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Dîner en Blanc 2019: George Wainborn Park

“The Social Concierge” brings Vancouver another year of Dîner en Blanc, summer’s most photogenic event. Once a year, attendees dawn their brightest whites, and gather at a secret location; to celebrate the height of summer, with a picnic in the park. Add in roaming actors, live performances, visual displays, and strategic photo ops; and you have the makings of another successful Dîner en Blanc!

This year the converging point was George Wainborn Park, downtown Vancouver. The location isn’t disclosed until 2 hours before the actual event. Where then, all participants converge with their all white regalia to set up for dinner. White tables, white chairs, white plates, and white napkins are a must.

But first, we were at the VIP pre-Dîner en Blanc party and reception, hosted by “M8”. I arrived a little too late to nosh on the charcuterie, and the small bites from the kitchen that rotated around. From what I heard this included the popular “M8” pork belly and their salted egg yolk deep fried chicken skin.

Thankfully, we were in time for the drinks. Wine and beer for purchase at the bar.

And a complimentary welcome cocktail that gave you the opportunity to customize it. Your choice of spirits mixed with fruit juice and flavoured Red Bull, then finish off with help your self toppings at their fruit and candy bar.

There was also “Strongbow” apple cider offered by the can, on the patio.

Then 15 minutes to 6pm, off we walked to the event site, joining others checking in as a sea of white. As guests set up their tables, live music played on the centre stage to set the jovial mood.

Once seated, all guests wave their white napkins in the air, to signal the beginning of the dinner.

We found a high top table in the media lounge, right by the open bar pouring sparkling wine, white, and red.

And we feasted from the self serve buffet present by “Hawksworth Catering”. Bread and dips; antipasti with artichokes, olives, tomatoes, and grilled vegetables; and crudités with dip.

My favourites were the finger sandwiches, a spicy chicken with scallions and crunchy vegetables; and a house smoked salmon with pickles, dill, and cream cheese.

And for dessert we enjoyed fresh fruits and a basket of chewy chocolatey cookies.

After eating and drinking their fill, guests are invited to explore the dinner grounds. Where various photogenic moments and points of interest are set up. There were white park benches and white recliners.

Hammocks for sitting on and others to lounge across.

“Fleurs De Villes” was on site, with their stunningly detailed, beautiful done, floral displays. White blossom encrusted chandeliers and lanterns hanging from trees.

And their trademark mannequins dressed in white and green plant material. Fashion forward looks with petals, stems and leaves. One wore a couture gown with aloe branches and orchids.

Another in white blossoms walked her ruffled petal dog, to match. And the last was sitting on a boat in the park’s water feature, shaded from by her daisy umbrella.

Nearby “Clarins” was on location, giving out skin care samples.

Then when the sun began to set, and the lights came on, the mood and ambience shifted with it. The DJ began turning his tables and the crowd filtered on to the grassy dance floor. Top 40 and hip hop paired with giant spot lights and the glow of purple neon.

And then the event highlight, the one that everyone looks forward to and closes out the night: the sparkler moment. Sparklers are passes out, everyone gets their own to wave about and add to the sea of twinkles.

When the trumpet call sounds, it is the end of the evening, and guests begin packing up. A collective clean-up effort has it so that the site is as neat as it originally was, prior to the event’s start.

And thus ends another successful Dîner en Blanc. This is my third year in attendance and each year I find they get better and better, and I become more and more amazed at how elaborate it is. Be sure you don’t miss out on the next one by checking out the links below.

DINNER EN BLANC
https://vancouver.dinerenblanc.com
Twitter: @dinerenblancvan
Instagram: @dinerenblanc.van
Facebook: /DinerenBlanc.Vancouver
#dinerenblanc #DEBVan #DEBVancouver2019

PNE Pre-Fair Press Conference & Preview 2019

Today I was invited down to the PNE, 2 days before The Fair’s opening season. I was here for a sneak peak of what guests can expect from this year’s run from August 17th to September 2nd, 2019.

Along with traditional media, I joined a tour around the fair grounds. The following is what is new and noteworthy, so that you can better plan your upcoming visit.

We started with a Press Conference announcing all the shows and exhibits for the 109th year. PNE’s The Fair continues to serve as an affordable and fun family event, for all ages and all interests. An occasion that brings everyone in the city out, and a way to welcome visitors from out of town. This year there will be hundreds of shows, performances, and exhibits throughout the 2 weeks. An estimated 700,000 individuals will walk through the front gate, as the largest ticketed event in BC.

New is “Revel District”, an outdoor area with a “Western zone” that includes beer booths, barbecue, and a bucking mechanical bull. As well as a “Mexican zone” with tacos and margaritas. Daily, its stage will host comedians, a strong-woman performance, and a nightly drag show.

Sure to be The Fair’s most well received exhibit, is “Snap Happy”. This gives event goers the ability to capture the perfect memory with stationary photo ops. More on that below.

At the Garden Auditorium guest’s can walk through the evolution of gaming with a self guided museum-esque tour.

Historically renown hypnotist Reeven comes back to The Fair, with the next generation. Son taking over for father: Reveen the impossiblist 2.0. People from the audience volunteer to become stars on stage. They are hypnotized into carrying out crazy actions, thus giving the crowd watching, the “World’s most funniest and most amazing stage show”. A must see!

Each night ends with “Electric Fire”. The closing show that sends rockets and fire into the dark sky, and coupling it with great music.

And speaking of great music the Summer concert series at the Chevrolet stage is taking you back to the 90’s with the likes of the Beach Boys, 98degrees, TLC, Vanilla Ice, and MC Hammer hosting his own house party.

Fan favourite shows like the Super Dogs, Knights of Valour, and Duelling Pianos return. And families can once again grab a seat in the park and watch a family friendly movies together.

