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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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Uno Gelato, gelato making class

I have always wondered how ice cream parlours stay afloat during their off season. How do they attract bodies in, and customers by, to enjoy their cold treats when the weather doesn’t drive the craving? This one local ice cream parlour is diversifying, in a clever way. They are offering gelato making classes to supplement their sales. Not only does this get customers through the door, but for all who attend the class, they walk away with a new found appreciation for their product, and a willingness to come back for more in the future. This was also my first time visiting the newer ice cream shoppe, and what a great first introduction this was to it.

Located on West Broadway the shop is marked with their very own, branded, portal ice cream caddy. I have experienced their gelato when this popped up at a handful of events I attended. Past it is their all glass store front. The space is brightly lit, simple in only their use of their logo to decorate the white walls. Our class was held on the table upfront. Behind it is their gelato counter. You look up for their current menu, 12 flavours on rotation. 12 that we would later try as part of the class. I especially liked the saying that was splashed across the back of their open kitchen, it spoke to their gelato being, “simply divine”. They pride themselves on serving a “Cow to cone” product, working with local farmers and suppliers when they can, a fact that sets them apart. For example, the lemon in their lemon sorbet can’t be grown in BC, so these they import.

The class takes places every Thursday, and will run through to February 2020. And if it is popular enough, it might run through into spring. The cost is $50 per person and the class is kept as an intimate 8, the smaller class size allows for a more hands on experience. As much as possible student participation is encouraged. You help measure, pour, stir, and churn. Playing a hand in making next day’s batch. Tonight we would get a behind the scenes look at the making of their yuzu sorbet and a chocolate brownie with burnt caramel sauce. For the full run down of the class, check out my vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Or continue reading for the highlight reel.

After a few introductions to our seasoned chefs with over 10 years of gelato-making experience, our group of 8 was led to the recesses of their kitchen to learn a little more about what goes into their gelato. We got to look at and to try some of the premium ingredients that went into their gelato. We sampled various sugars, syrups, and even their homemade burnt caramel sauce. They use organic and local as much as possible, in order to guarantee that you can taste the freshness. For example, the hazelnuts for their hazelnut gelato comes from a local farmer who roasts each himself, and then send the nuts to “Uno Gelato” the very next day.

As a unit of helping hands we began by measuring the necessary ingredients, with accuracy using an electric scale. They all went into a large plastic bucket to be blended together with an electric drill-like apparatus. 60 litres per batch is made, which are considered “Micro batches”.

This liquid then gets poured into a mixer that not only churns the “batter”, but freezes it into the gelato we know. It looked like magic as the liquid turned to solid, and it built up on the sides of the stainless steel vat. And then when it was at the desired consistency we helped our chefs scoop it up with a giant spatula. Here they are either kept cool, or finished off with additional ribbons of caramel, and/or chunks of chocolate stirred in.

And while we waited we were treated to a gelato tasting, a scooped sample of each of their offerings in cups over a special placemat; much like you would see at a wine tasting.

• There was the tart “Passion fruit” sorbet with fruit from Columbia.
• The “Very cherry” was slightly sour with its namesake fruit and almost bitter with 70% chocolate from Italy.
• “Akbar Mashti” is a popular flavour amongst the Persian community, who have given the feed back that “Uno’s” rendition of this Persian dessert is exactly as they remember it to be. Complex with flavours of rose water, saffron, and pistachio.
• The “Mint chocolate chip” is made with real mint leaves. The ones that are bright green uses artificial flavouring. I liked the way the
Stracciatella chocolate melts so nicely into the gelato and the freshness of the mint balances out the sweetness.
• The “Salted caramel” was their most popular flavour. Having tasted our way through what goes into a batch of it, I can see why.
• The “Pumpkin pecan cheese cake with crumble” was their seasonal flavour, next month’s will be a tahitian vanilla with pistachio. The pumpkins used for this pecan cheesecake are from the Fraser Valley, and the crumble within it is made from scratch.
• “White coffee” is the one I liked the most, enough to take a pint home with me. I don’t drink coffee, but love its flavour in ice cream. They have partnered with “Milan coffee” to use their local roasted beans, which are infused for 24 hours to extract their flavour. And despite a stronger coffee nuance, there is very little caffeine in this. Overall this was a more mild coffee ice cream with the addition of milk to dilute it, much like what creamer does to a black cup of coffee.
• The “Chocolate banana” was made with organic banana from Ecuador and Dutch chocolate shavings. It tasted spot on.
• The “New fashion chocolate” is made with Dutch cocoa powder. It tasted like a fudgesicle, and gave me flashbacks of my childhood.
• The “Midnight chocolate sorbet” is vegan friendly. It is made with water, but is so creamy that you think it could be made with milk and cream. It contains 4 kinds of chocolate for extra richness.

When our ice cream was ready we were then taught how to hand curl cones to go within it. The premade batter gets pressed in a waffle maker, the resulting sheet of waffle gets curled into a cone using a twist handle tool. Their cones are available in original, a black charcoal, and a brown sugar cone. The class ends with everyone having one each, and enjoying a scoop of their choosing with it.

In short, this is a fun event for any gelato enthusiast and a different activity to take part in, if you are looking for something to do on a Thursday night. For additional details on how you can sign up for the next class, visit “Uno Gelato’s” link below.

UNO GELATO
2579 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K 3T3
(604) 733-5884
https://www.unogelato.com/

Evalina Beauty Launch

I am a big proponent of supporting local business, and even more so when their product or service comes with a great message. And that is definitely what “Evalina” is bringing to the Vancouver beauty and wellness scene.

Based out of Vancouver, BC, Samantha Legge created “Evaline Beauty” with the goal “ To celebrate and uplift women for who they are, as they are”. And tonight we were invited down to the “Vancouver Club” to learn more about her and her new cosmetics line. We mixed and mingle in the lavish space, and became brand fans through a very honest meet and greet with sparkling wine, Rose, and pink canapés.

