Mmm, Tacos – Flaca’s Tacos Food Truck

When I used to live in Vancouver, my office was located downtown, just on the edge of Gastown. Lunchtime was glorious because the options for deliciousness were endless: Jules, Nuba, sandwiches at MacLeans (RIP), and my favourite fast food place, Freshii. I spent a lot of money on lunches, and I regret nothing – not only was the food delicious, but I lived for the social hour.

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Photo from Arturo’s

However, without a doubt, my #1 favourite food option was ARTURO’S (or as I liked to call it on the inter-office messenger, R2ros). Arturo’s is a food truck specializing in all things Mexican and all things delicious. It was located steps from my building, which made it a great bet for rainy days. Arturo is a real guy, and he is so awesome. I haven’t lived in Vancouver for more than FIVE YEARS, but he STILL remembers me when I visit his truck for a chicken quesadilla on whole wheat – he always asks how Whistler (or now, Squamish) is. If you’re ever in the ‘hood (West Cordova @ Howe) on a Tuesday to Friday, you HAVE to check it out.

I have tried to convince Arturo to open spin-off food trucks in the Sea to Sky, but so far, he has not. But recently, I heard that there was a new food truck in town specializing in tacos called Flaca’s Tacos. To me, this was very welcome news.

I decided to start following them on Facebook. Here, I discovered that they make their own tortillas fresh. That is something I respect immensely. I kept an eye out on their location updates and made a mental to note to visit if I was ever close by.

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Then, on one fateful sunny afternoon, Cedric and I had a bit of time to kill while we were waiting for some car work to be done. I realized that we happened to be very close to A Frame Brewery, which is where Flaca’s was set up that day. Off to the tacos we went.

The menu is short and sweet: tacos of a few different varieties, including spot prawn ($6), veggie ($3.50), pulled pork ($4), and steak ($4). I ordered one veggie and one pulled pork taco, and a couple of minutes later, our orders were up.

(By the way, we popped into A Frame for a quick browse – check out this cool kids set up! I love these toys – they are made in Squamish and I got a little set for my niece for Christmas.)

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My first impression was that the tacos were on the small side – about the same as the tacos at La Cantina, if you are familiar with the Whistler establishment. My general spending quota for a meal from a food truck is $8 – $12. You’d need at least 3 or 4 tacos to make a full meal of it, which would put you closer to $12 – $18. So it’s not necessarily cheap.

But it’s good – very good. The veggie one was simple but nice, with beans, corn, cheese, and some other good stuff. What really stood out to me was the homemade tortilla. When we ordered, we could see the little balls of dough right in front of us, which were popped into the tortilla press (or whatever that thing is called).

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It was game over – in a very good way – when I bit into the pulled pork taco. It had a nice, spicy kick and the pineapple added a little sweetness. The filling was aces. It was soooo good.

If I was at a market or festival with a wide array of food trucks, I’d definitely made Flaca’s my first pick (unless Arturo’s was there, of course!). In fact, I hear they were at the Squamish market this past weekend. I dream of a day where they make a pulled pork burrito on a homemade tortilla – that would be a killer combo.

Next, I’ll be hunting down the Alice and Brohm (love the Squampty name) ice cream food truck that recently opened – just in time for the summer.

I love this town!

Volunteering at Survival of the Fittest (i.e., An Excuse to Write a Running Post)

Baking bread is not the only thing I do in my spare time – but you wouldn’t know that by looking at my blog. To balance things out a little, I figure I’m due to write another post about running.

Upcoming Races

I got a little caught up in recovering from my sprained ankle and diving into a short but sweet training session for the Loop the Lakes 21k – and I kind of forgot I have another race that just so happens to be in TWO SHORT WEEKS! How did that happen?! I haven’t done a lot of longer runs lately, so I’ll try to squeeze a few in the coming week so I’m not totally in over my head for the Comfortably Numb Trail Race on June 10.

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Views from a lookout on a recent run with the Timber and Tor running groups at Capra

I’m also planning on running a smaller (I think – I don’t know much about it) 15k trail run in West Vancouver next weekend. I haven’t registered for it yet and I haven’t look too much into it, but it sounds like a fun thing to do… so why not, right?

Volunteering

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Views from bib pick up – what what!

The good news is that I’m doing plenty of race day mentality training by volunteering at the local races. This weekend, I volunteered at Survival of the Fittest (part of the Coast Mountain Trail Series), which took place right here in Squamish. I had some pretty glamorous volunteer roles: bib pick up and timing.