There will now be tractor races for the kids at the agriculture and all the baby animals to pet and coo at will be back.

And of course, the prize home lottery returns, celebrating its 85th year. All this and more, all free with admission.

And for those looking to save further The Fair is made more accessible with various ticket promotions. Downloading the new PNE phone app get you in for only $2 on opening weekend, this Saturday August 17th and Sunday August 18th. Tuesday August 20th and 27th offers free admission for those visiting between 11-1pm. Thursday August 22nd is free admission for seniors. And on both Fridays August 23 and 30th, if you visit using translink, show your compass card at the gate and get two for one fair admission.

After the press conference, we were given a go of the “Snap Happy” exhibit before the crowds converged and there is a need to wait in queue for your unobstructed photo. They suggest taking many selfies here, however majority of the props do require a photographer. Like the pinwheel garden right as you enter.

Or if you want to ride the individual merry-go-round horse or hop into the single bumper car.

You can straddle a pink polka dot cow, or channel your inner super dog with this kennel with hydrant. Or maybe pop your head in to a game of whack a mole, which includes paddle. Or dawn a feather boa and strap on a guitar, and pretend you are head lining your own concert.

A 2D black and white roller coaster gives you the photo image, without the fear.

The wall of stuff animals explained what they did to the ones that the children don’t win.

The wall of colour changing sequins allowed you to customize your backdrop. But I preferred the wall of tinsel that gave you a rainbow sparkle backdrop.

Or you could wait for the crown of neon lights to change to the perfect hue.

The mysterious box that you could walk under, made selfies easier with 360 degree mirrors, and twinkling lights surrounding you.

For the foodie, you can sandwich yourself between two burger patties in this specialty couch.

Or give yourself cartoon ice cream cone wings or pizza wings with matching halo. They even have backdrops of mini doughnuts and swirling lollipops.

Across from this is a fully stocked concession. Here, you can see how it’s like to serve the fair candy and treats, instead of eating them. Giant lollipops and gummy bears, fully stocked pop machines, and cotton candy bags in a row.

There was also unique furniture crafted with whimsical poses and arms, giving them animated life. And pink sugar coated clouds with matching cushion to think sweet thoughts on, ended the hall of photo ops.

Next, at the “Transport 2050” booth they spoke to the future of transit and wanting to solicit the city more through surveys. You can help decide the direction that translink will take in future expansion. And to help get your here, they will have 5 extra buses shuttling people from Renfrew skytrain station to the PNE grounds.

Adjacent was showcase of buses, including Vancouver’s first double decker bus, launching in October. And the new Rapid Bus with its specialty route.

And the most unique of them all is the 1950 GMC refurbished into a travelling museum. Once the doors are opened you can head inside to learn more about the history of transportation from horse and buggy to ride sharing.

A similar story was also told across a scale model of the city, and a projector that brought it to life. This is the “Micro City” exhibit. A recording talked about the evolution of travel in our fair city, and the need to start planning for the future as more and more people converge. As the first of the public to see this, I definitely recommend checking this out.

Our tour started with all the newness to The Fair this year, and ended with one of the oldest at The Fair, year after year: “Jimmy’s Lunch”. Owned and operated by the Parson’s family, who have been serving their iconic hamburgers, most notably topped with mounds of fried onions, since 1929. They first opened opened in 1929, serving as a sit down dining establishment. At the time it was the largest restaurant under canvas in North America, and sat 200. Today, they are one of the most well known stands in PNE history. And to celebrate this history and their 90th year at The Fair, they were presented with permanent picnic bench and stand location. A ceremony and occasion we were here to witness.

A new lovely setting marked with the inscription “Presented to the Parsons Family in recognition of the 90th anniversary of Jimmy’s Lunch at the Fair”. A welcomed addition for family and friends to enjoy a burger on.

And lucky for us, we would get to do just that. Fun fact, approximately 900 tonnes of onions have been peeled over the 90 years, served across 4 generations of the family. And at the turn of the century, these very fried onions were actually named one of the 10 most memorable things to come of the 1900’s by “Vancouver Magazine”. And after getting a taste, I can see why they earned the recognition.

I would get the very second burger they have made for this 2019 season. An all beef patty kept warm and moist under a mound of well seasoned, fried onions. With it I had all the toppings including cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, and a ketchup relish between two white buns. It was delicious, best paired with their crispy fries. I wolfed everything down, slurping up strands of onions and licking the juices that ran down my hands.

And thus ended this little teaser. I will be back to cover all the new food stuffs next week, so be sure to stay tuned for that post and vlog. For more on the events and going ons, visit the link below.

PNE, THE FAIR
2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 5J1
604-251-7717
pne.ca

Chilliwack Sunflower Festival

From the same farm that brings you the popular tulip festival every spring, here is the 2nd annual sunflower festival, that now happens every summer. More than just rows of yellow flowers to take photos of, they have plenty of photos ops to have you spending hours behind your phone. Today, I was invited for a sneak peak look at the festival, 2 days before it opened to the public. Therefore my experience will be slightly different that what you can expect, so I will be sure to point out any differences.

The festival runs from August 1st to September 15th and is open daily. They boast close to 17 acres of beautiful blooming sunflowers in 35 different varieties. Mammoth sunflowers towering above you at 15 feet, 6-8 foot Sunrich sunflowers, known for their stunningly perfect blooms.

There is also a 3-acre field of Dahlias, featuring 54 different varieties. Some even growing over 10 inches in diameter, to the size of a dinner plates.

For a accurate look at all the photos ops, check out my latest vlog, as I tour your around the “Chilliwack Sunflower Festival”!

For the still photos keep scrolling down.

Grab a seat on their swinging bench.

Or swing side by side with a friend on their swing set.

