We didn't plan to celebrate Winter Solstice with family – but it happened. My family met with family friends for a dinner at the Flamingo House Restaurant on Cambie St and 59th Ave. in Vancouver.
Chinese Winter Solstice is according to the guidebooks, supposed to be a time of gathering with family and friends, and relaxing after the long hard harvest of the fall. For us, it provided a wonderful time of respite between the busy-ness of Christmas shopping, organizing for Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and working at the library. This was a time of joy for re-connecting with good family friends, some of my parents' best friends and their children that I grew up with, and their children now aged 7 and 9.
There were 12 of us in total. 3 were now grand parents, 3 were now parents, 3 were single adults, and 3 were children aged 18 months to 9 years old. My goodness – a lot of “3's.”
I introduced my girlfriend to my family friends whom I had grown up with, as we traded stories from our childhood, as well as recent stories of dragon boat exploits. We all caught up on each other's news and achievements, new job postings and the activities of the children.
With my Auntie (we called our parent's friends Aunt and Uncle as signs of respect – this also carries over from traditional Chinese culture), I helped order the food. I selected the set dinner course for 10, which costs $198, and included Peking Duck, lettuce wrap, crab, deep fried tofu, sole, fruit salad with prawns. It was all so delicious and much more than we all could eat. And all at great value and price. Chinese dinners really are the way to go for large parties. For the quality and quantity of food we had, you would have had to spend about $50 to $60 each per person. As tasty as the prime rib dinner with tiger prawns that I had at the Keg last week, when my fabulous girlfriend took me out prior to seeing Holly Cole in concert at the Orpheum, I have to say that this was the better choice for a large group, both for value and price.
Flamingo House restaurant owner/manager Joseph Lee even came over to say hello to me. Joseph is a very wonderful host. He always recognizes and remembers me. Not an easy task if you host hundreds and thousands of people in one of Vancouver's busiest dim sum and up-scale dinner restaurants. But perhaps it is easier, if said restaurant patron hosts Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinners, called Gung Haggis Fat Choy, in your father's other restaurant called Flamingo Chinese Restaurant on Fraser Street, and he brings said restaurant manager/owner onto the City Cooks television program and asks you to cook specialty Chinese dishes with haggis that you have never before done. Here's a brief description of our adventure cooking with City Cooks host Simi Sara. Joseph has a pretty good sense of humour, and he looks good on television despite his nervousness. Check out Joseph's special recipes for haggis wun-tun, haggis spring rolls and haggis stuffed tofu.
But Joseph Lee isn't nervous in his restaurant tonight. Business is good – the restaurant is full. It is “dong zhi” Chinese Winter Solstice and Western Christmas time – a good time for many families to go out for dinner. After New Year's the restaurant business will slow down, as it is a traditional time for restaurants to take their holidays or do their renovations. Then it will get busy for Chinese New Year festivities once again.