In Hebrew, “Evalina” means “life”, and “I want this cosmetics company to positively impact women’s lives”, says Legge. Her intention is that her company does good. On top of providing the community with a quality makeup line, her and her team also want to champion women, and anyone who identifies as a woman; to help them feel better about themselves through self-acceptance. “Our goal isn’t to create makeup that transforms you. We want to highlight your natural beauty—not hide it.” (As taken from the press release).

Designed and developed in Vancouver, Canada, “Evalina Beauty” boasts a luxurious line of lip glosses, face creams, and shadows. Each product is paraben-free, cruelty-free, and designed to feel lightweight. Everything is “tested by a team of influencers and makeup artists to ensure it is long-lasting, high-quality and, most importantly, something we love and use every day”. “It’s not about covering up, it’s all about bringing out natural beauty and is designed to let the wearer’s own unique features and colouring shine through”.

Between all her uplifting messages of self acceptance and love for one another, Legge revealed where her strength and determination towards “Evalina” came from. In a raw and emotional account she revealed her own hardships in escaping a destructive marriage. And while she acknowledged her means, support, and ability to remove herself from the situation; she recognized that not everyone can. So to support those mothers and children needing to escaping their current living situation, and needing help to become financially stable to do so. “Evalina Beauty” has dedicated a portion of all their sales to be donated to charities that support women and children in need, to help provide them safe transition housing. Out of the hundreds of makeup companies and brands trying to make a name for themselves, this message of giving to some of the most vulnerable, is what makes “Evalina” different, and ones to watch out for.

As for the review of the actual makeup: For the most part their product is quick and easy to apply. Ideal for someone like myself, who doesn’t like putting on too much makeup, or having it take up too much of my time. Their approachable cosmetics means you don’t need the skills of a makeup artist to use “Evalina Beauty’s products”. The “Dew BB Cream” goes on like any moisturizer that you spread and rub in. Their “Precision Liquid Eyeliner” is smudge-proof and as easy to apply as drawing a line. And their “Shimmer Eyeshadow Sticks” gives you a little sparkle with a smear and a smudge of your fingers.

For a more revealing look at the current line, check out my first beauty vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Disclaimer: I have no professional experience in make up application, and don’t put on much in my day to day life. So take this for what its is: an amateur trying to review a terrific make up line, like she would anything else.

For those interested in purchasing, the current “Evalina” collection (with additional lines to launch in the near future), is only available online. (With plans for store front representation in the future). But for now you can make your online purchase with confidence knowing that they believe in and back up their cosmetics with a 100% money-back guarantee. They can do this, having worked with some of the world’s top cosmetics manufacturers in Italy, Germany, and Canada.

“Women have altered themselves forever, in whatever role we’re in,” says Legge. “I want to encourage women to be their true, authentic selves, and feel better about who the are, not change who they are—because they’re already amazing and have an intrinsic beauty.”

EVALINA
https://www.evalinabeauty.com/

Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine

I am really impressed by and excited for all the new and interesting ways Science World is bringing in more guests to the dome. More than just a place for exploration, geared towards children; they are now hosting a lot more adult themed events, later in the evening as well. I especially like the ones that combine drinking with learning; and their latest venture is one such program.

For the first time this fall, Science World teamed up with five of British Columbia’s most acclaimed wineries to “uncork” the science behind their incredible wines that we enjoy. Mission Hill Family Estate, CedarCreek Estate Winery, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Martin’s Lane Winery, and Road 13 Vineyards were all on site.

The night was a self guided tour, you explored tables and chatted with vendors at your leisure. There were also 4 different seminars to take in throughout the night. Despite the limited release of tickets, the space filled up fast and lines formed quick. The conversation and queries did slow down the pouring. So for those interested in next year’s event, and will be attending with a more informative slant, I highly suggest coming by early. The goal is to hit your favourite wineries first and quick, before it gets busy with a thirsty crowd. A crowd that is here to drink at a one of a kind setting (much like myself).

At the “Mission Hill Family Estate” booth, winemaker Ben Bryant showcased wines from their award winning: 2019 ‘Canadian Winery of the Year.

Winemarker Taylor Whelan was here representing “CedarCreek Estate Winery” and their three decades of winemaking history in the Okanagan. He was speaking to their estate-grown, organically farmed wines.

 

“CheckMate Artisanal Winery” and winemaker Philip McGahan spoke to harnessing the effects of climate change to produce Canada’s first-ever, perfect, 100-point score for a table wine.

“Martin’s Lane Winery’s winemaker Shane Munn uses gravity to produce the exceptional wines that have captured the ‘World’s Best Pinot Noir’ trophy in London.

At the “Road 13 Vineyards” table, General Manager Joe Luckhurst was pouring their award-winning wines, as the winner of the 2018 ‘Canadian Winery of the Year’.

And together, through seminars, tastings, and hands-on activities, these renowned winemakers and viticulturists showcased the science, craftsmanship, and terroir that make Okanagan wines so extraordinary.

And because what is drink without food? – to pair with all your drink tasters, chefs from two of the region’s best estate restaurants: “Terrance” (Mission Hill) and “Home Block” (CedarCreek) were on hand, serving samples of their cuisine, assembled to order.

From “Terrance” there was a “Wild boar shoulder and pine mushroom” dish with white bean and coriander. For the vegetarians they left out the boar and the dish ate like a cassoulet. There also offered a sweet corn and scallop chowder, but unfortunately I missed out on capturing and tasting it.

From “Homeblock” they were assembling a “pork, veal, and beef polpette” with orzo, parmesan, and gremolata. Saucy and comforting, it made for a wonderful pair with all the reds I was drinking.

I really liked the “potato, comte, sage, and onion tart”, finished off with truffled estate honey. Flaky pastry with a fragrant centre. In hindsight, I should have went back for seconds.

For something more refreshing, the “seared and marinated halloumi” ate like a salad. Mixed greens tossed with beets, blood orange, fennel, olives, and parsley; and finished off with a generous slab of the semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

And for those looking for a place to rest, there was a sparkling wine lounge to relax in. A series of couches over looking a bar, with multiple bottles of sparkling from various wineries. I just wished there was a seminar or exhibition here, something more to speak to this specific subsection of wine.