Pose by their wooden bridge, or climb up for a more scenic background shot.

Perch yourself on the stationary bicycle with wicker basket up front.

Or climb on to the tractor.

Pose in front of their windmill.

Or perch behind the wooden sunflower stand.

Dawn a pair of Dutch wooden shoes or climb into the large one that can fit your entire family. Both are new features this year and were handmade and painted in Holland just for this festival.

And of course surround yourself amongst all the sunflowers.

There is a play ground for kids to climb up and slide down. And giant wooden games like Jenga, dominos, and the bean bag “cornhole” toss to play.

For those who like souvenirs there is a gift shop with local products and sunflower themed goods for you to purchase. As well as bulbs from spring’s tulip festival that you can buy to plant your own at home garden.

And if you get hungry there are food and drink vendors on site. “Big Red’s poutine” truck offers sunflower seekers two types of fresh cut fries and gravy. Their “Chilliwack poutine” includes chunks of local pork smokies, thick gravy, and Chilliwack local cheese curds over hand cut fries. And for the vegetarians there is a poutine with a vegetable based gravy over the same Chilliwack local cheese curds and hand cut fries. Cheese optional for those looking for a vegan option or something that is dairy free.

And to wash it all down they also have fresh squeezed lemonade, made from half a lemon juiced with a hand pump, served with simple syrup and ice.

During our visit there were also two local Chilliwack wine and beer vendors that we got to sample from. Like the “Whispering Horse” winery from up the road.

And “Old Yale” brewery with fruit infused beers like a “juicy peach tea radler”, “Moon dance mango wheat”, and the “Knotty Blonde ale”.

They both paired well with the charcuterie board and veggies and dip that we nibbled on.

And our night ended with some sunflower cupcakes in either vanilla or chocolate and sunflower short bread cookies. I appreciated the cohesiveness in their theme.

We also got a crash course on bouquet building with Brian of Minter Gardens. He taught us how to shape our own sunflower themed flower arrangement, which we could take home. Please not the flowers in the fields are for everyone to enjoy, so please do not pick these. For a fresh cut keepsake, visit the giftshop instead.

Overall a great festival that celebrates our local farms and their harvest. Worth visiting for your next profile picture. For ticket information and further details visit their website below. https://chilliwacksunflowerfest.com/

CHILLIWACK SUNFLOWER FESTIVAL
41310 Yale Road, Chilliwack, BC V2R 4J1

Punch Bowl Festival 2019

This past weekend, on Saturday July 27th, Vancouver saw the first ever “Punch Bowl festival” come to life. This was a summer celebration of cocktails and spirits, under the sun at PNE’s fair ground. It was brought to you by the same folks who host “Hopscotch”, the scotch and spirits festival, every fall. It too is hosted at PNE’s, but in doors.

Today’s event was split into 2 parts, the daytime “tasting” from 12-3:30pm and the evening one from 5-8:30pm. The timed sessions allow vendors to restock in between and for more visitors to attend; with the evening spots selling out quick. I attended the afternoon one, as I prefer day drinking.

The sectioned off event is 19 plus so ID is require and guards are stationed to check them and ensure no one drinks too much. Thought at the prices they were charging, I don’t think that was a problem. The event runs on tokens, you need to purchase them in exchange for cash. At $1 a token (plus tax), taster sized drink offerings vary between $2-4. It is a great way to try new spirits and “bar hop” in the safety of a confided area, but I wish the prices were a little more reasonable. After all you are paying for entry, only water and the live entertainment is free. Anything you want to eat, taste, or try requires tokens; and if you don’t have cash on you, they charge you a fee to purchase them with either debit or credit.

As for the event itself, a series of tents snaked around the allocated grassy grounds. There were 50 plus vendors to explore, majority of which represents a brand of spirit, beer, or cider. The website mentions that “this isn’t a drinking festival but rather a tasting event where you can learn about how you, at home, can recreate the easy-to-make cocktails you see today” and invite you to “take the time to learn about the products, the bands, the drinks, etc.” However with the lines at the popular booths and the speed in which its attendants needed work, there wasn’t much time for dialogue between you and them. You simply read off their menu, pay, and walk away with drink in hand. At the less trafficked booth you were able to strike up a conversation.

Some vendors really followed through with their branding, putting forth elaborately decorated booths. These were the ones that drew the largest crowds and their money, myself included. “Beefeater London” gin was pretty in pink, mixing up muddled strawberry and orange cocktails.

And Ketel One Botanicals gave visitors a garden theme with the only cocktails severed in a plastic goblet, topped with a branded “K” stir stick. Cucumber & mint, grapefruit & rose, and peach & orange blossom vodka spritzers.

But out of all the little cups available, my favourite way to enjoy a cocktail at “Punch Bowl” was sucking on a mimosa freezie from the Cointreau booth. Even cut with mango & peach nectar sparkling wine this was not skimping out on any of the alcohol.

And to balance all the drinking, there were a few booths offering food. Including a few Vancouver chefs “showcasing their take on a west coast summer bbq” (as taken from their website).

Like B.K.H. grilling up their Singaporean style short ribs.

And bbq award winners “Smoke & Bones BBQ” and “Dixies BBQ” with their smoker. The two were competing to see who has the best ribs in the city. Guests were invited to try both at 12 tokens ($12 a plate) with sides like slaw and beans or coleslaw and potato salad. Then texting in their favourite of the two.

With so many booths to bounce around from, you could easily spend the afternoon drinking. Or simply lounging in their seating area, which included cushions under shade and wood games like corn hole and jenga.

In short, a successful new event that gave Vancouverites a unique setting to enjoy drinking and sun in one.

