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

Category: classes/workshops

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.

540 Beatty Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2N7

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.

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.

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

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.”.


4186 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P7

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

Blossom at Metropolis

Tonight I was invited to Metrotown’s latest art exhibit. So far they have done a wonderful job at bringing unique attractions and artistic pieces to the mall. They draw a crowd and give shoppers more to look at than just merchandise on shelves. And this one for March not only helps to beckon in spring, but it also gives you a great backdrop for your latest selfie.

Its launch tonight was celebrated by a lovely reception with traditional Japanese demonstrations, and opening remarks by the artist who created it, (from Vancouver creative arts studio Hfour), and the marketing director for Metrotown.

Invited guests ate by tables surrounding the exciting new art installation. Looking on to the artificial turf and the scene above it, where over 250,000 fabric cherry blossoms bloomed along side glossy mirrored spheres. From any side and at any angle it looked amazing. It doesn’t have a bad side. The only deterrent are the neon lights from the store’s surrounding the atrium. But with the right camera and the right app you can blur all of that out.

This was a treat to behold at night with only darkness coming through the skylight above, so I can only imagine how stunning it will be in the brightness of a sunny morning. And then how the light will reflect off the mirrors at various points throughout the day, thus changing the displays.

Here are a few photos I took to give you some inspiration, before you head there to capture it yourself. They were taken from the second floor looking down, with me laying flat with my head and camera before me, and looking at it from the sky (light) to the ground.

For refreshments tonight they were offering a passion fruit lemonade with a crushed sugar rim or a raspberry punch with a lemon slice.

For nibbles a wonderful selection of savoury and sweet canapés were being served on trays. Like these Chilli lime coconut prawns on a black puffed rice cracker.

Wild mushroom dumplings.

Pistachio crushed chicken balls on a stick, served with a passion fruit creme dip.

For dessert raspberry mini macarons.

Strawberry short cake.

Passion fruit brownies.

And the popular Uncle Tetsu’s fluffy and creamy Japanese style cheesecake that melts in your mouth.

David’s Tea and Purdy’s Chocolates were also on site offering up samples. The latter had a collection of their creamy chocolates in white and dark blended with mango fruit, matcha powder, and mandarin orange.

For entertainment there musicians and dancers from the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre.

The musicians were dressed in traditional kimonos. They regaled guests with melodies plunked from the koto and blown from shakuhachi. The “shakuhachi” is a Japanese bamboo wood flute. And the “koto” is a Japanese stringed instrument that you pluck. It is like a cross between a harp and and guitar, but played before you like a piano.

Then five women dressed in black and white checkered kimonos with purple flower embellishments performed three traditional dances utilizing cherry blossom branches and colourful fans as props.


They also taught the crowd the correct way to fold and dress in a kimono. And I was luckily enough to be one of the volunteers. As the model I wasn’t able to watch most of my dressing happen, but from feeling it all I can describe the following to you.

Each kimono can be folded to fit your body proportion, size, or height. I witnessed a yellow robe for a grown woman, get pleated and folded down until it snuggly sat on the shoulders of a young girl. Girls before they are married wear robes with sleeves that are longer and often cover their hands. Women who are married wear kimonos that are much shorter on the arms, such as the one I dawned tonight.

A couple of women helped to dress me, with another standing on the side, ready to pass on the correct ribbon or sash to them. Arms through the spacious arm holes, one flap of the robe over the other. Any fabric in addition is pleated at the waist, this has the kimono looking like it is made of two separate pieces. Two fabric sashes are tied to keep the robe around the waist. They are pulled tight, but you are still able to breathe. The result was a figure and the feeling that I slimmed down a dress size or two.

Then the ornate obi (belt) is wrapped around, and tied off at the back with a lop sided bow. And lastly a piece of flexible board is then placed over your stomach, under the obi. This keeps things firm and doubles as a great place to store your fan or cellphone.

And the look would not be complete without the right hair accessories. In my case a red ribbon tied around my hair bun, and a hair pick with pink and white flowers, dangling petals, and tiny jingle bells, to it side.

