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Vancouver International Wine Festival

11 Feb

My first experience at the Vancouver International Wine Festival was not a good one. I attended with my sister, years ago, and I can pretty much sum it up with a warning – “Eat before you go”. My memories of the night are very hazy but I did remember enough to go on a month-long detox after attending. It took some time before I could drink white wine again without feeling nauseous. Yeah…it was that kinda night. A classy wine connoisseur it would seem I was not.

Times have changed, I hope, and I am feeling that I can pace myself enough to return to the Wine Festival this month. I am more excited by this year’s festival than previous years because this year they are showcasing France as the theme country and bubbles as the focus. My dreams have come true! As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I LOVE bubbles!! A lot of people save bubbles for special occasions but I’m one of the odd few that actually enjoys drinking it whenever I get a chance.

When I found out that the wine of focus this year is bubbles, it was a no-brainer for me to buy tickets for the International Festival Tasting Room. Apparently there will be 780 wines from 14 countries and more than 110 different “expressions” of bubbles; Champagne, Cavas, Prosecco, Crémants…I do believe I have found heaven.

France, the theme country for 2014.

Make sure to get your tickets ASAP here as they have already sold out for the Saturday night. And don’t be like the old me: eat before you go and pace yourself! If you do go, you’ll find me at one of the many wineries serving bubbles and if I look like I’m not pacing myself, just keep walking. 😉


Araxi’s Long Table Series – Coming to Vancouver!

18 Jun

**As of Saturday, July 13, this event has been cancelled due to licensing issues. Refunds or exchanges for the Whistler events are available. So disappointing!**

Now that I have safely secured my tickets, I can share with you more details about Araxi’s Long Table Series that is going to be held over the summer.

Usually the Long Table events take place in the Whistler area but this year we Vancouverites will not have to travel far in order to enjoy some of Araxi restaurant’s delicious seasonal food and BC wine pairings. On Saturday, July 27, Araxi will be bringing their annual Long Table Dinner to Prospect Point in Stanley Park.

2011’s Long Table Dinner at North Arm Farm – nothing short of spectacular!

Having already attended two of these events (one at North Arm Farm and the other at Rainbow Park) and knowing how fun they can be, I am excited to enjoy this experience closer to home. Tickets are $175 each and, yes, that may seem high but keep in mind that includes a cocktail reception, a four course meal, and wine pairings. Plus, how often do you get to have an alfresco dinner with 300 people?

If you do find yourself in the Whistler area this summer, I highly recommend partaking in one of the Long Table Dinners whilst you are there. The North Arm Farm site is breathtaking and you can participate in a tour of the farm whilst you are there.

 Food from last year’s event

Dessert is always well-executed

The dates for this year are:

Saturday, July 27th – Prospect Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver

Saturday, August 3rd – Lost Lake, Whistler

Saturday, August 17th – North Arm Farm, Pemberton


Neil Henderson, Restaurant Director, 604 932 4540 or
$175.00 per person, per event
(includes reception, wine, four-course menu, tax and gratuity

Hope to see you there!

Long Table, WhistlerLast year’s Long Table at Rainbow Park, Whistler

Edible Canada’s Guest Chef Dinner

16 Mar

Earlier this month I attended a dinner event that I have been wanting to do for years; a Guest Chef Market Dinner at Edible Canada.These group events are held every few weeks in the Edible Canada restaurant/store on Granville Island and offer exceptional value. This is your chance to meet a local chef from BC, such as Vikram Vij of Vij’s or Ned Bell from YEW, and over a few hours they will prepare your multi-course dinner in front of you whilst you kick back and absorb the chef’s knowledge. I chose the evening with Jeff Van Geest, who is the Executive Chef at Miradoro in the Okanagan. Although he now lives in the Okanagan, Jeff was based in Vancouver for a number of years when he owned and operated Aurora Bistro and worked at Diva at the Met.

A hands-on cooking class this is not – as a guest you don’t lift a finger – it is purely a demonstration by the chef and a chance to get to know them in their “happy place”. This was absolutely fine with me. After doing a few cooking classes recently, I was happy to leave the work to someone else. The menu was quite simple (it has to be, he is cooking for 24 people!) but the food was all very good. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I don’t have any pictures to share (although I have some really shitty ones on my Twitter feed), which means that you’ll have to use your imagination!

