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

Category: classes/workshops Page 1 of 2

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/

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. https://metropolisatmetrotown.com/promotions-events/events/2019/03/05/blossom-metropolis/

 

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)

#METBlossom
@metropolisatmet

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.

#venetowines

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