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

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Cooking and Cocktail Crafting with @fruitsfromchile.

#fruitfromchilecanada

With spring flowers comes the Chilean fruit harvest. And with the newest restrictions on restaurants, comes the need to cook and create on your own. So when at my local Real Canadian Superstore I looked to Chile’s grapes and plums to spark my creativity.

Plums and grapes are available from December to April thanks to Chile’s counter seasonal harvest. Meaning that when it is winter here it is summer in Chile and we get to enjoy the fruits for their labour in the Northern Hemisphere. And fun fact, Chile is the main plum supplier in the South Hemisphere. Similarly, at this time of the year majority of the grapes we enjoy comes from Chile.

So I gathered a bushel of large green table grapes, hoping for a more tart taste and likewise some firm black plums. The goal, to utilize these fruits in a savoury dish, instead of the usual desserts that they are featured in.

Here are tips on how to pick the perfect grapes from @fruitfromChile

  • Select ones that are firm, plump, and attached to the stems
  • Look for consistent colouring. Stems should be green and flexible
  • Any powdery-white coating on the grapes is bloom, and perfectly safe to eat. Bloom is a naturally occurring substance that protects grapes from moisture loss and decay
  • Avoid sticky, mouldy, or shriveled grapes and dry and brittle stems

Here are tips on how to pick the perfect plums from @fruitfromChile:

  • Chilean plums at this time of year have a firmer crunchier texture
  • You don’t want the plums to be super soft
  • A slightly firmer is ideal
  • To ripen plums, place them in a brown paper bag for 1-2 days and store at room temperature
  • Storing them in the refrigerator will slow down the ripening process

And now that we have all our supplies, here is what we came up with and how you can replicate this recipe yourself.

Given that pork is already notoriously known for being a good pairing with fruit in the form of apples, we decided to do a pork chop in plum sauce instead. And to roast our grapes with root vegetables, for an added level of flavour. I like purchasing my meat from Save On Foods, where you can also get your grapes and plums from as well.

Wash then roast nugget potatoes and heirloom carrot in the oven. No need to dress either. Roast both until tender and a fork easily pierces them. I like the look of these colourful ones.

Further cook potatoes in a cast iron pan with olive oil. Brown on both sides. Then toss with garlic and butter. Finish with fresh chopped dill. The herbaceous of the dill offsets the sweetness of the fruit.

Remove heirloom carrots from the oven. further cook in a pan with butter. Simmer and add in sliced chilean table grapes. Sauté with sliced garlic, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meanwhile, slice plums and simmer in a pan with water. Keep an eye on this and add more water as needed. You are looking for a softened paste with a chunky consistency. Or you can cook everything down and strain for a more smooth liquid sauce.

Prepare pork chops by making cuts along its edges. This ensures that the meat doesn’t curl up, and continues to lay flat as you cook. Heavily season with salt and pepper on both sides. If you think it is enough add two more churns of your pepper and/or salt mill, or another pinch or two by hand.

Heat quality olive oil in a cast iron pan. Place chops in pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Use tongs to help brown edges as well. Allow pork to rest, we suggest a bowl for easier pooling of excess blood and juices.

Then pull it all together. The key to plating is vegetables first and piling them high. Then laying the featured protein over it before dressing it with garnishes and additional seasoning.

And to further extend your fruit, you can also incorporate it into cocktails to pair with your meal. Choose your spirit and mix muddle fruit with a carbonated beverage over ice.

Fruit is a healthy and easy way to add flavour and sugar into any food or drink. Look to seasonal offerings to inspire your next meal.

#fruitfromchilecanada

Arctic Voices at Science World

Science World is back with a new exhibition. Arctic Voices take visitors in an immersive journey into the Arctic, and I got a chance to relive my childhood and get a look into a land far far away when travelling isn’t an option.

Starting February 8, Science World will be open 7 days a week, 10 am to 5 pm with enhanced safety measures in place. And on February 11th, Science World debuted this 8,000 square foot exhibition featuring the tundra and the world’s northernmost biome.

As taken from the press release, “This interactive new gallery, presented by RBC with supporting partner Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, encourages visitors to explore the Arctic through the people, animals and plants that live there”.

Developed by Science North, in partnership with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Arctic Voices invites you to marvel at the sights and sounds of this tremendous and fragile region. Dance with auroras, hop on ice floes and learn just how deeply connected our everyday lives are to the Arctic through this feature exhibition that will leave you awestruck and inspired.

 

Arctic Voices will allow visitors to explore the impact of the changing climate in the far North through many lenses, including the land, sea, and ice. They will connect with the remarkable animals that live in the Arctic, the resilient people that inhabit this region, and the dedicated scientists who are helping to reveal what makes this place so unique.