The night and festivities ended with copious amounts of photos. Photos with our performers, photos of the art installation, and photos of all those in attendance with both.

To take part it all the beauty and fun visit Blossom at Metropolis at Metrotown between March 5 to 31, 2019. It is located at the Grand Court. There, you can also enter for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree at one of the kiosks! And if you take any photos or video and share them online using the tags #METBlossom and @metropolisatmet, you are entered for a chance to win a weekly Blossom prize package, or the grand prize: a $500 Metropolis at Metrotown gift card.

There will also be free weekday evening performances and workshops that you can register for. Every Tuesday and Thursday for the month of March volunteers from the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre will be hosting craft workshops like making your own sakura (cherry blossom) artwork, washi paper collages, traditional Japanese paper cutting, cloth and hair clip art, cloth wrapping, and flower arranging. Or you can take lessons on how to play Japanese chess, and learn how to preform a traditional Japanese dance with them.
On Wednesday nights for the month of March, you can learn to make own origami sakura blossom or how to do brush calligraphy from MUJI.

For all the class details, dates, and how to sign up visit the Metropolis website with the link below.


Blossom is open during mall hours daily March 5-31, 2019 and is a free experience for everyone to enjoy.

Metropolis at Metrotown, Grand Court
4700 Kingsway, Burnaby
(Lower Level, near T&T Supermarket and Toys R Us)


Vinum & Cibus Italici Consortium wine tasting

Today I was invited to a very unique event hosted by the “Vinum & Cibus Italici Consortium”. We were all gathered at “Wildebeest” restaurant, where the newer consortium was showcasing a few of their bottles of wine. This was done through a narrated wine tasting, focusing specifically on the Veneto region.

A “consortium” is an association of two or more individuals, companies, organizations or governments; created with the objective of participating in a common activity or pooling their resources for achieving a common goal. (According to Wikipedia). In this case it was a group with 30 plus years of experience, coming together as of 2015. Their goal, to penetrate international markets with their collective of wineries and agri-food producers. Today we were gathered to drink and fall in love with their wines, their first step at really representing within the Canadian market.

We were all greeted with a welcoming glass of sparkling wine. It was bagged up and the tasting was blind, this would be the same for the wines to follow. The goal was for us to taste and try, to fall in love before judging the wine by its bottle. This was a clever idea, and it really helped to exemplify the reveal. Unfortunately I won’t be able to recreate the same experience for you through my writing, but I can at least describe the wines that we had and the food that paired with it. Both well planned and well presented.

A sumptuous spread of meats and cheeses were laid out and ready for everyone to pick at with fresh crusty bread and cheesy crisps. Thinly sliced prosciutto, spicy sausage, grainy and smooth mustard, sharp blue cheese, creamy brie, green Greek olives, sticky honey, candied nuts, and a rich chicken liver pate.

There was also a bright beet salad to nibble on. Red and yellow beets with carrot, Parmesan, oats, and a spicy granola for crunch.

Servers came around with devil-ed eggs filled with fois gras. They were a creative way to dress up boiled eggs, offering up tangy and salty notes.

The “Tuna tartare” was served on little sheets of deep friend wonton. The fish was light in texture, seasoned in sesame and garlic, and the chip offered a crunch to follow.


The presentation portion of the afternoon began with a short video highlighting the grapes we would be tasting today, and the region of Italy in which they come from. As I mentioned earlier, the tasting was focused on wines from the Veneto region, solely Verona to Venice.

As we tasted and tried, our experienced sommelier and host walked us through the sensations, tacking on tidbits of information. Facts like how prosecco originated from the mid 1900’s, but back then it wasn’t filtered like it is today. Therefore this “natural wine” was murky. Fast forward, its popularity increased to the point that there are over five million bottles produced a year!

Admittedly, I drink for the feeling and less for the taste. So it was nice to be able to learn more about what it was that I was actually having. On top of guessing what kind of wine it was and where it was from, we were each given a sheet of paper to jot down notes on aroma and taste, then told to guess how much the bottle would be worth, or rather how much we would pay for it.

