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

Category: classes/workshops Page 1 of 2

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

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/

Starlight Casino

Today we were gathered at New Westminster’s “Starlight Casino”. Here, to get a more intimate look at this entertainment property. From two of its anchor restaurants to a game of baccarat in their salon room.

For the visual version, check out my latest vlog video, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Our night began at “Kirin” for some fine Chinese cuisine. A whole suckling pig, lobster, and traditional dim sum desserts, to name a few. For more detail on what we ate, click the link below.

Kirin Banquet

 

As we nibbled we were also given a show by “Shang Noodle House” (also located within “Starlight”). They had their national noodle pulling champion from China, putting on a demonstration for us. She won the title 10 years ago, before she came to work with them here. From a ball of dough she pulled and stretched the round, repeating the motions again and again until she had noodle threads so thin and so soft.

We were then given a chance to touch it and hold it for ourselves. Although I wished there was time of us to try the pulling motion for ourselves, as well.

The final product was then deep fried for everyone to try. Crispy and crumbly, it melted in your mouth and tasted like corn flakes.

After dinner number one, we moved the party to the “Match Eatery” and pub, next door. We were given a tour of all their party rooms before finding ourselves in their “Bud room” with our own bar, pool table, and television screens. For the run down of “Match” and all that they have to offer as the place to party in New Westminster, visit the dedicated blog post below.

Match Eatery, Starlight Casino

From there it was a quick stop at the casino’s “Red Bar”. A bar and club of sorts. Every night, after 9pm its doors open and the party energy within spills on the actual casino floor. Here they have non-ticketed live bands playing every Friday and Saturday. Rotating musicians playing until 1pm and a live DJ taking over until they close at 2pm.

To immerse ourselves in the space further we enjoyed a “French 75”. A classic cocktail with gin, lemon juice, and sparkling wine.

With drink in hand we then rounded out the night playing baccarat, which all of us have never done so before. We were treated to a two round tournament in one of “Starlight’s “ prestigious salons. It is only open by special request with $25,000 buy-in to start and a $500 minimum to play. For those who request the salon, you are treated to your own concierge, they help with any requests you may have, and serve sparkling wine to help celebrate a win, or drown your sorrows in liquor.

The following are instructions on how to play baccarat, from what I retained. Naturally, there are a lot more nuisances to the game, but this is all I needed to get me through the first few rounds, where I started hot and fizzled out quick once my luck turned.

Each round is 20 hands. The goal of each hand is to get to 9. Aces are worth 1, face cards and 10s are 0. For example if you get a king and a 5, your total is 5 and another card is pulled trying to get to 9. The banker doesn’t draw on 7 or more, and the player will always draw on 5 or less. Either can only have up to 3 cards. You don’t actually hold any of the cards, the dealer places everything before them. A hand for the banker and one for the player. Your goal is to place your bet on whether you think the banker or the player would win. We were each given $2500 in chips to play with and one by one we busted. The last one standing won a gift card.

Thus, our night ended in us learning a whole lot more about the casino as a whole: sampling all the food options, checking out the entertainment possibilities, and trying our hand at the games. And yet there is still so much more we didn’t get to see and do. Definitely a great place for your next night out. And for those looking to go all out, they have shuttle service from the skytrain to the casino and back again, so you can leave your car and worries at home.

STARLIGHT CASINO
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Improv Class, presented by The Vancouver Improv Festival

In celebration of the upcoming “Vancouver Improv Fest”, one of the largest improv festivals in North America; we were at Havana’s. Here, for an improv class, promising small bites and “liquid courage” as a reward for a job well done.

Our teacher for the night would be acclaimed improv professional, and festival associate, Patrick Dodd. He would help us get over our fear of the stage and making a fool of ourselves in front of a live audience. (I might be projecting here.)

Our group gathered in Havana’s theatre room, (one that I didn’t know that they had). An intimate group of 11 in an intimate theatre. With classic wooden auditorium fold out chairs in three rows, focused spots lights on a low ceiling, an all black stage with matching curtain, and the theatre’s name splashed against a colourful geometric mural at the back.

We were a group of writers, producers, and members of the media. Regular folk who don’t necessarily have much experience in public speaking, let alone on the spot improvisation. So we were eased on in with some warm ups. These were games designed to help encourage fast responses, and help us make eye contact.

