Pacific Northwest Palate
After three days in San Francisco, I flew to Seattle, which will be my launching pad for a short sojourn to Vancouver and the site of my Thanksgiving feast under the patronage of the Nguyen-Lucier clan. JP hates it when I wear my navy jersey dress without a belt, as I did for my flight to Seattle. But the muu muu is quite comfy and convenient for air travel. My brother-in-law jokes that one day all men and women will resort to wearing muu muus on airplanes since they are so innocuous. Remember when Homer Simpson gained so much weight in a bid to receive disability payments that he had to wear a floral-printed muu muu? He was harmless, until he caused a meltdown at the nuclear plant.
Pinkberry, the bastion of low-calorie frozen yogurt flavored with a tangy zing, has legions of copycats in Los Angeles. Lo and behold, it also has one in Vancouver, dubbed Blueberry. Oh, why didn't those Canadians come up with a better name? It's the same thing with their Thanksgiving, which falls on the first Monday of October. Rather than labeling it Harvest Day or the Gluttony Hour, they had to call it Canadian Thanksgiving.
Fall in the Pacific Northwest was, as usual, nippy and wet. It's perfect weather for staying indoors and noshing. My travel partner, Anh-Thu, and I sampled a good variety of wine made in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. On our first night in Vancouver, we supped at Zin, which lit up its dining room with a sensual shadow of a wine glass. Though we were the only diners at the late hour of 10 on a Sunday, Zin was one of many new establishments that recently opened in anticipation of the crowds that will throng to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Since the city has been growing so much in the past few years, there is a shortage of workers. In some cases, restaurants and stores have to hire foreigners from countries as far as Japan and Australia to man the businesses. Anh-Thu, who went to Whistler, B.C., before meeting me in Vancouver, said she met so many Aussies in the mountain resort that she thought she was in Brisbane.
But we didn't bother drinking any Foster Lager in Vancouver. Instead, we quaffed our thirsts with Granville Brewing Co.'s honey lager and IPA. See how crystal clear the beer is.
Sometimes we ordered food just to soak up the wine we sipped. One night, we snacked on fries dusted with cayenne pepper.
Back in Seattle for Thanksgiving, I was charged with babysitting a three-year-old named Geddy while his mom prepared six pies, a 14-pound turkey, big crusty rolls, turkey roulade and some half dozen side dishes -- all from scratch. As his dad is a huge Rush fan, Geddy is named after the band's lead singer. Geddy doesn't have any rock star tendencies yet. But he does like to ride lions and have his toy sharks be buddies with his toy whales. I took this photo of Geddy after I took him on a Bataan-style march to the grocery store to buy some of Armando Batali's salumi as edible souvenirs for my friends. For me, it was a brisk 10-minute walk down a hill. But for the 36-pound Geddy, whom I refused to carry since I was wearing a dress, it was a long trek. So I had to make up some games to lure him home. Let's race to see who can run the fastest! Let's ride the lions! Let's have the shark swim up the stair railing! Being a modern-day Mary Poppins is hard work.
Though the Thanksgiving feast was such a rich, decadent affair, I opted instead to photograph the Vietnamese lunch we had on my last day. Geddy's mom and grandmom are fantastic Vietnamese cooks. I look forward to getting them in the kitchen with my own mother. They could garner a star or two from Michelin, in my opinion.
Threaded with coconut, the sweet sticky rice made forks and chopsticks unnecessary. You could just pick up globs with your fingers.
That was just as well because we had to pick at the Dungeness crab cooked in roasted garlic with our fingers. We were joking at the table that this was a kind of meal that required the company of good friends. You would go minutes without talking to anyone as you concentrated on extracting the sweet meat from the cracked shells and licked the gooey sauce trickling down your fingers.
Hanging out with the Nguyen-Lucier clan means that I'll be well-fed even after I leave their house. Geddy's grandmom packed me a Thanksgiving dinner, along with some sticky rice and egg rolls, for the plane. While my fellow passengers scrounged at Burger King during our two-hour delay at the airport, I supped in style.