As per proper tasting set up, each place setting was also given a spit bucket and a glass of water to help taste and cleanse between sips. I hate spitting of any kind, so didn’t. Plus I don’t like wasting good wine. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but cringe at those who did. Everyone was drinking to taste, and here I was, drinking to digest.

The first glass that we were greeted at the door with (our welcome sparkling) was by Anna Spinato, Prosecco Brut Organic 374769. It is available at any BC Liquor for $17.99. Looking at it, with its neon green wrap and its cartoonish label, this isn’t a bottle I would naturally gravitate towards. It doesn’t look as prestigious as the other bottles of sparkling that would surround it, nor is it one that you would gift to impress. But tasting it like this, really has you surprised. It tasted like a clean and fresh bubbly wine that is triple the price, and it is organic to boot. I definitely won’t hesitate to pick up a bottle of this in the future.

Based on the matching labels, you can tell that this one is also by Anna Spinato. Spumante Brut Rose Organic 623306 at any BC Liquor, for typically $15.99. This too was an organic, another sparkling, in rose.

The third glass, was the Canella 2016 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 675785, available at “Everything Wine & Marquis Wine Cellars” for $30.49 + tax. It was drier with more body and sweetness. Aromatic with orange peel and florals. This was a pristine sparking wine, made in a predominately red wine region.

Our fourth glass and first red was deep and fragrant. A smooth clean drink that had good acidity. Our sommelier suggested chilling it beforehand to help showcase its pops of fruit. Cantina Negrar 2014 Valpolicella Classico (1.0L) 74963 at Marquis Wine Cellars for $14.69+ tax.

The following wines are classified as Valpolicella, and lucky for us, our host is the only Canadian Valpolicella wine expert. For this designation, corvina is the one grape variety that must be 95% of the blend.

Cantina Di Negrar Verona Corvina 59919 available at “Everything Wine” for $18.99 + tax. It is more fragrant and woodsy, with the flavour of berries being central. Another smooth bottle that our host suggested we chill first.

Glass number 6 was the Cantina Negrar 2015 “Le Roselle” Valpolicella Ripasso 292250, available at “Marquis Wine Cellars” for $28.61 + tax. This was 100% corvina grape, and its bouncy, sour cherry notes took centre stage. This was a sharper red, fuller bodied with more tannins. “Tannins” is a textural element that makes wine taste dry. This was a “boozier” wine that snaps back at you, it tasted as lip puckering as it smells, with spicer notes and more acidity.

Our final red was the Amarone Classico – Negrar 2015 44784, available at BC Liquor ON for $42.99. This was naturally the strongest of our tasting, which is commonplace as their tends to be a build up during wine tastings. It was heavier with a 16% alcohol content, amped up with more aged fruit like withered grapes and dark cherries.

And to end our afternoon, we finished with a white, something fun and light. The third of Anna Spinato’s sparkling collection: Moscato Spumante Dolce Organic 266437 available at BC Liquor ON for $15.99. A sweet organic dry Prosecco with cider notes and aromatic florals and fruitiness. Our host turned us on to the idea of using this as a way to “rinse with bubbles”. This is an off dry wine with a high residue of sugar. The balanced acid offers a nice palate refresher, and a jolt of caffeine, pairing perfectly with the sharpness of blue cheese or dessert.

In conclusion this was a wonderful introduction to the Vinum & Cibus Italici Consortium. And this wine tasting format was a great way to introduce value. Each bottle is affordable and you might not necessarily gravitate to it because of its budget pricing or vivid label. So this was a lesson on not judging a book by its cover, and that the most expensive thing on the shelf might not necessarily be the best or suit your needs the best. Look out for the best value for what you are tasting, something that you might not get from reading the label alone.

I enjoyed my experience and hope my recap gave you something to consider the next time you visit your local liquor store.