“Zoom” had us sending claps to one another, back and forth. Each round getting progressively harder with more rules, like saying the person’s name that you are sending the “zoom” to. And then saying the name of the person, but not looking at them.

“Bunny bunny” has us chanting in unison, and loosening up with dancing and hand motions. The result, keeping pace with some another while doing our own thing. This was a great lesson in listening.

Similarly, we were tasked with counting to 20, one at a time, in no particular order; and with the goal of not speaking over one another. We had to look around the circle, and read those around us. Messing up, meant we had to start all over again. This activity helped with our “group mind”.

Next, was a lesson in positivity. When setting up a scenario you need characters and conflict. But where it is easy to “start a fight”, for the sake of a scene; it is better to agree for the progression of the story. For example if improver one’s character points out “hideous tartan curtains”, instead of disagreeing with him, improver two’s character can agree with the sentiment to move alone the plot. When it comes to improv, it is not about trying to outshine your teammates, but working together to both shine.

We further focused on positivity, while practicing our emotional acting by offering each other imaginary gifts, and feeling so very grateful by the gesture.

I enjoyed the activity that had us crafting every day objects with our bodies. We had the number of people required and the object assigned to us; and then was told to do our best to recreate it. We would have to remember our pose and who we got formed it with, to later come back to it and them. In teams of 2 we made a dune buggy. In groups of 3 we were a Ferris wheel. In a foursome we made a dinosaur attaching the other group’s dino. And all together as a group, we did our best to become an airplane. However, settled for 2 propellers and everyone making the noise of them slapping again wind, while moving in the same direction.

And finally, for our last activity, we tried our hand in an actual improv game. In rows of twos, we paired off and worked on giving vivid detail to set up and finish a scene in 3 lines.

All in all, everyone came out of the class with smiles on their faces and the feeling of accomplishment on their shoulders. Myself included. And this was just a little work shop to introduce us to improv, and to get us excited for the festival the following week.

However, I am considering taking more classes after this. Not only are they fun, but they help in public speaking, creativity, thinking outside the box, and facing your fears. In fact, for those reasons above, I started my YouTube channel. A way to practice my public speaking. While I edit my videos, look at myself, and plan how to improve my speech and what to improve on in general, for the next one.

If any of the above is of interest to you, check out the link below, on where you can take an improv class yourself.
https://vancouverimprovfest.com/workshops/

As for details on the festival next week, you can visit their website for more. “The 21st Vancouver International Improv Festival will run September 24-29, 2019 at The Cultch. This year’s festival features performers from across North America and beyond, including Andrew Phung, Kim’s Convenience; Stephnie Weir, MadTV; Rich Talarico, writer from Key & Peele; and Lamabati, one of Israel’s leading and longest-standing improv groups.” You are encouraged to get your tickets now!

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL IMPROV FEST

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Dirty Apron, “Rising Tide” cooking class

Today I was attending a cooking class with Joyce of @monkeyeatsworld. Both of us weren’t well experienced in food preparation, so this “recreational cooking school” setting was perfect for us. And thankfully our instructor further spoke to this by letting us know that we were not here for a professional kitchen setting, and she wasn’t here training professional cooks.

They offer over 45 different themed classes. Italian, Thai, a class for meat lovers, and even ones for kids and teens only. Today’s class focused on seafood preparation, pairing it with bold flavours; two things we were both very unfamiliar with.

For the vlog version, and the realistic view of how we did replicating what we learned, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

The night begins with a welcome glass of bubbles. We drank and geared up in our “Dirty Apron” branded aprons with name tag, which you get to take home as a parting gift after. The class is three savoury courses that you prepare yourself, and concluded with ice cream that “Dirty Apron” makes themselves.

The instructor walks you through the process first, adding tidbits and cooking tips. Next you are sent to your station in pairs to replicate what you have just learned. Course by course you cook, then eat. Each course comes with an alcoholic beverage of your choosing. White or red wine, draft beer, and fruit cider. Your order is taken as you cook, and when you bring your creation into the dining area, your chosen glass is waiting for you. As you eat, their team clears and cleans your station, then prepares all the ingredients you’ll need for the next course after. Everything is measured out for you, all you need to do is open the container and pour its dry or wet ingredients out. Majority of such prep work is done for you, although there is some knife work required and the need to season to taste.