For more action attendees could bid on a silent auction, test their taste buds through blind tastings, and get their hands dirty with science activities developed by the Science World team.

But as for the seminars, they started on the hour, every hour. We were only able to take in 3 out of the 4 and following is the recap of each. “Synthesis: The Science of Blending Wine”, “Evolution: The Science of Aging Wine”, “Innovation: Technology and the Modern Organic Vineyard”, and “Terroir: The Science of Soil”.

At “Synthesis: The Science of Blending Wine” we were given a crash course in blending our own mixed red, by one of “Mission Hill’s” wine markers. She declared it the most exciting part of her job. She gets to take all different kinds of components and meld them together to make the best product she can. Blending helps to create distinctive wines with complex textures and flavours that reflect specific varietals and vineyards. We learned about the decisions that are made during blending, then got to try it ourselves, first had.

Seated in a classroom setting we were each given four reds to work with. The Cab sab was described as a structural wine. The Syrah a fragrant wine with blueberries and spice notes; it is the 2nd most used, dominant varietal. The Cab franc had fine tenants and herbal notes with crush herbs. And the merlot made for a good base with its use of beautiful red fruit.

The challenge was to recreate their “2016 Quatrain” blend through mixing and tasting. So with a syringe and a beaker we sent about siphoning our mix, taking into consideration that different vineyard sites will taste different, and that the barrels used will also effect the outcome. Both points we would dive more into through our next two seminars.

At “Evolution: The Science of Aging Wine” seminar we dove into the science of aging and the use of vessels to do it. Wine changes continuously as it moves from grape to bottle, and even more so within the bottle. We learned how the various techniques and vessels used to age it, as well as the passage of time, affects the resulting wine. Then, what causes the distinct aromas and flavours that characterizes a fine wine. When preparing wine and allowing it to ferment, your choice in vessel and its composition makes a big difference. Stainless steel, French oak, concrete, or ceramic and clay. How long the wine stays inside, and if it will spend additional time within another vessel after, makes a difference.

Our hosts and expert wine makers from “CheckMate Artisan winery” and “Cedar Creek” spoke to their favourite techniques for fermentation and shared their personal experiences. How each vessel used needs to be breathable so that gas can be exchanged. And that the tighter the grain is in wood, the more it slows down the oxygen exchange. This leads to a longer and slower aging process, which also tends to be more costly. We also learned that the main difference between a concrete “egg” or steel tub is temperature. Concrete can absorb heat, leading to moderate fermentation. Its lowered temperature allows more time for fermentation extraction. And the difference between aging wine in barrels or concrete is tradition and how much carbon dioxide is able to seep in. With 4 inches of concrete, air is slower to seep into wine when using a concrete vessel. Therefore, wine earns most of its flavour from maturing in a wooden barrel.

We then got to try the difference that said vessels made. As we sipped and swirled, we learned about “aromatic retentions”, and getting the flavour of the fruit you put into it. Our next round of tasters had us trying more fermented wines using wild yeast. The first was pure fermentation in stainless steel, which does not have a flavour to rub off on to the wine. The second glass had the same wine and grapes, but it tasted much different due to the influences from the barrel that was used to complete its fermenting on.

Then it was off to our last seminar of the night. “Terroir” is the “The Science of Soil”. Ancient volcanic and glacial soils, combined with the unique climate of the Okanagan Valley, makes it one of the “last great undiscovered wine regions the world”. And here, we were able to learn how the multitude of soil types found throughout the valley impacts the vines. Thus resulting in incredible wines with distinct character. For this workshop, both of our presenters travelled all the way from the Okanagan, where they work and live out of Kelowna. Collectively they are responsible for grapes grown on the northern part of Okanagan, Naramata, and Lake Country.

We discussed different soil types, and since this was a hands on seminar, we got to touch jars of it, rolling fine grains and rocky chunks between our fingers. And as we handled dirt we learned about the difference it can make to your crop between sand, silt, and clay. Each has a different mineral make up, which the roots take with them, up into the fruit. Ie: the soil found closer to lakes is of finer particles. The ground at higher elevations is more rock. And a good glass of Pinot noir can reveal how good it is and where it is grown through its taste.

Sadly we didn’t have the time to capture the last seminar on our list, “Innovation: Technology and the Modern Organic Vineyard”. This workshop was a discussion on precision organic farming and the use of state-of-the-art technology. It spoke to how technology is affecting traditional practices, and creating an improved crop as a result. Ie: drones in the vineyard.

In conclusion, this was a great event and one that I hope they repeat again next year, and the years to come. “Uncorked” effectively brought the Okanagan to the city, with a showcase that spoke to the bounty of BC’s wine country. Plus, consumers these days are very concerned about how their food and drinks are being produced and what goes into each. So here, Science World offered the platform and the opportunity to learn more about wine; allowing you to appreciate your next glass more. I highly recommend attending next year’s “Uncorking”, and making an effort to sit in on all of the seminars if you can. Not only do you get to learn so much more in a classroom setting. But they are also not short on wine, meaning you need not push your way through a crowd to get some.

Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine
Thursday, November 14
7–10 pm
Science World at TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver

Tickets $89 from scienceworld.ca/uncorked

The Golden Owl Awards 2019

Tonight I was invited down to the “Rocky Mountaineer Station” for the 12th annual “Golden Owl Awards”, an award dedicated to the hospitality industry.

Its origins are with the “Vancouver Nightlife Awards”, starting in 2004. From there it steadily grew to become “the most anticipated industry event in Vancouver”, (as taken from their website). And in 2016, it evolved into what it is today, “The Golden Owl Awards”, highlighting the best of Vancouver’s hospitality industry. The award allows the industry leaders and trailblazers to recognize one another through a night of heavy drinking and playful poking of fun towards one another. It also brings together many of Vancouver’s hospitality owners, managers, and staff; under one roof for a dressed up and festive evening.

