which it often is) and Bill will be shakin hands and kissing babies. My wife, he didn't kiss.

Concert #1 for the evening was The Headpins. I'll be the first to admit, I wasn't expecting much from this show. Darby Mills' vocal styling could best be described as "melodic screaming" so I didn't hold up much hope that her voice would be in very good condition 20 years later.

I'm happy to say I was wrong. They sounded great! And there was the added benefit of watching a bunch of 50 year olds in the audience "rock out" like they used to at Outlaws "back in the day."

I know, "Those Little Donuts" are hardly adventurous. But they are really addictive, and no PNE is complete without them. One item of note, the water that runs down the midway in front of the donut stand is NOT from the washroom nearby. It's from the hot tubs up the way.

Concert #2 was Randy Bachman. All I can say is "Wow"

The big difference between Randy and a lot of the 70's reuinion bands I've seen is his level of professionalism. The man is just effortless in his playing and posseses the stage like royalty ... which I suppose he is in the music world. He covered all the hits from "Shakin' All Over" and "These Eyes" with The Guess Who, to "Let it Roll" and "Takin' Care of Business" with BTO. One of the best shows I've seen in ages.

Post concert snacks consisted of ice cream, and another old favorite, Fisher Scones. Mom used to rave about these for weeks before the PNE. Fresh from the oven they're a nice warm bit of nostalgia.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gallery - Dundarave Apartment - Round 2

Sometimes good things come in pairs.

This kitchen is a re-do of a kitchen I did about 6 years ago ... a re-re-do if you will. The clients purchased a neighbouring apartment and joined the two rooms, allowing for a much bigger kitchen. Some new cabinets had to be made, and everything was re-painted to ensure a consistent finish.

I'm not sure what I'll be able to do with the cabinets in another 6 years ...

Get the flash player here:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

PNE 2009 - April Wine

The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE for short) is our version of the annual summer fair. For me as a kid it always meant one thing ... the rides! Playland was my "Disneyland" until I actually went to Disneyland. Then Playland ... well, it sucked.

Later the nostalgia came from the food. Little Donuts, Jimmy's Lunch, BBQ Chicken (cooked by family friend Henry Schultz) and of course, Fischer Scones! Being honest ... well, the food sucks, but in a much less insulting way than the rides did.

The rides all tried to pretend to be big and scary. The lights and loud music all created promises that the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Octopus just can't deliver. The food on the other hand doesn't pretend to be anything other than it is. Tasty, but really really bad for you.

Many years I don't even go to the PNE. We'll be away on family vacation, or the weather won't cooperate. I really don't need much of an excuse to miss it. This year however, I plan on being there at least 4 or 5 nights thanks to an exceptional line-up of free (with your gate admission) entertainment. And, as an added bonus, my wife bought us gate passes for the whole fair for my birthday! Ain't she the greatest?

The plan this year is to try as many new foods and take in as many shows as we can, and share the results with you here. Night 1 was August 24th. The food ... Texas Taters from the "Tender Beef" stand. They advertise apple-wood smoked beef, and even have a "smoker" out front with a pile of apple wood as proof. I'm a doubter ... the fact that I saw staff portioning out pre-sliced beef from plastic bags may prove me right. We were still full from the Canada Line excursion the day before, so I wasn't in any condition to investigate further.

The Texas Taters however, were interesting looking enough to give a go despite the full bellies. The spiral-cut potatoes (do they even grow taters in Texas?) would have benefited from a hotter fry, and they won't ever replace proper frites in my book. But they were definitely fresh (fried while I waited) and were "fun" to eat. And isn't that what fair food is all about?

The entertainment for the night was April Wine. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dining the Line - Part 1

A while back I mentioned the construction fiasco along Cambie Street that was part of the rapid transit expansion in Vancouver. Thankfully Cambie Street is back together and the Canada Line opened for business on August 17th.

Stretching from Downtown Vancouver all the way out to Vancouver International Airport and Richmond, the new line is a great new addition to our city.

I new it would be a great help to travellers, speeding folks out to YVR (25 minutes from Downtown!) But how would it help me?

In the interest of research, I'm going to "dine the line," visiting each station along the Canada line and eating as close to the station as I can. For now, coffee chains and convenience stores located within the station don't count (although at this stage of the game those facilities aren't completed) but anythng else is fair game

Our plan for day 1 was to visit the Richmond portion, riding from Waterfront out to the Richmond-Brighouse, and then working our way towards the airport. First impressions of the new stations and cars? Clean, simple designs and quite spacious. In a way, they were quite similar to some of the newer stations in the Paris Metro

Stop #1 - New Town Bakery (Richmond-Brighouse)

I am NOT an expert on Chinese food. I know what I like, and I'm open to trying almost anything. My friend Lee is educating me to its finer points, but I still feel really nervous when dining alone in a part of the city predominantly Chinese, like Richmond. Lee was not with me today, so I was flying blind.