I won’t be going over the how to’s for each course, you will have to enrol and take it for yourself to learn these recipes. Instead, I will list a few interesting factoids and tips I have learned from our instructor during each course.

We started with the “pan roasted halibut in a vindaloo curry paste with deep fried curry leaves” The difference between Indian and other curries like south East Asian style curry is its use of powder and spices versus fresh ingredients grounded, like in Thai curry.

We were in the middle of halibut season so it was chosen as the white fish we were featuring. It also pairs well with stronger flavours, as it isn’t a fish that over powers. You sear the presentation side, aka the “pretty side”, the one that is nice and white for an even golden brown colour. Anything missed can be hidden behind a cilantro garnish. This course is served with naan bread that they pre-make for you. In Indian cuisine naan is a yeast bread with tang, prepared in a tandoori oven.

Next, we prepared “pan seared scallops and prawns with cauliflower in a espellette butter sauce”. This course was served with bread, it was my favourite of the three courses we prepared. Joyce is lactose allergic so any time we were asked to use butter we substituted it with coconut oil, or opted out of using it all together.

When it comes to selecting scallops, the pinky-orange coloured ones are the females and they are often sweeter. Their colouring comes from the roe inside them, present before they spawn. When preparing your scallops you need to remove its overly chewy side muscle. It should come off easily with a peel.

Similarly, when preparing your prawns you want to remove their shells, and run your knife through them, to devein their intestinal tracks. Some shrimp farmers have their crop fast before harvest, so that their intestinal tracks are clean and you need not devein them. Ours were clean, but we still took the time to remove them. This should always be the case for any larger shrimp you use.

A quick and easy way to mince garlic is, when you have much of it collected on your blade, you press and smear it off on to your chopping board and repeat your knife motion from here. And speaking of knives we were taught how to hold each and directed on the proper way to curl our fingers when chopping.

When searing you scallops, avoid over cooking by pressing into them to see if they bounce back, over cooked scallops are tough like rubber. If they are translucent at its centre, it needs a longer sizzle on the pan. But shrimp cook quick. When done they turn white and curl up. And with our sauce we were taught how to balance fat and butter or cream with lemon juice.

Our final course was “zatar pan seared salmon steak in a persevered lemon brown butter sauce”, served with a premade babaganosh. The babaganosh is prepared a head of time because it takes an hour plus to bake the eggplant needed so that it purées well. They also pre-grilled the eggplant chunks we needed for the side of zaalouk salad, this too was to save time.

 

The best way to carve a thick piece off of a whole salmon is with a bread knife. You tie the pieces together, to help keep it at one similar shape, and to help cook it evenly. You want to pan sear the salmon steak to medium rare. Once cooked, you remove its centre bone. This is also a good way to tell if it is cooked through, if the bone comes out easily.

For garnish, parsley stems are actually more flavourful than the leaves. People don’t know that you can use them and they end up throwing the most flavourful bits away. We also learned how to preserve their own lemons. Myer lemons are packed in salt with lemon juice, and after two months you can eat the rinds, and they are not as bitter. And Zatar is a Middle Eastern spice blend consisting of thyme, sumac, sesame, coriander, and and fennel. Sumac is a purple weed with a sour quality, using it helps to balance out all the other flavours.

Our meal ended with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled over in maple syrup. And a bar of coffee or tea you can help yourself to.

After the class you are invited to fill out a questionnaire on how they can improve their classes. Doing so enters you into a monthly draw where you can win a free cooking class. This was followed by an invitation to visit their adjacent delicatessen. There, a collection of seasonings used today is available for purchase at 10% off. There is also frozen food and canned goods for purchase.

In summary, this was a really great class thanks to our charismatic instructor. She kept things lively and interjected humour. She checked in with each student, and was encouraging in her feedback. She really made the class, giving us a great way to experience all that “Dirty Apron” has to offer. More than just a cafe, they are a deli, a catering company, and a cooking school; with a second location at the airport, and a second cook book coming out soon. For more on the classes available and what they are all about visit the link below.

DIRTY APRON
540 Beatty Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2N7
604-879-8588
dirtyapron.com

Beeswax wrap work shop

Today I was in Kitsalano learning how to make my own beeswax food wraps, the new way to reduce waste while keeping your food fresh. This was a free workshop come to life thanks to a grant from “Neighbourhood small grants” (link below). Everyday folks like me and you submit their project/ideas. Each one is reviewed and the ones approved get up to $500 worth of funding, to see their plan to fruition. This is for non profit so they will always be free.