The Golden Owl Hospitality Awards winners are voted on by both public and industry panel voters. Public voters represent a 40% weight and the industry panel has as 60% weigh in. Industry Panelists are not allowed to vote in any categories that are in a conflict of interest with. This panel was first brought in for the 2012 showcase, after they felt it was needed to curb the “popularity” vote. Having a panel that determines each winner with a 60% weight curbs the ability for nominees to campaign. Therefore those who win do so because they focus on being the best at their jobs, rather than campaigning for votes from the public.

The rules to being nominated are as follows. (All taken from their official Golden Owl website)

  • All establishments must have been open for at least ONE year, or if they have moved into a new establishment, their previous establishment under the same name must have been open for at least ONE year, EXCEPT for Best New Destination.
  • Best New Destination must have opened between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • All establishments or businesses must be located within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • All Events must have taken place between September 15, 2018 and September 19, 2018
  • All Managers, Bar Personalities and Breakout Artist of the Year must live within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), and Artists must have performed at least three (3) times within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • Managers and Bar Personalities must have employed between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • Social Event of the Year is not a music based festival or based around a band, DJ or a group of entertainers and had a minimum attendance of 750 people.
  • DJ Event of the Year is an actual DJ performance, not an overall music festival, though the DJ performance can have taken place at a music festival, night club, or other venue.
  • All establishment nominees in the following categories: Best Late Night Lounge, Best Hotel Lounge and Best Pub must serve food, beer and liquor.
    Best Atmosphere includes restaurants, lounges, pubs, brewery tasting lounges and serves food and/or beer and liquor.
  • Best New Destination includes restaurants, brewery tasting lounges, hotel lounges and nightclubs.
  • Best Subculture Venue has a focus on culture, be it music, food or beyond.
  • Best Live Music Venue can be a multi-function venue, but has a primary focus of booking live music acts to perform that serves beer and/or liquor.
  • Best Pub does not charge a cover for entry except for special events.

Guests and nominates are invited into the open space to mix and mingle before the award show. The red carpet is rolled out and attendees in their glitziest finery are photographed against a back drop of sponsors.

Art work is on display and there are corners and high top tables for guests to linger at. Event mascots, the “Owlets” greet guests and pose for photos, in light up masks and golden body suits.

Deeper inside the open space with its valeted ceilings and sky high windows, guests are able to roam the room freely. There are a handful of cash bars and liquor brands offering samples to help you loosen up and to set the mood. Take a shot of “Ole Smoky Tennessee moonshine”, try Nude’s latest low calorie drink, or mix Red Bull’s newest seasonal flavour into a cocktail with a help yourself toppings bar.

To mark the occasion a photo booth allowed you to take a photo and customize its frame.

And as VIPs we were given access to the VIP lounge that included coat check, and booths to sample from drink tickets. Behind the partition local beer and spirit companies traded tasters in a plastic reusable cups for vouchers; like “Phillips Brewing” and “Long Table Distillery”.

There was also a seating area with geometric furnishings to linger on. When time, we all gathered before the stage for the main event. Our emcee of the night began by poking fun at the industry’s stereotypes, and followed it up with the commemoration of establishments that have closed down to big disappointment this year.

Then one by one all the categories, their nominees, and winners were declared by a host of presenters. Winners walked to the stage to receive their wooden plaque, and say a few words. And when the show was done everyone piled into party buses to continue the festivities and celebrations well into the night, downtown. I wasn’t able to linger all that much longer, as it was a Monday and I had work the next day. But for the industry and many tonight, this Monday evening was the lead in, into their weekend.

The following is a recap of the award winners and the runner ups. But for more on how you can vote for next year’s nominees, and may be even attend 2020’s gala night, visit their website at https://www.goldenowlawards.com/

BEST ATMOSPHERE
The Parlour
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST HOTEL LOUNGE
The Lobby Lounge – Fairmont Pacific Rim
Runner Up: Reflections – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST PUB
Alibi Room
Runner Up: The Blackbird Public House

BEST BARTENDING PERSONALITY
Katie Ingram – Elisa
Runner Up: Robyn Gray – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST LATE NIGHT LOUNGE
The Keefer
Runner Up: Granville Room

BEST SUBCULTURE VENUE
Open Studios
Runner Up: The Beaumont Studios

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE
The Commodore Ballroom
Runner Up: Fortune Sound Club

BEST NEW DESTINATION
Hotel Belmont
Runner Up: Como Taperia

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
James Langford-Smith – Kissa Tanto
Runner Up: Geordie Howes – Fortune

NIGHTCLUB OF THE YEAR
Fortune Sound Club
Runner Up: Hello Goodbye

BREAKOUT ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Manila Grey
Runner Up: JUNK!

DJ EVENT OF THE YEAR
Skratch Bastid – Bastid’s BBQ
Runner Up: Skrillex – Contact

SOCIAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Runner Up: Deighton Cup

BEST PATIO EXPERIENCE
Reflections – The Garden Terrace
Runner Up: The Local Gastown

BEST DISTILLERY EXPERIENCE
Long Table Distillery
Runner Up: Sons of Vancouver Distillery

BEST SERVICE EXPERIENCE
Chambar
Runner Up: Bao Bei

BEST COMEDY EXPERIENCE
Yuk Yuks
Runner Up: Sunday Service Fox Cabaret

BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE
Download Chicken Shack
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST COCKTAIL EXPERIENCE
The Shameful Tiki Room
Runner Up: Keefer Bar

BEST BRUNCH EXPERIENCE
Medina
Runner Up: Jam Cafe Beatty Street

BEST BREWERY EXPERIENCE
Brassneck Brewery
Runner Up: Strathcona Beer Company

RESTAURANT GROUP OF THE YEAR
Toptable Restaurant Group
Runner Up: Kitchen Table Restaurants

Cats & Dogs Exhibit and Apollo 11: First Steps In IMAX, at Science World

Starting from September 22nd to January 5th Science World is giving you a real life look at the secret lives of pets, though you cats and dogs. Their newest exhibition: “Cats & Dogs” is the first, large-scale exhibition dedicated to these animals. It reviews everything we know scientifically, sociologically and culturally about both canines and felines, and makes it palate-able and easy to digest for even the littlest of learners.