So I was really pleased when about a block away from the station we found New Town. Lots of steamed buns (BBQ Pork, Duck, Black Bean, Sesame, etc.) and other pastries (Egg Tarts and Chinese Donuts!) to chose from. In a way it was a shame we came here as part of this trip because I could have easily filled up here.

Our total bill for 8 items: $6.50.

Stop #2 - Neptune Wonton Noodle Restaurant (Lansdowne)

There are several better restaurants in this area (which I'm sure some readers will point out) but I wanted to keep things simple and visit the first place I found, hopefully discovering something new and delicious. I've had better food than at Neptune, but the fact that I found it on my own and was able to order on my own without making any obvious faux-pas' was a real achievement in my books.

We ordered from the "Select 3" lunch menu ... 3 categories with several items. $12.99 for 3 items.:

Chicken/Ginger/Spring Onion Congee

Shredded Chicken in Noodle

Siu Mai

Stop #3 - Osaka/T&T Supermarket - Yaohan (Aberdeen)

If you're ever looking to experience real culture shock in a sort of Blade-Runner-meets-shopping-mall kind of way, Yaohan Mall is a great place to start. As soon as you walk through the doors it's as if the Western world you knew only minutes before has vanished. Very few signs are in English, products on the shelves are very unfamiliar.

Fortunately for us, exposure to Asian culture over the years has made this feel less strange, exposing us to one of the world's great cuisines. T&T was my first introduction to Asian foods. I mean REAL Asian foods ... where you have absolutely no idea what you're looking at until you find the English langauge decal on the back of the package.

Their Osaka branch is the cornerstone of the Yaohan Mall and any future visit to the Aberdeen Station will include a shopping trip here. We picked up a couple packages of Pocky-like cookies, and these:

Mosak (Mosaic?) Cookies!

Stop #4 - River Rock Casino (Bridgeport)

Sorry. I couldn't do it. River Rock Casino, and the attached hotel, is a magnificent facility. But I HATE casinos. Something about throwing away my money while overstimulated by bells and lights makes me want to curl up in the corner and curse Wayne Newton's name.

In fairness, I've been told by several people that the buffet in the hotel is very good. But after touring the casino floor I had the shakes and really needed to leave.

Stop #5 & 6 - (Templeton & Sea Island Centre)

Nada. Not even a vending machine. These stops are designed to serve the long-term parking lots and the employees of the airport and supporting businesses. I suppose there is a coffee shop lurking in amongst some of the buildings near the Sea Island station, but it was Sunday, and I wasn't about to go searching for a stale sandwich.

Stop #7 - Fairmont Hotel (YVR - Airport)

This is the reason why this line was built. With the Olympics coming next year, thousands of people will be coming through this airport and making their way into the city. The connection is terrific, and it should also be noted that at various stations along the line, their are check-in kiosks for several airlines, so you can be checked in even before you arrive.

Our last stop was the Lounge in the Fairmont Hotel. Snacks and a beer ... a perfect way to end the day. Of course, YVR is full of many other dining options, and thanks to it's fair pricing policy you're paying the same in the airport as you would out.

Next up on "Dining the Line", South Vancouver.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Avoid Getting Snowed Under

Another big obstacle in the design process my clients tell about is one of those "nice problem to have" sort of things.

I'm speaking of choice. As in, too much of it. Whether it's paint colour, or cabinet material, somewhere along the line many people forgot what they liked, or became afraid to make a choice.

I blame HGTV.

My fellow blogger Kelly Moriseau over at Kitchen Sync has just written a great article on how to get focussed when all around you is conspiring to overwhelm you.

Check it out here.

And before you ask, I took the lazy way and linked to Kelly's article simply because her advice is almost 100% what I would suggest.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

While You're At It ...

Some call it "project creep," the more cynical call it "padding the bill." Regardless of your point of view many remodel projects end up costing more than we thought they would at the beginning. The reasons for this are many, but many times the reason is additional work that was added to the bill because the timing was right.

I'm in the middle of a big bathroom remodel at the moment. Beautiful fixtures, a large custom shower, and a LOT of tile work. While the plumber was doing the rough-ins for the shower he called me and asked me to come to the jobsite. There he showed me a section of copper pipe, about 30cm long. Grabbing both ends he started to bend the pipe in half, but rather than bend like it should have, the copper snapped into several pieces.

