• Jul28

    Joe Fortes Brunch-4

    With a wide grin from Maitre d’ Frenchy at the Joe Fortes door, we knew we’d be well taken care of on our recent outing to one of Vancouver’s best-loved steak and seafood restaurants.

    Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House turns 30 next year, its name taken from Seraphin “Joe” Fortes, a Barbados-born sailor who arrived here in 1885 and became a popular figure in our city’s early culture. A competitive swimmer, Joe was appointed the city’s first official lifeguard at the turn of the 20th century, after teaching so many kids at the beach to swim. Before becoming a lifeguard, Joe was a bartender.

    The historical theme continues throughout the restaurant, with photos of celebrities who’ve dined here gracing the second floor walls, including a special section devoted to Joe.

    Joe Fortes Brunch-3

    Once seated, we’re given a tall menu filled with seafood, steak, pasta, and salad offerings, together with an equally-impressive, award-winning wine list, boasting over 300 wines.

    Choose your wine by reds, whites, rosés, interesting whites, interesting reds, Rieslings, champagnes & sparklings, Gewürtztraminers, Pinot & Gamay noirs, Merlot and blends, Italian reds, Zinfandels, Shiraz, Syrah & Rhône varietals, and Cabernet: Sauvignon, Franc & Blends. The whopping, double-sided wine menu will leave you spoiled for choice!

    As well as wines, there are about two dozen malt whiskey sorts and classic cocktails to choose from.

    From the oyster bar

    A meal here wouldn’t be complete without a selection of oysters on the half shell—during Joe’s daily Appy Hour (4-6 pm), between 100 and 150 dozen oysters are shucked. We particularly enjoyed our selection of Shigoku (Washington State), Kusshi, and Beach (both Read Island) oysters, served with a trio of sauces. A special version of Joe’s ponzu sauce is slightly-spicy on the palate, containing a mix of lemon juice, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and a little Tabasco.

    Lagunitas IPA, Petaluma, California

    Our waiter brought over Joe’s famous lobster-infused oil and basalmic vinegar, drizzled onto a plate for dipping into warm bread; this marries well with a glass of Petaluma, CA-brewed Lagunitas IPA, its very hoppy taste cutting right into the lobster oil, for a rich-to-bitter palate toss.

    Joe Fortes also uses the Vivreau water system, something I discovered three years ago at the company’s opening event in town. Vivreau is a sustainable water bottle solution that’s made the rounds globally, eliminating the need for bottled water consumption in both restaurants and businesses.

    We ordered a half bottle ($43.50) of Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc for the table to go with both our seafood entrées.

    Joe’s features a Sunday-to-Thursday three-course dinner for $38, a Creation of the Day (market price), and Trio of Fresh Fish ($41.95), alongside steak and chops, classics such as halibut and chips, and a seafood tower on ice (priced per tier), piled high with Atlantic lobster, crab, local oysters, poached jumbo prawns, scallop ceviche, smoked local Albacore tuna, clams, and mussels.

    Coho salmon topped with chopped lobster and smoked heirloom tomatoes, greens, lemon beurre blanc

    I chose Chef Wayne Sych’s creation of the day: Coho salmon topped with chopped lobster, smoked heirloom tomatoes, carrots, fresh greens, and lemon beurre blanc. The salmon was perfectly cooked and seasoned, made extra decadent with the chopped lobster and smoked tomatoes. Finely chopped zucchini and a few micro greens added nice texture to the flaky fish, while a squeeze of lemon elevated the sauce’s flavours.

    Trio of fresh fish: prawns, Sockeye salmon, halibut, served with pico de gallo, beurre blanc

    My husband ordered the trio of fresh fish (on our visit: 3 oz. each of halibut and Sockeye salmon, with two jumbo prawns), great for seafood lovers who’d like to try a little of everything. While two of the three were paired with fresh greens, he particularly liked the mashed potato texture/seasoning choice, combined with those two large and succulent prawns.

    The Sauvignon blanc was a great partner for both seafood dishes.

    I’d like to particularly mention the service: The waitstaff anticipate needs; water was poured, extra glassware brought to our table before we asked—it was as if Johnny could read our minds!

    Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, tiramisu, molten center chocolate cake, brandied cherries, biscotti, vanilla gelato

    As we’ve only had tiramisu here in the past, we decided to indulge our sweet tooth and order the Dessert Trio ($16.95) showcasing some of pastry chef Candace Mui’s delightful concoctions: Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, tiramisu, molten center chocolate cake, brandied cherries, biscotti, and vanilla gelato, beautifully presented for us on a large, flat white dish.

    Joe Fortes Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, biscotti
    [Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée with homemade biscotti]

    The light, creamy brûlée with its hard-caramel top was divine, offering a fantastic contrast to its rich chocolate neighbour. The tiramisu portion was also a treat, enough to satisfy two people. A couple of gelato balls on the side are perfect for dipping the biscotti or tiramisu finger into—or that gorgeous molten chocolate cake. Between the tastes and the presentation, we were very happy to have saved just a wee bit of room to savour this!

    In between bites, I enjoyed a cup of decaf Americano while my husband sipped a 2 oz. glass of Penfolds’ Grandfather Tawny Port ($14), with its lovely caramel aroma. This is one of 10 ports served at Joe Fortes; there are also vintage, late-bottle vintage, and a BC fortified port from Unsworth Vineyards on the menu.