Sparkling wine on arrival

Course 1: Roasted olives and almonds – paired with Tinhorn Creek Gewurtztraminer 2011

Course 2: A simply lovely crisp pancetta salad of butter lettuce, egg and caper dressing, finished with sourdough crostini – paired with Tinhorn Creek Two Bench White 2011

Course 3: Smoked ham hock terrine – paired with Tinhorn Creek Rosé 2011

Course 4: Roast Polderside Farm Chicken Breast, finished with fried alpindon cheese and olive potatoes, salsa romesco and mojo verde – paired with Tinhorn Creek Two Bench Red 2009

Course 5: Organic pear upside down cake topped with whipped mascarpone cream – paired with Tinhorn Creek Kerner Ice Wine 2011

All of our dishes were paired with Tinhorn Creek wines because Miradoro is the restaurant onsite at the Tinhorn Creek Winery but this isn’t typical. Usually the wines will be from assorted wineries, rather than just focused on one.

If you are looking to attend a dinner that is different from your typical restaurant meal, then try one of these Guest Chef Market Dinners. At $80 per person, the cost is quite reasonable (remember that includes wine) and I left happily full, with a wine buzz in tow. I am now planning to go back for another dinner later in the year but it will be hard to select the next chef that I would like to “meet” as there are many interesting chefs being showcased. Ahh, foodie problems.

Cornucopia 2012 – Big Guns Dinner

11 Nov

It’s baaaaack! Since Wednesday food and wine lovers have been flocking to Whistler to enjoy Cornucopia 2012. Some travelled for the wine events and parties, and others (like myself) travelled for the food. We decided to focus on just one event this year and we chose Araxi’s Big Guns Dinner as we had such a memorable experience last year. We were not disappointed that this was the only event we attended, as Araxi did what it does best, and wined and dined us with carefully selected wines and a well-executed menu.

The reception began at 6pm and we were treated to flutes of Billecart-Salmon “Brut” Champagne and an array of hors d’oeuvre. I was glad to see that Araxi had changed up their selection of hors d’oeuvre as we were quite familiar with them after attending a number of events at Araxi over the past year or so. In constant circulation were cups of sunchoke and potato velouteHollie Wood’s Zen oysters with cucumber pearlsoctopus takoyaki with yuzu mayonnaise, and my personal favourite, the duck liver parfait on brioche.

Once we were seated, the next few hours went by in a dizzying state of plate after plate of gratifying dishes, paired with glasses of phenomenal wines.

Course 1: Trio of Chilled Seafood. Tofino dungeness crab in egg crab with salsa verde, battera sushi of BC albacore tuna with yellowtail, and red tuna tataki with pearls of ponzu. Wine pairing: Casa main “Cipresses Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc 2011, San Antonio Valley, Chile.

Thoughts: The crab and egg crepe was wonderfully light and delicate, and the ponzu pearls added a depth of flavour to the tuna tataki. The wine had a strong bouquet and was a light start to the meal.

Course 2: House Hot Smoked Salmon and Wild Shellfish Soup. Served with Root Down fall vegetables and salmon cavair, fennel pollen, and lemon thyme. Wine pairing: Gaja “Gaia & Rey’ Chardonnay 2009, Langhe, Italy.

Thoughts: The shellfish soup was absolutely divine and the salmon was perfectly cooked throughout. I heard a lot of people talking about how much they enjoyed the Chardonnay, however, I found it was my least favourite wine of the evening.

Course 3: Roasted Saddle of Rabbit and Alba Truffles. Finished with shaved white and black truffles with house made bacon, and Across the Creek farm pomme puree. Wine pairing: Louis Jadot “Corton-Pougets” Grand Cru 1999, Burgundy, France.

Thoughts: Although there were many wonderful dishes throughout the night, this course was my favourite dish of the night. The earthiness of the truffle shaving paired very well with the tender rabbit.

Course 4: Waygu Beef Cheek. Served with North Arm Farm butternut squash and assorted beets and topped with grilled chimichurri sauce. Wine pairing: Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley, USA.