PUNCH BOWL
punchbowlfest.com

Playland Nights 2019, Neon Party

Tonight I was at the opening of “Playland Nights”, a series of Fridays in July that is 19+, running from 7pm to midnight.

All early bird tickets have already sold out at $29, but regular tickets are still available online and at the box office the night of, at $34 per person. Your admission includes unlimited access to over 20 rides and attractions. Like Playland’s most historic ride, the “Wooden Roller Coaster,” rated the #1 wooden coaster in all of Canada. As well as “The Beast”, “Crazy Beach Party”; and the “Hellevator”, with its 200-foot free fall.

For those like me, who likes an attraction that doesn’t scare you, there are more gentler rides like the merry-go-round, balloon ride, swing, and bumper cars to go on.

And I personally won’t miss a spin on the Ferris wheel ride for its great vantage point alone.

But for those who don’t like motion and momentum there are shows and performances that you can engage in, instead. Like the roaming “Underground Circus”, a group of acrobats balancing, juggling, and preforming defying tricks to blow you away.

On the main stage, the variety show entertainment begins at 8pm, starting with the “Drum N Dirty”, a live percussions DJ. This is followed by “Samba Fusion” at 9pm, and “Wes Barker”, stunt magician at 10pm. The night ends with “Dancing Teasing Fabulousness”, a Vancouver based burlesque show. We sadly never caught up to the circus, but did catch “Samba Fusion”. Lively performers in show girl sequins and features. They were great at energizing the crowd, inviting volunteers up to the stage to dance.

But most memorable was the comedic magician who worked the crowd at the secret bar, as part of the VIP experience. All VIPs get their entry pass on a blinking LED lanyard. It is also your ticket to skipping the line at the most popular rides. Though on a night that called for a chance of rain there were no lines. The pass grants access to two specialty bars. One hidden, the other themed differently every opening night, courtesy of “Social Concierge”. “Social Concierge” brings an elevated event experience to Vancouverites all throughout the year. This year they were hosting “Wanderlust”. Four nights, four themes, and an invitation to “come feel like a kid again” at “Playland”.

 

Tonight the theme was “Neon Party”, (more on that later). July 12th is “Graffiti night”. Everyone wears white and is given glow-in-the-dark markers, and invited to get creative with one another and the empty walls. The result: a scene that seems to come alive under black light.

July 19th‘s theme is “Party hats”, like a grown up “hat day”. You wear your best head piece and come down to the amusement park to be seen. And for those who don’t have one, you can make your own at one of the craft tables.

The last night and their grand finale is themed “mystics and magic”. It includes roaming magicians, tarot card readers, and crystals. Here, you are invited to believe in magic again. Out of all the options I am the most excited for this one.

But back to today and the “Neon Party”. All guests were invited to come dressed in their best 80’s outfits with splashes of neon. To stand out under the black light glow of their lit tent. Here, there were toys scattered to keep guests playing. Bubbles blowers, glow sticks, jumping caps, sticky hands, and rainbow slinkies. A great way to start conversation and to keep you occupied as you wait for your drinks.

And that is the main reason to attend these adult nights: is the ability to drink during it all. To drink in this unique setting, sipping just as unique concoctions, offered across several bars.

At the VIP Neon Bar we tried all 4 of these specialty cocktails. The “Sno cone martini” is exactly what you think it is. A semi melted down, crushed ice, sno cone in a plastic martini glass. And I am glad they made the effort to get the right shape of glass in plastic, it makes all the difference when you are drinking. And it is what makes paying $12 for each of the following a bit more tolerable. This tasted like blue raspberry syrup, and none of the vodka.

The “French 75” is served in a champagne flute. A mix of gin, sparkling wine, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

The “Cotton candy martini” is made with a tuft of actual cotton candy that gets melted down by vodka and cranberry juice.

The “Flirtini” is more sparkling wine with gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

In order to get to the second VIP bar you need solve a series of riddles. The first is located on the back of your fast pass landyard , the second and third lead you to a bar bathed in yellow and orange. (No spoilers).

This converted space is dressed like you have stepped into a mystical kingdom. You sit on embroidered cushions on pattern rugs, you breath in the smell of burning sandalwood, you get your fortune told by a mystic machine, and are fully entertained by a roving magician, who spit out more comedy than magic tricks.

Here, we enjoyed two more specialty cocktails. But they also offer beer, wine, highballs, and cider from $8.50-13.00 a glass.

The “wanderlust gimlet” is gin, pineapple, simple syrup, and fresh sage.

“Carnival punch” is vodka, ginger beer, light beer, lemonade, and citrus.

We also had to try the “Tipsy unicorn” a novelty drink available for everyone to purchase. This neon coloured cocktail was glittery, rimmed with coloured sugar, and served smokey with dry ice. It is available in either orange mango or green apple. Based on the remaining mix, mango seemed to be the more popular of the two. But based on my preference of colour we got the green apple and it was like punch. Easy to drink and fun to lick the rim clean.

And for those who need to balance all their drinking with some food. “White Spot” is open for service, frying up their flamed grilled burgers.

And you can also get the classic bag of mini doughnuts or cotton candy from regular fair concession stands. Although I would advise you to have dinner before and utilize “Playland” as your after drink spot.

In short, this is such a great way to let loose as an adult. Coming in the evening has you avoiding crowds and bypassing long lines, all without the need to watch yourself in front of children. You can let loose and act like a child, in one of the funniest places in Vancouver. Plus have all the booze you need to get there. For more details and how you can get tickets for the next one, click the link below.

And to get a real look at how fun things can get, check out my very telling vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

PLAYLAND NIGHTS
2901 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 5J1
604-253-2311

The VIP Experience

Peroni patio party at D6

Today I was invited to celebrate “Peroni” at one of their annual cross-Canada summer Terrazza parties. And what better a place to host such an event than at the now opened, newly furnished patio of “D6”.