So today I was one of a handful signed up to learn how to make their own beeswax wrap. This was the environmentally friendly way to replace saran wrap, and help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the landfill.

This began as a passion project for our teacher/host Ellen. She was gifted a few such commercial grade cloths from a friend, and when looking to purchase more, found out how expensive they really were. So through trial and error she managed to recreate her own beeswax wraps. And today she was here to teach others how to do the same; and not only save money, but the environment too.

You begin by choosing your desired fabric in 100% cotton and cut it down to size. You pick and choose however large or small you need your piece(a) to be. A range of sizes is best to cover sauce dishes to casserole pans. There is no right or wrong size, only the size you need.

Next you shave and shred bricks of beeswax. You can get some from “Main Street Honey Shoppe”, and actually don’t need too much to coat a square of fabric. And the consistency and size of each curl doesn’t actually matter, as it will all be melted in the end.

Next you will need a hot iron, and a surface to iron on. Between two sheets of parchment paper you evenly sprinkle your shredded wax shavings over your desired cloth. One piece of wax paper at the bottom, and another over the cloth and the wax, on top.

You iron, melting the wax and dragging it across the entirety of the cloth. The goal is to have wax coat every inch of the fabric. And you only need to coat one side as the melted wax is fully absorbed into the cotton cloth.

After fully coated in wax, you remove your new beeswax cloth from in between the pieces of parchment and allow it to dry. They dry quick and you are ready to use it to wrap any thing right away. Any container, any leftover, any piece of half eaten fruit or vegetable. You can even use it to wrap crackers or small snacks in place of a zip lock bags. And the best part is that they are completely reusable. They keep for a year, or as long as you see fit. Ellen has been using hers for over a year now.

This was such a quick and easy workshop, and one that is useful for years to come. A d I hope you found this recap useful in recreating your own beeswax wrap.

And if you are interested in hosting your own small community project, visit the link below and fill out an application. The Vancouver Foundation works from February 9th to April 9th, so mark it on your calendars, and bookmark the page for other such projects to participate in for free.
http://neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca/

Herradura Tequila Workshop

Today I was invited down to “Ancora Waterfront Dining” for a margarita masterclass. A tequila workshop, that included a step by step tutorial on how taste and assess the quality of tequila, with the opportunity to make our own signature cocktail; all sponsored by “Herradura” brand tequilas. Not only do I love drinking, but when looking for a good time, my spirit of choice is tequila, to shoot. So not only did I walk away from this class with a smile, but also having discovered a tequila I would gladly sip over ice.

All participants were seated around the restaurant’s naturally well lit bar, eager to learn from Joel Virginillo, a tequila specialist and a master of spirits; like a sommelier is to wine. From him we learned that by definition tequila must come from Mexico, and that only certain areas in Mexico can produce tequila. We also learned the difference between regular tequila and the top shelf stuff like “Herradura, that uses premium agave, which makes a difference.

Tequila has a similar preparation to whiskey, with parallel vanilla and wood tones that come through. Tequila is made from a specific blue agave and much contain 100% pure agave. Anything else and any other percentage made using agave earns the designation of Mezcal wine. By law Mezcal much contain at least 51% agave, and the remaining percentage can be a cheaper, fermentable sugar.

To make tequila you first harvest your agave plants. These plants are not cactuses, but are more like succulents, aloe, or orchids. These picked plants are then slow roasted in an oven where its starches are broken down. This sugar is then extracted and the plant is fermented. The resulting product is then distilled and allowed to age before being bottled.

“Herradura” originated in 1870, they are the original tequila producers and the “godfather of modern day, luxury tequila”, according to Joel. The company is family run, with their own agave fields. They boast Mexico’s first tequila distillery. “El Jimador” tequila is also produced in the same compound, which is the most heavily consumed tequila in Mexico, it is the label that the locals go for.

“Herradura’s” logo is an upside down horseshoe. Which makes sense given that the word “Herradura” means “horse shoe” in Spanish. It is inverted because when you pour from the bottle, the horseshoe would be right side up. This represents luck, and who isn’t lucky when they are getting some tequila.