Thoughts: I was in heaven – beef that falls apart on touch and melts in your mouth, paired with a fresh, robust red. What more could you ask for?

Course 5: Moonstruck White Grace Cheese Souffle. Topped with arugula, rosemary, and shallot cream. Wine pairing: Antinori “Pian delle Vigne’ 2006, Brunello di Montalcino, Italy.

Thoughts: It’s hard to get a souffle right, but Araxi did. It was probably the least memorable dish however, just because the dishes before it were so much stronger. The Brunello wine and the wine served with the beef, were my two favourites (along with the Champagne).

Course 6: Valrhona Manjari Chocolate. Dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut and chocolate crust, raspberry gel, and mint syrup. Wine pairing: Fonseca “Vintage Port” 1985, Portugal.

Thoughts: It has been my experience that Araxi excels at desserts. My regret was being so full by this point that I couldn’t finish this delicate mousse. Damn it! It could have also had something to do with shoving many of the petit fours in my mouth. I can’t help myself!!

If you are someone that enjoys food and wine, you really should try to make the effort to get to Whistler next year for Cornucopia. Yes, some of the events will break your budget (Big Guns was $250 before taxes), but Cornucopia also has events for all budgets, including free events. If you do have a bit of extra money to splurge, I would highly recommend Big Guns. Both times that we have been we have been so impressed with the level of service and the quality of the food and wine. Paying for it all beforehand and knowing that you don’t have to worry about it on the night, also adds to the enjoyment. Big Guns is truly the time to kick back and prepare to be spoiled.

Things to do this Fall: Cornucopia!

11 Oct

It’s almost the middle of October and here on the West Coast of Canada the grey clouds and cooler weather have rolled in. It’s hard not to get a little down about the change in the weather but, on the bright side, we did have a great run of sunshine! In an effort to avoid getting blue, I’m going to focus on the good things that are coming up over the next few months; Halloween, Christmas, a trip to Las Vegas, and Cornucopia!

You might remember that November is the month that Whistler celebrates its food and wine festival, Cornucopia. This year is no different and from November 7 until November 11, Whistler will be buzzing with the hum of excited foodies and wine connoisseurs. Last year was my first year at the event and we had a blast attending two events, Araxi’s Bubbles and Oceans, and Araxi’s Big Guns Dinner. Big Guns was an epic feast with wine pairings that was easily one of the best meals that I had last year. It did take some convincing, especially as we just returned from New York, but we just booked our tickets to the Big Guns Dinner again this year!

Here are some pictures from last year’s event to tempt you…

Spice roasted yarrow meadow duck breast served with a pheasant and duck boudin blanc (sausage).

Stuffed truffle gnocchi with house made ricotta cheese, potato foam, and a quail egg.

Valrhona nyangbo chocolate with vanilla bean ice-cream.

Considering what a great evening we had last year, I am really looking forward to it again this year. If you find yourself looking to kill some time (and money) before the snow season starts, plan a trip to Whistler. Cornucopia has a huge variety of events, including wine seminars, gala events, farm trips, night markets, artisan markets, and chef dinners, so there is something for everyone, and every budget.

Get your tickets here!

Feast of Fields

11 Sep

After five years of living in Vancouver, I finally made it to a well-known annual foodie event; Feast of Fields. The reason I could make it this year and not previous years, was that there is now a “Feast Bus” – an affordable shuttle that transported eager foodies to the location of this year’s event, Golden Ears Cheesecrafters. Thank goodness for that shuttle! True to the name, the event was held in a field at the Maple Ridge based cheesecrafters and, with all the wine and beer samples, I certainly did not want to drive afterwards.

Summer Hill Cipes Brut? Yes, please!!

Elephant Island was there. Yum!

The $85 ticket allowed you to sample food and drink from over fifty different chefs, farmers, food artisans, vintners, and brewers. It was completely indulgent so, of course, I was in heaven. On arrival, you were given a wine glass and a linen napkin and for the next four hours you were free to sample and slurp your way through all of the different suppliers until you could sample no more.

The day was a grey and slightly wet one, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. My sister and I darted from tent to tent, sampling as much as we could. Some particularly memorable dishes were Lolita’s ceviche, the Vancouver Club’s Dungeness crab “slaw”, Pearl Urban Bistro’s tempura bacon, and the Big Feast Bistro’s bison slider.

