Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.



Wimpy Roy
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Subhumans photos are now up.

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Anniversary Weekend

Pramas and I spent the weekend in Vancouver to celebrate our anniversary this weekend. Thanks to some school friends of Kate's, we got to spend our romantic weekend away together alone after all (after Kate's dad had to be out of town and skip his visitation weekend, this plan was in peril until the very last moment).

I'm quite busy trying to get everything in order for the upcoming Green Ronin Summit which begins on Friday, so I don't have time to write up a full accounting of events, but I have posted photos to my Flickr account, including photos of our dinner at Chambar (a Belgian restaurant), dinner at Tojo's (in their new, swanky location), and dim sum at Vancouver dim sum institution, The Pink Pearl.

Other events of the weekend included a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery for an exhibition on Emily Carr and the Group of Seven and the last weekend of wacky experimental artist Andrea Zittel's Critical Space exhibition. Georgia O'Keefe starts next weekend, darn. Lest we go too high-brow with our fancy hotel room, gourmet dining, and art exhibits, we balanced things out with an hours-long expedition to Gastown's Pub 340 for an intimate and rockin' good Subhumans (Canada) show. We'd missed seeing D.O.A with their original line up at their DVD release party the night before we arrived in Vancouver (which Pramas lamented) but the Subhumans show was awesome and we're pretty convinced we spotted both Randy Rampage and Joey Shithead in the audience. Lots of pictures of the show waiting to be uploaded. We wrapped up the weekend by sitting in the icy rain on the 8th floor outdoor jacuzzi (pros: no one else was using it, cons: rain and cold everywhere outside of the actual hot tub) and then making a quick stop at Richmond's Imperial Hobbies to sate someone's lust for hard-to-find historical miniatures rules.

Pramas or I might have more details on the Subhumans show later but for now it's back work! Summit, then the in-laws visit, then Kate's week-long outdoor school trip and next thing you know October is going to be over! Ack.

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Strategies Games & Hobbies

Wall o' Board Games
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Strategies Games & Hobbies is a fairly new store that's opened up in Vancouver and we finally had a chance to visit last weekend.

From my perspective as both a publisher and a gamer myself, Darren is doing everything right with his store: it is clean, spacious, and well-lit. He has a tightly focused inventory, attractively displayed. The storefront is welcoming and uncluttered, with excellent signs and several games laid out on game tables where people can have a look at them or go through a brief demo. He and his employee greeted every person who came through the door and thanked every person as they left: just the right amount of attention in my book, as I hate to be pressured or lingered over or aggressively chattered at by over-eager staff. At no time did I ever have the feeling that I was entering the owner's private clubhouse, which is too often the feeling I've had at too many independent game stores over the years.

Strategies also has a very full and interesting event schedule. They offer free figure painting lessons on Saturdays, Flames of War games in the store every Friday, Games Workshop games on Sundays and have had great success with RPGA events in the store as well. Darren has had local experts (like painter Kelly Kim and local novelist/game enthusiast Lisa Smedman) come in for contests and clinics at the store, and has scheduled Learn to Play nights to focus on a variety of games. At the end of this month, he's teamed up with the Vancouver Independant Game Designers Association for a game design contest.

He's not just putting together a retail store but he's building community. If you're a gamer in the Vancouver area, I highly recommend checking out Strategies. If you're a professional or someone from a game company who offers support to independent hobby game retailers, Strategies is exactly the kind of store we want to nurture. If you have an organized play program, demo teams, promotional items, give Darren a ring and let him know.

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Bo Kong Vegetarian Dim Sum

Sesame balls
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
We were introduced to this garden of vegetarian delights on our last trip to Vancouver by our friends Theo and Kate (our wayward Vertigogirl). Kate's massage business has really taken off (they're turning people away left and right because they're so busy) and she now spends her off hours doing things other than blogging, so it's pretty much on these yearly weekends away that we have a chance to catch up with them.

This particular gathering also included other friends of theirs in town from England and other friends or ours, Mike and Toren. Gathered at a giant round table where we made full use of the huge lazy susan, we ordered up an assortment of amazing vegetarian dim sum to feed an army. I'd been looking forward to the sesame balls with lotus root paste eagerly, as I'd never had them as good.

