Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks

Fuggles and Warlock brewery

You’re probably thinking this post is on something Dungeons and Dragons related, but ’tis not the case. Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks is a brewery. It’s got a silly name, and with the hipster-noble mission of “Keeping Beer Weird” you’d think they’d be in Austin. But they’re well north, in a discreet strip mall off the main drag in Ironwood in Richmond, B.C., Canada.

We stopped by on a Saturday afternoon and walked into a crowded place that was kid-friendly; there was a man with an infant at the bar and a couple with their toddler daughter. We ordered a tasting flight and snagged the edge of a communal table in the corner, with a full view of the brewery floor. You can order snack food, but we weren’t hungry, so it was just beer for us.

My favorite brew was the strawberry wit, which the bartender said is their most popular. It’s quite girlish and summery–it tastes like strawberry-flavored champagne–so it’s not for those who like their beer strong.  We ended up filling the growler with a heavier brew more to hubby’s palate.

Don’t know if we’ll return (it’s out of the way for us), but we did chalk up another good discovery.

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Richmond Night Market, BC, Canada

Richmond Night Market

I didn’t walk away from the Richmond Night Market thinking it was good. I didn’t walk away thinking it was bad. What I do think is: It’s an experience–which means you have to go, if you’re around town.

It bills itself as the biggest night market in North America, and the crowds get crazy because it’s on the radar of locals and tourists alike. The doors open at 7 p.m., and there is a long line to get in well before then. We walked in thinking we’d be entering a wonderland of exotic Asian fare, but the food is primarily Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and the dishes are pretty much what you’d get at Asian stalls in a typical mall food court. In short, the food choices are not exciting. We were on the hunt for Xian cuisine (noodles and lamb) but had to settle for plain old grilled lamb skewers. Other dishes we tried: shredded duck egg rolls, vegetable tempura, steamed pork buns and chicken satay. Nothing jumped out.

So, the food’s not spectacular, but you should go if you’re around Vancouver. The night market is so near the airport that you can see the planes flying just above the Skytrain train tracks. There’s also kitschy carnival stuff apart from the food stalls, such as games and an array of doodads on sale. There was a vendor selling a t-shirt saturated with images of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; if you saw it, you’d want it. I, however, restrained myself. It was time to bid adieu to the fair.

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Baked Potato Hash

Potato hash

This is a beautiful side dish that’s very easy to create, and you can pair it with anything you like. For color and presentation, it’s best to use small potatoes in a variety of colors, if you can find them. I recommend the potato medley pack from Trader Joe’s.

Just preheat the oven to 400 deg. F (higher if you want less cooking time), cut the potatoes into small cubes and place in a baking tray, massage olive oil into the potatoes, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about 45 min. or until the potatoes soften.

Slice chunks of aged white cheddar cheese and distribute them on top of the potatoes in the last 10 min. of cooking.

For garnish, I added mint leaves. You can crisp them up in the final few minutes of cooking or add them fresh when you’re ready to serve.

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The Fat Badger, Vancouver, Canada

Fat Badger fish and chips

Fish and chips at The Fat Badger.

The Fat Badger gastropub is a favorite of mine. One, because I’m lazy (it’s just up the street). Two, because the food is good. And three, because the mascot is a pudgy badger wearing a three-piece suit with a top hat and monocle and holding what I can only assume is a frosty alcoholic beverage. How could you not like this place?

The restaurant is in an old, red townhouse (an architectural anomaly in the sleek modernity of downtown Vancouver). It doesn’t seem as popular during the summer as during the colder months because this is the time of year when most folks like to enjoy dining al fresco along the waterfront. Its dark interior contrasts with the warm season, but it’s always inviting, and it’s an old standby for when guests come to call, which was the case when an old friend of my husband’s came to town recently.

Fat Badger squid starter

The squid appetizer.

The menu changes daily, but they often have fish and chips, which I tend to order. The appetizers we got for the table are all items to rave about. We had to get poutine because it’s a Canadian phenomenon that we thought our guest had to try; this version came with potato-stick hunks topped with chicken tikka masala, paneer, and curds. We also ordered a squid appetizer that came out with the squid perfectly tender and served with what looked and tasted like couscous discs held together with cheese, hot green peppers, and mushrooms (chanterelles?); all on a bed of Texas toast. We topped off the starters with buttermilk onion rings in a crispy, light crust.