Vancouver Club’s Dungeness crab “slaw”.

Lolita’s ceviche on corn tostada.

There were delicious savoury samples, such as:

The Pointe Restaurant’s smoked peaches, goat cheese, cedar syrup, and micro greens.

Edible Canada’s curry crusted seared scallops, avocado puree, corn salsa, and fried corn tortilla.

Preston’s braised pork belly, star anise sweet soy glaze on a sweet rice cake.

Aphrodite’s fennel and basil coleslaw with pippin-peach vinaigrette and fennel pollen creme fraise, on cabbage leaves.

The duck confit with cherry tomatoes on a blueberry cracker from Wild Rice.

Yew restaurant’s heirloom style tomato salad.

Oru’s rabbit and duck terrine de champagne, with radish salad and pickled mustard seeds.

There were tantalizing desserts:

And yes, I tried to eat all of this and more. And yes, I was extremely full by the end of the day, but also so happy!

This would have to be one of the most organized festivals that I’ve been to. The washrooms were porta-potties but they also had a separate hand washing station, complete with soap and hand towels, and there were also washing up stations throughout the field so you could wash your hands, or fill up on water. Even though there were hundreds of attendees, everyone was very patient and we all civilly waited in line for our samples. By late afternoon, some tents had run out of samples but I was so full by that stage, that it didn’t concern me too much.

It was an exceptionally fun day and this is an event that I will definitely be penciling in my calendar for next year.

Pop Up Soda Shoppe

2 Sep

Whilst most of Vancouver (at least it seemed so from Twitter) appeared to be at the Diner En Blanc on Thursday night (check out these fabulous images from Maurice Li), I attended the Pop Up Soda Shoppe event instead. The almost half an hour line-up to get in the front doors confirmed that not everyone was the Diner En Blanc.

The Pop Up Soda Shoppe was essentially a gathering of some of the city’s dessert and sweet producers, such as Earnest Ice Cream, Cartems Donuterie, and Beta 5 Chocolatier, under one roof. That roof was at The Ridge, a cinema at Arbutus Ridge, that has a vintage theater-feel. Attendees were encouraged to don 50’s gear (think poodle skirts and suspenders) and the movie, “Grease”, played throughout the event.

Earnest Ice Cream

Earnest Ice Cream vanilla sundae – $5

Macarons from Che Baba.

Cartem’ Makers’ Bourbon Bacon doughnuts – $1.50 each.

Mmm, stack of mini Cartem’s doughnuts.

In concept the idea was a great one, but in execution, unfortunately I felt that it fell short of expectations. And, from the rumblings that I heard, I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed.

Reasons for my disappointment were, firstly, the event was intended to start at 7pm and end at 9pm, however, it took so long to move through the queue that we didn’t arrive inside until almost 7.30pm. Secondly, tickets to the event were $15 each. When I bought them I thought that small samplings from the different vendors would be included in the price (Beta 5 Chocolatiers was the only one I saw doing this) but as it got closer to the event I realized that, no, we would have to pay for the desserts in addition to the ticket price. I am a little perplexed as to why we charged $15 for this event. $5 would be more reasonable for what was essentially just an entrance fee into a dessert festival. Finally, one of the big selling points of the event was the alcoholic sodas and milkshakes, however, when we arrived they were selling these for $12 each…for a teeny glass. Needless to say, I didn’t buy one. Even if I had wanted to spend the extra money, the line-up was so long that I would have spent most of my time standing in line.

On the plus side, we did get to eat from some of Vancouver’s top dessert producers. Personally, I can’t get enough of Earnest Ice Cream, Cartems Donuterie, and Beta5 Chocolates, and Che Baba macarons were fantastic (I’d never heard of this place before). It was also great to see that a lot of the attendees did make an effort to get dressed up, myself included.

Overall, I’d love to see this event happen again but with a few changes. Either charge less for the entrance fee, or charge the same and have more samples available. $15 just to walk into a room with local vendors gathered was not worth it to me. The space was also oddly set out (some vendors were in the foyer but others were in the theater) so I think it would be more conducive to have all the vendors in the same area.