    Joe Fortes Brunch-2

    Dessert wines, dessert drinks, and hot speciality coffees round out the post-entrée offerings.

    We’d arrived at 5:30 for early dinner, with the bar packed for Appy Hour; an hour later, the entire dining room on both levels was filled with a wide range of clientele, from locals to cruise-ship tourists. I finally noticed (and heard) the piano player, tucked into the landing of a large curved staircase between the two levels.

    The restaurant is a well-oiled machine and takes a dedicated staff to run successfully night after night (and in the daytime too, as they’re open for lunch and weekend brunch).

    Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is located at 777 Thurlow Street in Vancouver. Our meal was compliments of Joe Fortes, for the purpose of experiencing their current menu.

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  • Jul25

    [These Three Things, by Standing Room Only Theatre]

    In These Three Things, The Page Theatre and Standing Room Only (SRO) have co-jointly produced three distinct one-act plays connected by themes of love and relationships, leavened by a lot of humour. The title is derived from the biblical admonition: “Faith, hope and love…we should abide by these three things”. However, love is one matter, relationships are another. The overarching theme, as outlined in the program notes, is that whatever problems couples have, there is an intrinsic love which remains—even if the relationship doesn’t.  

    The first play, Acrobats, by noted and prolific American playwright Israel Horowitz, is a short but strong and impressive play. The story involves a married couple played by Darsey Meredith (wife) and Parker Heuser (husband), who present an acrobatic show on stage while engaged in a bitter argument over their marriage, close to the break-up point.

    Acrobats contrasts the physical need of the couple to absolutely trust and support each other during their acrobatic routine, while emotionally feeling the opposite. Director Taryn Kleeband succeeds in creating a perfect harmony of movements and words. Both Meredith and Heuser prove to be prepared and coordinated.
    Continue reading »

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  • Jul25

    Vancouver 2014 Golden Dumpling Cook Off poster detail

    Back by popular demand, Vancouver’s Second Annual Dumpling Cook Off joins forces with the TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival on August 10 for the second annual celebration of one of the world’s greatest comfort foods. Serving the savoury morsels street-side, traditional Chinese restaurants will cook up the classics while the city’s hippest hotspots will plate fresh takes on the filling-and-wrapper format.

    An expert panel of judges will taste their way through entries from 20 restaurants battling to fill, wrap, steam, and fry their way to the top. The victorious challenger will win full bragging rights and claim the Golden Dumpling trophy.

    Second Annual Golden Dumpling Cook Off

    Over 2,700 dumplings were served at last year’s Chinatown-based Cook Off, in an intense competition between some of Vancouver’s top restaurants: Cibo, Chambar, Harvest Community Foods, La Mezcaleria, Pidgin, Wild Rice, Wildebeest, Sea Monstr Sushi, and The Parker. Chefs took inspiration from global cuisines, resulting in uncommon twists on the familiar dumpling, such as Mexican morsels with carnitas and topped with arbol chile salsa; a local take with turnip and chanterelles; and an Italian scallop and prosciutto agnoli.

    Serving a plump duck confit and truffle dumpling, Pidgin walked away with the Golden Dumpling trophy; the restaurant returns next month to defend its title.

    Your Golden Dumpling Passport ticket will give you entry, plus a taste of each entry in the cook off.

    Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie will open its night market patio for drinks to compliment the fabulous eats. Festival-goers won’t want to miss the Dumpling Derby, with prizes awarded to hungry competitors who duke it out for dumpling domination in an eating contest. During separate men’s and women’s heats of two suspenseful minutes each, eight men and eight women will gulp down dozens of dumplings.

    The winner of each category will be declared Chinatown Dumpling Eating Champion and will each take home a coveted prize.

    Second Golden Dumpling Cook Off
    Date: August 10, noon to 5 pm
    Venue: Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, 100 Keefer Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: $30 (plus fee); available in advance online via Eventbrite

    Note that the TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival runs both Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11, however the Golden Dumpling Cook Off will be held on August 10 only.

    The Golden Dumpling Cook Off proudly supports The Chinese Elders Community Kitchen, a program of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

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  • Jul25

    Enigma of Kasper Hauser film still

    Each month, Melanie Friesen invites a distinguished guest to Vancity Theatre’s Cinema Salon, in order to present his/her favourite film. After the screening, both audience and speaker have the opportunity to engage over drinks and snacks in the Vancity lounge. This month’s film is Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.
    Continue reading »

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  • Jul24

    India Live Vancouver Poster

    South Asian Family Association, a Vancouver-based not-for-profit, will bring the culture of India to the downtown core next month. As part of the City of Vancouver and Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s Viva Vancouver series, India Live will highlight cultural activities of the Indian diaspora through music, dance, art, and sport.

    With so many amazing artists in our own community and across Canada, the event will showcase performance pieces that vary from traditional to modern in style. The talented local lineup will include Yasmina Dance Academy, Neelamjit Quartet, Now or Never Dance Crew, Lapis featuring beatboxer Rup Sidhu and sitarist Mohammed Assani, Vijay’s Brass Band, and South Asian Arts amongst others. 