 

As taken from the press release, “The science of animal behaviour has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, overturning a number of preconceived ideas about cats and dogs regarding how they demonstrate their skills, awareness and intelligence every day.” This interactive exhibit gives you a look into their psyche, while getting you moving. You can test your agility against dogs with a jumping and running/dodging challenge. Or learn how to better identify either species with a “guess who” style game. And you can even quiz one another on your learned animal trivia with a board game. You will also “learn about peculiar and distinct traits found in a huge variety of dog breeds from the tiniest Chihuahuas to the tallest Great Danes, and cats ranging from the lush, furry Persians to the sleek, hairless Sphynx”.

Fun for the whole family and a topic that is relatable to so many of us who either own a cat or a dog.

And starting November 23rd, visitors to Science World can also take in their newest IMAX experience: “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition”. This is special giant-screen version of the critically acclaimed, theatrical documentary Apollo 11, but is not the full-length feature.

It recalls the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin through first person accounts from the astronauts, as well as all the men and women stationed at NASA. Engineers, scientists, and mechanics working tirelessly for the success of the mission, and the safe return of their spacemen. The IMAX film contains never before seen, actual footage of the space mission, that saw Americans being the first men on the moon. The very one where they declared so memorably, “this is one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind”.

The documentary’s giant screen release is well timed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of NASA’s first lunar landing, and features the newly discovered 70mm footage and audio recordings from NASA and the National Archives. It allows audiences to experience one of humanity’s greatest achievements, over 50 years ago, in a more intimate and revealing way.

Having not read up on or watched much of NASA’s historic lunar landing, this offered me the best way to get all caught up. And in my eyes, it also was helpful in debunking the conspiracy that all the above was just a hoax.

For more on either of this season’s newest attractions, visit Science World’s website for ticket sales and additional details. https://www.scienceworld.ca/

A Royal Romance, Vancouver Theatre Sports League

The weather is turning, the lights are out, and Christmas is right around the corner. So leave it to the “Vancouver Theatre Sports League” to regale you with yule-time spirit and laughter in their newest improv series, “Merry Kissmas: A Royal Romance”!

Available from November 20th to December 24th, we attended their first weekend release on a Saturday night. I have attended other improv shows here before, but never on a weekend. And I must say, the day of the week certainly does make a different to your experience. The energy of a Saturday night changed the dynamic of the show. It was a sold out performance, so already there was more energy to feed off of, more suggestions were being shouted out, and a greater number of laughs came after each punch line. Although what stayed the same, was the very little number of hands being raised to come up on stage to participate in person.

It is also worth nothing that in house bar, the “Neil Macrae Barl was busy. Show goers arrived early and partook in a couple of drinks before the doors to the theatre opened. Wine was being poured into tumblers, beers were being cracked open, and their popcorn machine had the room smelling of melted butter. With bottles in buckets at tables and glasses in the hands of the audience, everyone was here for a rowdy good time.

A couple more than others, including one audience member that volunteered to help out with a skit, only to be not sober enough to understand what was expected of him. He was suppose to make sound effects into a microphone, but kept adding commentary over what the actors were trying to say. From there any volunteers were checked for sobriety. As a watcher, it was great to be able to witness the improv players on stage being able to take everything this drunk man was throwing at them, and to incorporate it into their performance with a laugh. It was disruptive for them and the rest of the audience, but we all took it on the chin and was able to joke about it subsequently. Naturally any show you attend won’t be exactly like this, that is the beauty of improv. Improv gives you the ability to watch as many of the same shows as you like, and for each one to be different, depending on the performers and suggestions given out that day.

As for the rest of the performance, the first half of the show featured improv games with wintery themes. The actors acted out the same scene as it took place in different countries. They made up dances based on winter time activities. And gave up control of their body as an audience member moved them about the stage like a living doll.

After the intermission and more wine, came the second half of the show was inspired by Hallmark Christmas movies. Theses movies are cliché and cheesy, but feel good with plenty of love and happily ever afters. Here, one audience member joined a multi scene story that played out a proposal and royal wedding before our eyes.

Overall, this is another great production by “Vancouver Theatre Sports League”, and a great way to shake off those winter blues. Improv is great for some laughs, or as a date night option, and with its wintery themes, a great way to get into the holiday spirit. For ticket information, visit their website listed below.

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Aurora Winter Festival at the PNE

From now to January 5th, 2020 “Aurora”, the winter festival is back for its second year in Vancouver. Although this time they are bigger and better with a brand new location at PNE’s fair grounds. The increase in square foot means additional room for more light displays, event spacing, food stalls, and marketplace vendors.

My trick with these sort of activities is to come early, blitz through everything, take all your people-free photo, then go through it all again after, to better take things in, the second time around. I also suggest bringing a friend to help you take those completely necessary photos with your favourite light feature. The following is what you can expect, but naturally there is nothing like exploring it in person.

With so much to see and do, I highly suggest locating the posted event map, and taking a photo of it to reference later. You definitely don’t want to miss any of it, each corner is a difference feature.

The most iconic of them is actually the gateway into “Aurora”, a giant glacial iceberg that you walk under.

And a short distance away was their giant Christmas tree, that you too can walk under.

To your right is the souvenir shop. I highly recommend stopping by here first before venturing any further, they have a great selection of accessories that light up. These make fun props and unique souvenirs to mark your time at “Aurora”. LED swords, wands, and thunder sticks. And to keep you dry and warm (as most of this is outdoors), they have umbrellas, toques and gloves for sale. I grabbed the latter, which too was lit with LEDs. Each finger tip got a dedicated bulb and with a push of a button you could switch it between colours and strobing or flashing patterns.

To your left is their carnival section with all ages rides like a miniature coaster, spinning strawberries, and the Ferris wheel crowning it all. Here, you can also play games to win prizes.

The rest of the property is for your to explore, to wherever your eyes take you next. If you are looking to capture a glimpse of Santa, be sure to check the times listed at the entrance of his inflated snow dome. He arrives and tells the kids a story with the help of his elf.