“The Arctic may seem like an unfamiliar and distant place but it’s important to realize the impact our actions have on lands near and far,” said Tracy Redies, President & CEO of Science World. “The Arctic has terrestrial and marine ecosystems interdependent on one another, supporting both land and marine animals and plants, many of which are found nowhere else. They are feeling the direct effects of climate change. The Arctic is important to all of us and this exhibition makes the connection to help us understand the impact of our actions.”

Interactive elements of the exhibition include:
Relax and appreciate the wonder of Arctic whales in the Whales in the Arctic Theatre, and visit the interactive exhibit stations about each whale species.
Enjoy Arctic Animal Adaptations by participating in a multiplayer quiz where you take on the role of the researcher and interpret the behaviours of Arctic animals.
Participate in Bear Facts and study real skull and claw specimens to compare the paws, claws, and jaws of the three North American bears.

Worth noting is that a few tried and true exhibits have gotten upgrades and new features, so after you explore the new, revisit the old, don’t forget to re-experience your favourite.

SCIENCE WORLD at TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 3Z7
scienceworld.ca

Today

Mikei Mushroom Stick Ramen

Living alone with a busy life, you often seek instant noodles as a quick and easy meal time solution. And living as long as I have, I am not shy to admit that I have tried many brands of quick to cook noodles and ramen; so when I new one comes my way, I do not hesitate to give it a try and give it a definitive rank on my list.

This is Mikei’s new mushroom flavoured stick ramen. Each box contains two bundles of stick ramen and four packets of sauces and oil for two servings. I found one serving not enough and two too much.

Trying the packet as is I found the clear broth light. A satisfying soup with the faint earthiness of mushrooms. Easy and simple as is, but better as the base to something more. Like today, when we made our own seafood ramen featuring Mikei’s mushroom stick ramen. It was so good, that I wanted to share this recipe.

We started by boiling some miscellaneous salmon parts in hot water, adding in coarsely chopped white onion, several cloves of garlic, chunks of ginger, and large segments of green onion. We allowed that to simmer before adding in Mikei’s mushroom stick ramen sauce packets.

In our case we wanted more depth of flavour so added in an arsenal of sauces and spreads, that we had at the ready. Like miso paste to thicken the broth, sesame oil for flavour, garlic butter for richness, and shrimp paste for enhance the seafood flavour.

Next came additional ingredients. Here we used shiitake mushrooms craved with “x’s” into their caps, for visual effect. And a medium firm tofu, cut into cubes. And what ramen is complete without a soft boiled egg? In order to get the yolk perfectly centred, in the soon to be boiled white. Cut a small hole at either end of egg, and boil for 6 minutes.

Next, boil the instant stick ramen separately to remove additional starch. Drain water and plate cooked ramen in bowl. To finish, ladle broth and ingredients over noodles and serve steaming warm.

We then rounded out our meal with a heavily salted, baked, and seared mackerel, that complimented our seafood flavours above.

Not only do they taste good, but mushrooms are good for you, so any way I can take it, I do. As taken from Wikipedia, “Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. The combination helps protect heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin.”

Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence

I have always been curious about such products. Pills and cure alls that promise fantastical attributes with just one dose. Therefore, when I got the chance to try one such product, I jumped at the opportunity to debunk it. I went in with disbelief and suspicion, and came out wrong. This stuff works.

The Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence pills come in a blister pack of 10. This is right number for a first timer to be able to really see and reflect on its benefits.

The pill promises you more energy, and a more relaxed and stress-free outlook, with the focus on the task at hand. It isn’t instant relief, you don’t just take one and feel the effects above. It is a slow discovery and incline. On the first day, you notice how relaxed you feel, a mild sensation that you might not be able to identify in the moment, but come day two and three, it is there. Then four and five will have you comparing it to a time before your ever touched the stuff, the difference is notable.

You feel like you are in a constant state of calm during your day to day work routine. It keeps you focused and working with a steady, low flow of consistent energy. There is no up or down, no crash afterwards, not until you stop taking them. And when you are off of work, the relaxing and calm you get from the Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence pill is like reading a book for an escape: peaceful.

The downside: the cost. At $21.99 for a pack of 10 pills, this might not be within most of our budgets, to sustain a daily dose of. But for those who just need the extra oomph now and again, keep a box at the ready and pop a pill as necessary. Plus, I would suspect that daily use would decrease the effects eventually, due to familiarity. Not to mention it is rough coming off of. You feel the difference without it, in your energy especially. In lesser words, I suspect you are microdosing on mushrooms, in a healthy and regulated setting. So having tasted the good stuff and experiencing the good life, it is now uncomfortable without it.