    The evening will round off with a performance by Toronto-based Manj Musik, formerly known as lead vocalist for popular Punjabi group RDB. Manj recently went solo after the passing of his brother and bandmate.

    Manj Musik
    [Manj Musik]

    Manj hopes to continue the legacy of his brother and reach a new artistic level as Manj Musik. Earlier this year, Manj released The Album, his first under the new moniker. He also has a guest appearance (and a new song) in the upcoming movie Dr. Cabbie, produced by Salman Khan, which hits theatres on September 19.

    India Live will not only bring Manj Musik to Vancouver, but will also host a special guest appearance by Dr. Cabbie himself, Vinay Virmani!

    Virmani plays the lead character, Deepak Chopra, an unemployed doctor-turned-cab driver, after he fails to secure a job in medicine. Chopra goes on to become a local hero when he converts his taxi into a mobile clinic.

    You’ll have the opportunity to partake in yoga classes by Karma Teachers, Bhangra 101 classes by South Asian Arts, and gatka (an Indian martial art) demonstrations by the Guru Nanak Sikh Academy.

    In addition, participate in the creation of a large-scale rangoli, have your hands adorned with henna tattoos, get glammed up with Bollywood makeovers provided by London Drugs, dress in South Asian outfits in front of a photo backdrop, dance along to live music from MiB Roadshow, and check out a vendor marketplace.

    “We are very excited to provide this unique opportunity to engage in Indian culture up close and personal in both active and passive experiences,” says SAFA Board Member Nina Sohi-Brar. “We encourage attendees to join in and immerse themselves within the culture and get hands-on with the many workshops and interactive experiences available to them.”

    India Live
    Date: August 9, noon to 8 pm
    Venue: 700 Block of Granville Street, Vancouver
    Admission: FREE

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  • Jul24

    Globe at YVR Airport-6

    One of the first things on people’s minds when checking into an airport is getting through airport security in order to board their plane on time. And while most airports feature the usual selection of chain restaurants (and if you’re lucky, a genuine local favourite), most meals are quickly consumed or taken to-go for the flight.

    Globe at YVR Airport-17

    What if you arrived at the airport ahead of time and indulged in a gorgeous meal, or sandwich for your flight? And what if that restaurant seemed miles away from the bustling gates and their frenzied passengers, yet still in the airport?

    Globe at YVR Airport-5

    Enter Globe@YVR, Fairmont Vancouver’s answer to proper airport dining. Located just off the US Departures level, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport has recently been ranked North America’s #1 airport hotel. Just inside the hotel’s entrance, Globe@YVR seats 130 hungry passengers (and diners) with a prime view of the plane-spotting action.

    Globe at YVR Airport-2
    [Globe@YVR's Executive Chef Karan Suri]

    Earlier this week, I had the chance to meet new Executive Chef Karan Suri and sit down for a seven-course lunch (small plates, I assure you!) while learning about Suri’s background and impressive resume. Chef Suri has worked in kitchens all over the world. He began his career in 2005 in his native country, at New Delhi’s Oberoi Group, and has worked in Singapore, Dubai, Africa, and now—Vancouver.

    Some of the Michelen-starred chefs he’s had the pleasure of working with include Alain Passard, Phil Howard, and Nicolas LeBec. In Dubai, he oversaw the culinary team at both Fire and Ice, Cellar & Grill, as well as at Azur, during a two-year stint.

    Before leaving Asia, he oversaw the launch of prestigious Leela Palace (as sous chef), working at the resort’s signature restaurants Le Cirque and Megu.

    Globe at YVR Airport-9

    Now in Vancouver, his motto is “locally-sourced, globally-inspired” cuisine. Globe@YVR works with Fraser Valley farmers and only uses Oceanwise-sanctioned seafood in dishes included on a widely-varied menu. After all, according to Suri, “You’re catering to a huge clientele of people in different time zones”. Flexibility is key to keeping travellers happy, whether they’re about to fly or have just landed and are in need of anything from nourishing to comfort-style foods.

    Globe at YVR Airport-10

    We started by preparing our own fish tacos in the kitchen, using Chef Suri’s potato-flecked fish bites and an array of condiments. I decided to sample a trio of craft beers from the restaurant’s draught selection, including smooth, mildly-sweet Fairmont Honey Lager, prepared with the hotel’s own bee hives. Joining the trio is Whistler Black Tusk Ale and Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA. All provided excellent flavour profiles to both the fish tacos and our starter of lamb croquette, scallops with duck confit, and a Fraser Valley lamb burger.

    Globe at YVR Airport-11
    [Fairmont's own Honey Lager, Whistler Black Tusk Ale, Driftwood Brewery's Fat Tug IPA]

    The lamb croquette is seasoned with sumac and lamb jus, while the scallops have a rhubarb glaze. The Fraser Valley lamb burger is enhanced with baba ganoush, feta cheese, and an in-house made sourdough ciabatta. By this time, two BC wines were poured for our meal: Blasted Church’s 2010 Cabernet/Merlot, and Church & State’s Chardonnay. Unexpected but providing an excellent compliment to both lamb burger and lamb croquette was the chardonnay, with its crisp bite and vanilla oak finish. Let’s just say that both the Cab/Merlot and the Chardonnay went down smoothly with all three bites.

