Taking it to the streets

IMG_0057 (1 of 6)Food is always with easy reach on the streets of Vancouver, which may well be the food cart capital of the free world. My home town Sydney has followed slowly in its BC cousin’s footsteps in recent years and now has about eight trucks around town. In Vancouver there seems to be one on just about every corner.

James Iranzad, former president of the Street Food Vancouver Society, says the food revolution that’s swept his city began with mayor Gregor Robertson’s drive to improve food choices beyond the staple hot dogs and popcorn: “to provide something more reflective of Vancouver’s ethnic diversity”.

Legislation allowing the expansion of colourful, tasty sidewalk dining was passed in 2010 and an expert panel now assesses all vendor applications. “It’s all about great food under 10 minutes and under $10”, says James.

There are more than 100 vendors, carts and trucks registered but not all are operating. Those that are can be most easily tracked down using the Street Food Vancouver smartphone app. IMG_0044 (5 of 6)

Most carts have fixed spots around the city’s core, particularly along Robson and Burrard streets, and these carts do an especially brisk lunchtime trade as hungry workers stream out of the surrounding office blocks.

Mobile food trucks can’t operate within the Downtown area but have the advantage of being able to pitch at prime suburban locations including beaches and provide food at events and private functions.

The food cart style of casual, impromptu munching seems to suit the times and everyone’s tastes. It’s popular enough that, at one time, it prompted some entrepreneurs to offer an “Eat your Cart Out” city tour during which punters sank their teeth into a range of sidewalk dishes such as slow-smoked pulled pork sandwiches, pan-Asian tapas, bacon every-which-way, short ribs, soups, tuna tacos, hot smoked salmon sandwiches, perogy, pupusas and fajita wraps. Burp! IMG_0021 (6 of 6)

* There is currently a “World’s Best Food Truck Tour” available weekdays at 11am through Tour Guys Vancouver

Doing Vancouver in style

Vancouver is a jaw dropper thanks to its enviable geographical location, twixt sea and mountains, and thanks also to its cutting edge in style. This city continues to impress in terms of sheer liveability and smart looks.  I take every chance I get to scour the streets and brush up on what’s happening at the cutting edge.

Yaletown and Gastown are two renowned crucibles of sharp fashion. Idiosyncratic clothing and jewellery boutiques are found in SoMa (South Main) between 20 and 25th Avenues. South Granville is peppered with small art galleries and intriguing designer shops.

It's hard to beat local styling!

It’s hard to beat local styling!

When it comes to looking good, name dropping is par for the course. So here’s a few places and brands (with web links) that got me excited.

Vancouver’s celebrated cobbler John Fluevog has been creating “unique soles for unique souls” for more than 40 years. His design studio and retail outlet occupies a converted warehouse at 65 Water Street, Gastown. Vogs are made in Poland and Portugal with limited editions made in Vancouver. Phone (604) 688 6228 Fluevog

shoes

New from Fluevog

Roden Gray at 8 Water Street in Gastown (phone 604 689 7302) has Wings + Horn shirts, pre-shrunk tiger fleece hoodies and sweatshirts as well as Sans Vanite T-shirts (both Vancouver designers) along with 18 Waits jewellery, T-shirts and accessories from Ontario. You’ll also find Nom de Guerre clothing from the US and US label Band of Outsiders. See Roden Gray

Brooklyn Clothing Co, 418 Davie St, Yaletown (phone 604-683-2929) has Hardi Hood (Vancouver) hoodies and t-shirts (Hardi Hood), Matt and Nat (Vancouver) faux leather bags and murses (man-purses) (Matt and Nat), and Mackage (Montreal) leather double jackets and fronted half coats.

In demand locally-fashioned accessories include recycled bicycle chain belt buckles and silver jewellery by Pyrrha. Half and full length parkas, bomber jackets with coyote fur hood trim and gloves are a winter hit from Canada Goose. Brooklyn also carries an expansive range of denim from Europe and US including Nudie, True Religion and G-Star.