The sunny day allowed guests to mingle across the entirety of the patio, and the covered portion with its heat lamps offered shade and warmth against the roof top wind. There was plenty of seating across couches by coffee tables, you could grab a high top over by the bar, or a regular four top against the greenery and it pink plastic flamingos, or maybe just huddle around the fire pit with a drink in hand.

But first to get the drink. The roof top bar with its chic white marble tiles was themed in Peroni with bottles of the beer in an ice bath, and more beers poured non stop from the tap. Although the most appropriate for the patio was their “L’Oriente” cocktail, a special pour for the day. Fresh mandarin juice, yuzu syrup, and Peroni Nastro Azzuro; topped with candied ginger. Delicious even for non beer drinkers. So good that my guest and I both finished two pints with ease.

But there were also other ways to enjoy your Peroni today. “Passionate Gelato Artigianale” was on site passing out scoops of their gelato kept cool on ice.

They had a Peroni Nastro Azzurro gelato flavoured with lime. This was a refreshing and creamy slush that served as a great way to turn my cocktail into a float. But for those who enjoy more traditional flavours there was a salted caramel and organic BC strawberry gelato to choose from.

All the while small bites circulated throughout the enclosed patio. I wish I bothered to ask which kitchen they were from and if they are available off of the regular “D6” menu.

The “Brie cigars” were a fun way to call melty and stringy Brie cheese wrapped in phyllo and fried. Best enjoyed with a deep dunk into a sweet and sour dip.

The goat cheese crostini offered up the lightest bite with fresh cherry tomato and a sweet drizzle of balsamic.

The vegetarian spring rolls included mashed potatoes with the shredded carrots and beans, it gave things a different texture and take.

The beef short rib croquettes were meaty bundles of shredded beef served with either a sweet chilli sauce or a blue cheese dip.

The mini sliders were a filling burger with a juicy beef patty.

But I preferred the mini chicken burgers for their generous crispy chicken feature and tangy sweet pickles.

And the coconut shrimp was a favourite. A sweet and crispy shell hiding juicy shrimp.

In short, this was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and enjoy one of the nicest patios in the city.

D6
39 Smithe Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 0P4
parqvancouver.com/bars-lounges

BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend

All the tours and dinners I have been enjoying in Comox Valley were leading up to the “BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend”. A two day celebration, set up “Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park”. On Saturday June 15th and Sunday June 16th from 11:00am to 5:00pm, ticket holders came down to explore the extent of the seafood festival summarized into booths, tasting stations, cooking demonstrations, and activities for kids and adults alike.

There was so much to see and do that I visited both days, to be able to take it all in. The following are the highlights of the weekend.

The main draw is definitely the food and drink vendors. All food and wine tastings required tickets in exchange for money. A dollar a ticket with a difference between food and drink tickets.

Local wine vendors were on site offering plastic cups of red, white, or rose. “Lake Breeze”, “Joie”, “40 Knots”, and “Gold Hill” to name a few.

And breweries had their pressurized taps to go. For locals this was a great way to support the community; for visitors, a great way to try something new and find that perfect souvenir to take home.

Local spirit vendor, “Wayward Distillery” was also available for stronger pours.

And for those looking for libations without the booze, the folks at the “Shrub & Soda” were mixing their flavoured syrups with club soda. Although their product can also be used for cocktail mixes as well.

For food, there was plenty of seafood, naturally. But for those who don’t like fish or shellfish, or for little picky diners “The Pickled Carrot” catering food truck was on site offering popcorn chicken, fires, and poutine. And surprisingly they were popular.

At “Summer Kitchen”, the regular in-park concession, there was candied salmon mousse, cold smoked salmon tacos, tandoori tuna, prawn bisque, and a double salmon pasta salad.

The “Fanny Bay” team was shucking oysters to order.

But if you like them cooked, “Mac’s Oysters” had them battered, fried, and seasoned.

The “Cod Father” too were offering fresh shucked oysters, but these were from “Effingham Oyster”. So instead, I would recommend their smoked oysters or smoked salmon

There were smoked and barbecue scallops on the grill, at the “West Coast Wild Scallops” booth. They were plated in shell with pickled vegetables.

The “North Vancouver Island Chef’s Association was asking 5 tickets for their panko crusted wild halibut with basil aioli coleslaw, and berry coulis.

There was smoked steelhead, sockeye, and ling cod to nibble on cod.

I enjoyed watching all the kettle corn stir to life in a kettle drum.

And for dessert they boys at “Slopes” we’re scooping their small batch ice cream and hand made waffle cones, for a cold treat. Their ice cream is made with grass fed milk and you had your choice from sea asparagus with gin and lemon zest, salted caramel made with salt from “Vancouver Island Salt Co.”, a dark chocolate sea salt, or an ice cream made with infused kelp oil and topped with more kelp oil. I went with the first with no regrets. It was like a lemon spritz, very refreshing.

Non food vendors offered information on sustainable fishing and a had visitors learning through diagrams and games. But my favourite booths were the ones that allowed you to connect with the local wild life.

At the “Mars rescue centre” there was a smaller owl to get close to and take photos of.

At the “Deep Bay Marine Field Station” you got to pick up and poke leather sea stars, hermit crabs, sea cucumber, and spiny green sea urchins. I definitely was the oldest “child” enjoy the water play.

But the most popular showcases were ones held at centre stage. There are seats to sit and enjoy the show from, but be warned, they filled up fast, and it was hard to see past the crowds. It is best to check the schedule and stake out your ideal spot for your favourite presentation. Like the oyster shucking master class, the chef’s black box cooking challenge, and various cooking demonstrations hosted by Chefs from all over BC.