    Globe at YVR Airport-12

    Another unexpected surprise: the kitchen team brought out braised short rib with creamy mashed potatoes topped with a baby balsamic onion—in a sealed tin! When we each opened our tin, the rich, delightful aroma of the short rib came came up to greet my nose. This dish paired nicely with both the Fat Tug IPA and the Black Tusk Ale.

    Globe at YVR Airport-7

    Nothing says BC like Skeena salmon. Chef Suri heightens a simple dish of salmon and leeks by cooking them in vegetable ash; this imparts a lovely smoky flavour to the dish. Adding to the plate is a tiny scoop of dehydrated Roma tomatoes, roasted baby spinach, and a drizzle of herbed oil. The leeks (together with celery) are burnt-on-grill on high heat until charred. Ash cooking is a hot trend in London at the moment.

    This is truly a dish for fish lovers!

    Globe at YVR Airport-13

    A goat cheese and beet root salad followed as a nice palate-cleanser. Toasted walnuts accompany colourful beets prepared four ways: pickled, fresh, chip, and roasted, along with puréed beet root for added flavour and colour on the plate. Mature Valencay goat cheese from Agassiz’s Farm House Cheeses is also ash-laden, to keep in theme with the Skeena salmon. It’s delightful, and we’re lucky to have so many beautifully-coloured beets available in this neck of the woods, AND intelligent chefs who know how to make them sing.

    Globe at YVR Airport-14

    One of Globe@YVR’s best-sellers arrives at our table next: Fresh sablefish in a dehydrated garlic/butter sauce with bacon-roasted fingerling potatoes, avocado, and fennel soil. This is also one of the few dishes in the restaurant that’s specially served on rustic basalt plates. This was a flavourful, moist, and delicate piece of fish, enhanced by some amazingly simple, yet tasty accompaniments. I enjoyed this dish tremendously, especially with sips of Church & State chard.

    Globe at YVR Airport-3 Globe at YVR Airport-4

    Chef Suri decided to spoil us with several sweet finishes to our meal: on-the-spot-prepared honey ice cream, and homemade apple pie and tiramisu.

    Globe at YVR Airport-15

    I enjoyed the fresh tiramisu presentation in-glass; the chef believes this imparts more flavour to the mascarpone cheese.

    Globe at YVR Airport-16

    In addition to hands-down one of the most inventive menus I’ve sampled all year, Globe@YVR’s interior is light, simple, and elegant. Those large floor-to-ceiling windows take in the tarmac action with sweeping views of the local mountains.

    Globe at YVR Airport-8

    Light fixtures enhance the walls and curved, white ceiling. I noticed unique, eye-catching light fixtures in other areas of the hotel (as well as the entrance).

    Globe at YVR Airport-18

    If you’re not heading in or out of town, consider this: Globe@YVR is an easy half-hour trip on the Canada Line from downtown Vancouver, you won’t have to worry about parking, or enjoying a few of the many craft beers, cocktails, and wines on offer here.

    Globe@YVR at night
    [Globe@YVR at night; photo courtesy of Fairmont Vancouver]

    A Food for Flight menu is a great way to get a clubhouse sandwich, salad, breakfast burrito or muffins to take away on your flight. In-house pastry chef Lorna sees to a daily selection of fresh pastries and breads. With only one month at the kitchen helm, I’m anxious to see how Chef Suri’s menu will develop over time. He’s truly a blessing to have in our food-forward city.

    Globe@YVR is located inside the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel at Vancouver International Airport.

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  • Jul23

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-2

    Last Friday, media were invited to check out the nearly-completed and expanded Chambar Restaurant, located next to the current Beatty Street location in Crosstown Vancouver.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-5

    A city favourite for years, Chambar is three-star-Michelin-trained chef Nico and wife Karri Schuermans’ vision of Belgian and North African cuisine melded into a diverse menu of appetizers, moules frites, plus lamb, duck, venison, and sustainably-caught seafood dishes.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-3

    Karri will oversee the new space’s design, with blood red booths, Italian-designed chairs, and a rotating art collection on the walls. The 1912 heritage elements have been preserved and complement the brick and wood walls. Resin-covered table tops with walnut inlays, plus a custom-designed communal table that can seat up to 10 diners will move to the new space.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-12

    The restaurant’s bar will feature prominently towards the front of the establishment. Although covered at present, we’ve been told that it’s inlaid with walnut and tined resin, perfect for enjoying some of Chambar’s award-winning cocktails, wide range of wines, and beers, one brewed just for the restaurant. We found it immensely refreshing on the warm, late afternoon day of our visit.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-10

    A side patio will seat 50 diners away from the street. There’ll be enough space to accommodate 270 diners between the restaurant’s two levels. I personally can’t wait to see what the lighting will look like together with all the thoughtful touches when opening day arrives.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-4
    [A much larger kitchen downstairs]

    Chambar is also proud of their extensive wine collection, including eight wines by the glass, 50 international whites, 75 international reds, 25 BC wines, and 15 sparkling wines.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-6
    [Summer sippers between the construction]

    The restaurant’s name is derived from a loosely translated French saying, “When the teacher leaves the room, all the kids go crazy”. In other words, enjoy a fun night on the town here with friends, good food, and drink. In addition to dinner, Chambar will also start offering breakfast, lunch, brunch, and a late-night tapas menu.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-8

    As we walked through the main floor, downstairs kitchen, and side rooms, we kept imagining the finished product through the dust and machinery. An outside rooftop deck with gorgeous city views in the adjacent building is also available for booking special dinners and events.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-7 Chambar Restaurant Preview-9

    Chambar as we know it will close in two weeks, with the larger space opening shortly thereafter at 568 Beatty Street in Vancouver.

