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Vancouver International Wine Festival 2020, Tasting Room

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

Science of Cocktails 2020

Another year at the Science of Cocktails and it continues to not disappoint. This is a one-of-a-kind drink and food fuelled night, hosted within the city’s most iconic dome. Those gathered are here to support underserved schools, raising funds so that school children can have the opportunity to visit Science World. The monies earned cover 50-100% of their admission and transportation, with an estimation that 9,000 kids will be exploring Science World in wonder between 2020-2021. “By the end of this school year, over 30,000 kids will have benefitted from funds raised in the five years Science of Cocktails has been running”, (as taken from the event’s press release).

“All proceeds from Science of Cocktails, including ticket sales, 50/50 draw, coat check, and silent auction prizes, go to support the Class Field Trip Bursary Program”. With the dedicated event teams, bartenders, and chefs volunteering their time and efforts to make this event successful”. This great cause has already raised $1.2 million dollars cumulatively, thanks in part to selling out the 5 years in a row that they have been doing this.

For those who have yet to attend, this is a great night where guests peruse tables and stands, chatting up the city’s favourite chefs and most talented bartenders. Each of which have created a sensory food or drink experience to be sampled. Each of which showcases science through unique ingredients and/or unorthodox techniques.

This year there were more than 35 cocktail stations and a handful of food stations. So many different stalls that we were unable to visit and cover them all. The following is what we did get to, with a few of my favourites highlighted.

Worth noting is that a lot of the food tables ran out mid way through the night, so you need to work with urgency if you want to hit them all. With a buffet mentality you can pretty much eat and drink as much as you like, tasting it all, and returning for your favourites.

“Empress” gin showcased their colour changing liquor by adding acid in the form of tonic water and lemon. They were able to do this to match Pantone’s current colour of the year: “classic blue” and a purple in “Radiant Orchid”. The colour cards here were a nice touch.

“Monkey Shoulder” whiskey teamed up with Nespresso for a spiked coffee shot, sweetened with pineapple flavoured cotton candy for extra whimsy.

I am forever a fan of “Hendricks” and their romantic branding coupled with a little tongue and cheek sensuality.

“Bombay Sapphire” and “St. Germain” made a cocktail that glowed in the light of a black light bulb.

A robot bartender took precision mixing to a whole new level by making White Russians for its audience.

“Maestro Dobel Tequila” put on a show by adding a lot of smoke to their cocktail.

A similar technique and trend was also used in the “Bubble and Pop” cocktail with flavour adding smoke.

But why drink your cocktail when you can chew it? Especially if they are gelatine shots served by a lucha libre.

“Nutrl vodka” had a three storey tea drip that was eye catching.

And for those who wanted a break from mixed drinks, they could look to “Road 13” for either their red or white pours.

Feeling a little peckish? “El PLTR” impressed your eyes and your stomach with their expansive charcuterie platter. A collection of finger foods in savoury and sweet from meat balls and hummus to fresh fruit and chocolate with nuts. A help yourself smorgasbord that saw a continuous line.

At the “Lazy Gourmet” booth guests had the black ink risotto with salmon crudo, citrus pearls, and fennel dust.

“Emelle’s” catering offered up easy to eat “elemental salad spoons”. Beet and balsamic spheres with an infused extra virgin olive oil and freeze dried plant-based “chèvre”.

“Hapa Izakaya’s” vegan edamame roll was a popular one. A fully loaded sushi roll with edamame, avocado, shiso, oshinko, green beans, rice puffs, and a torched miso sauce.

“Peake of Catering’s”, Chef Michael Chan won best overall dish for his Lobster Terrine with Crystal Bread and Miso Powder. A surreal looking hors d’oeuvre that had you doing a double take, wondering if you were going to be eating plastic.

And as you sipped and nibbled you have the option of taking in scientific demonstrations like the “Reuben’s Tube, where sound waves create spectacular columns of flames”. And at the centre stage there were a variety of shows at predetermined time slots, like the tricky bartending. All the regular exhibits were also open for interacting with as well.

Like the feature exhibit, which is the new “LEGO Towers or Tomorrow”. This has been transformed to the VIP lounge. A special area with additional activities, live music, and catering for special ticket holders. The extra cost in the ticket gives you extra. And it is well worth it for the ability to sit and relax in a calm space, alone. A respite between the hustle and bustle of this multi-storey event.

It included a stage with live performers, and a lengthy bar offering specialty mixed cocktails only available within.

Here, VIPs could get professional head shots to take home as souvenirs, by “The Near and Dear”. Andrea our artistic director was great at posing her models, and recreating their vision for themselves in black and white.

VIPs also enjoyed additional food the likes of a seafood grazing platter hosted by “Boulevard”. An impressive spread that included fresh shucked oysters, crab legs, and large shrimp. So impressive that it won Chef Roger Ma and his team the title of “Best Presentation”.

There was also a circulating collection of small bites that include foie gras macarons, and later desserts when the night drew to a close. Two bite sponge and mousse, panna cotta, chocolates and gummies.

In short, there is no other event like this, and many reasons why I look forward to it every year. If you have never been, make sure you bookmark the link below to attend next year’s soirée. And if you have, upgrade the experience with a VIP ticket, which is well worth it. Because remember, 100% of your ticket goes towards a great cause.

Check out the more telling vlog, now up on my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

Presale tickets are already available for next year’s event:
When: February 4, 2021
Where: TELUS World of Science | 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC
Price: Presale General Admission tickets cost $135 with a charitable tax receipt of $30. Presale VIP tickets cost $225 with a charitable tax receipt of $125
Tickets: Presale tickets are available until February 28 at https://www.scienceworld.ca/science-of-cocktails/tickets/
Hashtag: #ScienceOfCocktails

Dinner With A View

You have probably seen the photos and videos for this one of a kind dining experience, bouncing around social media. Well it is finally open, and they have now settled in West Vancouver for the season, running from January 15th to February 16th, 2020.

This is “Dinner with a View”, a travelling dinner troupe that sets up and dismantles their domes and its luxe setting, moving from city to city. The chosen location is at Ambleside Park. The lit domes are visible driving up, with plenty of free parking around. Their next destination, after Vancouver is San Francisco. Each stop takes a couple weeks to build, with the staff screwing hexagonal plexi-panels together to form each dome. You book your seat by the round, $200 each with chairs for 6; so basically it is $33.33 per person. Dinner is separate, at $109.99 per person. It is prepared by 2019’s “Top Chef Canada” winner: Paul Moran; who is traveling with the troupe on its North American tour.

The menu is a surprise with the ability to simply choose between meat, fish, or vegetarian for your entree. They are calling this a “blind tasting”, but you can continue reading to see what you can actually expect from this luxury experience. Or better yet, watch my vlog recap, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Get the behind the scenes look and the real deal feel, to see if this one is worth attending yourself. On that note, tickets and seatings are still available until February 16, at 7pm and 9:30pm.

