The West Coast Winos (a.k.a. L.M. Fleming and Cdub the Philosopher) converged this weekend in Vancouver, B.C. for the sole purpose of drinking amazing cocktails and eating delicious food. When we both realized we desperately needed “out” for a vacation, we picked Vancouver for three reasons: 1. Vancouver is known for it’s food. 2. Vancouver is known for it’s cocktails. 3. Hawaii is too expensive and hot this time of year.
We stayed at the Inn at False Creek, a Quality Hotel, because it’s centrally located and cheaper than other hotels in the area, even before the press rate they gave me.** Our suite was nice, clean and so spacious it could sleep 5 people easily. It’s location was perfect, providing access to all the places we wanted to go by simply walking or, if farther, taking a bus or a car. It had a nice pool and wifi was free, but parking was $15 a night. I’d definitely recommend this place for anyone heading to Vancouver, especially those wanting to stay near the Davie Street gay bar area, the Gastown and Yaletown cocktail bar areas or even Downtown. I recommend it even more for families traveling or those coming with a large group on a budget, as the rooms provide plenty of space and the kitchen allows you to save money on meals.
It came with a stocked kitchen, which was nice for prepping snacks and this weird extra hallway type thing between the outside windows and the suite – the only function of which I could figure was an old smoking area. If anyone has any idea why this extra room came with my room, please let me know. Still, mystery aside, it was a nice buffer from the outside heat.
To save you the time it took us to find this place, go where you think it should be and then look up. There it is. Located on the roof of a business building, Guu Garden’s menu features light yet flavorful selections, most of which I had never heard of before coming here.
According to its website, one of Guu Garden’s specialties is Oden, which from what I can tell is a mini-soup. We tried the Tofu bag with mochi inside and it was spectacular. The broth was perfect, very flavorful without being too salty, and the tofu pockets – which tasted similar to inari – were filled with a savory mochi, providing a gooey yet chewy combination that I loved.
To counter the warm oden, we had a cold potato soup that was creamier and richer yet not too heavy. We’re pretty sure the fern on top wasn’t weed and we’re also pretty sure those are Lay’s potato chips sprinkled on top with the extra crispy bacon and paprika. It was a nice, refreshing summer soup and the potato chips and crispy bacon added a nice texture difference to the smooth soup.
My favorite dish of the whole weekend was Guu Garden’s Kabocha Korokke, or boiled egg inside a deep-fried pumpkin with aurora mayo sauce. Cdub and I both love pumpkin and this dish did not disappoint. Soft egg and pumpkin on the inside, crisp fried outside layer with a tasty sauce drizzled all over = absolute heaven. I would drive back to Vancouver ever weekend just to get this dish.
Now the raw marinated “firefly” squid, on the other hand, I could do without. I’m glad I tried it – even though the waitress warned us we may not like it – but I don’t need to have it again any time soon.
To help wash down the squid, Cdub and I ordered sake and cucumber cocktails that were refreshing and, according to Cdub who knows these kind of things, like a sake gimlet.
Our refreshing cocktails went great with the tuna tartar with melon and dashi jelly and covered with a soy based sauce, shaved frozen melon and cilantro. The sweet melon complimented the salty tuna and soy beautifully and, although this dish wasn’t quite as flavorful as others at Guu Garden, it was a nice cold summer take on a typical tartar.
Probably my least favorite dish, even behind the squid, was the Unagi nuku-sushi. It’s not that this dish wasn’t good, it was, it just wasn’t nearly as unique as the other dishes offered at Guu Garden. The best or the worst part of this dish, depending on if you ask me or Cdub, is the lack of the usual sauce covering the unagi, allowing you to taste the eel more than usual. The dish had way too much ginger for Cdub, who is actually allergic, and even for me, who loves ginger. Besides the ginger, there wasn’t much flavor to this dish and I wouldn’t recommend it with so many other amazing, unique dishes on the menu.
The second best part of the meal was the adorably delicious tai yaki, or fish shaped mochi stuffed with red beans and served with vanilla ice cream on the side. I want to make these all the time and serve them to impress my friends.
The staff and atmosphere were just as light and refreshing as the food and overall, Guu Garden is a must visit on any trip to Vancouver.
After Guu Garden it was cocktail time! Cdub researched the best cocktail bars in Vancouver before we came and every cocktail we had from her list throughout the weekend was amazing, including those we had our first night at The Refinery: Market. Style. Eatery.
