GOLD MEDAL CUISINE; VISITING COLLEGE BASKETBALL TEAMS

February 20, 2010

Chris Erskine, of The LA Times, gave us some tip for good eating (like I need any of  them) in Vancouver:
“I’m watching what I eat up here. First I watch it, then I eat it. Total elapsed time, about 4 seconds — a new North American record.

What’s really doing me in are these Japadogs (about $9). Japadogs are basically Japanese hot dogs, served from a couple of simple carts on busy Burrard Street, one of the main Vancouver thoroughfares.

Japadogs have seaweed on them and a whole bunch of other stuff that could be good for you — I’m not sure. But don’t let that put you off, because bite for
bite, Japadogs might be the best thing you ever barked down.

At some point in my life I’ve got to start focusing on finding a career, and what I think I’ll do is finance one of these Japadog carts, place it at the corner of a major intersection in the states — Wilshire maybe, or even Michigan Avenue – and just retire. They’re pretty good, these Japadogs.

But they aren’t the only culinary triumph in this town of explosively good and diverse restaurants. What I like about it is the damage you can do with a twenty in your pocket. Crazy, gonzo stuff. Call it fear and bloating in Vancouver.

In fact, my original goal was to eat at every single Vancouver restaurant while I was here, to share with you the hits and the misses. I’ve since modified that goal; I now want to eat at every Vancouver restaurant twice.

Pardon the aside, but part of the goal is mere survival: If I can eat myself into a stupor, which you can do here very cheaply, I think it might make me sleep
better. I never sleep well in a hotel.

Who does, right? But I can’t count how many nights I’ve tossed-turned to the hiss of tires on wet pavement in the street below.

I just seem destined to spend too much of my life in hotels that face the street.

“Hello, front desk?” I say.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you have any *&^%$##^ rooms that don’t sound like *&^%%*&% bus barns?”

“Sorry, ma’am. I’m afraid we’re all booked up.”

So be it. And off I go in search of sushi.

Remember how Jeremy Piven claimed mercury poisoning when he dropped out of that Broadway show? Well, I may have to drop out of the Olympics, same reason. I have never seen so much sushi. It’s good too, on a par with L.A.’s, and about half as cheap.

There is also a huge Chinatown, with a palace called Flota that seats 1,000 people. Order what they call the “hot pot,” stir-fry that comes to the table sizzling from the kitchen — a brushes-on-snare-drum sound so mesmerizing you could dance to it.

Another culinary adventure you should try is this gloppy delicacy called poutine — French fries smothered in cheese curds and a layer of pure cholesterol traveling under the alias of “gravy.” Outside of the Japadog (and Peggy Fleming), it is the most delicious thing ever.

I’d recommend a little place called Fritz, on Davie Street, where you can get a bowl of the stuff for $4, and chicken on top for another buck.

Poutine is hearty, Great White North food, and your doc would never recommend it every day. But have some next time you’re here — late at night, in lieu of dessert. They’re open till 3.

Maybe I’ve inhaled too many Zamboni fumes, but I’m also nuts for a greasy spoon called the Elbow Room, five minutes from downtown.

I have no patience with hyperbole, but the Elbow Room may be the best thing to happen to breakfast since the chicken.

Sure, it’s got a reputation as an ornery place — but it’s a manufactured ornery, not mean-spirited like the old biddies at some deli. The Elbow Room waiters,
for instance, make you get up and refill your own coffee.

It’s worth it though, because they have this long list of blow-your-cork egg dishes — all for around $10. I have something called the Brett Cullen. If I ever sleep again — probably not — I may dream of it.

Whatever you choose here, and you can hardly miss, I recommend that you get wobbly with food, then walk it off, then get wobbly once again — you only
live once. Health is precious, sure, but so are good memories. So is a deep, rich sleep.

Besides, the best health club of all time is this Stanley Park — the great water-rimmed oasis on Vancouver’s front porch. It is the ultimate jogging venue. The other day, while running, I passed a bald eagle supping on a boulder, a mere 20 yards offshore.

I’m pretty sure he was having the poutine.”

Bob Molinaro discussed, on HamptonRoads.com, why visiting college basketball teams have a hard time winning games.

“The kids aren’t mentally tough enough.
When I’m feeling less than generous, that’s my explanation for why some college basketball teams go as limp as wet origami when they hit the road.
You can blame the refs if you’d like.
Influenced by the crowd, zebras can turn 50-50 calls into 60-40 for the home team.
A couple questionable fouls on the wrong player, and things can begin to unravel for the visitors.
Playing on the road is never a picnic, but while there are many variables to a game, the feeling persists that one of the biggest obstacles to victory for visiting players lies between their ears.
“Kids are kids. When things go bad and you’re in an evil environment, it’s tough,” Blaine Taylor said in the wake of Old Dominion’s convincing home victory over George Mason last Saturday.
The season series between the teams has been a microcosm of the home vs. away dichotomy In January, ODU lost by 16 at Mason. At the Ted Constant Convocation Center, the Monarchs returned the favor, winning by 16.
The 32-point swing isn’t all that surprising if you know anything about college basketball.
“At home, your players have a little more strut,” Taylor said.
Better to save some of that swagger for the road, where it’s really needed. That’s what ODU did in December when it upset Georgetown in the Hoyas’
cramped, on-campus facility.
Along with William and Mary’s victories at Wake Forest and Maryland, that ODU win ranks as one of the season’s most impressive results.
On the other hand, it’s no discredit to ODU that its only three losses in the CAA have come in opposing gyms – all by double figures. That’s the way of college hoops.
Why teams so often change character away from home is a question that’s been debated since James Naismith cut the bottom out of his first peach basket.
“When you’re shooting at home, you’re shooting on the same basket, the one you’ve been shooting on all year,” Lefty Driesell said Tuesday from his Virginia Beach home. “On the road, you don’t have the same lighting. You just don’t shoot as well on the road.”
The noise from opposing crowds can’t be underestimated, either.
“But a lot of it’s psychological,” Driesell said. “If I went on the road and only lost by 8 or 10, I thought we can beat that team at home, because I always
thought the home court was worth 10 points.”
Basketball people have had a lot of years to compile figures that prove that teams don’t travel very well. But records alone don’t tell you as much as you’d think they would. Why not? Because the strength of home schedules is so often different from the strength of away schedules. And because major-conference teams rarely play real non-conference road games, preferring the relative safety of neutral sites.
What does the home court mean? On Valentine’s Day, Rutgers, which lost by 25 to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., last month, beat the Hoyas by three in
Piscataway, N.J.
But what got me started on this semi-rant was Maryland’s virtual no-show at Duke on Saturday.
Not to exaggerate, but for those of us anticipating a riveting regional attraction, the game was to ACC basketball what that pothole was to the Daytona 500.
Maybe the lighting at Cameron Indoor Stadium caused Maryland to shoot far below its conference-leading percentage. But did it keep the Terps from playing better defense and rebounding?
It’s understood that Duke loses at home about as often as Mike Krzyzewski invites Roy Williams over to his house for Sunday brunch, but some of us were expecting – hoping for – a competitive contest.
Instead, Maryland wilted like a delicate flower.
In turn, the home-court dynamic favored the Terps when Virginia came up puny in College Park on Monday. The Cavaliers pride themselves on defense, yet Maryland shot 70 percent from the field and scored 52 points in the first half en route to its 85-66 victory.
How many points is the home court worth in a conference game?
That depends, I suspect, on what’s going on between the players’ ears.”

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