For my main, I had fish and chips again. The generous portion of cod has a wonderfully crunchy batter, which I assume, because of the color and crunch, contains beer, and the chips are the restaurant’s standard big hunks of potato. The dish comes with side sauces of tartar and curry; plus, I saved the mayo that came with the onion rings as a dip.

This meal was even better than the last time we ate here, and I walked away wanting to come back soon.

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Fishing on the Fraser and the Chilliwack Fair

Fishing Fraser River BC

We’re not fishermen. We own rods, but haven’t mastered them yet. So, we decided to leave fishing to an expert and booked a small-boat charter in Chilliwack, a picturesque small town about 80 min. outside of Vancouver, along the Fraser River. The Fraser is famous among anglers for salmon, trout and sturgeon.

Our guide was a 28-year-old local who made for easy company during the four-hour excursion. He told us he was up at 6 a.m. to scope out potential good fishing spots, and he chose a spot on the other side of the river, driving his boat only a few minutes away from the dock and anchoring at the water’s edge.

I’ve always had an idea that fishing is about patience; waiting for a moment that you can’t predict, but pouncing to make good on the opportunity. It’s a combination of luck and skill, I take it, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have any luck that day. Our guide was anticipating a school of salmon would swim by, which would up our chances of catching some. Alas, the opportunity did not come.

However, it was still an enjoyable day. How could you not enjoy the pleasure of being out on a private boat in the sun, surrounded by mountains and a shimmering river? It forces you to look at what’s around you, pay attention to nature and appreciate its beauty.

Our guide recommended going to the Chilliwack Fair, which is a major two-day event for the town. The displays of local handiwork were endearing and really showed a sense of community that I’m not used to, being a city-dweller. I bought an elegant pair of earrings from a very creative artisan who makes jewelry from old silverware. We wandered through the animal showcase, and stopped to look at a massive mama pig turning over her trough, impatient for food while her piglets scurried around.

Gourmet Bannock food truck

There was an area with food trucks, and we were very impressed with the barbecue salmon sandwiches we ordered from Gourmet Bannock (bannock is a First Nations type of fried bread), which we followed up with a plate of tasty pierogis from another truck. We caught part of the rodeo, too. I’ve never been before, and it was fun to see the riders trying to stay on bucking horses and wrangle cattle. We walked out of the fair, tired and satisfyingly full, with the sun lingering long enough to light our drive home.

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The Grateful Dead @ The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington

Grateful Dead Gorge Amphitheatre

No, the headline is not a joke. There really is a place called George, Washington. Great name, isn’t it?

We did a road trip to the area to see the Grateful Dead play at the Gorge Amphitheatre. It took almost nine hours to arrive in Ephrata, Washington, where our hotel was, about half an hour from the concert venue. The effort was tiring, but well worth it. The drive took us through a stunning display of terrain, from the moody cloud-covered mountains of the North Cascades National Park to temperate forest to rolling dry brushland to the formidable canyons of Indian reservation territory to the Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia River. It was like driving through a Woodie Guthrie song. We were really seeing America.

A fitting prelude for the Grateful Dead show. This quintessential American band was right at home at the Gorge Amphitheatre, set on the edge of a canyon overlooking the Columbia River. The sky was clear blue, the sun was shining, and the band was in top form. The line up was officially Dead & Company, featuring Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and John Mayer, with Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards). The show lasted about 4 hr., including an hour break for the band. I’m used to 90-min. to 2-hr. shows, so this was an unexpected treat.

I must say that it was a delight to watch John Mayer play. I didn’t respect him much when he first came on the scene years ago with what I considered juvenile pop (“Your Body Is a Wonderland”, etc.), but when I saw a clip of him playing “Gravity”, I knew I was looking at a good guitar player. When I saw him play with the Dead at the Gorge, I knew I was looking at an artist. The man can play. He’s a clean soloist with smooth flow through the fretboard. He blended perfectly with the band, which displayed a seamless chemistry, transitioning with ease from song to song from the opening tune “Touch of Grey” to the encore “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.

Honestly, I looked the other way when it came to the Dead when I was younger. I used to associate them with their fans, who, it seemed to me, did a lot of drugs and led aimless lives. But I did a 180 when my husband played me some Dead albums a few years ago, and it became clear that this was a band to be reckoned with when it came to songwriting prowess. They hit a chord that has always been deep within me, and within the American psyche, with their folk music that keeps alive the raw, strange, wild, and beautiful elements of a time gone by.

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