There is also a dome for puzzles and colouring, a quite space to take a seat with your young family. For something a bit more active little hands can turn to a winter wonderland take on tic tac toe and checkers, and a black lit neon ring toss using the antlers of wooden reindeers.

Nearby you can test your dexterity with a sling shot game. Aiming and tossing plastic balls towards inflated snowmen.

There is a candy cane lane with giant lollipops, macrons that you can sit on, and human-sized cupcakes. The sugary path of pink leads you to a giant gingerbread house at the end.

All the staff are dressed like elven folk bundled up warm in cloaks, outfitted with pointed ears. They guide the way and help you take photos, should you ask. They also have a rotation of characters ready for photo ops. Like the friendly yeti and the beautiful snow queen. When she is not in, you can test out her throne in her ice castle.

Walk along wooded paths discovering moments created in LEDs. Floral life and wild life brightening up the night.

The feature that will capture everyone’s attention is the tunnel of lights, a colour changing techno-coloured experience in rainbow.

There is also a yellow glowing tunnel with giant beers and the reindeers towing Santa’s sleigh around it.

By the gnome village is a talking tree. You can take a seat as he recalls the “Night Before Christmas”.

You can take a wild ride on their giant slide. Which comes with a bird’s eye view of the event.

Or rent some skates and take a spin around their rink. For those who are less confident on blades, you can loan one of their plastic animals with handles, to better support yourself.

And if get hungry there are a handful of food trucks to choose from. Order poutine, sandwiches, perogies, or stir fry; and enjoy it in their communal covered area.

But if you are looking for somewhere warmer to eat dinner at, check out the drinking hall with plenty of benches, and the occasional live band performing holiday tunes on stage.

And there are plenty of vendors offering hot beverage and/or spiked drinks. Mulled wine and hot chocolate are great ways to keep warm. We indulged in their feature “disco” cocktail, served in a blinking blue globe, this blue punch is available with or without alcohol. Best enjoyed on their light up dance floor.

If you are looking to check a few names off your Christmas shopping list? “Aurora” also had a market place with local, artisan, goods for sale.

Given how much time you can spend wandering the park and revisiting your favourite moments, you can come back a visit multiple times before the end of the season. “Aurora Winter Festival” runs from November 22nd to January 5th. For tickets and hours of operation visit their website using the link below.

Aurora Winter Festival

Cellar Door Grand Tasting, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend we were up in Whistler, which is consistently ranked amongst the world’s top golf, mountain bike, and ski resorts. Although this fall we were not on the slopes, but instead, around tables trying the fabulous culinary offerings of this mountain town. Every November, Whistler hosts Cornucopia: Whistler’s Celebration of food + drink. The event is a unique opportunity to experience the wealth of Whistler’s fine dining establishments, as well as mix with acclaimed chefs, sommeliers, distillers, brewers, and restaurateurs visiting just for the festival.

But if you aren’t able to visit for a weekend or sign up for numerous events, the one(s) you have to attend is a signature tasting. The convention centre hall, (where it is held), is set up with multiple tables, each dedicated to a wine or food vendor. You roam the space, chatting up distributors and chefs, strolling amongst the aisles, at your leisure. Because where else can you try several of the wines participating in various “Cornucopia” events across two weeks, all gathered together for one night?

There are several such grand tastings, but the “Cellar Door”, (which is the one we attended), promised fine wines and champagnes, with the uncorking of top-shelf bottles ($25 and up). “With glass in-hand, step inside to discover a superb range of red, white and sparkling wines, and meet the producers and winemakers who create them. Complement your tastings with sweet and savoury bites by Sea to Sky restaurants and guest chefs.”

Participating wineries included:
BC Wine Studio
Black Hills Estate
Black Sage Vineyard
Blasted Church
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Clos du Soleil
Covert Farms Family Estate
Crescent Hill Winery
Crowsnest Vineyards
Culmina Family Estate Winery
Da Silva Vineyards & Winery
Dark Horse Vineyard
Delegat Canada
Empson Wines
Ex Nihilo Vineyard
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
Fort Berens Estate Winery
Hope Family Wines
Indigenous World Winery
Inniskillin
Italian Wine Importer
Kismet Estate Winery
Lang Vineyards
Laughing Stock Vineyards
Mark Anthony Wines & Spirits
Massey Wines and Spirits Ltd
Moon Curser Vineyard
Okanagan Villa Vineyards
Phantom Creek Estates
Shannon Ridge
Stags Hollow
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Sunrock Vineyards
TIME Winery
Whistler Tree Wines

The following will be a highlight reel of the event, with a few notables. Like, meeting the Riedel team. I am a firm believer that glassware makes a difference and was proved it here with their decanter and magnum glasses.

For food there was a table of hams and sausages. And a collection of nibbles that ranged from hot squash soup to pork loin and mashed potato. There was Thai salad and sautéed vegetables, tomato bruschetta, and good old fashion hard cheese and sweet apple to graze on.

In short, these so much to see in do in 3 hours, you definitely get your money’s worth at this event. If you can only attend one, this is that one. To have it to look forward to next year, visit the Cornucopia website for more details.

For the epicurious, Cornucopia is food + drink unleashed

 

For the more animated and detailed recap of this event, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Culinary Stage: Tyax Land and Sea, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend we were at our very first “Cornucopia”, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival, which includes a variety of events to partake in. In order to get the most out of our experience we signed up for a little of everything, like a live cooking class where you get to eat the fruits of your chef/instructor’s labour. This is that recap.

Attendees were gathered at the grand foyer of the Whistler’s Conference Centre. You choose yours seat between several tables clustered around the “Sub Zero & Wolf Culinary Stage”. It was a formal sit down event, which included the visibility of two televised screens. They were helpful in allowing you to follow along with this instructional tasting.

Our instructor was Daniel Crane, Executive Chef at “Tyax Lodge”, and this would be his first foray in teaching on a public stage, in front of a live audience. In order to see him in action, check out my latest drinking vlog, where I recapped this, and a few of the other events I participated in.