Peko Events: Onigiri Workshop

@Pekopekolife is a long time face in Vancouver’s foodie scene. She knows her way around a kitchen, as well as loves dining out. But recently she has started on a new endeavour: creating a new way for food lovers alike to congregate, meet one another, and learn more about a common interest. These are her cooking and food exploration workshops. And today I was invited to the first, (quasi-test version) of it. Myself and a bunch of other as enthusiastic foodies convened in Richmond to learn how to make our own onigiri, or as pekopekolife puts it, “the Japanese answer to the sandwich”.

And how has she earned the credibility to host such a workshop as an expert? Aside from being of Japanese descent, having eaten these as a child and having learned how to make them herself; she also well immersed herself in food art and culture as a social media consultant and strategist.

Her invitation explains the history of this distinctly Japanese snack option. Here, you get a little working knowledge of the task at hand, and a little more excited for what’s to come. “The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki-Shikibu in Japan during the 11th century, makes the first mention of the eating of rice formed into balls. Now, nearly a thousand years later, onigiri is a staple of the Japanese diet, though it is only starting to gain traction in the West”.

She also takes the time to differentiate the difference between onigiri and sushi, as many of their ingredients overlap, with both using nori (seaweed) and sushi rice as the base to build off of. Besides their obvious looks and the way the package is presented, sushi making is regarded as a craft that requires years to master, where as the onigiri is an every day food. Something quick and easy to do, as we would soon find out for ourselves. “They are prepared by mothers for lunch boxes, and are available in corner stores, making them the perfect, quick eat to take along on hikes, picnics, train rides, and road trips.” (As written in the pekoevents email).


I won’t get into too much of the workshop and what we actually learned, as I don’t want to spoil the experience of learning it for yourself. But to summarize, this was a workshop where we learned how to wash and cook the rice used, for optimal taste and texture. Then using two techniques: how to shape them into the traditional triangle.

She we went into detail exploring various filling options and combinations. Doing so by having us taste bits of pork, tuna, mayo, and furikake (dried seasonings with a mix of seaweed, sesame seeds, and dried protein) mixed together. Salty, sweet, and savoury pulled together by Abokichi’s OKAZU, a miso and sesame spice condiment. This was a small retailer that pekopekolife met and interacted with in person, trying their brand and loving it so much to endorse it here in this workshop. This is another passion of her’s, partnering with smaller companies and sharing them through her passion of food. Currently the only way you can get these jars in Vancouver is either through her and this workshop, online and it ships to you, or you can pick up a jar from a shop on Granville Island.

At the end of the night, we were each able to make and take home two onigiri. We learned how to shape them by hand, and had an introduction to using the plastic moulds out of ease. Although, majority of us, myself included, indulged on the spot. Having just wrapped them up in plastic cellophane, only to peel back the layers and devour them on the spot.

Our time commenced with each participant taking home a goodie bag including a jar of Abokichi’s OKAZU ($15 value), the plastic bags we used to wrap the onigiri in, and the skills to start making our own at home.

For more information on this and her future workshops, where she shares her passion and love for food, art and culture. Check out the link below.

Peko Events

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Nothing beats sharing a delicious meal with good company, and Peko Events is all about that!This group is for anyone in Vancouver interested in learning and discovering new c…

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Peko Events, workshop featuring small business through eating

Chinatown Dumpling Masterclass

Today Andrew of @eatswithmao and I were invited to get a behind the scenes look at scratch made dumplings with Judy.

Judy is better known as “ChinatownGirl” or @chinatownjudy. Her nickname was earned through her love of modern Chinese history. This history and the collection of knowledge she has gathered, she shares in the form of guided tours in and around historic Chinatown. These tours are available to anyone, and includes access to historic sights that you may not otherwise get to see. I hope to be able to take this tour one day, and suggest that you do so too; it never hurts to learn something new and to immerse yourself in something different.

But today we were here to enjoy the fruits of her other passion: cooking. Specifically the preparation of authentic Chinese style dumplings. The very dumplings her own Chinese mother taught her how to make when she was a mere child. Since then she has taken this nostalgic learning and improved on it. Skills we would soon witness, yielded from decades of making both traditional and non-traditional dumplings, on a weekly basis.