There was even a cooking workshop for kids, where they helped to prepare shrimp tacos.

In short, the “BC Seatfood Festival Signature Weekend” is a great place to take the family, or a unique setting to enjoy with friends. There was much to eat, much more to drink, and even more to look at and explore. To be sure that you don’t miss out on any of their future events, visit the link below.

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

BC Shellfish Growers Association Gala

In this post I was visiting Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, to take in the BC Seafood Festival’s signature weekend. And on the night before, was fortunate enough to attend the sold out Gala dinner. And having experienced a handful of events now, if you have to choose just one, this would be the one not to miss.

The gala is set under a tent at “Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park”, with lights and lanterns strung up over head. Metres away is the water of the Straight of Georgia, and the green that surrounds this inlet. Guests are seated around tables covered in either a seafoam green or an ocean blue cloth. But here, the food is not served, instead it is for you seek out and bring back to your table to enjoy.

A few of BC’s top Chefs and their teams man booths, preparing and assembling fresh and frozen seafood tastings. A fast paced assembly line that has them cooking out of pans and pots heated on portable stoves, and even using blow torches. As guests you travel from one station to the next trying them all, then revisiting your favourites. The best part is being able to meet and mingle with the Chefs behind your favourite restaurants and becoming fans of others when you taste their offerings.

Appetizers and specialty cocktails were served first, then all the small plate entrees, followed by the only dessert option. Coffees and teas were complimentary, and wine and spirited cocktails came at a cost.

To start with I enjoyed the “Raincoat gimlet” by 2019’s Van Mag bartender of the year winner, Amber Bruce of “The Keefer Bar”. This was a citrusy cocktail finished off with a generous sprig of rosemary.

Ned Bell, the chef and face of Ocean Wise in BC, prepared two types of fish. The “Gindara Sablefish”, a farmed fish prepared with BC blueberry, hazelnut and venturi. Of the two, majority of the guests preferred this one for its lighter, fresher flavour.

The “Balsamic/Creative salmon” raised in Tofino was a little dry and plenty dense with the topping of walnut cream, chopped walnuts, and heirloom tomato jam.

The following small plates were then made available once opening remarks commenced, carried out by event host and organizer Nathan Fong. He welcomed everyone and invited us all to eat, drink, and be merry.

“Chalaco ceviche” by Shelome Bouvette of “Chicha” restaurant. Albacore tuna, scallop, prawn, salmon, and halibut ceviche with orange and jalapeño. Topped with pickled papaya, and cilantro micro greens. And enjoyed like chips and dips with avocado and rocoto dusted plantain chips. The thick crunch of the plantain was amazing, a nice starch to balance the freshness of the chunks of seafood and vegetable in citric.

“Salad of lightly cured and poached steelhead trout and marinated clams” with fennel, chive, and orange vinaigrette. Prepared by Isabel Chung and Derek Bendig of the “Wildflower” at Fairmont Chateau Whistler. A beautifully done salad that best highlighted the quality of the salmon.

I fully enjoyed the show that Chef Jean-Francis Quaglia of “Provence Marinaside” put on by flambée -ing his prawns Provençal style with brandy from “40 Knots”. It was just a shame that these shrimp were not fresh, but frozen out of a box. However, the amount of butter and sugar they were coated in had me licking the shells clean and taking the time to suck everything out of the head. As this was a time consuming process each diner only got one shrimp at a time, and then went back for seconds through the line again.

I appreciated how Chris Andraza of “Fanny Bay Oyster Bar” switched it up by offering octopus instead of oysters. Especially as there were 2 other oyster offerings, and one highlighted Fanny Bay oysters anyhow. Octopus & chorizo with potatoes, sundried tomato, and saffron aioli. I loved the textures and the chewy char of the octopus, but found the dish too salty. More corn and maybe some celery would have helped to balance this out and give it more freshness.

The “Chilled Manila clams with dashi vinaigrette, cucumber, seaweed, and radish” has a very refreshing dish. The few bites we got reminded me of a light seaweed salad. This was prepared by Bobby Milheron at “West Restaurant” in Vancouver.

I enjoyed the creativity that Lee Cooper of “Coquielle” from Vancouver brought. He and his team served poached oyster with a green apple and dashi jelly. It was a slurp of dessert, utilizing the natural saltiness of the oyster for balance with the subtle sweetness of the apple. Probably my favourite oyster of the weekend… and that says a lot, because I have had a lot.

The “Geoduck ceviche” by Hamid Salimian of “Nextjen” Vancouver was served as part of an assembly. It was the main feature on his crispy shell tortas, but one you couldn’t taste. It was hidden under spicy guacamole, cucumber, radish, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and pickled onions. But all together tasty, and worth lining up for.

At Welbert Choi of “Forage’s” booth you got a taste of “Fanny Bay’s” sun seeker oysters. These sweet, little oysters served in shell, were topped with “Forage’s” Ocean Wise herring habanero fish sauce and trout caviar. A great way to elevate one seafood by dressing it with two others. I especially loved their thoughtful presentation.

Ricardo Valverde from “Ancora” had his wife and sous chef lightly torching “Black cod sashimi” by the handfuls. Each plate had a couple dressed with a pickled ginger emulsion, and topped with crispy quinoa, and cilantro. They were delicious morsels, almost caramelized with their time under fire.

Of note is the team work of “Ancora’s” chefs. After their plates were all torched and served, they then hopped one stall over to help Hamid build and serve his geoduck sashimi. Serving the longer line for a more complicated product build.

“Kelp cured ivory salmon” with smoked goat’s milk creme fraiche, poached lipstick radish and strawberry mignonette. By Morgan Wilson from “Q” at the “Empress” in Victoria. I was just there two weeks ago and didn’t get a chance to try the food, so was glad to be able to today in this unique setting.