In short, Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence is a standout product, and the price tag justifies this premium product.

Kin’s Market Signature Farm Box

With the inability to dine out at a restaurant, and the need to stay at home; many like myself have looked to cooking to pass the time and feed ourselves.

Admittedly, before the pandemic, I ate out more than most. Therefore, when it came time to follow recipes and make new things, I struggled. I didn’t know where to start or what to buy. The possibilities were endless and daunting.

So I looked to Kin’s Market and their grocery box for $63 after tax. This is a collection of fresh produce that gave me the foundation of popular fruits and vegetables to help kickstart my cooking journey. I would use this as a catalyst in finding the perfect recipe to follow. Everything I made would utilize a great deal of what was before me.

A collection that included 2 broccoli crowns, 3 cooking onions, a 2lbs bag of carrots, 2 long English cucumbers, two hot house tomatoes, 6 Yukon potatoes, a bunch of asparagus tips, 1lb of jumbo white mushrooms, 6 bananas, 2 lemons, 5 blue jay oranges, a 2lb bag of snap dragon apples, a jumbo avocado, 5 orri mandarins, 2 Manila mangos, and a bunch of muscat grapes from Chile.

The following is a showcase of what I was able to make using the above.

I juiced the tomatoes, cucumber, oranges, apples, and grapes; along with other produce for a collection of colourful juices that fuelled me through my work week.

The grapes and mango played a part in topping a New York style cheese cake finished with raspberry syrup. Truthfully, the rest of the mango I enjoyed as is because it was delicious.

The potatoes found their way into a poutine and as mash for bangers and mash.

Apples, grapes, and cucumber became part of a healthy lunch for the week.

And the asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, and onion were featured in a hearty Irish stew of red wine and Guinness stout. Served warm in a homemade Irish soda bread bowl.

In short, I hope everyone is able to make the best of their quarantine, trying new things, eating well, and doing their part to keep themselves and others safe.

OK Crush Pad, virtual wine tasting

As we are looking at the end of our second month of quarantine, more and more people are hankering for some normality. Any way to let lose and have fun, while still maintaining a substantial distance from everyone else; in the safety of their own home, of course.

So in comes OK Crush Pad with their virtual wine tastings. As a winery that did not start with a tasting room, it makes sense they be one of the first to take the plunge into cyber space. They are offering wine bundles off of their website with the ability to purchase them, and a tasting with one of their skilled sommeliers. Be aware, there is a minimum purchase of 4 bundles for a tasting for 4, which is also their ideal number of participants. However, they have gone as high as 8 in order to accommodate a wine club. (Side note, how do I join a wine club?).

The bundles feature wine from their three main labels: Free Form, Narrative, and most notably: Haywire. The bundle basically has you choosing between Narrative’s baby bottle of rosé bubbles or Haywire’s. I went with the latter for myself and my other three tasters; as naturally you all must choose the same set. The bundle in question then gets delivered to your front door, touch-less style.

After you decide on your bundle, you pick a day and time, and which platform you wish to teleconference on. Then your sommelier reaches out to confirm the details via email. From there you log on and enjoy a 30 minute session which involves background on OK Crush Pad, education on the wines, a question and answer portion, and light hearted batter as a bonus. Basically you dictate the flow of your session, like you would at a regular, in person tasting, in a physical tasting room. With our group, we logged on with Kelsey, who hosted us from OK Crush Pad‘s bottling room. There, she was able to reference the barrels and concrete jars behind her, as she went through our wine selection pouring bottle into glass.

Although this is the new method of congregating now, and there are many great platforms to consider when trying to convey what you need; I still find it cumbersome. Especially if everyone is on different internet speeds, and you end up talking over one another. Meaning conversations get lost in translation, as five try to discuss one topic, seconds apart.

We began with an overview of OK Crush Pad. A husband and wife run winery that started off as a retirement plan, turned into a romantic dream. With both co-owners coming from a marketing background, they lacked knowledge of the wine industry, so sought the guidance of other established vineyards. The result: a custom crush facility and an opportunity to help other small and establishing vineyards. OK Crush, offers up their equipment and facility to others, wanting their own startup wine dreams. Therefore, what might seem like a “personality disorder” (given their featuring of so many different labels under one banner), actually speaks well to their winery’s concept and theme of bringing people together.

Each aforementioned wine label has been established with a specific concept in mind. I will be highlighting a few facts as we go through the tasting notes.

Haywire’s 2018 Baby Bub is purse sized, and full of red fruits like strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon. It is a fruit driven sparkling that is youthful and fresh, making it ideal for a day on the beach.