 

Despite your seating time, I highly recommend coming down earlier to take in the scenery and grab a drink at their pop up bar. Not only does this extend your time amongst the domes, but it also allows you to take some memorable shots before dinner, as to not take away your time within a dome.

The bar is serviced by a lone bartender offering up mixed cocktails from prominent spirits brands and/or wine. We started with the “Ketel One Bontanical” grapefruit spritz and the “Tanqueray” gin “sevilla tonic”. Well enjoyed with mood lighting and stand up tables. We then moved on to red and white wine by “Frico”. I enjoyed the medium bodied red with good mailability. Each was an easy drinking wine that transitioned from a stand and sip beverage, to the pairing for each of the three courses to come.

Our entire time slot stood and chatted, while servers cleared tables and tidied up from the service before. As we sipped and lingered, we were given table numbers that corresponded to the number on one of the domes. And when time, we were ushered to our dome, entering, after unzipping the doorway flap.

Our dinner night came with heavy rain and flooded roads. The packed earth each dome sat on was muddy, pooled with pockets of water that made it hard for some to get to their designated seats. Worth nothing is that you don’t get to choose your dome, and that each is decorated slightly different from the next. Different furniture and different faux plants. Our dome had orange chairs with cushions, black and white geometric throws, and plastic cacti in a white planters. Others were outfitted with long tables and shared benches covered in faux fur. Some were extra tropical with plenty of faux foliage. But each with blankets, a portable heater, and a fire extinguisher. Each dome does get warm with the enclosure sealed, and the 6 person body heat moving about and drinking. The quarters are quite close, so I highly recommend arranging a dinner with people you actually want to be sealed off in a dome with.

As for which dome you get, it doesn’t really matter in my opinion. From where they were set up you don’t get much of a view: beach, parking lot, or otherwise. It was too dark to enjoy anything, and you are caught up in conversation with your table mates sitting across from you anyways.

Your meal begins with a welcome introduction from your server, who confirms your order and brings your drinks at cost, or water in still or sparkling. The food then comes out fairly quick. Smaller plates balanced on the arms of a couple of staff members. Larger servings wheeled out in a caddy, much like aboard a plane being severed by a stewardess.

The entire menu is inspired by Chef Paul Moran’s home town of Tofino, BC. A very vegetable-forward menu, utilizing his favourite ingredients, with several being hand foraged by our chef himself. Served alongside produce and products that are currently in season, this winter. He promises a meal that speaks directly to Vancouver and Canadian cuisine. Overall, I liked everything just fine for a farm to table feast, but it lacked the richness of a luxe experience in the cold winter weather. The menu felt string forward, if not summer ready. I expected stews instead of salads, red meat instead of lean protein, and a chocolatey rich dessert to close on, instead of fresh fruit. My review is written with that perspective, and consider what is before me, as is.

We began with a lovely fermented sourdough bread, served with a Tofino seaweed butter. As a fan of the tangy-sour fresh bread, I liked this take, especially with the unique sea salted flavour of the butter.

Our appetizer was a dairy-free, vegan salad, that played on beef tartar. A beet root salad with gala apples, crispy sun chokes, winter greens, and salsa verde. It was a lovely start, with plenty of fresh vegetables. Great as a palette refresher, better as a side. But as an appetizer this was too much of the same thing, on one plate.

The entree is based on what you preselected when you purchased your tickets. Vegetarians got a crispy ginger and soy tofu dish with all the same sides as the two dishes below. Rice and greens in a garlic and sesame sauce, with morel mushrooms on the side. The following are the meat and fish options.

For “meat” you get a crispy Fraser Valley boneless chicken breast, brined over night for more flavour. Served with a smokey and sweet mustard with tarragon, yellow German fingerling potatoes, heirloom carrots, celery root, morel mushroom, and a sabayon sauce (typically an Italian dessert made from eggyolk, white wine, and sugar). The mushrooms are foraged by Chef Moran, and his foraging company. These were my favourite part of this dish. All the chicken breasts were not prepared equally. I found mine especially dry, and that of my diner mate’s were more moist. Overall, it tasted exactly as it looked, and how it reads. Simple and clean, where as I was looking for some complexity, and some more starch to have along with the meat and vegetables.

Instead, I highly recommend the miso and maple marinated black cod. Served on a bed of black forbidden rice with pickled heirloom radish, a sesame and yuzu emulsion, and asian greens (boy choy) in a garlic sauce; all topped with sesame seeds. Here, we got a lesson on the rice: it being rich in antioxidants, and originally only for the emperor of China’s consumption, hence the name. The miso sauce is strong, but necessary to flavour the rest of the dish. The fish was cooked beautifully with a nice golden brown crust, it had the artistry and refined feel that I wanted from the chicken above. It certainly matched my expectations of the experience, and the pedigree I expect from a “Top Chef” winner.

Dessert was more simple, a tropical and light fruit dish that I would expect on an outdoor summer menu. A Madagascar vanilla and lime marinated pineapple with in-house made coconut mousse and crumble; dusted with blackberry and mint to finish. It was gluten-free and dairy-free; and curated to help you leave the table with a clean palette, and the ability to “do some dancin’ after”. Sweet pineapple, airy coconut foam, and toasted crumbs for crunch. It tasted good and was as intended, but I just wanted something more decadent to end on.

Luckily, we had one more surprise to come. A cocoa powder dusted, house made truffle. Bitter dark chocolate with bite.

Worth noting is that I had a similar contrasting experience between the dinner service and the washrooms. Located at the park, the facilities were the public ones available to the everyone. There aren’t many alternative options here, but it certainly took you out of your element fast. Although I still prefer this to any Porto-potty.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend the experience, I have yet to dine in a setting quite like this. A great date night solution and upcoming Valentine’s Day destination, with the option to rent out an entire dome for two. Where dinner is equipped with a menu that caters to dietary restrictions, with lots of seafood and veggies. For more on this limited release event and how you can still get tickets, visit the link below.

DINNER WITH A VIEW
https://www.dinnerwithaview.ca/en/vancouver

Science of Cocktails 2020, media preview

I braved the falling snow and icy roads of Vancouver to attend the sneak peek of this year’s Science of Cocktails. It is one of my favourite events of the year. It combines my love of drinking and cocktails with the joys of exploring Science World with child-like wonder.

Tonight, we would get a closer look at 7 of the participating vendors and what they will be offering on February 6th (the actual night of the event). Three food options, and four creative drinks made utilizing science.

Although it may look like just look like it’s all fun and games, this event is actually in support of a good cause: the Science World Field Trip Bursary. Over the years they have raised funds so that children from underfunded schools can attend field trips to Science World, bus ride and all. And this year are anticipating the total raised to climb to over $1,000,000.