CG golves

Canada Goose gloves

One of Vancouver’s best-known exports is lululemon athletica, which started 11 years ago in the Kitsilano neighbourhood near Granville Island. It now has stores all over Canada, the US and in Australia.

Two of a Few, 356 Water Street Gastown, phone (604) 605 0685, has select shoes and apparel for women and men. Dream: Apparel and Articles for People, 311 West Cordova, Gastown (phone 604 683 7326) was voted best local designer store in a Georgia Straight poll. It’s just around the corner from Two of a Few.

And if you intend to dress well, then it follows that you might also want to eat well. A few suggestions:

Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House, 777 Thurlow Street, (phone 604 669 1940) is a city icon that’s been wowing diners for 25 years with its sheer panache. A grand, theatrical room with central brass bar and curving brass staircase sets the tone for a feast served by savvy waiters in classic white jackets.
The Greedy Pig, 307 Cordova Street, Gastown, (phone 604 669 4991) highlights local artisan products such as pulled pork, truffle roast beef, pig pot pie with whisky and bourbon cocktails and precise wine list.
Cioppino’s, 1133 Hamilton Street, Yaletown (phone 604 688 7466) is rated for both its Italian fare and extensive wine list.
C restaurant, 1600 Howe Street (phone 604 681 1164) represents the acme of power dining Vancouver style. It’s top dog in a triumvirate run by restaurateur Harry Kambiolis, his other outlets being Nu and Raincity Grill.

Passage to Alaska

If there’s one cruise that truly combines all the crucial criteria of great sailing  – being amazing scenery, fascinating ports of call and memorable land content  – it would have to be a cruise of the Inside Passage along the northwest coast of the North American continent.

alaska glacier bay_mapThe coastline between Vancouver in British Columbia and Seward, the port for Anchorage in Alaska, is one of the most scenic sectors of our beautiful planet. Unsurprisingly, many who travel to Alaska choose to arrive or depart via this route.

Given the coastal roll out of densely forested islands, the visits to remote communities such as Skagway and Ketchikan and the awesome passage into Glacier Bay, I rank my Inside Passage cruise among the most satisfying and interesting cruise itineraries I’ve done.

But I do have a caveat. Make such a voyage either at the start or toward the end of the cruise season.

Spare me the thought of several large cruise ships docked side by side anywhere at the same time, which is what happens at the height of the sailing season. At such times a remote, tiny port of call like little Skagway struggles to bear the brunt of two or three large cruise ships discharging thousands of passengers into town.

One of these ships alone carries enough passengers to double Skagway’s resident summer population. Days of such chronic cruise overload severely impact any chance of enjoying your all-to-brief experience of this jolly Alaskan coastal town tucked away at the far end of the Chilkoot Inlet.

Skagway was spawned as a result of the great Yukon goldrush of the late 19th century. It was from here that fortune seekers made their arduous way over Chilkoot Pass into the Klondike.I followed this trail the easy way, by taking the White Pass & Yukon Route, a precipitous adventure along an amazingly engineered narrow gauge rail track that winds up the mountains to the Canadian border.

At one point in the past, this track ran all the way to Whitehorse and by riding the rails I got a real sense of the inspired endeavour and sheer grit that lay behind gold-rush fever. I also kept alert to any wildlife in the surrounding forest and deep ravines. My vigilance was rewarded by the sighting of a young bear in Dead Horse Gulch.

Broadway is Skagway’s main street and is kept polished and trim for tourists. The trinket, souvenir and clothing shops doing brisk trade between May and September. The museum has lots of information on the settlement’s history along with images of those early days.

The flavour of pioneer times permeates the Red Onion Saloon. It was once a brothel and is still the town’s epicentre of entertainment with musicians off the cruise ships often exchanging riffs with local players at afternoon jazz sessions. Such gigs are best enjoyed with a halibut burger in one hand and an Alaskan amber beer in the other.