And when it was finally time to taste, Joel walked us through a sampling of “Herradura’s” three tequilas. Before this, I didn’t realize there were variations to tequila.

But before we put lips to rim, we were given a crash course on how to drink tequila, or any other hard spirits for that matter. You want to draw the liqueur in and then hold it, allowing the alcohol to rest on your tongue. This pause allows you mouth to get use to the spirit and its intensity, so that it doesn’t burn going down. Instead, you get a warming sensation with a nice finish.

Our first taste was the “Herradura Silver”, which is most commonly used for cocktails. Given its smooth and sweet finish, I was surprised to learn that it was only aged for a month. This is easily the most enjoyable tequila I have ever had. No chase needed.

Next was the “Reposado”, aged for 6 months. Here, you tasted an oak barrel flavour. Finished with caramel tones, and some light honey and vanilla notes.

The last taste was the “Anejo”, a tequila that is aged for 2 years plus. This spirit is best in any popular smokey drink, like an Old Fashion or Manhattan.

Any tequila that is aged any longer, with a minimum of 3 years is classified as an “Ultra”. The amount of time the tequila spends in the aging process affects its price, along with techniques used in this slow process. But out of our 3 case study bottles the “Reposado” is available at any government owned liquor store. The other two: “silver” and “Anejo” are only available at select privately owned liquor stores, like “Legacy” at the Olympic Village.

With all our drinks came rounds of appetizers prepared by the “Ancora” kitchen team. Short rib croquette with Caribbean cheese aioli. A crispy meat ball stuffed full of shredded beef. It was a little on the dry side. I could have used a more creamy and tangy sauce to fully dip my ball in to.

Tuna tartare over a tempura fried seaweed cracker. It was on the blander side, but where it lacked in salt it made for in interesting texture.

One mushroom tortellini with red onion jelly. I would have liked the tortellini as is, to be able to taste it more. The one bite had the red onion and its sweetness taking the lime light.

Fresh sushi in a vegetarian cucumber and tempura sweet potato roll, a dressed up “Dynamite Roll” with tempura shrimp; and a not so spicy, spicy tuna roll.

After we loosen up with a welcome lime margarita with a thick salt rim. And once we knew more about the nuance of tequila through the taste, it we finally time to make our own signature drink.

We stared off with worksheets and the ability to check off which ever sweetener, sour or acidic element, fruit, herbs, etc; that we wanted to use. And then we all took turns behind the bar, learning basic bartending skills and having our concoctions critiqued, ensuring a delicious mix. We would later take our recipes home, along with a metal cocktail kit; it included everything we would need to recreate our signature cocktail, except of all the ingredients.

I was first to debut “MagMei in Paradise”, a pretty in pink drink that was garnished with a spring flower plucked from one of the trees surrounding the water side restaurant. Herradura Blanco, plum wine, lime juice, simple syrup and watermelon juice; all shaken with ice and served in a large coupe.

Others too crafted their drinks with a specific colour in mind. Like this purple cocktail with cassis and this blue one with blue curacao.

We ended our happy hour sipping on our creations by the water side. Thus ending a very informative and fun workshop. What a great way to learn about a new product and experience it first hand. My biggest takeaway was discovering a tequila that I could take in without a grimacing scowl after every sip.

For more on Herradura Tequila and where yuh get yourself a taste, visit the link below.
https://www.herradura.com/

HQ Wines Portfolio tasting

Today I was invited the “Listel Hotel’s” conference room for an Impressionist Gallery. We were all gathered to get a closer look at wines from “HQ’s” portfolio. Sips of red and wine from “Free Form, Haywire, Narrative, Pedro Parra Y Familia, Poggiotondo, Loveblock, Meinklang and Intersection Winery”.

“HQ Wine and Spirits” was founded in 2010, specializing in organic and natural wines that showcases respect for the land. All “HQ wines” are inspired by the place in which their grapes are grown. In some cases the landscape inspired the vintners and shaped the wines, for others the grapes themselves dictated the resulting creations . My guest enjoyed the red wines from “Haywire” for their easy to drink nature. I preferred the Okanagan whites for their sharp dryness.

This all started with the Okanagan Crush Pad, a state of the art winery located in Summerland, BC; and the 3 other wineries that operated under it: “Haywire”, “Narrative”, and “Free Form”.