Tonight, all festivities were held in the “Eureka Hall”. A interactive space set up with stations for guests to explore and engage. You had the opportunity to chat up representatives from restaurants/bars, and liquor brands; as they talked you through their food and drinks and the science that plays a part in bringing either before you tonight.

To watch all the fun, check out my latest drinking vlog, where we test out anti-asian glow pills. And what better place that at an event that starts cocktails as the main attraction!

Cam Brown of “Ballyhoo Public House” was preparing whiskey sours with “Jim Beam Black” and a power drill. Jim Beam Black, lemon, pineapple juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and tiki bitters. The trick serves as a great way to make drinks in bulk for a larger crowd.

Bartender Jonathan Smolensky of “Sovereign Wine & Spirit” was utilizing butter and popcorn in a whole new way. The concept is called “fat washing”, where the flavour of butter is infused with “Appleton Rum” and served with coke and malice acid-dusted popcorn. This was my favourite drink of the night in terms of flavour. Zesty lime, savoury salt, and the familiar syrupy-ness of coke cola, all mixed together. The popcorn also made for a great snack.

Bartender Trevor Kallies from the “Donnelly Group” and “Martin Kovalcik from “Glowbal” sweetened their Old Fashion with honey and beeswax. Made with “Lot No. 40 whiskey”, honey bitters, sugar, and beeswax. A strong cocktail that had me puckering.

At the “Boodles” Gin booth, Royston Greatorex of “Sai Woo” was making “cocktail caviar” with reverse spherification. A syringe of honeydew juice gets squeezed into a bowl of citric acid solution, sodium alginate, and calcium chloride. And the end result is little hardened pearls to add into a shot of gin. It made taking this back fun, with the texture of the juice balls to chew through.

And to pair with all these drinks there were also food vendors offering small bites. Like Chef Ellie Jubene and Lilian Chow of “EL PLTR” who utilized their entire station with a impressive spread. A large grazing table featuring their most popular bite sized appetizers, cheese and meat charcuterie, veggies and dip, fruit and salty snacks, and a handful of sweets. You picked and choose your way through the stunning assortment, taking only what you wanted from pigs in a blanket, Mac and cheese, quiches, turkey meatballs, a Greek salad and hummus dip with pita, and a vanilla and chocolate marble cake. They even included more exotic elements like dragon fruit and real honey comb. I was taken aback and got real excited just seeing all the food before me. Served room temperature it was all good. I cannot wait to see what they bring to the actual event on February 6th.

Executive Chef Jasmin Porcic and Sous Chef Mark Amos for “Edge Catering” prepared “Sous vide beef short ribs” with a maple cider glaze, peated whiskey pearls, and smoked butter powder. For the vegetarians they had a smoked mushroom version. The short rib was a moist mouthful elevated by the buttery crisp of the crumbs, and the distinct sharp flavour of the whiskey that was better highlighted with applewood smoke.

And the development and training Chef at the Donnelly Group, Sarah Stewart was on site torching up “Aburi high tea sandwiches” in both white and brown bread. Equipped with a searzall and a blow torch she gave each sandwich an even sear. It was quite the show. Each perfectly rectangular sandwich was stuffed with a fried chicken salad, and topped generously with a spicy mayonnaise. I was impressed by how soft the bread was, even after its toasting. A creamy and gooey stackable snack, that had me wishing they were offered at more high tea salons.

For entertainment there were science demos to shock and awe. Lycopodium Fireballs made from fuel, oxygen, heat, and a willing mouth to blow it all together. From out of a tube came a 2-3 foot fireball, up into the air. We also played with bubbles. They were blown by hand and showcased a rainbow within, when on the light table. And we were then able to put your bartender skills to the test with a blind free flow pour challenge. Guessing how much 2oz is by feeling alone.

And once again you had free rein of the hall to play and explore as you would as any visitor to Science World. Today this included the electro static orb, the giant piano board you play with the feet, and a two way mirror that changes its reflection with light. But we had the most fun standing in front of the heat sensing camera.

With all this only being a 2 hour teaser, I can only imagine what the actual night will be like on February 6th. 4 hours to drink, eat, play, and mingle at your own pace. A cocktail attire party within the iconic ball of Science World. With a long list of participating bartenders and restaurants, there is plenty to keep you busy the duration of the night. So splurge on the VIP tickets to gain access an hour earlier and entry to the VIP lounge. The latter is a designated area with its own exclusive bartenders and restaurants. Ones that regular ticket holders won’t get access to. And based on what I have witnessed year’s past, it is definitely worth the cost, and the donation to this charitable effort.

To get your ticket and learn more on how to support Science World, visit the link below.

TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC
https://www.scienceworld.ca/cocktails/tickets
#ScienceOfCocktails

Vancouver International Wine Festival Taste

This Monday night, I braved the cold and snow for a taste of what’s to come at this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival. Held between February 22nd and March 1st, 2020 the festival brings wine writers, industry professionals, and drink enthusiasts from all around the world to Vancouver’s doorstep. And tonight at “The Loft at Earls Yaletown” we would learn what the show runners have in store for the occasion’s 42nd year.

The event not only offers the ability to discover new wines and to connect with wine makers through tastings. But you have the opportunity to sign up for seminars, dinners, lunches, and soirées as well. After all wine is a social beverage.

For today’s tasting it was a self serve affair. 13 different countries were represented across 34 different bottles, each tagged with twine and a label. The label listed the name of the bottle, which events it will be featured at, its principal, and all of the accompanying social media tags.

This year’s feature is on French wines, so there were two tables dedicated to those bottles, with a spotlight on rosé. The wines here all represent a variety of grapes and regions. But unfortunately, I won’t be going through them all, as truth be told, I wasn’t able to try the lot of them. And plus, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone planning on attending a tasting or two themselves. For me, half the fun is trying everything for myself, unclouded by descriptions and opinions. Not to mention everyone’s palette is different, so just because I taste coffee and tobacco, it doesn’t mean you can’t identify red berries and roses. The following are a few of the bottles offered tonight in pictures. Organized by the country they hail from.

   

And to nibble on as we sip, “Earls” served up a cheese and fruit charcuterie, mini quiches, and macarons for dessert.

But for more visuals, check out my latest drinking Vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

At the peak of the event we heard from the president of the International Wine Festival. He spoke to what we could expect, and the excitement of what’s to come with such enthusiasm that it elevated the room. As in previous years, the proceeds of the event will go to help fund the popular recreational performances of “Bard on the Beach”. And the chair of that board was even here to night, to show his support.

The actual International Wine Festival will house over 42,000 bottles from over 162 wineries to both taste and buy. There will be 700 wines in the grand tasting room alone. With the feature being on French wines, the keynote speaker will hail from the South of France. And popular wine journalist, Andrew Jefford will also be in attendance for his first year, experiencing BC wines at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

As in year’s past, if you decide to purchase any bottles or cases, you can have it shipped to your nearest liquor store. So you can basically have it sent to anywhere in BC. So you can shop to your heart’s delight, and not have to worry about how you will be getting it all home. After all, with all the wine about, you probably aren’t planning on driving. Another solution to avoid driving is to stay at any of the hotels downtown. And if you book a night through http://vancouverhotels.com during the event, you get a complimentary ticket to the show.