I’m not being sarcastic – these roles are way cooler than marshaling. First of all, there’s lots of action. I was right at the start/finish, which was pretty exciting. It dawned on me that I’d never actually been around the finish line when the winners run through it – I’m always rolling in waaaaaay later. It turns out, there are no fireworks – it’s actually a little bit quiet for the first few finishers just because there aren’t as many people hanging around yet. The buzz really starts when a few dozen people have already crossed the finish line.

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A mediocre photo of the not mediocre view at the end of the race

Next weekend, I’ll be volunteering at the Be Fearless race around Alice Lake/Quest University (it’s a long one – 11k, 21k, or 42k). I’ll be doing my thing as course marshal. I think I need to find a cowbell.

Current Plans

Current plans: keep on running. Don’t die at Comfortably Numb. Keep all toenails.

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(I’ve never actually lost a toenail. I think it’s because I trim my nails a lot and wear shoes that fit properly.)

Volunteering at Five Peaks – Alice Lake

One of my goals for this year was to volunteer at more races.

I think I said I would try to volunteer at one race per month, but I definitely missed the first three months of the year. But better late than never – and I’m officially 1/1 for April (and 1/4 for 2017).

Last weekend, the first race in the 5 Peaks BC series took place just down the road from us, at Alice Lake. When I was planning my own race schedule, I seriously considered signing up for this race – I was torn between it and the Loop the Lakes race that takes place in May, also around Alice Lake. When I found out that a couple of friends were signing up for Loop the Lakes, I made the executive decision to go with that one. Thank GOODNESS, because there is NO WAY I would have been able to run even the sport distance with my current ankle drama. More on that later.

Cedric agreed to volunteer with me, and I’m glad he did because otherwise, it would have been a little lonely. We were course marshals, stationed at an intersection where the enduro racers would pop out after completing a bonus loop, and which the sport racers were to bypass entirely. Complicated stuff – but we were there to keep things under control.

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PUPPY

After we checked in, we took a shortcut trail and walked about 2 kilometers to our designated zone. We were plenty early, so we decided to walk the loop that the enduro racers would get to run. It was a really cool loop with some fancy looking bike features and plenty of rubber chickens pegged to trees. I later learned that these chickens are indicators of intense bike features ahead – and if you’re a chicken (get it?), you might want to go around it. This is probably common knowledge for biker types, but I found it novel.

The morning had been rainy and the forecast looked like it could swing either way. But by the time we made it back to our station, the rain had stopped and you could almost see the sun trying to burn its way through the grey sky.

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Arrows! Flags! Signage!

Shortly after, the first few runners appeared. After that, they trickled through somewhat steadily – sometimes one by one, other times in small clusters. We cheered and pointed everyone in the right direction, and nobody got lost on our watch. Woohoo!

When the sweeping crew dismissed us, we walked back towards the finish, picked up the race swag (sweet running mittens – perks of being a volly!), then decided to enjoy the weather and walk the trails back home.

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We made this cool stump chair but it was hard to capture in photographic form, I guess.

It feels lame to say this, but this was the most mileage I’d covered on foot since I hurt my ankle. When I got home, it felt sore. I felt like I regressed in my physio exercises, and a new knee pain had emerged (I’m not even sure if this is related to the ankle, but I’m guessing it’s all connected).

So frustrating. I hadn’t run at all – I’d only walked what, 12 or 13 k in total? I’ll admit to thinking: “How the HECK am I supposed to RUN 21 k in just four weeks if I can’t even walk half that without hurting?”

Eventually, I came back down to earth. I’ve made so much progress in the past four weeks, and I’m sure I’ll continue to make big strides in the four to come. It’s certainly not optimal, but there’s hope yet that it’ll all work out.

Today (two days after 5 Peaks), I ran 7.25 km on the road doing 5 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking. It wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t a breeze either. One day at a time – that’s what I keep telling myself.

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Springtime and Frolf

Our one year Squamish-versary is quickly approaching, which is kind of crazy. I remember driving down from Whistler to Squamish every day for two weeks to wash walls, tape walls, paint walls, decorate walls, and think way too much about walls in general.

Except I remember it feeling a lot more like summer than it does right now – I remember painting in shorts and sweating like crazy from the sun and our lack of blinds. (Mercifully, we now have blinds.)

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There have been a few hints of spring in Squamish lately. We saw a bit of sun last weekend, so Cedric and I decided to go do a little exploring. My ankle is still on the mend, so trail running wasn’t an option. We decided to walk the trails instead.

Twenty minutes or so into our walk, we noticed some frisbee golf nets (poles? posts? baskets?) off in the distance, and I remembered seeing them on a cross country ski session from a few months ago. We returned home, grabbed our discs, and took of to enjoy some local frolf.