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  • Jul22

    JOBY Action Clamps-1
    [Joby Action Clamp Locking Arm]

    In my last review, I rounded up four of my essential GoPro accessories for the road, however these two Joby mounts, the Action Clamp Locking Arm and the Action Clamp GorillaPod Arm, are also handy to have in your shooting arsenal.

    Designed for the GoPro as well as for Contour and Sony Action Cam compact video cameras, Joby thought of everything when designing these. For one thing, you can position the GoPro (or other compact video cameras) at any angle, and tighten the arm around numerous surfaces. Once the arm is tightened, the camera will shoot without additional vibration. Two pivot points can rotate 360 degrees and pivot 180 degrees from side to side.

    JOBY mounts at Jericho Beach-1

    Two articulating ball joints allow the GoPro to be positioned at any angle.

    Similar in size, style, and colour, both models include a GoPro mount and adjustable clamp. The GoPro mount itself can be removed to screw onto a Contour or Sony Action Cam with a 1/4-20” screw and be used with any tripod.

    JOBY mounts at Jericho Beach-2

    As with the Joby GorillaPod, you can purchase an optional GripTight Mount for using an iPhone or Android smart phone with the system. Both action clamps are compact enough in size to throw into a backpack or video camera case.

    JOBY Action Clamps-2
    [Joby Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm]

    The Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm takes advantage of the flexible balls and sockets for even greater positioning options. This clamp will also mount on either top or bottom of the clamp, its locking arm able to accommodate surfaces from thick to thin (as with Joby’s Action Clamp Locking Arm) up to 2”/5cm wide.

    JOBY mounts at Jericho Beach-3

    Both the Action Clamp Locking Arm (CDN $39.99) and the Action Clamp GorillaPod Arm (CDN $29.99) are available in Canada at London Drugs, Kerrisdale Cameras, and Terrace Sight & Sound.

    JOBY mounts at Jericho Beach-4
    [The perfect trifecta: Joby's GorillaPod capturing a sunset time-lapse]

    I was sent both Joby clamp systems for the purpose of writing this review.

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  • Jul21

    2014 Whistler Village Beer Festival poster

    Following 2013′s successful inaugural event, the Whistler Village Beer Festival returns this year from September 11 to 14. With an exciting new program of seminars and events to complement the 50 breweries confirmed to attend, tickets are expected to sell out quickly. We’re proud to be a media sponsor this year and look forward to covering several weekend events.

    2014 Whistler Village Beer Festival

    Set in the Whistler Olympic Plaza with gorgeous Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains serving as backdrop, 4,000 people will enjoy a British Columbia-focused showcase of brewing talent from Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

    BC breweries in attendance feature Red Racer, winner of the 2013 Best in Fest Award, Steamworks, Dead Frog Brewery, Driftwood Brewery, Parallel 49 Brewing, Whistler Brewery, Powell Street Craft Brewery, and Deep Cove Brewers.

    American breweries include Deschutes Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Lost Coast Brewery, Lakefront Brewery, Ninkansi Brewing, Prohibition Brewing, and Lagunitas Brewing Company. Ankerbrau, Grolsch, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell, and Belgian Brouwerij Vansteenberge round out the world breweries joining the festival.

    2014 Whistler Village Beer Festival

    Each $35 ticket for the Saturday, September 13 tasting includes a four-ounce WVBF sampling mug, five beer tokens, and a $5.00 food voucher for use at participating Whistler restaurants. For those looking for a more exclusive experience, a limited number of $45.00 Gate Crasher tickets will give beer lovers a one-hour jump on the afternoon event ahead of the crowds.

    Win the ultimate BEERCATION by snapping a shot enjoying your favourite brew and uploading it to WVBF’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts using the #sippyselfie hashtag. Details here.

    Enter to win this awesome prize package:
    - Three-night stay at Fairmont Chateau Whistler
    - A pair of WVBF Gatecrasher tickets
    - A pair of tickets to Beer 101 seminar
    - A pair of tickets to Saturday’s Cask Showdown & After-Party
    - A pair of tickets to Sunday’s The Hangover at The Longhorn Saloon
    - Two WVBF t-shirts and two WVBF trucker hats

    Some of the festival’s highlights:
    Friday, September 12
    Triple B – Beer, BBQ at Brickworks; 7 pm, Brickworks Public House
    A night of craft beer and BBQ

    Best in BC – The Mainland; 8 pm, Firerock Lounge, Westin Whistler
    Tickets: $15
    Sample from five casks of carefully selected ales, talk with the brewmasters, and vote for your favourite cask of the night.

    2014 Whistler Village Beer Festival

    Saturday, September 13
    Best in the West; 5 to 8 pm, Garfinkel’s
    Tickets: $15
    An American cask/small batch battle featuring casks and small-batch brews from Oskar Blues, Lost Coast, Deschutes, and Gigantic.