The original plumbing it turned out was done with a very low grade of copper tubing that, over time, had become brittle. Hooking up brand new fixtures to pipes like this would be possible of course. But responsible? In a situation like this I feel a responsibility to tell the client what we've found, and what the best solution is ... in this case, to re-plumb the entire bathroom.

I'm amazed at how often, when faced with this situation, I'm accused of trying to pad the bill. I could just as easily say nothing and hook up to the old pipes, and then pray nothing happens. But doing the work with the walls already open, and the plumber there, made much more sense than waiting for the pipes to fail, and then have to open up the walls which would at that time be covered in tile. Expensive tile.

Fortunately, in this situation the client saw the benefit of doing the work, and because we caught it at an opportune time, I was able to do it for a much more reasonable rate than if it were to be done later.

When faced with this situation, I advise my clients to look at it from a long-term (quality driven)point of view, rather than a short-term (budget driven) perspective. Especially if the work in question is going to have to be performed at some point anyway, doing it then and there can prove to be very cost effective. If however the work was something that wasn't even on the radar, and isn't necessary to the integrity of the remodel, chances are it can wait.

The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten —Sir Henry Royce

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Burnaby Gots da Blues

Situated in central Burnaby, Deer Lake Park has slowly become one of the best outdoor venues for summer concerts. The Vancouver Symphony has been holding concerts here for the past 21 years, but more recently the likes of Steeley Dan, John Fogherty and even The White Stripes have performed here. The acoustics are pretty good and the setting is beautiful.

August 9th, 2009 was the 10th anniversary of the Burnaby Blues Festival. This year's line-up included the likes of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Raul Malo, Keb Mo' (a personal favorite of J and I) and Smokey Robinson!

A line-up like this was too good to pass up, and was only augmented by the fact that the entire site was beer-friendly this year. No sitting in the beer garden while the music played on. Nope. We made pulled-pork sandwiches (what else do you eat while listening to the blues?) and grabbed an assortment of snacks that would keep us sustained for the 7 hours we were there.

This also happened to be the Abbotsford Airshow weekend, so we were treated to a fly-over from the Snowbirds!

Smokey was awesome. 67 years old and his voice is still smooth as his silk shirts.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Look Before You Cook

I've been dealing with a lot of new kitchen clients lately who want to create their "dream kitchen." A major part of that dream is the choice of appliances. But how exactly do you go about selecting a range, for example, if you've never cooked on it. This is not only a concern from brand to brand (i.e. is a KitchenAid range better than a Jenn-Air) but for the different fuel sources ("I've never cooked on gas but I hear it's the best") and configurations.

You could ask around to see if any of your circle of friends is already using what you're looking for ... but you know where that's going to end up. With a much smaller circle of friends.

Many appliance retailers have noticed this dilemna and have addressed it by hooking up live kitchens in their showrooms. In Vancouver, Midland Appliances is an excellent place to check out a wide variety of cooktops, ovens and even dishwashers. As a designer, I not only use Midland for my customers, but also for myself. They gave me my first crack at cooking on an induction top. Regular visits help me stay on top of what's "latest and greatest."

A new option just opened its doors in Vancouver. The Dirty Apron Cooking School is fully equipped with Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances. Set up through Bradlee Distributors (also equipped with a live kitchen), The Dirty Apron offers a wide variety of hands-on cooking classes. So you can try out some top notch appliances and learn how to use them all at the same time.

You can also explore some other options; kitchen design showrooms often have live kitchens, especially if they also retail a brand of appliances. Or you can always go bug your friends again.

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The Skinny On Skinny's

It's been hot here lately. Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kinda hot. And when it gets this kinda hot, our family heads to the hills to seek refuge in the Coquihalla at our family cabin. The mountain air, the lake, and a chance to unwind. A perfect way to spend a long weekend.

A weekend at the cabin also means a visit to Skinny's in Hope. Skinny's is probably my favorite diner in the world. The food is basic but well done, service is friendly and the decor consists of exposed fir beams and stuffed Looney Tune characters.

This trip we stopped for breakfast.  Breakfast at Skinny's isn't about granola or whole wheat pancakes.  It's about griddle fried hash browns that crunch even after the egg yolk as soaked into them for a while.  It's about that bottomless cup of coffee that has you making a several rest-stop breaks once you're back on the road.  It's about a short order cook who knows how to soft baste an egg.  It's about having all those things at breakfast you deny yourself the rest of the week, but because it's the weekend ... why not?

Farmer's Sausage with Skinny's famous potato pancakes.
Lancaster Scramble with cheese sauce and hash browns.
Skinny's also does a mean dinner, and has live music on Saturday evenings.

Skinny's Grille
263810 Flood Hope Rd
Hope, BC, V0X1L2.
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