Haywire winery is know for their use of concrete tanks. (The very tanks we got a good view of from behind our screens with Kelsey). The belief here is that wine is alive, living, and changing. So why do you want to put it in a dead vessel like stainless steel? On the other hand, they don’t want to add any flavour to the wine, like you would get by using an oak barrel. So for a pure expression of fruit stripped down the team at Haywire went with concrete, giving you more character than what you would get from stainless steel.

In a similar fashion, Narrative wants to accept the fruit as is, on its own. To showcase it by itself and to bottle it on its own. They do this by fermenting and aging it only in concrete and stainless, with the latter retaining the most aromatic and fruit notes. Thus giving it a more complex mouthfeel, as with our 2018 Viognier. In this taster we got oily and viscous stone fruit, pineapple, lemon, and even banana. I am not typically a fan of white wine, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one.

And then there is Free Form, known as their “Nature wines”, which has minimal intervention. They practice a hands off approach with this label, having as little to do with it as possible. Basically it goes into a tank, and then the bottle it is sold in. They further speak to this natural approach by using a ground stone paper label that is made eco-friendly and made without the use of water and paper.

The grapes for the wine itself is grown in Keremoes. The town being better known for ripening red grapes, like the 2017 Cabernet Franc we were tasting today. This red was fermented in clay terracotta pots from Italy. They are a more porous vessel, meaning more oxygen gets into the wine, and it softens in a shorter amount of time. These pots too, don’t contribute to the flavour of the wine.

I am typically a red drinking, but this wasn’t my favourite. It was a smooth wine with lighter tannins. Most memorable for its savoury body, giving you herbs like sage and rosemary.

 

In short, barring the ability to travel to the Okanagan during these times and most definitely not having the ability to attend a tasting there, this virtual platform is a great alternative. It offered a different way to interact, enjoy wine with friends, and learn something new in the safety of your own home. I highly recommend signing up and having something to look forward to with this one, you are going to buy wine anyways. For how you too can have your very own at home wine tasting, visit the link below.

https://okanagancrushpad.com/

Well Seasoned Cooking Class

Week Night Dinner with Chef Carl Sawatsky

Tonight my girlfriend and I were visiting “Well Seasoned”, a cookware supply store and cooking school all rolled into one. Located in Langley, it is a bit of a trek to get out there, but worth the effort for all the specialty items alone. We are not the most domesticated of women. We don’t pretend to know how to cook or even that we like to. So “Well Seasoned’s” intimate and approachable cooking classes seemed perfect for novices like us. A small class, reviewing with the basics, and giving you everything you need to enjoy cooking without the pressure.

We arrived early, so had the opportunity to peruse their shelves thoroughly. From cocktail mixes with socks to match, to hot sauces guaranteed to hurt going in and out. The store front is a food lover’s dream with many new flavours and elixirs to buy and try. There are even food themed dish cloths and aprons that help to add a little pizzaz to your everyday preparations. And best of all, enrolling in any class grants you 10% off on the purchase of any of these.

When time, our class congregated at the back of the shop, picking our spots, to be able to watch and duplicate three courses for our “Week Night Dinner” class. You take the class in pairs, an intimate workshop of 8 in total. We began by washing our hands and dawning one of their communal aprons. Each cooking station surrounds the staged instructor’s counter. It includes a televised screen broadcasting the overhead view. Multiple angles to watch and learn. And if you can’t retain it all, a recipe sheet is available at every seat for students to follow along with.

 

For the real life recap of the class and our lack of skills, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

I won’t be recapping the recipes and the how to here, you will have to take a class for yourself. But I will point out some interesting cooking tips and facts that I did learn. Our class was described online as, “Getting dinner on the table shouldn’t be the worst part of your day. It should be a great way to unwind and prepare a tasty, healthy meal for yourself, family and maybe even friends. Chef Carl will help you figure out how to take the pressure off in the kitchen and enjoy meal prep!” Tonight’s dinner included 3 courses, including dessert. Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, Creamy Portabella Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, and Coffee and Chocolate Steamed Pudding. One by one we would watch the demo and replicate what we had learned. Then after plating, we would get to consume our creations fresh.

We got enough ingredients to make 12 tomato bruschetta crostini between two. We marinated our freshly sliced cherry tomatoes with tomato vinegar, to amp up the flavour. Although our personable Chef spoke to using what we already have in our pantry, and utilizing it to help customize a meal. We rubbed freshly cut garlic onto broiled bread, then smeared it with thick ricotta cheese, before topping it generously with our tomato mixture and fresh basil. Simple, yet delicious, the type of dish I would definitely replicate for myself and others at home.