For more on this week long celebration, and how to get your own passes to Canada’s premier wine show, February 22-March 1, visit the link below. A number of events are already sold out, but there are many more still available, like the one featuring chilled red wines!

“The wine world will be here”, will you be too?
https://vanwinefest.ca/

What to eat at Aurora Winter Festival 2019

It has been a month since my original visit to the Aurora winter festival, now at its new home on the fair grounds of PNE/Playland. And since then, there has been several new food trucks that have parked themselves by the erected tents of their outdoor food pavilion. So today I was bearing the sprinkling rain to check out what is new and worth trying, with a focus on exclusive items you can only get at Aurora.

To skip the reading, check out my latest taste test vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

In the order of what we tried, we started our tour at the “Cannoli King”, a PNE staple with their commissary located nearby. Pipping crispy chips on the spot, they are serving up a few of their most popular flavours, and a trio of seasonal offerings.

The “cranberry, orange, and pecan” cannoli was fragrant and sweet. Tangy and refreshing, easy to finish from first bite to last. I can see this being the most widely well-received.

The gingerbread was a lot more heavier, but not overwhelmingly so. A lighter hint of gingerbread for those who are not fan of the zestier, more memorable spices used in this classic.

I am a fan of egg nog, so was happy to have this rendition taste exactly as I expected it to. Given how creamy the filling is, I was surprised by how it all stayed within the airy shell. An easy to eat treat, if you take it all in one bite, although it does get messy otherwise.

Next, we visited the food truck of one of the most popular doughnut shops in Vancouver. They have brought all their best selling cake doughnuts to Aurora, including their vegan and gluten-free options. Apple fritter, earl grey, vanilla bean, and double chocolate.

And with them they have two Aurora exclusives. The “haskap berry shortbread” doughnut and the “dulce honeycomb”. “Haskap” is a tart and juicy berry only available in BC, it is most commonly known as Japanese honeysuckle, here it was sweetened, and reminded me of a raspberry/blueberry combo. The shortbread in the name comes from the crushed cookie dust sprinkled over the glaze. Good, but I would have liked more shortbread in the actual doughnut ring. Although/otherwise, this was a lovely doughnut to pair with tea.

But between the two, the “Dulce Honeycomb” was my favourite. Visually it was stunning, fully loaded with plenty of crispy and airy honeycomb pieces to crunch through. The doughnut and glaze were the perfect base; not too sweet to overwhelm, just great doughy breading to balance out the sweetness.

We then moved on to a some hot beverages to help keep us warm, gravitating to the “Drink Coffee” sign of “Green Coast Coffee”. Here, they are proud that their teas, coffee, and holiday beverages all made with natural ingredients.

More than just black coffee they have a “cookie butter latte” and “winter spiced fog”. And for hot chocolates they have stepped it up a notch with the likes of a macadamia nut hot chocolate and a hazelnut dark chocolate. The former made with fresh macadamia nut mylk and white chocolate. The latter is fresh hazelnut mylk and dark chocolate. Each, dessert in a glass, with the nut mylk made right on their cart. Rich and chocolatey they warmed you as you drank.

For something a little lighter, and a bit more seasonal, I highly suggest their scratch made apple cider, featuring a blend of five different apples. A full bodied, warm apple juice, flavoured with a healthy dusting of cinnamon.

For something more substantial look to “Reel Mac & Cheese”, another PNE staple representing for the winter season. They are known of gooey cheddar cheese macaroni, topped with a variety of ingredients; with each combination given a name after a movie, celebrity, or pop culture reference. The “Godzilla” came with Japanese mayo and seaweed, “Snoop Dogg” has hot dogs slices and a panko Parmesan crunch; and “Kevin Bacon” naturally had bacon, and lots of it.

But today it was all about their Aurora feature, named with a Christmas twist. These are sample sizes, so rest assured you will get more in your full order. The “Grinch” was their classic gourmet cheese macaroni topped with crunchy broccoli florets and crispy onion. The vegetables were a healthy twist. Good, but not all that much different from a regular Mac and cheese in flavour.

I preferred the “Bad Santa”. The same mac and cheese base as above, but now topped with cubes of glazed ham and pineapple. If you like Hawaiian pizza, you would like this. Salty and sweet, I wouldn’t mind a scoop of marinara sauce to have it come around full circle.

And I was excited to finally try the “Shameless Buns”, the popular Filipino-inspired food truck built from an actual jeepney. I have been hearing much about them, so was exited to get into their menu and try some of their buns, but will have to come back another day to do so. They have their entire regular menu available here, including their popular spam fries and various adobos. As well as an entire, secondary Christmas menu, only available during their time at Aurora. Sausage, lumpia, and French toast with pandan and condense milk.

But today we only got a taste of their “Adobo fries”, a popular, regular menu item. Long and thin fries topped with braised chicken adobo, adobo gravy, garlic calamansi aioli, garlic chips, tomato, and green onion. It reminded me of nachos with the diced tomato, but with pulled chicken. It didn’t have the richness I expected from an adobo. And it was hard to eat with all the chopped up ingredients, and no vehicle to scoop them up with. I wanted more sauce. Luckily they had their banana ketchup at the ready. Made with real tropical bananas, it had the tang of ketchup and a unique sweetness. Different and interesting, nothing like I have had before. It was what made the fries memorable for me.

Looking for a more savoury meals? “Meat & Bread”, another popular Vancouver cafe has also moved in to Aurora. Their black truck with their origami-esque logo is eye catching, their brand easily recognizable. Here, their most popular sandwich options are named after its main protein. Porchetta, ham hock, and their “vego” vegetarian option is available.

But the one to get, and the one that is exclusive to their time at Aurora is the “Hot Turkey”. Like dinner between crusty bread. This was shredded turkey meat, a brown butter yam purée, their homemade cranberry spread; and a “winter slaw” with purple cabbage, carrot, red and green peppers, and kale. Be warned, this gets messy, with jus running down your hands. Delicious and filling. But for my personal tastes, I would have liked it more salty, maybe even with a side of gravy to dip into.

And last but not least, we finished our food tour with another Christmas market staple: the chimney cake. Specifically the ones from “The Praguery” who roll, bake, spread, and sprinkle each on location. Covered in cinnamon, coconut, or crushed almond; you can choose your topping and what filling you want smeared within, if any. Nutella or lemon available for extra.

The combination of the shredded coconut and lemon was both refreshing and tropical. The lemon filling was especially strong, like what you would get in a lemon meringue pie, but without the sweetness of the meringue to balance out the tartness. I also didn’t like the texture of the jagged, dried coconut contrasting the chewy dough. I prefer the chimney cake as is: warm dough baked golden brown.

