Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Short Post About Our Weekend in Vancouver, BC, Canada

    When I set out writing that first post I guess I really had a lot to say and so I tried to condense it. Alas, it still ended up being longer than I had initially intended and even leaving a lot of experiences out. In this post, it shouldn't be too hard to keep things concise as we were only in Vancouver, BC for a few days to celebrate our five year anniversary and also to see the legendary Bolt-Thrower on their exclusive Canadian North America 2015 tour. I had also just returned from a five week full US/Canada tour with my band Usnea supporting Ufomammut from Italy, so Amyrose and I had some catching up to do on the adventure front. 

     Just prior to leaving we had some friends from the Bay Area, Jehn Wa and her husband Ross Sewage, ask us for rides from Portland to Vancouver after having missed their connecting flight and being stranded in Portland, and of course we happily obliged.

The 20-sided DIE OF DESTINY: which drunk will you get?
Storm Crow Tavern, Vancouver, BC, Canada
    We got an early start for the 5-7 hour drive (depending on the lines and the temperament of the officers at the border of course) and made a quick stop just before reaching the border near Bellingham, WA to stock up on liquor and beer since it is so expensive and heavily regulated in Canada. The border crossing was super easy, for once, and we dropped Jehn and Ross off at their friend's house and made our way to the air b and b Amyrose had booked us.

    We were famished having only eaten hummus and bagels and road snacks on the way up so we went out for vegan Dim Sum at a place called 3G Vegetarian Restaurant (3424 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC). We ordered the black pepper "steak" and veggie stir-fry and an assortment of Dim Sum dumplings which were all very good.

Carcassonne and libations at Storm Crow Tavern
   That first night we drove downtown so I could show Amyrose around, not that I knew my way around THAT well, but I had been up there a bunch when I was driving bands on tour for a few years, and I wanted to show her around what little I did know. We ended up on Commercial Drive, of course, because that is where many of the bars and shops and interesting restaurants are. After walking around for a while we got a drink at The Storm Crow Tavern (1305 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC), a fantasy/sci-fi/gamer-themed nerd bar that I had been to when I was driving Warcry to some gigs in Vancouver a few years ago. Storm Crow has all kinds of vegan options on their menu from poutine (a Canadian tradition of Belgian-style fried potatoes topped with cheese curds and gravy, though obviously veganized for the likes of us) to chickpea fries and various sandwiches and "burgers". We weren't very hungry so we just got the chickpea fries and did the silly roll of the 20-sided dye for a random drink decided by the roll of the dice. While we were there we played Carcassonne, a Medieval fantasy tile-game my bandmate Joel has made the rest of us in the band adore, and otherwise we just admired all of the various sci-fi and fantasy memorabilia and decorum such as this Cthulu statue:
An Altar to the Old One, Storm Crow Tavern, Vancouver, BC
    After Storm Crow, we decided to get one more drink at a fancier looking spot (hey we were dressed up for a date night) called The Locus (4121 Main Street, Vancouver, BC) where the art installations were really mesmerizing with big dark carved sculptures of gnarled and twisted trees climbing up to the rafters between the booths and dark art nouveau-inspired paintings adorning the walls. We were not hungry yet so we skipped the food there but they did have a menu with some vegan options and the server informed us that the vegan options were really good.

    There was a punk show happening that night in BC featuring our friends and fellow Portlanders WARCRY but we had decided that we wanted one mellow night out on the town since the next night was going to be consumed by the Bolt-Thrower/Hellshock show and it was our anniversary, not to mention, I had just gotten off of a 40 day tour myself. WARCRY are amazing though, and if you love hardcore D-beat punk, there are none better than they. We have the fortune of seeing them pretty often living in Portland.

    On our way back to our air b and b spot in Burnaby, Amyrose suggested we stop and get vegan pizza at this little spot we had passed and that had piqued our interest earlier called the Vegan Pizza House (2119 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC). They were open late so we stopped by and went in to their nondescript strip-mall entrance. The dining room was really small and we wanted to get back to our room and drink some of our wine anyway so we just got a few slices to go (one a-piece of hawaiian and BBQ "chicken") and a slice of vegan TIRAMISU and headed to our temporary home. The pizza was pretty damn good for how cheap it was and we were left wishing that Portland had a late-night place with such good and cheap vegan pizza (don't say Sizzle Pie, it's decent but definitely not cheap or this good). 

Drinking some breakfast at The Wallflower 
     The next day we met up with our friend Chris Pinto who hails from Oakland-by-way-of-Boston (if you also love sludgey doom metal check out his band Fórn here: https://forn.bandcamp.com/) who was also in town for the show that night as well, and his buddy Brittany Bird, whom we became fast friends with. The purpose of our meeting of course: breakfast at The Wallflower (2420 Main St, Vancouver, BC). I have been to The Wallflower several times because it is open late, has awesome vegan options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has been the workplace of many punk friends who urged bands I was driving on tour to come in. It helps that the menu rules across the board. Everything I have had there is really really good. On this occasion we had mimosas and coffee (vacation day-drinking is A-OK right?) and the delicious vegan benedict (Amyrose and I both ordered this as we are suckers for good vegan hollandaise).