We then made our dessert next, so that it could sit and cool down before we dug in at the end of our class. A “coffee and chocolate pudding” that was topped with fresh whipped cream, and ate like a moist sponge cake.

This process was made easier for us with pre-measured ingredients. So we were only required to mix all the dry ingredients together, all the wet ingredients, then the two together. Here, we got a lesson on the quality of ingredients used and the difference they make. Like vanilla paste over extract, and instant expresso that the restaurant industry uses. The result, a dessert that was quick and surprisingly easy to make. And without the need to make it look “pretty”, another great dinner option in a pitch. Two for two, this class was right up our alley in terms of skill.

Our last course was a “creamy portobello chicken”. Made with heavy cream and plenty of butter, the “Well Seasoned” team was very accommodating when they offered my lactose allergic cooking mate, a coconut milk product to use instead. It didn’t quite taste like what was intended, but it still ended up really good.

Here, we went over knife skills: how to smash garlic, slice vegetables, and butterfly chicken breast. We also went over the importance of the wine being used in cooking. Chef advised not using wine that you wouldn’t consume as is. Quality in, quality throughout. Oxidized wine is okay, as long as you have drank it. Everything was pan fried at our table, over the portable stove stop. We learned that you know your pan is warm enough when you can smell the extra virgin olive oil, and can see the wisps of smoke coming from off of the pan. I liked how this recipe had everything coming together in one pan, saving time and the trouble of clean up.

When cooking meat, you want to have it turn golden brown, as this is a reaction of the caramelization of proteins, which equals flavour. Here, majority of amateurs cooks, such as myself, don’t leave the chicken alone, they toss it and turn it, instead of allowing it to brown; thus elongating the cooking process. This was a lesson in learning how impatient we are.

Our protein was served with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus seasoned in duck fat. Both of which ended up being my favourite part of this course, as they were both made by Chef Carl, in an effort to save time. Though we did get the demo as to how to do it ourselves, at home. For the potatoes, the bigger the pieces you can leave them the better, allowing them to sit on a sheet pan, before crushing them using one of many different types of apparatus. Here, he used a potato ricer with a hard squeeze and a finer gauge. And suggested flavouring it with mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, or any combination of all three.

Our entree was served with a glass of white, as a nice treat and a great way to pat ourselves on the back.

In short this was a great class and a fun thing to do. Date night or a way to learn basic cooking skills, you leave feeling full and having learned something new that you can apply to your everyday life. I highly recommend their comforting setting, a class without judgement or embarrassment. Just friendly fun.

To attend a class yourself, visit the link below or call the number to book.

Well Seasoned
20353 64 Ave #117, Langley City, BC V2Y 1N5
(604) 530-1518
https://wellseasoned.ca/collections/cooking-class-vouchers

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2020, Tasting Room

The 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival was a success. Eight days of wine and food fuelled fun. The event hosted 163 wineries, with 16 countries participating in 57 events, showcasing 1,450 different wines, with over 25,000 participants and attendees. And featuring 42 wineries from this year’s featured country alone: France. There is no surprise that this is Canada premier wine show.

If you can’t attend the week’s worth of events, or any of multiple seminars, dinners, and shows a day; I suggest at least attending one of the grand tastings. With 4 different opportunities, this is the best way to see and try many different wines as possible, all in one setting. It is essentially a wine convention, where wineries are arranged by country. And guests are invited to peruse through rows of tables, with each table representing a specific winery. At each, you can taste your way through their entire offerings: white, rose, sparkling, and/or red. Coming back for more of what you like.

Amongst all the drink options there were nibbles to snack on and games and activities to engage in. Cured meat carved from bone, miniature gelato scoops into miniature cones, and a showcase of cheeses and crostini to graze on.

We tried our hand at a few contest draws and tested our sensory skills by identify shades of wine and flavours that would go in to them.

One of my favourites booths is the Riedel one. I have always believed in the importance of the vessel when it comes to drinking, and I get to experience it first hand when I drink out of their varietal stemware.

  

We tried so many wines, and there were even more that we couldn’t get to. So the following is merely a glimpse at this awe-inspiring assembly. Something to marvel over and use as inspiration when looking into attending this event next year. If not others along with it. And help create the hype, the feature country is already announced. The 43rd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will be celebrating the wines of South America.

VanWineFest may be over, but you can still enjoy your favourite festival wines. Many wines from the onsite BC Liquor Stores Festival Wine Shop will be available at select BC Liquor Stores – some even have the winery principal’s signature, a fantastic festival souvenir.