    BRICKöbertest; 5 pm, Brickworks Public House
    Tickets: $15
    Bratwursts, beer maidens, and beer! Prizes for the best dressed. Ticket includes first beer and snack.

    Good to know before you arrive:
    - On-site beer tokens available for $1.40 each (four-ounce pour)
    - Maximum of 10 tokens per purchase; non-refundable
    - Gate Crashers permitted access beginning at noon
    - Food vouchers redeemable at Longhorn Saloon Bar & Grill, Tapley’s Neighbourhood Pub, Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, Buffalo Bills Bar & Grill, and Garibaldi Lift Co.

    The Whistler Village Beer Festival is designed to be a fun and accessible event for everyone, from breweries and certified cicerones to the everyday beer drinker who simply enjoys a good pint.

    Produced by the Gibbons Hospitality Group, the Whistler Village Beer Festival celebrates the love of beer, joining over 50 breweries and 150 beers from the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

    Visit the website for details. Photos courtesy Whistler Village Beer Festival.

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  • Jul21

    Diner en Blanc Vancouver

    From global phenomenon to highly sought-after secret, Dîner en Blanc® is set to take over one of Vancouver’s most beautiful public spaces for the third time, this year on August 21.

    Taking the pop-up concept to a refined and mysterious level, these romantic outdoor epicurean feasts are attended annually by as many as 15,000 people in cities around the world.

    Dîner en Blanc® promotes friendship, elegance, gallantry, and a sense of community. The annual secret affair, promising an unforgettable evening of beauty and magic, will take over an undisclosed public space whose location will be revealed only a few hours prior to the commencement of the event. Over 3,200 British Columbians, dressed in all-white, are expected to attend this year.

    Diner en Blanc Vancouver

    For Vancouver’s third official Dîner en Blanc®, the guest list will be increased to 3,200 people for the yet-to-be disclosed location. In previous years, the event has been held in Jack Poole Plaza at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre (2012) and Creekside Park at Science World (2013) and was attended by 2,600 people.
    Continue reading »

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  • Jul17

    GoPro Hero3Plus-4

    I’m willing to bet that there’s a must-have accessory list for every GoPro user out there. CEO and founder Nicholas Woodman had a vision – or rather a passion – to capture experiences through video and photos in the most flexible and convenient manner possible. And although GoPro makes several accessories for their action cameras, I found a few handy-to-haves that have made a home in my stable of mounts, chargers, and housings.

    GoPro Accessories-Wall Charger-1

    I’ll start with GoPro’s own Wall Charger (US $40; CDN $35 via Best Buy Canada online). I don’t always travel with my laptop, and the standard way to charge a GoPro is via a cable and USB port. This handy charger has dual USB ports that can charge two cameras at once, or a camera and the wifi remote. You can also record video or take photos while it’s charging, and the four included AC plugs will work in North America, UK, EU, and Australia.

    The charger will also work with most USB-charging devices, so I can avoid having to bring along my iPhone charger as well. In two hours, the camera will be charged 100% (in 1.5 hours, 80%). The charger and adaptors all have a nice, soft matte texture as well.

    Lowepro Dashpoint AVC 1

    Lowepro’s new Dashpoint action video cases (AVC 1 and AVC 2) are composite-shell hard cases that unzip (with dual zippers) to store your GoPro and accessories all in one place.

    Lowepro Dashpoint AVC 1

    Once open, the case lays flat and items are easy to locate in the main compartment with a velcro-winged adjustable divider.

    Lowepro Dashpoint AVC 1

    The smaller AVC 1 is shown here, unloaded and loaded. A removable panel with elastic straps for holding mounts, cables, wifi remote, etc. is hidden away by a velcro tab, and the case has a built-in carrying handle. Here’s what will fit inside an AVC 2:

    Lowepro AVC 2

    I like that the AVC 1 is small enough to tuck right into the back area of my Passport Sling so that both DSLR and GoPro will travel with me. It’s a Lowepro for the GoPro!

    Lowepro Dashpoint AVC 1

    AVC 1 external dimensions: 20.8 x 9.3 x 13.7 cm (8.19 x 3.66 x 5.39 in)
    AVC 2 external dimensions: 21.6 x 9.3 x 21.6 cm (8.50 x 3.66 x 8.50 in)

    Both sizes come in Galaxy Blue and Black and are available in Canada via Future Shop. The AVC 1 retails for CDN $50 while its big brother costs CDN $60.

    GoPole Grenade Grip

    GoPole makes several poles and grips for the GoPro. I found a favourite in the Grenade Grip (US/CDN $24.99), a compact hand grip with wrist strap to move through crowds, conduct interviews, and shoot some action. If you’re into shooting video out on the water, there’s a floating version called The Bobber for $29.99 that acts as a floatation device should you drop your GoPro into the water.

    GoPole Grenade Grip

    Although the Grenade Grip photo on the website shows a removable bottom with both wrist strap and carabiner attachments (as well as a thumbscrew), the version I bought in Vancouver was simply the grip and a wrist strap that attaches above near the mount area. I’ve tried to contact GoPole repeatedly to ask why one version is online and another is in the stores, but I’ve yet to hear back from them.