I appreciated the “Miso glazed Atlantic salmon” for the fullness of the whole plate. A dinner brought to us by John Carlo Felicella of the “BC Culinary Team”. This was a dish with plenty of elements to pick through and nibble on. A full prawn dumpling, a shrimp cracker, pickled shimiji, shiitake foam, micro greens, and a yuzu vinaigrette. I specially liked the dumplings and the cracker out of familiarity.

We got a thick cut of “Seared albacore tuna” from Ryan Bissell of “Villa Eyrie Resort” of Malahat BC. Dressed with roasted malt lavash, garlic scape chimmichuri, red pepper romesco sauce, hemp and almond dukkah, and mustard greens.

And the only dessert of the night was the one that stole the show. It was quite the spectacle with its sardine can presentation. This was probably to make up for the fact that it doesn’t actually contain any seafood. Fleur de cao chocolate and sea buckthorn berries with pistachio praline, and a bergamot meringue. Carefully assembled by Dominic Fortin of “Q” at the “Empress “in Victoria. A decadent chocolate filled mousse with crunchy and juicy elements to keep things interesting to the last bite.

In conclusion, this was a wonderful way to get to know your chefs a little more. A way to see your food being prepared and thank them face to face. Overall, a fantastic cumulative meal and showing, and definitely one of my favourite events of the weekend.

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

Shucked! Canada’s Largest Oyster Bar Happy Hour

In this post I was visiting Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, to take in the BC Seafood Festival’s signature weekend. And the event that launched it off was “Shucked!”

This was a literal and figurative line-up of British Columbia’s oyster producing families behind businesses. Participants were set up behind large troths of ice, where they shucked sustainable and perfectly plump oysters, one after another in break neck speed. You as the guest approaches, and picks the oyster half shell calling out your name. Station by station, chatting up the producers.

But sadly, with all the sold out ticket holders, the constant moving in and out, and the promise of all you can eat oysters; I didn’t get much of chance to chat or really stop to think on the flavours of each individual slurp I took. And I slurped a’many.

At “Silent Harvest” there were 3 women shucking on specialized wooden platforms. As the first station they were so popular that they couldn’t keep up with the hands reaching out for their oysters. Their oysters are from Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island, BC. And the sizes of them ranges from extra small to medium.

“Effingham Oyster Inc.” had a similar oyster shucking platform, but made out of metal. Their oysters come from the deep water fjords of Barkley Sound. The result is deep cups, a cornucopia shape, and beautiful, polished pink-and-purple shells.

“Sawmill Bay Shellfish” is from the pristine, glacier-fed waters off Read Island. All their shellfish come to you, the consumer, direct from one of their two family-run farms.

“Stellar Bay Shellfish” supplies oysters from the pristine waters of Baynes Sound, in the Strait of Georgia. With ideal growing conditions their oysters come out crisp and clean. Today they were shucking kusshi oysters for the masses.

At the “Fanny Bay” booth they were offering their petite “Sun Seaker” oysters, which are grown in a bag that floats on top of the water. Hence, the name. And with them a bucket of mignonette as a flavour additive, on top of lemon chunks, also offered at the other stations.

“K’awat’si Shellfish” was serving gwi gwi oyster cultivated from the cold waters of BC’s central coast; the unceded waters of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. These oysters are known for their creamy sweet after taste, described as “a salty seaweed cashew of the sea”.

“Mac’s oysters Ltd.” packs and sells both wild and farmed shellfish from distinct areas spread out over several hundred square kilometers. All of their farming areas are regularly monitored for both water quality, and animal and human health by government agencies, and by a third party lab.

To help wash all the oysters down there was beer, wine, and a bevy of highballs for purchase. All the while a live band performs and the event emcee teaches guests about oysters, including trying it for itself, before adding any lemon.

This event preceded the main gala, setting the tone and pace for the night. A fun way to enjoy happy hour, on a larger scale

BC SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
https://bcseafoodfestival.com

40 Knots, BC Seafood Festival 2019

Terroir Meet Merroir Dinner

In these series of post I was on Vancouver Island, visiting Comox Valley for the annual seafood festival, including taking in some of their ticketed events. This was one such.

For $150 you are invited down to 40 Knot’s winery for a long table dinner amongst their grape vines. An intimate occasion with other wine and food enthusiasts, seeking to “experience Old World elegance with the finest preparation of their “New World local products”. Winery owners Brenda and Layne are your hosts, and in their serene backyard, they take you on a tour of their winery through their wines, paired with canapés and courses. The latter of which was prepared by Chef Alain; who has expertly paired each course with one of 40 Knot’s award-winning wines.

As soon you step foot on the property you are greeted with open arms: one pouring 40 Knots rose into another holding the glass. Now that is the way to welcome you to a winery. The rose was crisp and fresh, without any flavours that lingered on the tongue. They paired well with the similarly clean flavours below.

As you explores the vineyards, walking betwixt the rows of blossoming grapes, the roving appetizers are brought to you. The “Dungeness crab salad gougeres” are like crab rolls stuffed into a spongy and slightly cream puff. What a fun was to present a familiar concept.

I really enjoyed the visual of the “Smoked salmon mousse, devilled quail eggs”. Not only were they adorable, but tasty too. Another one well thought out as a one bite snack.

The “Albacore tuna and compressed watermelon skewers” was a refreshing protein on stick combo. The sweetness of the juicy watermelon brought out the flavours of the slightly salted tuna and visa versa.

When it came time for our meal to begin we all took a seat around the long table, under the covered terrance. The cloth covering it flapped in the gentle breeze, allowing streaks of sun to shine in. In the distance, two bald eagles hovered in the air. These serene views, amongst nature’s greenery, to the tune of melodic music, put you at restful ease. And attentive wait staff ensured you were throughly pampered. Not to mention our glass was never empty, and we were treated to a few extra wine tastings off script. Including a mystery vintage and a $100 bottle.