“Haywire” is from the Okanagan Valley, Summerland. They are the original vineyard from which HQ was created. Its name refers to the wire use to control the hay that troubled the vineyard. This orchard saw a change in crops grown from 2005 to 2011 until they found their winning formula. Today their wine marks the years of hard work, errors, and resilience. The large “Haywire“ wine portfolio contains various sparkling, sauvignon blanc, rose, gamay and pinot noir.

 

“Haywire” is the most well known and most well established of all the brands. It sustains their collective, whereas “Freeform” is their passion project. “Freeform” is also based out of Summerland. Their wine is made from organic grapes and native yeast, and is free from of additives. The vintners allow their grapes to grow free, to be formed in their own way, and naturally. They don’t do anything to help in the fruits production, only allowing sheep on the grounds to help with the insects population. The result, every batch and bottle you enjoy will be different. They offer Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Sparkling.

“Narrative” is also from Summerland. Their name is based on their desire to tell the story of their land through their wine. It is imprinted in the wine through its unique blends and innovative ideas introduced in each batch. For example, “Non Fiction”, a 2017 vintage red was made in concrete tanks instead of the traditional oak barrels.

In an effort to master the creation of cold weather wine, winemakers from Italy and Chile were invited to collaborate with and be part of “HQ”, since they all shared a similar respect for the land and their wine’s creation. Because of this collaborative spirit, today HQ also includes wines from Austria, New Zealand and Australia. These they import and help to distribute wholesale to restaurants and liquor stores.

Our favourites were the wines from the “Pedro Parra y Familia winery”. These grapes are grown by improvised framers that have inhabited Itata, a valley in the South of Chile from some time now. Their vines were introduced by Spaniards hundred of years ago, which makes them ancient and unique. “The Haywire Pink Bub Sparkling” is a combination of these, with a great body and strong flavours, in contrast to the light bubbles.

With all this to try we were also given a good spread of meat and cheese to grazing on in between tasters.

Getting to learn more about these wines definitely has me reaching for their labels when I am shopping for a bottle, or looking for a glass at a restaurant. For more on these labels with a story to tell visit http://www.hq-wine.com/.

Cocktail and pizza making class at Rocky Mountain Flatbread

Getting crafty, cocktail and pizza making parties where you learn to create your own seasonal cocktails and the perfect pizza pie!

“Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.” continues to give you reasons to return. More than just healthy meal solutions, they also host children’s pizza making parties. And for all those parents and caretakers that attend, but can’t fully participate, it is now your turn to be able to make your own pizza. And to celebrate this child-free activity, the night also comes with cocktails that you too can make yourself. What a great way to try something new and maybe learn something new in the process. Not to mention you get to enjoy the cocktails as you make your pizza, and then have it right out of the oven for dinner.

For $50 per person (plus taxes and gratuity) each party includes the following:

  • Party Nibbles – Locally Marinated Olives + Cheesy Flatbread & Dip.
  • Cocktail Making – Your cocktail host will guide you through how to craft 2 seasonal cocktails.
  • Pizza Making – Your pizza making host will guide you through rolling out your dough, spreading our house made organic tomato sauce, shrinking scrumptious Canadian cheeses & adding your favourite gourmet toppings.
  • To Finish – Platters of warm double chocolate brownies served with house made vanilla ice cream.

As the first run of this newly conceived event our rendition varied a little from the outline above.

Our party gathered at the Main Street location, spread across a long table. Here, we enjoyed a couple of appetizers to get our appetite going, and to give the stragglers time to arrive.

When fully assembled our gathering of 8 was split into two groups and our night began with the cocktail making portion. We tried our hand at two of their signature sips, getting a step by step lesson from one their restaurant’s bartenders. Most of us, like myself, unfamiliar with proper tools and technique, got the benefit of a crash course.

I liked the “Earl grey gin” cocktail the most with the use of their own house made tea mixture. It was like a ice tea, but spiked. Refreshing and easy to drink, and great with most plates.

The “Triple berry mojito” was muddled mint, black berries purée and rum. Another refreshing cocktail that paired well with all the fresh ingredients of our pizzas to come.

And as we double fisted our tasty cocktails creations we began the pizza making portion of our night. Everyone got their own round of dough to flatten and roll out over flour with a rolling pin. Majority of us formed traditional 10 inch flat circles; whereas I got a little creative, shaping my flat bread pizza into a heart.