 

Chef Daniel used the following 3 courses to highlight his background. He prides himself on working with farmers, sourcing his ingredients from them as much as possible. And this was well reflected in the meal to come, 3 courses inspired by flavours from the land and sea.

As a workshop, it was great to be able to take in his tips and trips. And/or sit back and simply watch things unfold like a cooking show; with the added pleasure of eating it after. I personally really enjoy seeing how my food is put together, to be able to appreciate the workmanship of each dish so much more.

And as he prepared our multi-course meal, we would enjoy wine from “Fort Berens Estate Winery” in Lillooet, BC. Their handcrafted wines reflect the unique qualities of Lillooet’s terroir; and has won them several regional, national, and international awards. The winery is located two hours north, over the coast mountains. This is a small valley, the same size of Burgundy, France. There, it is very dry and arid, with very little snow and rain. The land’s pour soil is great for grapes, the energy to grow them all goes to the fruit and not its leaves.

Our first “Fort Berens” wine was their 2018 Chardonnay, a wine that won in the category of top white at “Cornucopia 2019”

Our second glass was their 2016 Pinot noir made from five different types of grapes, clones of varietals originating from France to California. The result, an deep red with earthy layers and the fruity notes of raspberry.

The last glass was the “Fort Berens’ Late Harvest Muscat”. A sweet wine, that paralleled our dessert to come. Made with a late harvest grape it has exotic notes of ginger, lemon grass, and apricot. A nice cool wine with light acidic tones.

As for the food that went with each, the following will be a notable recap of the demonstration, followed by my honest review of the food. I will not be offering step by step instructions on how to replicate each dish, instead, you will have to attend next year’s “Cornucopia” yourself.

Our first course was an “Albacore Tuna Tataki”. Seared rare tuna served with a cherry tomato ratatouille, warm olives and caper berries. Seasoned with chilli, olive oil, a parmesan crisp, and saffron aioli.

We learned that you start by making sure the pan is nice and hot, so that the albacore tuna cooks up with a lovely crust. You also want to lay the fish away from you, to avoid the oil from splashing on to you. You then season your tuna with olive oil paprika, salt and pepper. Your don’t want to sear it for too long, though do want to get all four sides, and allow the fish to sit.

Next you prepare the ratatouille which involves adding together your vegetables and finishing it with parsley and salt.

For your aioli you blend your mayonnaise in a blender at a lower setting. You then slowly add in oil and turn up the speed: “really high, really quick, and then kill it”. If you blend it too slowly it comes out too thin. You know you have done it right when your finished product is a nice yellow colour.

We then got an inside look at the intricacies of plating. Slicing the tuna thin, dotting your plate with mayonnaise, lining your ratatouille on the side, and finishing the plate off with some deep fried rice paper for added crispiness.

The result, a tasty and light start. Fresh and tangy with tomato, and familiar with the tuna and creamy mayo combination. The white wine’s citrus notes really complimented the seafood here.

The second course was “Pan Seared Brome Lake Duck”, served with a parmesan and sage gnocchi, cherry jus, and quark cheese mousse.

Chef Daniel first began with the gnocchi. He and his team had already pre-boiled the potatoes needed for 35 minutes, just so that they are soft enough to pierce with knife. Once they are peeled, they are pressed down to small bits using a potato ricer, (A new and soothing sight for me). The collection of potato granules are the mixed together with one egg, and one and a half cups of flour, then repeatedly folded in to build gluten. The dough is then rolled into a line a cut down to small pieces. It is then ready to be boiled in water for 1-2 minutes. When they start to float, you remove then from the water. And once they cool down you can sauté it with the asparagus.

Making the chutney involved sautéing chopped red onion, gooseberries, a little bit of sugar, and red wine vinegar. Then letting it cook down with all its liquids cooked off.

The duck breast was prepared in a sous vide bag, seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then seared and plated with its demi glaze and cherries, alongside the chutney and gnocchi.

The meaty piece of duck was perfection, with all its sides balancing out the plate. Fresh and crispy asparagus, sweet and sour chutney, and a rich caramelization from the cooked cherries.

Our third and final course was a “Berries and Cream” dessert, made with fresh berries, a coconut foam, cardamom crumble, and chamomile syrup.

First came the making of the granola based crumble featuring pumpkin seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamon. To it Chef Daniel added in a good amount honey, and a little bit of sugar with canola oil. The goal is for it to be sticky before popping it in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The berry compote was mix of blackberry, cherry, and strawberries. More sugar is added to make it a proper dessert. It is finished with lemon juice, and cook down at a low heat for 20 minutes. And lastly a splash of vanilla extract goes into the mix, after the temperature is turned off.

In order to get the camomile syrup, you start by steeping tea bags into water and cooking it.

And for the meringue you remove yolk from egg whites. And the whites get whipped in a blender so they won’t fluff up. More sugar is added again, as well as cream of tartar, to help keep things nice and stiff; so that your meringue does not flop out in the oven. It is baked in the oven at 200 degrees, until it is nice and crispy.

The coconut foam uses a higher fat concentration of coconut milk, mixed with icing sugar. It is piped on to the plate using a foam gun.

Surprisingly the dessert wasn’t too sweet, I found our dessert wine sweeter. The cardomon notes gave the plate a fall feel, the camomile a nice floral essence, and the juicy berries offered a nice contrast to the crispy and chewy meringue curl it was scooped out over.

In conclusion, a great event and a fun way to add a little flare to dinner. I learned a few kitchen tricks and was fully entertained throughout the entire meal. And I honestly think it all tasted better because I witnessed its journey to completion, and respected the time and effort that it took to get it on my plate. For all the food enthusiasts, I highly recommend looking into attending another such class next year. Start planning now by visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

Top Value Wines Seminar, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend I was taking in my very first “Cornucopia”. The two week long food and drink festival hosted in Whistler. It gathers industry professionals and fans together through specialty dinners, parties, cooking demonstrations, and seminars. And in this post we were taking in the latter.

Out of all the possible wine seminars, I was most interested in this one: “Top Value Wines”. This was not just a class on one specific type of grape, or wines from merely one region. This was a collection of information, covering several different types of wine, from all over the world. Information that I could take and apply in my every day life.