Need a guide to your festival faves? Download the Tasting Room program pdf, which lists all the wines in the room. Or get the festival app from Google Play or the App Store. Many of these wines are available at BC Liquor Stores and private wine shops. Buying festival wines is the best way to show your support and appreciation to the 162 wineries that brought their wines directly to you at VanWineFest 2020.

Vancouver International Wine Festival Headquarters:
Vancouver Convention Centre West
1055 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3

Visa Infinite Dining Series: Wildebeest

Today I was invited to my very first “Visa Infinite Dinner” featuring the collaborative efforts of “Wildebeest”, Vancouver and “Le Vin Papillon” in Montreal. Both of which helmed respectively by chefs Ian McHale and Jesse Grasso, friends and colleagues in this Montreal inspired meal to come. (As taken from the press release) Chef Grasso is “the third sibling in the Joe Beef clan and currently No.13 on Canada’s Top 100 list”. He will bringing his celebration of vegetables and cheeses to “Wildebeest’s” table of butchery, charcuterie, and game. A five course feast with canapés to start, and perfectly selected wine pairings every step of the way. Said wine was chosen by “Wildebeest’s” wine director, Christina Hartigan”. She is an impressive wine expert and enthusiast, with the title of BC’s second best sommelier.

“Wildebeest’s” cozy restaurant made the perfect setting for this private event. The narrow space had guests surrounded by red brick walls, wood panel separators, leather booths, and bulbs suspended by pulleys. Its rustic, yet homey feel played off their scratch-made, nose to tail, Pacific Northwest cuisine, well. We were seated towards the back, under the plume of a multitude of dried bouquets. Each seat was set with a name card and a menu listing the courses to come.

The night began with all the guests mingling in a mixed setting. Christina was at the back pouring glasses of “Jean Bourdy Crémant de Jura”. This was an easy drinking, 100% Chardonnay made in champagne-style. She mentioned that this was the perfect bottle to pair with likes of the light snacks that were also being passed around at this time.

The “Pomme Anna with kamouraska smoked eel” were tasty potatoes bites fried in waygu fat, and then topped with the eel and a dollop of sweeter mayonnaise. It was sumptuously rich and fatty in all the right ways. Definitely a great one to have with beer, or better yet: the sparkling above.

Next to be passed out was the “Waygu tartare with Chilliwack Horseradish”. It was served in a porcelain spoon for easy eating. It had a peppery tang that ended fairly garlicky. I liked the flavour, but am not a fan of the texture of tartare in general. Whereas, I prefer my raw beef in sheets, rather than minced.

I really liked the “Chicken liver and foie gras parfait with preserved wild berries on brioche”. I could have eaten a half dozen of these. Deliciously luscious pâté, smeared on thick. The sweetness of the berry played off the meaty paste well, and the crunchy brioche added some needed texture to the bite.

And I think this is first time trying whelks. They are much like their land cousins, and even seasoned similarly, here. These sea snails were prepared in plenty of butter with fragrant herb and garlic to finish. The seasonings masked anything musky you might not have wanted. I did like the firm chew of the whelks, it was a texture more like squid than escargot, which I prefer.

The “little neck clam with mirepoix bolognese” was served in shell. A scoop with flavours that ate like a meal, but I didn’t get much clam coming through.

When time, we were all directed to our assigned seats to start our meal. But first, a quick introduction to the program before us and acknowledgment of our traveling guest chef. Then our sommelier Christiana guided us through her wine choices, featuring many natural wines to speak to “Le Vin Papillon”.

The sit down portion of our night began with the “Mai & Kenji Hodgson Les Aussigouins 2016 Chenin Blanc; from Anjou, France. This is wine with a Vancouver connection. It is made by a former Vancouver wine writer that moved to France to make wine. His vintage was a lovely, medium bodied white with no oakiness, a fresh sipper that would pair well with the saltiness of the ham and starchiness of celeriac to come.

“Little burgundy ham, Avonlea cheddar, and brown butter”. This was one of the best ham and cheese platters I have ever had to date; and that says a lot, as this was just one of each kind being offered. But perfection together, with the savoury sweetness of the brown butter sauce coming through. I couldn’t stop picking at it. The creamy texture from the mildly smoked ham was memorable, especially how it played off the sharp and chalky cheese.

“Slow roasted celeriac, pickled chantrelles, and smoked walnuts”. Much like the dish above, this too was a light start that focused on delicious textures. Each element came together for a well balanced bite. Smooth celeriac, meaty mushrooms, and crunchy walnuts; best with a smear of oil from the pool at the bottom of the plate.

Our next wine tasting was the “Hajszan Neumann Nussberg 2018 Grüner Veltliner” from Vienna, Austria. Our in house sommelier declared that this is a wine that doesn’t get enough attention, so she would bring light to it here. It pairs well with any green vegetable, like the leeks in our fish course below. Its dairy nods went well with the green sauce and its savoury notes.