Black Lodge Buddies.
      Post-breakfast we wandered around the neighborhood by the Wallflower checking out some over-priced record stores and shops until Brittany suggested we grab beers/ciders at a liquor store and make our way to a rad park with lakeside hidden benches to relax for a while before the show. After a little while of basking in the glorious sun (I forgot to mention that it was the Summer Solstice that day and the sun set super late around 10:30 PM at that high of a latitude on that evening) we met up with some more of Brittany's friends and headed to the infamous Black Lodge Bar (630 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC).

Interior of Black Lodge Bar, Vancouver, BC, Canada. 
     Black Lodge Bar is, as I hope you have inferred, a Twin Peaks-themed David Lynch hallucination of a bar, small and filled with the antique Pacific Northwest reliquary and forest tchotchkes one would expect from a bar devoted to the small-town fading-logger's glory of late 80s/early 90s nostalgia. And to top all of THAT off, they are completely vegetarian with every item easily veganizable. We ordered the pulled-"pork" jackfruit poutine with its delicious red cabbage slaw and the coconut "bacon" BLT featuring sprouts, avocado and a garlic aioli. Damn. And the drinks were stiff and affordable. To finish it all off and in keeping with Agent Cooper's theme there, we ordered a "damn fine" piece of cherry pie a la mode with vanilla coconut bliss. 

Coconut "Bacon" BLT and Jackfruit pulled-"pork" poutine at Black Lodge, Vancouver, BC.
Amyrose in particular was in heaven with the pie a la mode: 
PIE!!!!!

For Victory... the inimitable Bolt-Thrower
     After that we headed over to the Rickshaw Theater and once we found and secured all our valuables in the trunk of our car (Hastings St. is a particularly rough and economically-depressed area, go there and you'll see what I mean) we ran over to the show and got in just in time to see Hellshock tear it up and drink over-priced PBRs in anticipation of Bolt-Thrower. Hellshock played a blistering set with their singer Joel taking to the floor making their set more in-the-crowd's face. And it should go without saying to any metalhead in the know, but Bolt-Thrower were absolutely devastating and brought the epic hair-whipping war metal fury like no other. It was triumphant and invigorating how utterly unstoppable and ferocious they still are this far into their long career.

Party people amongst the rad witchy Victorian decor of the
house hosting the after-party
   
        Post-show and all of the socializing and milling around that happens when energies are so elevated, we shimmied off to some house party that our pal Jehn Wa and Ross Sewage were going to, though Ross was exhausted and decided to take to slumbering in the back of their friend's car to avoid the loud heavy metal and raucous festive spirit inside. It was a good time but eventually Amyrose and I decided to sneak away so we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the rented room in Burnaby.

     The next morning, we chose as our last meal in Vancouver to hit up a Mexican-inspired vegetarian cafe Brittany Bird had recommended to us and it ended up being the absolute BEST meal of the entire weekend.

The Lemmy: butternut squash chile rellenos... 
   

     The place is called Bandidas Taquería (2781 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC) and is a super cozy and sunlit place on upper Commercial Drive close to Black Lodge Bar from the day before. I ordered the Lemmy (of course I did, fucking Motörhead) which is their take on chile rellenos featuring large poblano peppers stuffed with house-seasoned pinto beans, sweet potato hash, pureed butternut squash "cheese" sauce and topped lightly with sprinkles of Daiya cheese and then served with corn tortillas. Amyrose ordered an equally creative and delicious spread; a butternut squash scramble with apple salsa, breakfast potatoes, cabbage slaw, seasoned pinto beans also sprinkled lightly with Daiya and two corn muffins to top it all off. Additionally we added a side of Field Roast breakfast sausage links which was a good choice. They also have this house-made habanero salsa that was the perfect blend of spicy heat-sweetness-and smokiness. We ended up purchasing a mason jar of that sauce it was so damned good.

 
Butternut squash scramble with corn cakes, pinto beans, cabbage slaw and Field Roast "sausage". Also visible is that addicting habanero sauce in the background...
Singapore Curry Rice Vermicelli with veggies
and "chicken" and lots of Sambal chili garlic

      After our morning repast we hit the road for Portland to get back to our routines and jobs the next day but we did stop at the Bellingham Co-op for some sweet treats and yerba mate to keep pumped for our drive and then again for dinner at our favorite Vietnamese cafe there called Moonlight Cafe (1919 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA). I end up eating at Moonlight almost every time I am in Seattle it is that good, and this time was no exception; I ordered the Singapore Curry Vermicelli and we split the shredded tofu-skin fresh spring rolls and I believe, if memory serves me correct, Amyrose ordered her old stand-by; "chicken" chow mein. After dinner we drove the rest of the way home, ears ringing from the night before and glad to have had a chance to spend some time eating, drinking, and adventuring our way across Vancouver, BC. 

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