Although, I couldn’t say no to getting the Aurora exclusive version. Their cinnamon and sugar coated chimney cake, dipped topped first into melted white chocolate and made more festive with a generous dusting of red and green sprinkles. Thankfully you only get a quarter of it in chocolate, as it was fairly sweet for my tastes.

There are many more food trucks to explore at Aurora, these were just the handful that had exclusive menu items worth bringing your attention too. I highly suggest making a night of it. Coming early for dinner, followed by enjoying the glowing lights as the sun sets early, then looping back for a drink to warm up to, or a sweet treat to go.

I didn’t spend too much time exploring the grounds, but did notice a few changes advertised on their social media page like face painting and new vendors to shop with. And today, their popular rainbow light tunnel was transformed into a different interactive experience. Now in shades of blue with a smoke machine, the lights dance and strobe to the beat of the music playing overhead. But still just as much of a photo op. So for those who have already visited once, they are keeping it fresh with new reasons to stop by again. And keep in mind, they are only around for two more weeks, shuttering down for the season on January 5th, 2020.

For what else you can expect from this winter wonderland extravaganza, checkout my recap of all the performances and photos ops during my first time around.

Aurora Winter Festival at the PNE

AURORA
2901 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V5K 5J1
(604) 253-2311

Aurora Winter Festival

Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine

I am really impressed by and excited for all the new and interesting ways Science World is bringing in more guests to the dome. More than just a place for exploration, geared towards children; they are now hosting a lot more adult themed events, later in the evening as well. I especially like the ones that combine drinking with learning; and their latest venture is one such program.

For the first time this fall, Science World teamed up with five of British Columbia’s most acclaimed wineries to “uncork” the science behind their incredible wines that we enjoy. Mission Hill Family Estate, CedarCreek Estate Winery, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Martin’s Lane Winery, and Road 13 Vineyards were all on site.

The night was a self guided tour, you explored tables and chatted with vendors at your leisure. There were also 4 different seminars to take in throughout the night. Despite the limited release of tickets, the space filled up fast and lines formed quick. The conversation and queries did slow down the pouring. So for those interested in next year’s event, and will be attending with a more informative slant, I highly suggest coming by early. The goal is to hit your favourite wineries first and quick, before it gets busy with a thirsty crowd. A crowd that is here to drink at a one of a kind setting (much like myself).

At the “Mission Hill Family Estate” booth, winemaker Ben Bryant showcased wines from their award winning: 2019 ‘Canadian Winery of the Year.

Winemarker Taylor Whelan was here representing “CedarCreek Estate Winery” and their three decades of winemaking history in the Okanagan. He was speaking to their estate-grown, organically farmed wines.

 

“CheckMate Artisanal Winery” and winemaker Philip McGahan spoke to harnessing the effects of climate change to produce Canada’s first-ever, perfect, 100-point score for a table wine.

“Martin’s Lane Winery’s winemaker Shane Munn uses gravity to produce the exceptional wines that have captured the ‘World’s Best Pinot Noir’ trophy in London.

At the “Road 13 Vineyards” table, General Manager Joe Luckhurst was pouring their award-winning wines, as the winner of the 2018 ‘Canadian Winery of the Year’.

And together, through seminars, tastings, and hands-on activities, these renowned winemakers and viticulturists showcased the science, craftsmanship, and terroir that make Okanagan wines so extraordinary.

And because what is drink without food? – to pair with all your drink tasters, chefs from two of the region’s best estate restaurants: “Terrance” (Mission Hill) and “Home Block” (CedarCreek) were on hand, serving samples of their cuisine, assembled to order.

From “Terrance” there was a “Wild boar shoulder and pine mushroom” dish with white bean and coriander. For the vegetarians they left out the boar and the dish ate like a cassoulet. There also offered a sweet corn and scallop chowder, but unfortunately I missed out on capturing and tasting it.

From “Homeblock” they were assembling a “pork, veal, and beef polpette” with orzo, parmesan, and gremolata. Saucy and comforting, it made for a wonderful pair with all the reds I was drinking.

I really liked the “potato, comte, sage, and onion tart”, finished off with truffled estate honey. Flaky pastry with a fragrant centre. In hindsight, I should have went back for seconds.

For something more refreshing, the “seared and marinated halloumi” ate like a salad. Mixed greens tossed with beets, blood orange, fennel, olives, and parsley; and finished off with a generous slab of the semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

And for those looking for a place to rest, there was a sparkling wine lounge to relax in. A series of couches over looking a bar, with multiple bottles of sparkling from various wineries. I just wished there was a seminar or exhibition here, something more to speak to this specific subsection of wine.

For more action attendees could bid on a silent auction, test their taste buds through blind tastings, and get their hands dirty with science activities developed by the Science World team.

But as for the seminars, they started on the hour, every hour. We were only able to take in 3 out of the 4 and following is the recap of each. “Synthesis: The Science of Blending Wine”, “Evolution: The Science of Aging Wine”, “Innovation: Technology and the Modern Organic Vineyard”, and “Terroir: The Science of Soil”.

At “Synthesis: The Science of Blending Wine” we were given a crash course in blending our own mixed red, by one of “Mission Hill’s” wine markers. She declared it the most exciting part of her job. She gets to take all different kinds of components and meld them together to make the best product she can. Blending helps to create distinctive wines with complex textures and flavours that reflect specific varietals and vineyards. We learned about the decisions that are made during blending, then got to try it ourselves, first had.

Seated in a classroom setting we were each given four reds to work with. The Cab sab was described as a structural wine. The Syrah a fragrant wine with blueberries and spice notes; it is the 2nd most used, dominant varietal. The Cab franc had fine tenants and herbal notes with crush herbs. And the merlot made for a good base with its use of beautiful red fruit.

The challenge was to recreate their “2016 Quatrain” blend through mixing and tasting. So with a syringe and a beaker we sent about siphoning our mix, taking into consideration that different vineyard sites will taste different, and that the barrels used will also effect the outcome. Both points we would dive more into through our next two seminars.

At “Evolution: The Science of Aging Wine” seminar we dove into the science of aging and the use of vessels to do it. Wine changes continuously as it moves from grape to bottle, and even more so within the bottle. We learned how the various techniques and vessels used to age it, as well as the passage of time, affects the resulting wine. Then, what causes the distinct aromas and flavours that characterizes a fine wine. When preparing wine and allowing it to ferment, your choice in vessel and its composition makes a big difference. Stainless steel, French oak, concrete, or ceramic and clay. How long the wine stays inside, and if it will spend additional time within another vessel after, makes a difference.