The “Lois Lake Steelhead, with Salt Spring Island mussels, leek velouté, Chilliwack lemongrass, and shore greens” would be my favourite dish of the night. And this is surprising considering I don’t often gravitate towards fish, or would I choose it over a heavy red meat main or a decadent pasta. But this buttery fish that ate like sashimi had it all, and I would order it again in a heartbeat. The freshness of the puréed leeks, the zested lemon in the sauce brightening things up, and the perfectly pedestal-ed mussels creating both visual and textural interest.

Next for wine we had the only red of the night, ideal for the red meat to follow. “La Stoppa Macchiano 2011 Barbera, Bonarda. This was a limited release from Central Northern Italy, pulled out from a cellar. It is a blend of two grapes at 50/50, all picked from a single vineyard. Made using traditional wooden vats that are unfiltered and triple decanted. The result, a smokier red with fine tobacco notes.

The red’s tartness helped to balance out the saltiness from the “Pastrami Pithivier served with sauerkraut, foie gras, house mustard, and bordelaise”. This was basically the merging of two Classic Montreal foodstuffs. A tourtiere filled with shredded Montreal smoked meat. But sadly I am not a fan of smoke meat, even with the delicious mustard plates. But I did appreciate the artistry and butteriness of the flaky pie crust and the gravy that I picked up with it.

Next, was the “Quebec cheese course”, another simple serving that I was caught off guard by how much I liked. There was pageantry in the plating of the Jersey royal cheese, topped with real honey comb, and served along side butterfly shortbread cookies and Quebec lingonberry. The latter most was even cultivated by monks in Quebec. This was a clean presentation that ate that way too. You spread chunky cheese over not all that sweet cookie, and topped it off with tangy berries in syrup. It was as fun to eat as it was to craft.

To pair with it we enjoyed an unique Quebec cider that you can’t normally find in BC. This is a bottle of fermented, 100% russet. Apples and cheese are a natural pairing and together the sweetness of the cider mellows out cheese above. But with an oakiness to it from the fermentation process. Dry and effervescent, it helped wash everything down.

And to close out the night, dessert was a “Grand Fir: Black locust, Chantilly, and cannoli pastry”. The pastry had an amazing crunch to it, like a solid strip of corn flake with ground sugar. And the black locus gel was set with vinegar, making it not too sweet. But I am not a fan of the texture of whipped creams in general, so it was a little much for me here. Although, I did enjoy the fresh lemon zest I got from it.

As its paring and our last glass, we had the “LaStella Moscato d’Osoyoos 2018 Muscat”. It is from Osoyoos in BC, but done in an Italian style; making it not as sweet as other Moscatos. A light sparkle coupled with floral and peachy notes.

In conclusion I was floored by the quality and caliber of this dinner, nothing disappointed. It delivered as advertised and I would be clamouring to attend any such Visa Infinite dinners in the future. And if you ever get the chance I suggest you do too. Simply fantastic.

Get tickets to exclusive Visa Infinite Dining Series events featuring unique chef collaborations, multi-course meals and wine pairings all in a private setting at Canada’s top restaurants.
https://www.visainfinite.ca/infinite/en/home.html?category=foodWineLink

Wildebeest
120 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8
(604) 687-6880
wildebeest.ca

Ombré Powdered Eyebrows, @BrowsByWinnie

I am lazy, I like to make my life easier whenever I can: looking out for short cuts worth taking and procedures worth doing, and today I was exploring the world of semi-permanent make-up.

I have thought about getting my eyebrows done before, something to help fill in the bald patches and round out the ends. Although at the same time, I didn’t think I actually needed the service, given that my eyebrows were already pretty thick and I am confident enough to go out everyday without doing anything to them. However an opportunity arose and I figured why not give it a try, to at least see if I liked it, if not to simply have the experience of getting a face tattoo.

 

I decided to go in to my session blind. No research, no reviews; heck, I didn’t even know what treatment I was getting exactly. All to be able to offer up this informative blog review of the new powdered ombré eyebrow treatment. For the raw and real recap, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei; where I filmed the whole process step by step. Or keep reading for the detailed description.

The salon I was getting it done at is located on Kingsway, my session was with specifically one of the technicians that work there: @browsbywinnie. She is trained in eyelash extensions and now powdered brows. Questions, I would later ask and she would later answer, as we undergone my treatment. She was certified in this technique last August and since then has completed the process over 50 times. Given her aesthetic and her own brows; done with the similar technique, I felt more confident in the process by just looking at her.