Until Sunday, I had never frolfed anywhere but Whistler before. I like frolf because you don’t have to be good at it to have fun. Case in point: I am not good at it, but I always have fun. Usually, a round of frolf involves a hot and sunny day spent wandering the woods and hucking a disc for a few hours (and foraging through the local fauna to retrieve said disc for a few more hours).

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The course we played in Squamish is pretty different from the Whistler one. It is generally clear and wide open, which wasn’t quite as fun as meandering the woods in Whistler, but it did make it a little easier for the first game of the year. We still managed to almost lose our discs in prickly bramble and soggy bogs – and we actually totally lost one disc to a pond.

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I have heard of at least one other frolf course in Squamish – one that is in the woods – so we’ll have to head out to explore than on the next sunny day. Of course, we’ll have to pick up a replacement disc first. I’m thinking we should also pick up an other tennis racket (we currently only have one), because I walked by some nice looking community courts the other day that looked like a lot of fun.

… but that might be a few days away.

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Pow Day on Snowshoes, Elfin Lakes Edition

You know what’s the best?

When plans work out just perfectly, especially if those plans happen to be awesome.

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A couple of weeks ago, I met up with some of my UBC real estate buddies at an event in Vancouver. As I consumed as many free catered cookies as I possibly could, we decided that it would be fun to go on a snowshoe adventure. So we did. We picked a date, we picked a place, and we made it happen.

I feel like that never happens – people always vaguely say, “Oh, we should totally do that”, and then no one gets on the ball, or no one can agree on a date, or someone bails last minute, or weather gets in the way. Not with this crew; this crew gets it done.

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It just so happens that the day we decided to snowshoe around Elfin Lakes turned out to be a magical day – the kind where the trees are capped with fluffy snow and big, fat flakes float down from the sky. It was as picture perfect as it gets.

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I’ve only snowshoed a few times, but I really like it. I borrowed an extra pair of Mike’s snowshoes, but I am seriously tempted to seek some end of clearance deals out and acquire my own pair. My only challenge is that I may need to also buy a truck so that I can get to the Elfin Lakes parking lot on snowy days like this.

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This photo is courtesy of Mike (who I can’t find on Instagram or else I would link him)

We were slightly restricted for time, so rather than trying to power to the Elfin Lakes hut, we took it easy and chatted our way along the steady incline up towards the Red Heather Hut. When we made it to the hut for lunch time, it was positively bustling – no surprise, given that it was a snowy weekend day. Still, it was FAR less busier than, say, the lift lines at Whistler Blackcomb probably were.

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We warmed up by the fire (bliss), ate our lunches, and even checked out a little snow cave in the back. Then, we headed down, which took about half the time as the hike up.

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The top of this stove got really hot, and people used it to warm up pitas AND to dry out socks. So people put pita on top of where nasty socks had been moments earlier. It was a bit gross.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t been completely stoked to see snow in the forecast – I just want to go back to trail running with no crampons, you know? But I have to admit that frolicking in the snow in Squamish can be ridiculously fun.

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The Copper Coil Still & Grill

I have been jonesin’ to try The Copper Coil for ages. I walk by it downtown all the time – its groovy little patio looks especially rad in the summertime. Plus, it specializes in one of the best things on earth: BBQ.

It is very difficult for me to talk about BBQ without talking about my friend Tom. My friendship with Tom was built on a foundation of meat. I first met him during my dear Kappa days at the Mr Greek UBC event, where he was competing as Mr Beta Theta Pi. His talent was cooking meat – lamb, to be specific. Once the event wrapped up, I had a chance to try some of the leftover lamb. Quite simply, it was one of the most divine things I’d ever consumed. I can’t even remember if Tom won Mr Greek UBC, but I can confirm that he did win over my friendship. I discovered that Tom was a bona fide BBQ master and throughout our friendship, I have had the opportunity to sample all kinds of concoctions, perhaps the most notable of which was musk ox.

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I don’t seem to have many photos of myself and Tom readily accessible. This one from… 2005??… seems suitable

I digress. That has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post.

Cedric had been to The Copper Coil before we’d moved to Squamish and it had left a lukewarm impression on him, so whenever I tried to steer us in that direction, he usually tried (and succeeded) to steer us elsewhere. However, when we found out that our friend Erik (of the world famous Big Love Band) was playing at The Copper Coil, I knew it was FINALLY my time to enjoy some sweet, sweet BBQ to some toe tappin’ tunes.

We showed up around 7:30 on a Friday night – unsurprisingly, the place was packed. It’s not a huge restaurant, but we didn’t have to wait too long before a couple of spots opened up by the bar.

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The Big Love Band raising the roof

Looking around, my impression was that the place had real character. There was a bunch of cool guy stuff like a collection of beer tap thingies and model cars of varying degrees of old timiness.

