Since we're almost at the weekend again, and there are still a few things I'd like to record about last weekend, even just for my own memory, I'm going to do a bit of end-of-the-week (end-of the summer, for that matter!) randomness. The photos throughout this post are from our visit to the UBC Museum of Anthropology which closes after this weekend for some major renovation -- it won't be open again 'til March 2009. If you're thinking of visiting Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics, you'll want to get out to this spot, not only for the artifacts themselves, but for the stunning Arthur Erickson building that houses them, blending them into the surrounding landscape that makes their enclosure tolerable, at least, in the name of education and some kind of cultural rapprochement. The UBC campus itself (where I did undergrad studies way back in the early 70s, then my MA in the mid-90s, and where my daughter now works), is a beautiful campus from which you can hike down to the beach (and a "clothing optional" beach at that, if you're so inclined).
So, random stuff. What first? Let's see . . . how about where we went for our 34th anniversary dinner: Le Marrakech , a Moroccan bistro I've been dying to try out in Gastown. This is just one block past the invisible border beyond which the buzz isn't yet quite moving, one block closer to the sadness that is the Downtown Eastside, and I applaud any effort to make this area more vibrant. Still, on dark winter nights, arriving here will raise a few doubts. Stepping inside will quickly dispel them: the room is warm, welcoming, and attractive, decorated with rich colour and Moroccan lighting, with all the good aromas of Moroccan cuisine. But as we were led upstairs to be seated, we faced our first disappointment of the evening: even though we'd phoned to make reservations, we were told that most of the better seats in the room were reserved (most were still empty when we left, oddly) and we had our choice of two in the middle of the room or one at the encircling edge. Since all the tables in the centre required both diners to sit on (very low backless) stool/cushions, and since my back was bothering me a bit, we chose the table at the banquette along the wall. This, though, yielded the awkward situation of my finding the table a very long distance below the mouth I'd have to get my food to and Paul couldn't get his knees under the table. When he discreetly swapped his seat for one of the low stools, he was more comfortable knee-wise, but found himself looking up at me rather comically from his low perch.
The menu was also something of a disappointment as we had expectations formed by many happy meals in Moroccan restaurants in Paris and most of those foods were missing (where were the preserved lemons I use in my own dishes? where were the lamb-with-prunes tagines?). But we put aside those expectations and resolved to enjoy what was here. We were rewarded: my starter, a beet salad, was wonderful with its chunks of golden beets complemented by goat cheese, slivers of dried apricot, and just enough pistachio bits soaked in rose water to puzzle and delight (the puzzle was in trying to identify the taste; the delight, obviously, in the taste itself). And Paul had a bowl of succulent chicken livers served in a light, tasty broth.
For our main courses, I ordered a tagine of braised lamb shank while Paul asked for braised short ribs. Both came with couscous and vegetables, very nicely cooked and presented, but I was disappointed to find that my tagine had been used only for presentation rather than for cooking. Generally, in our experience at least, the tagine will come to the table piping hot, having just been taken from the stove with the food still cooking inside it, and the couscous arrives separately. Here, my meal was prettily plated in the tagine with the lamb shank on top of the couscous and no sauce or juice or broth to speak of, but it had clearly been cooked in separate components in other dishes. Still good, but not the meal I'd been hoping to find, and the lamb shank had passed its falling-off-the-bone yumminess, having clearly been cooked early (a legitimate approach for braised lamb, but not my favourite). So we enjoyed the meal, and I was glad to have finally got around to checking it out, but I think I'll stick to the tagines I cook at home until we're in Paris again, where there's a wonderful Moroccan restaurant just across the street from our hotel.
This photo, and the next, are of Bill Reid's statue, Raven and the First Men, from various perspectives. The statue depicts Raven bringing forth the first men, naked, weak, frightened, and rather foolish-looking, from a clamshell -- Reid and Robert Bringhurst's book Raven Steals the Light offers a written version of this foundation story, one of many that showcase the lascivious, mischievous, comic Raven.
Also, last weekend, we watched the DVD Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge or Flight of the Red Balloon, a beautiful, if very slow, film by Hsiao-hsien Hou, set in Paris, starring Juliette Binoche, a tribute to Albert Lamorisse's 1957 Le Ballon Rouge. Very slow, don't watch it if you're drowsy, but nonetheless engaging and quite beautiful.
And since you're already putting up with random, I'll slip some knitting catch-up in here. I've finished the red mohair sweater I was making for my friend Alison (who leaves next week for a year of sailing adventures). I hope I'll be able to fit in a visit with her over the next few days and get a snap or two of her modeling it.