But before I could lay on her table I had to fill out a multi-page form that had me signing away liability and disclosing medical information I didn’t know, on illness I didn’t have. It was thorough. A check-list of sorts that Winnie would later go through with me, allowing me to ask all the questions as I needed, in order to feel safe with what I was about to get done.

Powder ombré eyebrows are the latest trend in eyebrow enhancement. Ideal, to those who don’t have much hair or brows that are too thin, and like the “make up look”, but might not want to go though having to do it themselves everyday. The other, and similar option is microblading, which has the technician drawing individual hairs for a more natural look. What I was going to get done would require shading and a more intense outline.

My concerns were not the pain, but more the commitment of having these brows for 2 years, or for however long, before they fade. A shape and a colour I would customize and choose, outside of what I was naturally born with.

The process begins with measurements. Dyed string and plastic rulers taped to my forehead helped create a guide. Where my brows would start and stop, as per my specifications. I had asked Winnie to simply follow my natural eyebrow. The first take had her doing just that, with me adding on adjustments, after the fact. After looking at it all coloured in and bold I decided I wanted a bit more definition in my arch. A look she was able to help me achieve with a little shaving using a razor blade and a q-tip dipped in alcohol to clean up any excess. She had me look in the mirror and approve the final drawing before we would move on.

Next it was picking the colour I wanted for my brows. You do this like how you would order off a menu, a menu of black to brown swatches. I followed the hue of my dyed hair, and choose a warmer light brown shade. This this would also help with the more subtle end result I was looking for.

When ready I was told to lie down on a Saran wrapped dentist-like chair, and to make myself comfortable. I relaxed as she prepped all the ink and tools needed, because once again, she was giving me a face tattoo. She began by drawing an outline of the brow, I felt the straight lines being drawn on my forehead. I didn’t find this part painful, but did learn that I have the unconscious habit of raising my right brow and keeping it arched, that most clients find their right eyebrow more sensitive that their left; and that the closer to the centre of your face she goes the more tender you feel, and. Luckily the next part she numbs your face for.

An ointment is applied directly to your mouth eyebrow. Saran Wrap keeps it covered. The result, pain free shading to follow. You are able to get a re-up on the ointment as many times and as often as you want. Winnie is patience and concern over your comfort. She told me a few people have screamed, none have cried, and that I was the first one to giggle. She commented on my high pain tolerance in disbelief, I never felt prouder. She compared the experience of the process and the healing to getting a tattoo done. The buzzing of the cordless tool, the scanning and itching that will follow in the days to come, and my inability to peel or scratch. The outcome today isn’t what is intended and won’t be what I get a week from now. The dye will appear darker to begin with, and like other tattoos it will fade. But where as regular tattoos go deeper into your skin to dye it, her’s are more surface level and therefore will fade over time. The longevity of the procedure depends on the person and how they heal. Here, no immediate touch up is required like you do with micro blading, just a follow up whenever you feel your new brows need a pick me up.

Right brow after left brow the process was quicker than expected. Not the 3.5 hours that you plan for, and that the appointment lists. The extra time is just an insurance, the actual shading took under an hour. I was there for only 2. And the only discomfort is her having to lay her hand on your face like a table, to shade. You get the occasional knuckle in the closed eye socket, but nothing you can’t handle.

When completed, she wipes your face down with a baby wipe to remove all excess ink splatter and dark spots. My first blush impression was positive, a new look that still resembles me. But all subsequent looks in the mirror had me not recognizing the person before me. This definitely took some getting use to. Also, for a week I had to apply eye makeup on thick, so that my bold eyebrows matched the rest of my face. But fast forward two weeks, I love the way they look and I love the way I look with them. Along with my eye lash extensions, I now have no fuss and no muss beauty 24/7.

As for the treatment itself, Winnie was a delight. She was patient with all my question, gentle in all her actions, and warming in her approach. I wasn’t scared because she was so calm and could speak to her own powder ombré experience. We ended up chatting as she completed my procedure. And much like a doctor talks to distract you from the pain of a needle, she had me recommending my favourite restaurants, and forgetting that I was changing my face by having a needle drag across it repeatedly. The session went smooth and I was sent away with a little draw string baggy that included her business card if I needed any help, after care tips and an ointment to dab and not rub in to my new brows, to help in the healing process.

 

In conclusion, if you are thinking about getting this procedure done and are either weary of the consequences or can’t find the right person to go to, I highly recommend @browsbywinnie. An modestly priced service that gives you back time in your day to day routine, is money well spent. Check out the link below for the salon and how to book with her.

JT Beauty Parlour
1726 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N 2S3
(604) 423-3822
https://jtbeautyparlour.as.me/schedule.php

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