And the culinary adventure continues!
Despite its reputation as a cultural backwater, Vancouver is the promised land of ethnic groceries. A visit to this suburb's East 4th Plain Boulevard food strip (exit 1D off Interstate 5, exit 30 off I-205), is like touring seven countries in a five-mile stretch. First up? Vancouver Oriental Market (3220 E 4th Plain Blvd., 360-693-1565). It has everything, from a wide array of Thai produce like bird chilies and fresh galangal root to a frozen section with store-made Filipino sausage and spring rolls. It also stocks all manner of curry pastes and mysterious fish sauces. The friendly staff speaks English fluently and loves to share recipes (jot down their recipe for pad Thai on the drink cooler). Driving snack: Nab piping-hot pork and cloud-ear mushroom spring rolls, sausage hum bao dumplings and durian popsicles to go.
At the Mexican superstore and on-site bakery Becerra's Plaza (3503 E 4th Plain Blvd., 360-690-0044), choose between a plethora of rich doughnuts with day-glo sugar on top, cherry-stuffed fritters and decadent dulce de leche stuffed cookies. Next, eyeball the comprehensive grocery collection, with more than 11 dried chiles and loads of tamale-making ingredients. Driving snack: Watermelon popsicles with red-chile flakes-so hot, so cold.
Dozens of Eastern European salamis, smoked sausages and cheeses get prime display spots in Anoush Deli's (6808 E 4th Plain Blvd., 360-693-4359) never-ending deli cases. The young, lovely staff gals who look like Miss Moscow contenders are happy to slice you a piece of that bear salami you're curious about-it's easier than trying to explain what it is in English. Loads of caviar, five types of feta, house-pickled carrots, jarred eggplant salads and authentic Russian bread should keep you busy throwing cocktail parties with your purchases for weeks. Driving snack: An in-store gyro stand supplies lamby delights, stuffed grape leaves and earthy Russian borscht-mmm, beety.
The bizarre assortment of gold-edged porcelain-figurine kitsch at Premier Euro Food (11216 NE 4th Plain Blvd., 360-885-9384), just east of I-205, includes a large selection of meats, cheeses, frozen pelmeni (potato- and onion-stuffed Russian ravioli), whole smoked fish, caviar, fresh horseradish preparations and a million kinds of fancy foil-wrapped candy. Don't miss the old-world bakery selections like Black Forest cakes, napoleons and fudge-doused éclair-style pastries. Driving snack: By this point in the day, I'm stuffed, and loaded down with enough groceries to make one heck of a dinner. Or one heck of a Zantac-filled night-whichever comes first.
A fat, happy, married Kelly Clarke will return next week to service all your gossipy food needs.