    Joby GorillaPod Action Tripod

    Joby’s no stranger to the tripod world. They’ve got a GorillaPod (CDN $40 at London Drugs) made just for the GoPro, featuring a bubble level (handy for making sure your shot will be level, as without a GoPro BacPac, it’s hard to know what you’ll get without an LCD screen), two quick-release plates (one’s good for standard tripods weighing up to 1 kg/2.2 lbs.), and the famous bendy legs to get just about any angle for your shots.

    The GorillaPod will wrap around tree branches, benches, street poles and the like.

    JOBY mounts at Jericho Beach-4

    The GoPro mount can be used on any tripod (including all GorillaPods) by screwing your tripod’s quick-release plate into the ¼-20 tripod mount in the bottom of Joby’s GoPro Tripod mount. Attach your GoPro to the mount, place it on your tripod and you’re set.

    An optional GripTight mount will allow you to set up an iPhone or Android smartphone onto the GorillaPod.

    Joby GorillaPod Action Tripod

    I like the integrated aluminum ballhead that tilts in all manner of directions, panning 360 degrees. Couple that with the bendy legs and a 90-degree tilt knob for both portrait and landscape modes, and shooting options are unlimited.

    Here’s a quick time-lapse of a sunset taken at Jericho Beach, Vancouver.

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  • Jul16

    Bard on the Beach's Cymbeline

    The staging of Cymbeline at this year’s Bard on the Beach squares out the themes of “daughters and redemption”. While A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cymbeline center around defiant daughters, The Tempest and Equivocation touch on restoring a rightful legacy to a daughter. 

    Unparalleled performances and harmony of motifs make the 25th anniversary productions of Bard one of this summer’s highlights.

    Cymbeline’s plot is excessively complex, likely because there are so many! One of Shakespeare’s final plays, Cymbeline falls into the mezzo category of a tragicomedy – a tragedy with a happy ending. When King Cymbeline wrongfully banishes faithful nobleman Belarius from his court, Belarius retaliates by kidnapping the king’s two young princes; Cymbeline has long given them up for dead. 

    Now Imogen, the king’s virtuous daughter, has chosen to marry a commoner, Posthumus, against Cymbeline’s wishes. The enraged king imposes banishment on the devoted but gullible youth and the wheels of fate turn once again. This time they will spiral out of control, culminating in a British-Roman war and reunions begotten through outlandish means.

    Bard on the Beach's Cymbeline 
    [In foreground: Anton Lipovetsky, Bob Frazer]

    Deception is a prevalent theme for all characters in this story. The seemingly loving Queen has murderous intentions; the wily Italian, Iachimo, wins his bet through underhanded trickery; even the dutiful doctor, Cornelius, is shrewd enough to substitute poisons. Duality of intentions are complimented with physical duality of identities. 
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  • Jul15

    GoPro Hero3Plus-4

    I’d been curious about the GoPro for awhile now, and thought what better time to get my hands on one and take it out around town than in summer, as this tiny, powerful video camera lends itself perfectly to outdoor concerts, sports, and action of all kinds.

    GoPro Hero3Plus-1

    Unboxing the GoPro Hero3+ revealed a base plate (don’t throw it away, it can be used with a mount!) with the camera attached to it, plus several mounts, screws, two housing back doors (everyday, underwater up to 131 feet/40 meters), cables, a battery and a wifi remote.

    GoPro Hero3Plus-2
    [GoPro Hero3+ Black, unboxed]

    As this is my first GoPro, I can’t compare it to older models, but what this camera DOES have going for it is a 20% reduction in size and weight, 30% longer battery life, 4x faster WiFi, sharper lens, improved image quality, and SuperView, a new shooting mode that captures the ultimate in wide angle perspective.

    Once I charged up the battery (via the supplied mini USB port to my laptop) and went through the camera settings, I noticed Auto Low Light and a full range of resolution options (right up to 4k, aka cinema-quality capture). There are only three buttons on the GoPro Hero3+: Power/Mode, Shutter/Select, and WiFi.

    The user manual measures a mere 3 1/2” square, making it easy to port along with your camera, mounts, and accessories.

    GoPro Hero3Plus-6

    Speaking of mounts, I also received a Chesty and a Floaty, two must-have options for taking the GoPro out on the water. The Chesty is adjustable and clips around your chest, with the mount facing forward. Think SUP, kayaking, fishing, skiing, cycling, waterskiing.

    GoPro Hero3Plus-7

    The Floaty is a bright orange life raft for your GoPro and attaches with a strong adhesive to the back of a GoPro underwater (watertight) housing, so if you accidentally drop the camera into the water, it won’t sink to the bottom.

    GoPro Floaty

    I read through the manual and then began to play around with taking still photos as well as video. What’s great about the GoPro is its community: you can find just about any tutorial you’re looking for either on YouTube or on the GoPro site itself. There are some great DIY videos out there too. Here’s one that offers handy mounting tips and tricks. This one’s for beginners — I’m glad to have found it when I unboxed the camera. As mentioned earlier, I’m definitely not the first person to use a GoPro, so the more visual instruction I can get my hands on, the better.