Our dining companions were knowledgeable about the menu and also ordered several items that weren't listed, like these colorful gelatinous noodles, served cold. I didn't catch the name of the dish (something "jack"?) but it turned out that it was the ingredient but not the preparation that Kate and Theo's other visiting friends were looking for, so they ordered a second batch and were delivered these crisp-fried little nuggets that were very reminiscent of salt and pepper scallops. Very different from the cold noodles. If anyone knows what either of those dishes are called, please let me know, I'd love to be able to order them again!

Other standout dishes from that day included the tofu skin rolls in spicy black bean sauce, the wontons in spicy sauce, the vegetable shu mai, and the barbecue buns. In an additional bonus, we Bo Kong is just blocks away from our friend Darren's new game store. Where we used to make a trip out to Richmond for dim sum and a visit to Imperial Hobbies, we can now enjoy an actual Vancouver-proper dim sum/gaming nexus (particularly handy since our old favorite Richmond dim sum location no longer exists).

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Venison plate
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
For our big culinary excursion of the trip, Chris and I went to Nu. Nu, as they are only too happy to tell you, are the winners of some dozen awards: Critics Choice, Readers Choice, Best New Restaurant, Best Small Plates, Best New Fine Dining, even Best Parking. Nu is the third Vancouver restaurant for Harry Kambolis and just as wildly popular as the first two (Raincity Grill and C). If I'm ever in the position of having a crazy surplus of money or find myself in the company of millionaires who wish to feed me for the night, I'm going to try the Chef's Tasting Menu at C: 14 courses, plus wine pairings for $245 per person. This weekend I did not have a crazy surplus of money, so we settled for a regular ol' dinner at the less expensive Nu.

The night started out with a bit of frustration as I tried to find the best way to get down to the restaurant, whose address is on Granville street but is actually under the Granville Street Bridge. I accidentally got on the bridge the first time past, and had to circle back around across the bridge and back into downtown and the unfamiliar one-way and "no turn" or "no exit" streets. Then, upon finally getting to the restaurant, I had to fight for parking with a reckless SUV driver who was perfectly willing to risk sideswiping my rental car in order to back up past me to the one open spot in the free restaurant parking. I was not amused. Thankfully additional parking opened up and I didn't have to crack the head of the SUV guy.

The interior of Nu is "stylish" and "hip" for sure. It's a nice location, looking over False Creek toward Granville Island. We were greeted and our coats were taken immediately, then we were showed to a table for two near the kitchen and along the windows. It was very dimly lit and very, VERY loud. In fact, after an hour and a half of being bombarded by the noise, I started developing a headache which threatened to bring the evening to a ruinous conclusion. Pramas sweetly (and of his own accord, since my head was in my hands at that point) asked our waitress if he might be able to get some ibuprofen or something and like an angel of goodness she slipped me a couple of her own personal stash, staving off the worst of the headache, rescuing our evening out, and guaranteeing herself a nice, fat tip.

Anyway, on to the food.

When we looked over the appetizer menu, we immediately saw multiple items we would have liked to try. There were things that immediately called out to the both of us, though. Pramas is on a mission to try steak tartare all over the world and I have a hard time passing up a salad of wine-poached pears, beets and chevre (three of my favorite foods together? Sign me up!) so we ordered those and then an additional, completely over-the-top, unnecessary order of pomme frites with foie gras gravy and truffle oil, because we just had to know.

The pear/beet salad was not what I expected: a poached pear, cut into thick rounds, stuffed with chevre and capped with a slice of beet, served on sliced Belgian endive. The menu claimed there was some frisee involved, but I didn't see any. The dressing was thick and tart, maybe with some tarragon in it? Couldn't tell and frankly, it was so good that I ate it fast and didn't spend a lot of time dissecting it. The pomme frites were total overkill but we did our duty and then, stuffed already, worried that we'd be too full to enjoy our entrees.

Happily for our bellies the service was, shall we say, leisurely. During the long wait between appetizers and entrees we were able to digest a little and recover for round two. Chris, always looking for something new, tried the crispy braised pork belly with yam dumplings. I went with the roasted venison tenderloin. It was served with seasonal vegetables and on a bed of spinach, under which I was told, was quince puree. I never did find the quince puree (much like the missing frisee in my salad) but what was on the plate was plenty. The venison was perfect and I enjoyed it mightily.