We were also rest assured that if we had too much to drink, any driver could leave their car on the 40 Knots property and it would be locked in safe. And in addition, staff would help you find a safe way home. All this elevated service in their one of a kind setting, would foreshadow the fabulous, 8 course dinner to come.

Of note, if it gets too cold dining outdoors, they do have branded fleece blankets for use.

Before each course we were given a lesson on what we would be drinking with it, from Layne. He spoke with so much passion and conviction for what he does and what their wines offer. 40 Knots are better known for their clean and crisp ethical wines. This mission guides them in every step from their farming practices, to the management of their cellar, their crush pad operation, the running of their store, and the products they delivery to customers. All while promising to protect the environment in their undertaking. Like looking at alternative ways to fertilize their fields. Here, the use of kelp is both practical and economical, given that they are by the ocean. And the sprays they use to negate disease on their plants are also different. Not you run of the mill pesticides, 40 Knots uses ones made from natural ingredients like mustard seed oil and more kelp. They are developed by a local company looking to do things differently with sustainable alternatives.

The first course was my favourite dish of the night. “Natural pastures ricotta gnocchi” with Dungeness crab and side stripe shrimp, sorrel, snap peas, and confit tomato in a buerre Blanc. The flavours of the vegetables were so clean and so fresh that it felt like I was eating them right off of the vine, but fully coated in delicious butter. Crisp peas, juicy tomato, and sweet crab chunks, the side kicks to a and chewy herbaceous gnocchi.

This was paired with the 40 knots Pinot Gris, which came with the lesson that you get what you pay for when it comes to wine, and the price is reflective of its ingredients. This is a cool climate gris, a dry and zesty white that was gripping with honeysuckle.

And as we waited for the next course, we were surprised with an additional tasting. A little sip of a Champagne-style sparkling. So under ground that it didn’t even have a label. A mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that was incredibly effervescent. An extra dry brut that was prepared traditionally (Old World style), with hints of lime stone.

Next course was a “Marinated seafood salad” with Gallo mussels, Manila clams, local greens, fennel, and 40 Knots’ Chardonnay sabayon. Admittedly, I don’t like salad, but the the creamy dressing and fresh seafood of this had me eating my greens. This was real food. You know it is quality when you can taste everything and altogether they work as something new.

The salad course was paired with more 40 Knots Chardonnay. An oaky white with a deeper hue. It was buttery, soft and oily from the tannins: a milk lactic acid. It also has a hidden bright lemon flavour, allowing it to pair well with any seafood.

Our third course was a “Sablefish mi-fume”, with a mushroom fricasse, local beets, and poultry jus. Everything on this plate was from the island, harvested on Commox or caught off the straight. The white fish was lean, a gentle flavour that wasn’t masked by the equally mild sauce. The mushroom offered a hearty element, with the beets as a refresher.

It was paired with 40 Knot’s Pinot Noir 115, their new batch with labels that include a list of ingredients; something that is not commonly found on a bottle of wine. Their goal, to show the consumer, exactly what it is they are getting and that 40 Knots has nothing to hide. No added chemicals go into their wine, or sugar. This batch is not set in oak, but in Italian terra cotta instead. The resulting earthy notes went especially well with the mushrooms.

Next was our main, the “Braised local grass fed beef cheeks” prepared with garlic scrape pomme puree, and local carrots and radish; all in a lovely thyme jus. This was a beautiful and hearty plate featuring tender and juicy beef with pops of sweet radish. I found the turnip hard to eat, a half bulb you bite a chunk off of.

With this was enjoyed the 40 Knots Stall Speed Meritage. Similar to a Bordeaux in its marriage of five grapes from Bordeaux. Layne loves Bordeaux, but sadly is unable to grow the big red grapes necessary on Vancouver island; so he works with another wine maker to engineer this vintage. They went to work blending until they got to a laboratory number closest to his goal of a Chateau Margo. The result, the cheapest red wine he has ever made.

Dessert was another hit. A classic done as comforting and as familiar as you had hoped. “Kehler Farms strawberry and rhubarb tart” with French vanilla glacé. It was a buttery tart carrying a not too sweet filling. The melted ice cream became a nice cream sauce for the tart. I tasted the decorative herb, and found that it reminded me of the skunky nature of cannabis.

Our original dessert wine listed with this is the 40 Kots Fallen Apple, but very last minute Layne decided to mix things up. He swapped it out for a sweet port-like wine that he was excited to share. This was named after “Emily”, a women he and his with wife worked with and knew. Here we got a lesson in “Noble Rot” and the necessity to choose grapes with it, to achieve what we had before us. A sweet beverage with the same amount of sugar as ice wine, but you don’t taste it. It ages well, whereas ice wine doesn’t. And unlike ice wines, this doesn’t doesn’t freeze; the acid molecules hang on to the ice molecules for a heavier, more acidic and fluid wine. This was a fun one to try, it reminded me of apple juice in its sweetness and the way it sits on your tongue.

A few of us wanted to purchase a bottle of it to take home, only to change our minds when we heard it was $100. It was delicious and I loved it, but $100 for a smaller bottle of wine is a splurge that needs consideration. Glad we were gifted a chance to taste it at least.

The meal as a whole was very cohesive, it delivered on their promise of a fantastic feast to celebrates the Seafood Festival. This was a great experience and the most satisfying dinner that I had that weekend. You definitely get your money’s worth here.

 

40 KNOTS Vineyard and Estate Winery
2400 Anderton Road, Comox BC, V9M 4E5
+1 855-941-8810
40knotswinery.com

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