Our hosts and expert wine makers from “CheckMate Artisan winery” and “Cedar Creek” spoke to their favourite techniques for fermentation and shared their personal experiences. How each vessel used needs to be breathable so that gas can be exchanged. And that the tighter the grain is in wood, the more it slows down the oxygen exchange. This leads to a longer and slower aging process, which also tends to be more costly. We also learned that the main difference between a concrete “egg” or steel tub is temperature. Concrete can absorb heat, leading to moderate fermentation. Its lowered temperature allows more time for fermentation extraction. And the difference between aging wine in barrels or concrete is tradition and how much carbon dioxide is able to seep in. With 4 inches of concrete, air is slower to seep into wine when using a concrete vessel. Therefore, wine earns most of its flavour from maturing in a wooden barrel.

We then got to try the difference that said vessels made. As we sipped and swirled, we learned about “aromatic retentions”, and getting the flavour of the fruit you put into it. Our next round of tasters had us trying more fermented wines using wild yeast. The first was pure fermentation in stainless steel, which does not have a flavour to rub off on to the wine. The second glass had the same wine and grapes, but it tasted much different due to the influences from the barrel that was used to complete its fermenting on.

Then it was off to our last seminar of the night. “Terroir” is the “The Science of Soil”. Ancient volcanic and glacial soils, combined with the unique climate of the Okanagan Valley, makes it one of the “last great undiscovered wine regions the world”. And here, we were able to learn how the multitude of soil types found throughout the valley impacts the vines. Thus resulting in incredible wines with distinct character. For this workshop, both of our presenters travelled all the way from the Okanagan, where they work and live out of Kelowna. Collectively they are responsible for grapes grown on the northern part of Okanagan, Naramata, and Lake Country.

We discussed different soil types, and since this was a hands on seminar, we got to touch jars of it, rolling fine grains and rocky chunks between our fingers. And as we handled dirt we learned about the difference it can make to your crop between sand, silt, and clay. Each has a different mineral make up, which the roots take with them, up into the fruit. Ie: the soil found closer to lakes is of finer particles. The ground at higher elevations is more rock. And a good glass of Pinot noir can reveal how good it is and where it is grown through its taste.

Sadly we didn’t have the time to capture the last seminar on our list, “Innovation: Technology and the Modern Organic Vineyard”. This workshop was a discussion on precision organic farming and the use of state-of-the-art technology. It spoke to how technology is affecting traditional practices, and creating an improved crop as a result. Ie: drones in the vineyard.

In conclusion, this was a great event and one that I hope they repeat again next year, and the years to come. “Uncorked” effectively brought the Okanagan to the city, with a showcase that spoke to the bounty of BC’s wine country. Plus, consumers these days are very concerned about how their food and drinks are being produced and what goes into each. So here, Science World offered the platform and the opportunity to learn more about wine; allowing you to appreciate your next glass more. I highly recommend attending next year’s “Uncorking”, and making an effort to sit in on all of the seminars if you can. Not only do you get to learn so much more in a classroom setting. But they are also not short on wine, meaning you need not push your way through a crowd to get some.

Uncorked: A Celebration of the Science of Wine
Thursday, November 14
7–10 pm
Science World at TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver

Tickets $89 from scienceworld.ca/uncorked

The Golden Owl Awards 2019

Tonight I was invited down to the “Rocky Mountaineer Station” for the 12th annual “Golden Owl Awards”, an award dedicated to the hospitality industry.

Its origins are with the “Vancouver Nightlife Awards”, starting in 2004. From there it steadily grew to become “the most anticipated industry event in Vancouver”, (as taken from their website). And in 2016, it evolved into what it is today, “The Golden Owl Awards”, highlighting the best of Vancouver’s hospitality industry. The award allows the industry leaders and trailblazers to recognize one another through a night of heavy drinking and playful poking of fun towards one another. It also brings together many of Vancouver’s hospitality owners, managers, and staff; under one roof for a dressed up and festive evening.

The Golden Owl Hospitality Awards winners are voted on by both public and industry panel voters. Public voters represent a 40% weight and the industry panel has as 60% weigh in. Industry Panelists are not allowed to vote in any categories that are in a conflict of interest with. This panel was first brought in for the 2012 showcase, after they felt it was needed to curb the “popularity” vote. Having a panel that determines each winner with a 60% weight curbs the ability for nominees to campaign. Therefore those who win do so because they focus on being the best at their jobs, rather than campaigning for votes from the public.

The rules to being nominated are as follows. (All taken from their official Golden Owl website)

  • All establishments must have been open for at least ONE year, or if they have moved into a new establishment, their previous establishment under the same name must have been open for at least ONE year, EXCEPT for Best New Destination.
  • Best New Destination must have opened between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • All establishments or businesses must be located within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • All Events must have taken place between September 15, 2018 and September 19, 2018
  • All Managers, Bar Personalities and Breakout Artist of the Year must live within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), and Artists must have performed at least three (3) times within the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD).
  • Managers and Bar Personalities must have employed between September 15, 2018 and September 14, 2019
  • Social Event of the Year is not a music based festival or based around a band, DJ or a group of entertainers and had a minimum attendance of 750 people.
  • DJ Event of the Year is an actual DJ performance, not an overall music festival, though the DJ performance can have taken place at a music festival, night club, or other venue.
  • All establishment nominees in the following categories: Best Late Night Lounge, Best Hotel Lounge and Best Pub must serve food, beer and liquor.
    Best Atmosphere includes restaurants, lounges, pubs, brewery tasting lounges and serves food and/or beer and liquor.
  • Best New Destination includes restaurants, brewery tasting lounges, hotel lounges and nightclubs.
  • Best Subculture Venue has a focus on culture, be it music, food or beyond.
  • Best Live Music Venue can be a multi-function venue, but has a primary focus of booking live music acts to perform that serves beer and/or liquor.
  • Best Pub does not charge a cover for entry except for special events.

Guests and nominates are invited into the open space to mix and mingle before the award show. The red carpet is rolled out and attendees in their glitziest finery are photographed against a back drop of sponsors.

Art work is on display and there are corners and high top tables for guests to linger at. Event mascots, the “Owlets” greet guests and pose for photos, in light up masks and golden body suits.

Deeper inside the open space with its valeted ceilings and sky high windows, guests are able to roam the room freely. There are a handful of cash bars and liquor brands offering samples to help you loosen up and to set the mood. Take a shot of “Ole Smoky Tennessee moonshine”, try Nude’s latest low calorie drink, or mix Red Bull’s newest seasonal flavour into a cocktail with a help yourself toppings bar.

To mark the occasion a photo booth allowed you to take a photo and customize its frame.

And as VIPs we were given access to the VIP lounge that included coat check, and booths to sample from drink tickets. Behind the partition local beer and spirit companies traded tasters in a plastic reusable cups for vouchers; like “Phillips Brewing” and “Long Table Distillery”.

There was also a seating area with geometric furnishings to linger on. When time, we all gathered before the stage for the main event. Our emcee of the night began by poking fun at the industry’s stereotypes, and followed it up with the commemoration of establishments that have closed down to big disappointment this year.