From here our pizza making coach came around with sauce and topping options. We were advised to not go over four toppings or else we wouldn’t be able to taste the crust past the layers. Here, I would have loved to have all the ingredient options before me, to pick and choose what I wanted as a pleased. This, instead of having my options come around and what I wanted rationed out by the handful.

First, comes the sauce, our choice was between pesto or tomato. We were given the option to do both, and majority of us took the opportunity to do half-half.

Next came the first layer of cheese, a handful each to spread evenly over our pizza in the making.

Next came the cooked meat toppings like chicken, ham, bacon, pepperoni, and sausage; to name a few.

After, fruit and vegetable options like mushrooms, onion (sautéed and raw), grilled tomatoes, red peppers, mango, olive/, spinach and kale; to name a few.

Then a second round of cheeses of the soft variety.

A few of us did go over the four ingredient maximum, but every flat bread pizza turned out just as delicious as the next. Especially as each diner made theirs to their preference and if they didn’t like the combinations, they only had themselves to blame.

Then off into their specialty oven they go. This part is with help from the “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.” staff.

And as we waited for our dinner to bake up, we made a mocktail featuring ginger beer, which also served as a great aperitif.

Each pizza was then plated, sliced, and placed before the diner. As a finishing touch you had the opportunity to topped your oven baked pizza with some dry cheeses like goat and Parmesan, and leafy greens like arugula and basil.

Then we ate and continued to drink, enjoying the meal before us and the experience behind us. But our pizza and cocktail making class did not end until dessert was served. Their popular double chocolate brownie with house made vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to cap off the night.

What a fun new way to enjoy an interactive dinner. Where else can eat the spoils of your learned knowledge? Adult pizza parties with cocktail component only at “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.”.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD CO.
4186 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P7
604-566-9779
rockymountainflatbread.ca

Minerva BC’s 20th anniversary celebration

Today I had the opportunity to play a fly on the wall, at a very unique celebration. This was the 20th anniversary of “Minerva BC” held at the Stanley Park Pavilion. In 2019, “Minerva BC” is celebrating its 20th year of supporting young girls and women leaders across British Columbia. Today’s attendees were jovial over the years of success; and those who were unfamiliar with their work, like me, learned of all the good that they do.

Their motto is “Changing the face of leadership” and they do this by questioning what it means to be a good leader and how we as women can go about doing so. Together they work on the gap for women who want to advance, serving and supporting all of them. Women of any age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation; supporting women without other opportunities. And this includes indigenous women, with a third of the funding going towards programs to help educate and teach them about their culture.

The event included stations where attendees were able to flip through photo albums and reminisce. And others where you could leave your mark today, to be remembered in the future. Here you could share your story with the tag “#Becauseofminerva”.

Guests in the foyer circulated the room enjoying drinks from the bar, and nibbling on snacks from a table of charcuterie and veggies with dip.

In the dining hall there was a seafood table with smoked salmon, calms, and shrimp you could help yourself too.

I liked their idea of a chow mein bar. Pan fried noodles and julienned vegetables cooked over a portable heating coil. From there you gather up your desired serving, then dressed it as you liked with meat, seafood, fresh vegetables, and sauces.

There was also a station to get a professional head shot taken. A stunning photo by a talented photographer, who suggested using it for your LinkedIn profile.

And as we ate and mingled we heard from a few of Minerva’s alumni including the current CEO, the founder of Minerva, and one of Minerva BC’s youth alumnae. As a women in business, who currently works hard and continues to struggle in making the right decisions for herself and others, I found all this inspiring. I won’t be going into too much detail on what was said (as to not dilute the message), but instead suggest that you attend a gathering yourself. Get your tickets for one of their upcoming meetings to learn how you can be part of this community, and learn what they can offer you. Details below.

This was a night of networking and hearing stories, then sharing yours. What were the biggest challenge of your career life, and how did you get over them? Here, you were surrounded by a group of supportive women who understood one another, and want to help lift one another up.

As they celebrate the last 20 years, they look forward to the next 20 to come. For more information and how you can be part of the next 20, visit their website below and consider their next event: “Celebrate Canada’s First National Gender Equality Week”. Or their “LIFT Breakfast Series”, which is an inspiring morning including meal, networking and panel discussions.

 

Minerva BC
320-111 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1H4
604-683-7635
https://minervabc.ca/

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