We were both quite tired and full and had intended to pass on any dessert but decided it couldn't hurt to look (ha!) at the dessert menu and, then, as yet more time had passed, decided that we really did have room for a little cheese plate after all. Chris ordered up the Penticton Blue that was served with these lightly toasted slices of dark housemade fruited bread that, again, was perfect. Just the right amount of cheese, just the right match of flavors, an ideal end to the meal.

The food at Nu was superb (missing ingredients and all) and Claire, our server, really saved the experience for us. Even had she not saved the meal by helping me with my headache problem, she was friendly, cheerful, attentive and just generally pleasant. Her attention and great attitude did much to offset the unpleasantly noisy environment and the uncomfortable, backless (but oh-so-stylish) chairs. I imagine the experience would be even more pleasant on a sunny spring or summer day, instead of in the dark of night and during a pouring rainstorm. Thumbs up to NU.

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O'Doul's Restaurant, Vancouver

Smoked Salmon with Frisee Salad
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Chris and I wandered into O'Doul's without a reservation on Friday night for a late dinner. It was after 8:30pm and despite the live jazz band performing, it wasn't noisy or too crowded. There were a couple of different large parties of people out for celebrations but one by one those tables cleared and either remained empty or were replaced by couples. Every now and then there was hooting from the bar area where a few people were gathered to watch the hockey game but that didn't last long. The interior of the restaurant was very cool, including a giant old-fashioned map of the world on the ceiling that Chris would love on the ceiling of his office.

Our server was very open and pleasant, chatty but not obsequious. One thing I've always felt about Vancouver is that they have some of the best looking, smartest, most pleasant and educated waitstaff I've ever run into and that held true through all of our meals this weekend.

O'Doul's was running a tasting menu with wine pairings so Chris and I decided to go with that. Our waiter didn't seem to actually know very much about wine, or at least the wines that he was serving that night but since Chris and I don't know much about wine either, that was ok. I can imagine some wine snobs being really put out but we didn't care. I didn't think to write down the wines, though, so I can't report on what they were except that I had all white wines with my pairings and one was a Chardonnay which only reinforced that I really don't like Chardonnay.

Chris opened with the smoked salmon with frisee salad while I opted for the rich and satisfying truffled mushroom risotto. The risotto came with tempura vegetables, and the wine pairing was deliciously sweet and just right to cut through the fattiness. We waited a while for our entrees. Chris had seared scallops served with a cumin-crab ravioli and a creamy sauce. Chris gave me a bite and I didn't much care for the ravioli and preferred the scallop. He didn't feel the scallop matched well with the rest of the dish and would have rather just had the ravioli alone. Still, the dish wasn't bad, just not to my taste. Luckily for me, I had the Canadian sablefish on rice (with a little cabbage and bacon) with vegetables. My sablefish was delightful, as sablefish always is.

After the entrees were cleared away we hit the real disappointment of the night: an interminable wait for our desserts. We waited over half an hour, asked someone else to please check on them for us, and then waited a few minutes more. Our server apologized and couldn't even offer an excuse for the delay. When it arrived, the apple-rhubarb crumble ala mode was great, but having such a long wait during such a late dinner put a real black eye on the experience. The muscat paired was a darker color than I expected and reminded us both very much of port. I believe all the wines were Australian and curse that I didn't write them down.

Chris was ready to go when our waiter came by to ask if he could buy us a glass of wine to make up for the delay with the dessert. Since I'd had no red wine with dinner, I was in the mood for one nice glass of red, so I took him up on it and Chris acquiesced and had another glass of the muscat. The red I had was a blend (of what I can't remember now), again something the waiter hadn't tried himself. It was nice and I felt much less grumpy about the late dessert after I finished it, which was undoubtedly our waiter's intent.

I would recommend O'Doul's, though perhaps not if you're in a hurry to get somewhere, and I thought the food was inventive and tasty. The wine experience was less satisfying but that goes to personal taste and I'm sure that I could enjoy myself there, listening to jazz and working my way through the wine list, if I still lived in the area.

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