Then one by one all the categories, their nominees, and winners were declared by a host of presenters. Winners walked to the stage to receive their wooden plaque, and say a few words. And when the show was done everyone piled into party buses to continue the festivities and celebrations well into the night, downtown. I wasn’t able to linger all that much longer, as it was a Monday and I had work the next day. But for the industry and many tonight, this Monday evening was the lead in, into their weekend.

The following is a recap of the award winners and the runner ups. But for more on how you can vote for next year’s nominees, and may be even attend 2020’s gala night, visit their website at https://www.goldenowlawards.com/

BEST ATMOSPHERE
The Parlour
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST HOTEL LOUNGE
The Lobby Lounge – Fairmont Pacific Rim
Runner Up: Reflections – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST PUB
Alibi Room
Runner Up: The Blackbird Public House

BEST BARTENDING PERSONALITY
Katie Ingram – Elisa
Runner Up: Robyn Gray – Rosewood Hotel Georgia

BEST LATE NIGHT LOUNGE
The Keefer
Runner Up: Granville Room

BEST SUBCULTURE VENUE
Open Studios
Runner Up: The Beaumont Studios

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE
The Commodore Ballroom
Runner Up: Fortune Sound Club

BEST NEW DESTINATION
Hotel Belmont
Runner Up: Como Taperia

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
James Langford-Smith – Kissa Tanto
Runner Up: Geordie Howes – Fortune

NIGHTCLUB OF THE YEAR
Fortune Sound Club
Runner Up: Hello Goodbye

BREAKOUT ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Manila Grey
Runner Up: JUNK!

DJ EVENT OF THE YEAR
Skratch Bastid – Bastid’s BBQ
Runner Up: Skrillex – Contact

SOCIAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Runner Up: Deighton Cup

BEST PATIO EXPERIENCE
Reflections – The Garden Terrace
Runner Up: The Local Gastown

BEST DISTILLERY EXPERIENCE
Long Table Distillery
Runner Up: Sons of Vancouver Distillery

BEST SERVICE EXPERIENCE
Chambar
Runner Up: Bao Bei

BEST COMEDY EXPERIENCE
Yuk Yuks
Runner Up: Sunday Service Fox Cabaret

BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE
Download Chicken Shack
Runner Up: Como Taperia

BEST COCKTAIL EXPERIENCE
The Shameful Tiki Room
Runner Up: Keefer Bar

BEST BRUNCH EXPERIENCE
Medina
Runner Up: Jam Cafe Beatty Street

BEST BREWERY EXPERIENCE
Brassneck Brewery
Runner Up: Strathcona Beer Company

RESTAURANT GROUP OF THE YEAR
Toptable Restaurant Group
Runner Up: Kitchen Table Restaurants

Scandinave Spa Bubble Bath, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend my girl friend and I were in Whistler, here to celebrate her birthday, as well as attend “Cornucopia” for the very first time. “Cornucopia” is Whistler’s fall food and drink festival. Combining the two made the weekend all the more fun, and topping it with a spa experience at Scandinave spa was the cherry on top.

“Scandinave Spa” was hosting a “Bubble bath”, and we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be drinking bubbles when being surrounded by them. Although you can’t actually bring your drink to the pools (for safety reasons). However, the ability to visit the infamous spa at night was an experience in itself. But this was a party with guests lounging about the foyer in robes, sipping on unlimited bubbles, snacking on canapés, and bopping along to the jazzy sounds of @lovejennamae singing and playing guitar live.

I know you aren’t supposed to go into the water until 15 minutes after you have eaten, but who can resist this pairing? This it is the stuff goals are made off. The event was a self directed experience, you mixed and mingled either outdoors in the pools or by the fire pits, or indoors at the bar and by the fireplace. There was plenty to do in either arenas, with the ability to socialize. During regular spa sessions there is no talking allowed, tonight guests were more loud and rowdy with the drinks.

The ticket price included access to their exclusive hydrotherapy bath, towels, and robe rentals. At the pools, you are able to carry out your usual spa routine. Following the intermittent hot and cool soaks, plus rest. This is recommend for its traditional Scandinavian healing properties. Here you could gather by the roaring fire pits, swing on one of their hammocks, or get a chill from the stone benches and/or lounge chairs. For something more warmer, there was plenty to lie on indoors, in one of the solariums.

At this temperature and time of day it is easy to identify which are the hot or cold pools. Smokey and mysterious these hot pools was where we flocked to.

Indoors, attendees enjoyed glasses of bubbles from “Haywire Winery”. They were onsite pouring their traditional method sparkling wine, “The Bub” and their “2013 Vintage Bub”. The “Bub” is a bottle fermented and aged using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Grapes grown on cool vineyard sites in Oliver and Summerland. The result, a fresh warming wine with a nice crisp green apple finish. And the “Vintage Bub” was crowned the Winner of Cornucopia 2019’s top bubble award. You were able to try both and enjoy as many refills of either as your heart desired, (just done with moderation and the sake of health and self in mind.)

And as you sipped, you were able to sample from a collection of savoury and sweet canapés that travelled the room. The following were prepared by the “Collective Kitchen” catering team. Everything was delicious. It kept us well fed, yet refreshing and light. Perfect for the pressure to look as thin as possible in your bathing suit. That and it all paired well with our two wine options above.

A curry cashew cream with dukkah. “Dukkah” is combination of nuts, seeds, and ground spices. Together with the cream this morsel was like a little chip, already topped with dip.

The shrimp with salsa verde was a group favourite. Served on a skewer and drizzled with zesty and tangy salsa for an extra refreshing flavour profile.

A slice of cucumber is used as a base for mango salsa, jade radish, and sun choke chips. Another bright bite full of textures to chew through.

I liked the crab with mango cucumber salsa on a potato terrine, and its heartier bite with a caramelized finish.

The Kushi oysters with its persimmon minuet were delicious and memorable.

I also enjoyed the bacon and blue cheese biscuit with avaocado cream and heirloom tomato and radish. The distinct flavour of tangy blue cheese coupled with a sweet salty bacon was noteworthy.

But my favourite canapé was the albacore tuna with leeks on a nori, sesame and squid cracker. Absolutely delicious.

And for dessert, a quarter of a lime tart with huckle berry jam and blackberry garnish was passed around. Luscious and creamy, tangy with citrus and dark berries; it made for a great palate refresher.

So here, we took our time, eating and sipping, all while listening to the live musical stylings of acoustic singer, Jennamae Webb. She took pop hits and top 40’s songs and spun them in her own bluesy soulful sound. She even took on our suggestion/request of hip hop songs done in the same fashion.

In short, this was a whole new way to experience the spa. And I would highly anticipate going back again next year, whist recommending it to everyone else, and anyone already a fan of the property. Scandinave at night, retooled as a pj party with adult beverages was a hit!