July 15 was our Befri 10 year friendiversary, so we, of course, had to have champagne to celebrate. According to Cdub, who knows a lot more than I do about alcohol, the Cava champagne we ordered was the cheapest on the menu for a reason, but I still liked it. “To 10 years” I cheered. “And eleventy-billion more,” Cdub replied.
When the champagne was done, we moved onto more hardcore cocktails, me a Huga Wildcat and Cdub with a Woodland Sour. My Huga Wildcat – modeled after a Pisco Punch and made with pisco capel, blood orange and grenadine bitters, lemon juice, pineapple preserves, mango bitters and Cava champagne – was so tropically delicious that I really wanted an umbrella to go with it. It was mixed well and not too sweet, but the best part of the drink was ordering it. “I’d like to Huga Wildcat” I said. “Meet me outside,” the bartender quipped. “I like you already,” I replied.
Cdub’s Woodland Sour was more smokey. Made with Jim Bean, house bitters, smoked B.C. forest tea syrup, coconut black tea syrup, lemon juice and an egg white, the drink was shaken so it had a nice foam on top on which pepper was shaken. The drink was smokey, smooth and like a complex version of an apple cider. I would love to come back and have this warmed up for winter.
As we were sipping our drinks, the super-friendly bartender, whose name we soon found out was Graham and who is taking over the bar, came over and chatted with us a bit about the place. All of the bitters, syrups, preserves and teas, including the ones in our current drinks, are made in-house and used magnificently to decorate the bar’s shelves.
The restaurant and bar’s policy is to have as little of an impact on the environment as possible, so they often reuse food scraps, roots, spices, old tea bags and coffee grounds to infuse their bitters and then use the bitters in their meals – like the tiramisu, which has coffee bitters in it. They can and preserve so much that they had to build new shelves on their back wall just to hold it all. Knowing all of this made me love the bar even more.
All Graham’s talk of food made us hungry again, so we ordered some of the amazing looking cured meats we saw in the fancy open fridge behind the bar and added some good sounding paté to make quite an impressive charcuterie plate.
The paté – which we were warned was a pork riet, but I didn’t know what that meant – ended up having a rather large layer of solidified fat on top with pulled pork underneath and was tasty but too fatty for my liking. It did, however, go really well with the OMGood truffled pickled onions, which were one of the most delicious things I’d ever had and were a skillfully crafted addition to the charcuterie plate. Along with the onions, we had equally delicious apricot preserve (made in-house), gherkins, a Benedicto bleu cheese, a smoother cheese (didn’t get the name, too busy eating), a hard prosciutto made in-house and a delicious in-house soppressata salami.Served with toasted yet still a bit soft bread, this was the perfect companion to our drinking.
Speaking of drinking, it was time for round 2, or was it 3, who’s really counting among friends? Whatever this round number was, it was a delicious one. Graham concocted a Last Word for me, consisting of gin, maraschino liqueur, green chartreuse and lime. The drink was splendidly tart and bitter with the perfect splash of sweet, which Cdub said came from the maraschino liqueur. “You can’t tell when it’s in a drink but you can tell when it’s missing,” she philosophized.
Staying in the smokey realm, Cdub went with a No Name, a drink that was so legit in her mind she started singing “2 Legit to Quit” as she drank it. Made with green chartreuse, lemon, maraschino liqueur and Ardberg (a smokey alcohol we would come to love during our trip to Vancouver), this drink was so strong it had to be served over ice to help dilute it. It smelled and tasted very smokey, much to Cdub’s happy delight, but went down smooth.
Cdub’s No Name was enough to finish her off for the night, but I asked Graham to make me one last cocktail, something desserty to finish off the night. He suggested a Paddington Station, made with Earl Grey infused gin, soda, coconut tea syrup with cream and fresh grated cinnamon on top, and – as with all other drinks tonight – it was delicious and I was far from disappointed.
This drink was liquid dessert perfection and a perfect ending to a perfect evening.
**Review policy statement: It is Sinful Misadventures’ policy to notify our readers if an item we review was received at a free or discounted rate. It is also our policy to be as completely honest as possible without being cruel or mean, no matter what we paid for the item or service we are reviewing. Please visit our review policy page more information on how we review. For this article, we received the following items:
- Discounted press rate at the Quality Hotel, Inn at False Creek