    GoPro Hero3Plus-5
    [GoPro's battery compartment]

    A camera without a viewfinder takes some getting used to. There are two options here: download and use the free GoPro app (for iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S4, Android) that offers live preview, or purchase the BacPac, that adds a removable LCD touch screen viewfinder to the rear of the GoPro.

    Other handy features of the GoPro app:
    - Smartphone or tablet serves as a remote control for the GoPro
    - Adjust camera settings, start/stop recording, switch modes, check battery level
    - Copy photos and videos to your device, then share via email, text, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
    - View photos and play back videos
    - Wirelessly update HERO3+ camera software
    - Wirelessly update your camera Wi-Fi network name and password

    GoPro Hero3Plus-8
    [Pairing the GoPro with the Wifi Remote]

    GoPro Hero3Plus-9
    [GoPro Hero3+ camera and WiFi remote paired; remote can now control the camera]

    In addition to videos, the GoPro will take 12MP photos as well as burst photos (at rates of 3 photos/1 second, 5 photos/1 second, 10 photos/1 second, 10 photos/2 seconds, 30 photos/1 second, 30 photos/2 seconds, 30 photos/3 seconds). Time lapse videos can be created in 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60-second intervals.

    Ecomarine Kayak
    [12 MP photo from a time-lapse sequence, Jericho Beach]

    You can also set up the camera to take photos at 5, 10, 30, and 60-second intervals while the video is recording (via the Capture Settings menu).

    GoPro’s Protune video mode lets you capture high-quality videos with less compression, more flexibility during post-production colour correction, and White Balance adjustments.

    Editing Software
    GoPro Studio software 2.0.1 has an easy-to-follow tutorial to get you up and running with your video clips. Once the clips have been processed, the screen moves to an import and convert area, where GoPro templates are available for using (you can also create a template from scratch).

    I decided to delve right into the software using five clips I took at an event in town. After my first experience straight through to importing (not too difficult a process), I read through the user manual before trying another edit.

    GoPro Studio software editing screen
    [The GoPro Studio editing environment]

    Once the clips have been brought into the editing environment, you can add contrast, increase exposure, sharpness, and saturation, and add effects to each clip individually through presets (i.e. Sepia, Night Vision, Protune, Vignettes). Titles and transitions are pretty easy to do, and the manual does a decent job of explaining the steps needed to either export your video ready for Vimeo, YouTube, mobile devices, HD, or custom format, or continue editing in iMovie or Final Cut Pro. You can also export still images in .jpg format.

    Cooler still, advanced features prep the video in GoPro CineForm for viewing with 3D glasses.

    There are a multitude of accessories out there, both made by GoPro as well as by third parties. My next review will showcase a handful of essential GoPro accessories to take on the road.

    GoPro Hero3Plus-3

    This may be a tiny little camera, but don’t be fooled: it takes some excellent quality videos! Just remember that it needs to be manually turned off (as well as the WiFi on both camera and remote).

    I noticed that the battery takes about two hours to charge from completely empty to full.

    One Thing I’d Love to See
    A heads up to the GoPro development team: it would be great to have a 40% volume option for the beep indicator control (on, off, recording beeps) in addition to the current 100%, 70%, or off entirely. I think 40 is the perfect volume, just loud enough to know you’ve chosen the right setting (or have started recording), yet not loud enough to disturb anyone (particularly during gatherings where there are interviews taking place).

    And now, I feel ready to share with you a couple of video edits, because after all, this IS a video camera! Here’s a video by land:

    and one by sea:

    The GoPro Hero+ Black edition includes a one-year warranty and retails for US $399.99. In Canada, I noticed it online at London Drugs for $479.99.

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  • Jul14

    Equivocation cast

    Last Thursday night’s opening of Bard on the Beach’s Equivocation took place on newly-minted Howard Family Stage, in an evening of pride for both Paul and Darlene Howard (long-time Bard patrons and arts philanthropists) as well as Bard Director Christopher Gaze. The intimate stage is named to complement the Douglas Campbell Tent, whose title memorializes Shakespearean actor and Bard company alumnus Douglas Campbell (who passed away in 2009).

    People-pleasing scribe William Shagspeare (in a top-notch performance by Bob Frazer) has been tapped to pen King James’ new play (a supposed “true history” of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot) and has two weeks to get ‘er done.

    Anton, Anousha, Bob Bob Frazer, Rachel Cairns
    [L to R: Anton Lipovetsky, Anousha Alamian, Bob Frazer; Bob Frazer, Rachel Cairns]

    And, the King wants witches in the show! According to Robert Cecil, the King’s Prime Minister (Anousha Alamian, giving his character a pronounced limp), the play is the only chance at posterity for Shagspeare. Cecil’s limp is a shining example of Alamian’s physicality, allowing the audience to adjust between his dual roles in the play without having to utter a word.
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  • Jul10

    Majumder Manor on W Network

    Just in time for summer, Corus Entertainment’s W Network is premiering two original series, Majumder Manor Season 2 and a new series, The Audience.

    Majumder Manor returns to W as one of Canada’s most beloved comedic talents, Shaun Majumder, continues his quest to put his tiny hometown of Burlington, Newfoundland on the map — literally.

    In Season 2 (filmed on location in Burlington), audiences catch up with Shaun and Shelby as they prepare to head back to Newfoundland for the summer – this time, as a newlywed couple.
    Continue reading »

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