But for more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

“The Corridor” with Yew + Sidecut, Cornucopia 2019

We were here for the first weekend of Cornucopia 2019, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival. This is my first time attending the illustrious event. With two week long seminars, tastings, and dinners to attend, it is hard to choose your favourite.

We started the weekend off with a fantastic dinner at the “Four Season Whistler’s” restaurant, “Sidecut”. The restaurant featured several large wooden stumps refurbished into furniture. It gave it a polished rustic feel, alongside the wood floors and stone pillars. We grabbed a seat on one of their high top tables in the lounge. We were early so took the time to take in the bar’s offerings by way of a couple of their custom cocktails. Your drink options are attractively displayed on their elegant menu. High resolution photos of beverages and glasses that told a story through ingredients and presentation; arranged by geographic area.

My guest went “Northeast” for the “Fujisan Highball”. Jonnie Walker Black, yuzu and green apple, Cascade celery bitters, balsam fir and soda. Its glass is decorated with pine and a feather held in place with twine. Inspired by Japan’s flora landscape, the refreshing cocktail is finished with two spurts of pine scent. And with it came the ability to breathe in the drink before tasting it.

I went Southeast with the “Peak me up”, inspired by South Africa’s soil and its ability to grow quality coffee, bananas, and spices. The very crops that found its way into this cocktail, with great depth. Spiced Bulleit bourbon, artichoke amaro and banana, coconut flowers, cold brew Tanzanian coffee, and Moondog Latin bitters. Great for coffee lovers with the smooth bourbon in tow. Spiced with warmth and finished off with a beautifully sweet caramelized banana slice. So easy and enjoyable to drink, that it felt more like dessert.

We followed both up with a shot of their house gin. Made unique with its blue hue derived from butterfly pea flower. Distilled exclusively for the “Four Seasons Whistler’s”, by “Okanagan Spirits”. An easy drinking gin that went from blue to purple with the addition of tonic water or a squeeze of citrus.

When time, we transitioned to a reception in the dining room. Where, we joined all the other diners here for dinner. We greeted one another and spoke to the excitement of things to come. Clinking glasses of “Fort Berens” sparking rose. For each course to come, the perfect bottle of “Fort Berens” wine came with it.

When time, we all took out seats. Nothing is assigned so it’s first come first served. But those who found their way to the centre of the room were treated to a front row view of our hosts of the night. We were introduced to the Chefs of “Yew” and “Sidecut”, each explaining what course they were bringing to this dinner. Executive Chef Eren Guryel from “SIDECUT Modern Steak + Bar”, and Restaurant Chef Evan Morgan from “YEW seafood + bar”. This would be last collaboration between the two properties, seeing as the Vancouver location will be closing down next year.

Named “The Corridor”, the menu was a journey up the Sea to Sky Corridor (the very route that we took to get us to Whistler today); from Vancouver to Lillooet. And it promised to “take you through 163.13kms of taste”.

We began with a Kusshi Oyster from the oceans around BC, topped with Northern Divine Caviar, as our amuse bouche. A single, perfectly shucked raw oyster sitting of a bed of seaweed, smoky from liquid nitrogen. Quite the presentation, it is just a shame that the smoke was lost under the dim lights.

To pair with it we enjoyed the “Fort Berens” Reserve Riesling 2018. This was a dry white with an beautiful intensity. During its production, the temperature is dropped low, giving it a distinct petroleum nose.

For our next course came another Réservé Riesling. The 2017 vintage was very different due to the warmer weather that year, and the little crop that they yielded. The grapes were very ripe, so the wine turned out with much intensity and an increased sweetness.

Our second course was a single “Dungeness Crab Raviolo”, so good that it left you wanting more with its celeriac cream and Golden Ears Neufchatel. A firm round of stuffed pasta, sitting in a sauce that ate like a creamy chowder. Beautifully done.

Our next glass was a Chardonnay Réservé, that they called “White gold”. 100% of it was made in oak barrels through natural fermentation, and not by artificial yeast. The result is oaky with a rich nose, but not in an overwhelming way.

The Chardonnay elevated the “Lightly Smoked BC Salmon”, which brought our food journey to Howe Sound. An enticing plate with White Dashi, Charred Cucumber, Puffed Grains, Ginger Oil, and Winter Greens. It was a deliciously caramelized sashimi-like salmon with a spicy mayo cream and crispy bites to round out the mouth feel.

Next in our glass was the “Fort Berens Red Gold 2014”, the name, a nod to Lillooet and its connection to gold rush. It is made by drying grapes for weeks in a drying shed, where it lose 30% of the moisture, and it begins to slowly ferment. A medium bodied red, perfect with the steak it was paired with.

Taking us to Pemberton/Cache Creek was our fourth course: “Organic Grass Fed Beef Striploin” served with Pemberton potatoes, and a Cabernet Franc Jus. It was a perfectly cooked, medium rare steak. Juicy and lean with a little bit of fat at either ends. The vegetables with it were hearty and buttery, ideal in rounding out the plate.

Our last glass brought us back to white. The “Light Harvest Riesling” had great acidity, well balanced with sweetness. Its honey notes were akin to our final course: a honey themed dessert.

A “Honey tart” with Honey cremeux, peach jam, pistachio-honey financier, chai crust, peach-Hydromel sorbet, and bee Honey tuile. This marked the end of our Corridor journey at Lillooet. Each element of the dessert featured honey from Lillooet, a milder honey that wasn’t too sweet. This was a fresh dessert with gingerbread-like spices and soften peach. It was a well crafted, and engaging to pick though. I especially enjoyed pulling the almond wings from the candy bees.

Our meal took us from “ocean to alpine” and was immensely well executed. Diner’s definitely got their money’s worth from this. Nothing disappointed and I was sad to see it end.

The experience had me wanting to return to taste from their regular menu. And making plans to do so sooner because “Sidecut” will be introducing their winter menu the first week of December, and it will include a savoury apes ski high tea tower. They worked with an local artists to build a special display to showcase the likes of beef sliders and truffle fries, anything comforting you’d want after a great afternoon of skiing. And all well paired with an outlandishly decked out Caesar.

Worth also noting is the hotel property’s court yard. Here, you can gather around their roaring fire pit and toast some marshmallows on sticks. All while make-believing that you are camping with their own camper in tow.

Both only added to my desire to come back to whistler soon, and next time stay at the “Four Seasons”. And apparently if you do so in one of their residents suites, you have the option of ordering their crockpot dinner. You choose between beef, lamb, or chicken which includes all the accompanying vegetables. You simply order it on the hotel’s app, and it will be waiting for you in your suite. The rich smells of a slow cooking stew greeting you, and offering you a unique, homely touch.

In short this was a great event, one that I would recommend, along with a visit, if not stay at “Four Seasons”. But for more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

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