I typically visit my local liquor store looking for a bottle; but often don’t know what to get, so simply hope a label compels me. There are so many different types of wine, and we all can’t be sommeliers. Picking one can be overwhelming, especially if it is to be shared with others who may judge you on your selection. Or maybe you don’t want to spend more than $20 on your purchase, because you think, “it’s just for me”. Therefore, I was looking forward to taking in this workshop, to have it help remove future doubt in my wine selection. And now, thanks to this wine seminar? I have a list of what to reach for during my next liquor store visit. So continue reading to see 12 wines worth trying, that won’t break the bank.

The seminar was set up like a lecture room with rows of tables, an overhead projector, and a panel of speakers leading the class. Our three hosts were the ones to choose the 12 wines we would be tasting. And as we did, they would share why they selected this top value wine, plus what they liked about it. Rachel is the owner of “VV tapas”, a new wine bar in East Vancouver. Tyler runs the “Village Taphouse” liquor store in West Vancouver. And Daenna writes for 4 wine magazines all throughout Canada, where she is better known as the “Wine Diva”.

Everything was pre-poured and placed in order on a speciality place mat. Water was self serve at the back of the room, a larger plastic cup gave you the opportunity to taste and spit, and a packet of saltines offered a way to cleanse your palette in between.

The seminar began by explaining value. Just because a bottle is inexpensive, it doesn’t make it worse off than something that costs double that. “Value” was described as something worth more to you than what you would expect to pay for it. We then went one by one through each glass, essentially going through a whole case of wine.

 

First was the “Rivera ‘Marese’ Bombino Castro del Monte D.O.C.” This is a lesser known wine, hailing from a more obscure area, at the “heel of the boot of Italy”. This white is made in a stainless steel vessel, to ensure nothing takes away from the grapes. It is a creamy, full bodied wine with tropical notes. And best enjoyed frosty cold. It isn’t widely distributed, but it is available in 27 stores across the province, that offers it at $22 a bottle.

The “Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc” is $18 at any BC liquor store. Described as a “text book” Sauvignon from New Zealand, it is tangy with a crisp finish; and also a little dry yet refreshing. It is available year round with green apple and peach flavours, ideal as a “hot tub wine”.

The “2018 Synchromesh Reisling” is from our own back yard: Naramata and Okanagan Falls. It is available at privately owned liquor stores for $23, but for the best deals, it is recommended that go right to the source. The same can be said for any BC wine, the best prices are right from the winery itself. As for how it drinks, this eas a balanced blend with plenty of acidity, thanks to its natural fermentation. Our hosts highly recommended it with Asian cuisine like Thai food and with a variety of curries. It is also just as good with breakfast because it pairs well with bacon. A great all around white, with a lower alcohol content at 9%.

Then for the rest of our tasters we went red, starting with the “2018 Santa Carolina Pinot Noir Réservé” from Leyda Chile. Available for $14 a bottle at any BC liquor store, this was the best deal out of all the glasses. It comes from a newer region, just off the Pacific Ocean; hilly with a cool climate. This Pinot Noir with its savoury character pairs well with rich earthier foods like risotto, mushrooms, and Wellington.

The “2017 Humberto Canale Estate Noir” is from Patagonia, the very south of Argentina. Also described as the “end of the earth” with barren terrain. The dessert’s cooler nights and higher altitude is great for preserving the acidity of their wine. At $20 a bottle from private liquor stores, you get good “bang for your buck” here.

Next we switched the order and went to glass #9, the “2016 Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” from Italy. A medium, light bodied wine that sold for $19 a bottle, at private liquor stores. Made from certified organic grapes, it doesn’t have a lot of mechanical bitterness to it, thanks to how it is produced. It is a great acidic wine with plenty of freshness; and good tannins making it a great choice to pair with sausage. It is also the bottle our experts recommended to bring to a party, when you don’t know what they like.

We then went back to our placemat order with glass #6, the “2018 Gran Passione Rosso” from Veneto, Italy. The grapes are left on the vine and dehydrated slowly. The farmers wait for them to shrivel up and loose half their weight before picking them, and making wine with them in oak barrels. The result, a more intense wine at 14% alcohol, with only a tiny amount of residual sugar. You get flavours of oak spice, vanilla, plum and raisins. This is available at privately owned liquor stores for $16 a bottle.

Glass #7 was the “2017 Boraso Garnacha” from Spain. A fruit wine with a “strawberry twizzler” character, a younger wine with no oak contact. At $15 a bottle at any BCL, our hosts joked that this was the perfect wine to crack open when you either don’t want to commit to finishing it, or you have to share with someone else.

The “2017 Protea Cabernet Sauvignon” is from Western Cape South Africa and runs at $15 at BCL. It hits all the classic notes with its time in oak barrels, followed by a year in stainless steel. It is a balanced wine that you can enjoy right as you open the bottle. Peppery with some cassis fruit.

The “2017 La Stella Fortissimo” from the Okanagan Valley was the most expensive bottle of our tasting. $35+ at the winery or private liquor store. It is a blend that is mostly merlot. Another approachable wine that you don’t need to decanter, although letting it rest doesn’t do it any harm either. It pairs well with meat, and for the vegetarians grilled eggplant and bean dishes. It also has enough acidity for tomato sauce.

The “2017 Famille Quiot Les Combes d’Arnevels Ventoux” from Rhone, France is $21+ at private liquor stores. It is a classic Southern Rhone blend with a mix of varietals. The wine has good minerality with flavour of dark fruits, leather and spice.

And glass #12 was the $20 “2016 Gerard Bertrand Terroirs Corbieres” from Languedoc, France. This was a full bodied blend with mostly Syrah.

Here, I wish I took better notes. Although having finished 12, 2oz glasses without using my spit cup, and only nibbling on two salted crackers; I wasn’t as alert or as thorough as I was at the beginning of our seminar.

In conclusion, I am very happy with this workshop. I have discovered 12 great bottles to reach for and impress others with, the next time I am in need of wine. And at these prices I can get a couple to share or one for me and another to gift.

For more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

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