The cost and the type of dumpling being made varies from class to class and by date. Typically the fee is $127 per person for the 3 hour class. It includes a miniature shopping tour, a drink, and dinner featuring the dumplings you have made with your own two hands. And what you don’t finish, you take home.

All the ingredients for the dumplings are included. The fillings are based on the preference of those attending and what is available at the market on the day. She shops for everything herself, focusing on organic and free range vegetables and meats. She sources from the Chinatown neighbourhood and “Whole Foods”. Though her favourite protein to use is chicken thigh meat. Yet, she has been known to make completely vegetarian and gluten free dumplings, as well as dumplings only using seafood. The most exotic ingredient Judy has featured in her dumplings are venison and wild boar. Both of which were readily available in Honolulu, where she travels back and forth from Vancouver to. She finds time to hosts her dumpling workshops there too. Her fondest memory, being the live demo she ran at “Williamson and Sonoma” Honolulu where she stuffed and pinched dumplings for 80 plus spectators. Luckily she is nimble enough to make 4-5 dumplings in a minute.

Although she did note she prefers smaller class sizes, for a more intimate setting and to prepare smaller quantities of dumplings. Therefore you will not find any of her dumplings available for purchase outside of this demo. So in order to try them for yourself you best sign up for her class. More information on it and the link to do so below.

As was eluded to earlier, the experience actually starts with a taste of Judy’s Historical Chinatown Tour, where she shows you a few grocery stores in the neighbourhood, where you can buy fresh ingredients for your own Cantonese-style home cooking. These are her favourite places for produce, meat, seafood, and herbs within Chinatown. The tour will end at “Sai Woo”, where you will learn how to make the actual dumplings. During this time the class will have the whole restaurant to themselves. Giving everyone the ability to enjoy a hands on experience, at their own pace.

Once back at the restaurant, you start by dawning aprons. They are available for your use during the class. You are able to purchase additional drinks at an additional cost, to sip and enjoy as you learn. I strongly recommend this approach as it makes for a more memorable event.

You will learn what ingredient combinations make for a great filling, then prep said ingredients. Today our dumplings will be filled with a mixture of leek, prawn, green onion, truffles, and ground pork; as they were what was fresh.

But before you get your hands dirty, Judy will walk you through folding the dumpling wrappers. But from here, I will only be summarizing our experience. So consider this the “Coles Notes” version of the class. It is no where as easy or as simple as I am making it look or sound. There is a reason why she is a professional, and why you will be signing up to learn from her years of experience and trained muscle memory.

A round dough wrapper is folded into a triangular cup shape. A small scoop of filling is spooned in. Then egg white is used as a binder to seal shut each pleated dumpling edge. One by one Judy continues the process. Until she has a platter full of ready to be pan fried dumplings.

Next, they are strategically placed onto an oiled, non-stick frying pan. Judy likes using organic avocado oil, as it is good at high temperature cooking, and there are plenty of health benefits in consuming it. (She is all about that fitness, you will see when you meet her in person.)

The pan of dumplings are placed on the stove, it is cooked for a bit, then finished off with a good steam. When hot enough, water is added into the pan. As the water evaporates, the bottom of each dumpling crispens up.

You know it is ready when the dumplings slightly stick to the bottom the pan. You then check it’s readiness by looking for a golden brown finish.

From here, your dumplings are plated and you get a choice of sauces for dipping. Today we would enjoy a light lemon ponzu that gave each dumpling a nice light tang. Chilli oil with a white balsamic, soy sauce, and a lemon mixture are also popular dipping choices. But truly the choice is all yours, and Judy inquires about your preference and taste.

These dumplings taste as good as they look. This is even more so when you witness what goes into them, and take a large part in their preparation. This is truly a unique experience, and a great way to learn more about Chinese culture through its food and socializing with others. I am always looking for a new and different experience, and this is definitely one of them!


To learn more about, and to check out both of the experiences Judy host, please visit the link to her page below.



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