I was famished and everything on the menu looked divine – but in hindsight, most of the offerings weren’t terribly different than the things you’d find at any good pub. It had all the essentials: wings, yam fries, pulled pork sandwich, burgers, poutine, a few salad options. There were a few items that you probably wouldn’t find at a typical restaurant, such as deep-fried Cajun pickles, smoked brisket (served on two buttermilk biscuits – brisket on biscuits, I like the sound of that), gumbo, and jambalaya.

The prices seemed a little steep – the gumbo is $22.95, the veggie burger is $15.95 – but they didn’t feel completely out of line with the Whistler pub prices that we’d become accustomed to paying.

I opted to go with the pulled pork sandwich. I LOVE a good pulled pork sandwich and I feel like pulled pork is a good meat by which to measure a BBQ place. Plus, it came served with curly fries. I LOVE CURLY FRIES! I don’t know of anywhere else in Whistler or Squamish that serves them.

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The food arrived. The fries were phenomenal. The sandwich was served on the shiniest darned brioche that I ever did see. The bottom bun couldn’t hope to support the glorious pile of meat, slaw, and sauce that it contained, so I ended up eating the sandwich with a knife and fork, which felt oddly pretentious.

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Because two angles of pulled pork taken in a dark bar with an iPhone camera is better than one

The pulled pork sandwich was good – very good. Cedric’s bison burger went over well, too.

And yet.

I liked The Copper Coil, but I can’t help but feel like they’re missing the opportunity to let their inner BBQ star really shine. The truth is, I can get a pulled pork sandwich at a lot of places. This was a good one, but was it that much more memorable than one from the Howe Sound brew pub across the road or from any of the apres hot spots in Whistler? Maybe – but only because of the killer curly fries.

As someone who knows ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about restaurants (i.e., my opinion is unbelievably unqualified), I feel that The Copper Coil should embrace its BBQness more aggressively. Give me collard greens and beans as sides! Serve me a deep fried chocolate bar on a stick for dessert! Serve the pulled park sans bun – let the meat do the talking! It’s so good – don’t let it become just another pulled pork sandwich. Let that shredded meat SHINE as it deserves to!

All in all, it was a fun night out. I can see myself coming back in the summer, nabbing a spot in the sun on the patio, and consuming curly fries with the level of adoration that I typically reserve for the waffle fries at GLC. Now excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

Cookbooks from the Library? Genius!

I am a loyal patron of the Squamish Public Library.

It’s not quite as glitzy as the Whistler library, but it reminds me a lot of my neighbourhood library growing up. Small but well-stocked, plenty to browse, and friendly staff.

On a visit a little while ago, a book on display caught my eye. It was a cookbook of all things Canadian. I flipped through it, but didn’t take it out – it have a lot of novelty recipes, but I knew I’d never try them (plus it’s hard to find moose meat at the local grocery store). But it did ignite a light in my head: cookbooks at the library?!

Somehow, it had never dawned on me that I could borrow cookbooks from the library. I perused the rows upon rows of cookbooks until I settled on one: Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes. Little did I know what magic I had just stumbled upon.

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Meals in Minutes is FABULOUS. Here is why:

  • I like Jamie Oliver for his unpretentious approach to cooking. His technique is messy and flexible. It’s hard to screw up his recipes.
  • The meals generally didn’t cook quite as quickly as J.O. promised, but they were still largely under an hour.
  • The recipes provide a whole meal, not just a main course. This is amazing: not only does it automatically match up flavours and food groups, but the steps hop from one dish to another so that everything finishes up more or less at the same time.
  • Most importantly, the meals were very good. They’re a great way to get out of a cooking rut.

Some of the recipes we tried are:

  • Tomato soup with chunky croutons
  • Curry rogan josh with fluffy rice, carrot salad, and flatbread
  • Mustard chicken with quick dauphinoise and greens
  • Tray-baked chicken with squashed potatoes and creamed spinach
  • Killer jerk chicken with rice & beans and chopped salad
  • Chicken skewers with Satay sauce and fiery noodle salad
  • Piri piri chicken with dressed potatoes and arugula salad
  • Pork chops & crispy cracklins with crushed potatoes and minty cabbage (the cabbage was kind of weird)

(Can you tell I load up on chicken breast when it’s on sale?)

The recipes come with suggested desserts, too, but I skipped them – we just have chocolate chip cookies for dessert or whatever happens to be my baked good du jour.

Sadly, the time has come for me to return the book – but happily, there are a hundred others that I have yet to sample. Thank you, Squamish Library, for inspiring my culinary creations for the rest of my lifetime.