• Mar27

    The Urban Tea Merchant

    A visit to The Urban Tea Merchant is a colourful journey into the world of tea. Each tea tin is beautifully designed, from Earl Grey Gentleman to Tea Party Tea. Earlier this week, the West Georgia Street shop invited local writers and media to sample from three spring teas and both Sakura Tea and Easter brunch menus.

    Sakura! Sakura! green and cherry blossom loose tea
    [Sakura! Sakura! tea]

    Much in the same way Kyoto, Japan’s cherry blossoms symbolize renewal of life, Vancouver’s cherry blossoms signal the arrival of spring. Despite Mother Nature’s early arrival this year when it comes to our beloved cherry blossoms, Sakura! Sakura!, a green tea with cherry blossoms, has just arrived in Vancouver. The refreshing sipper is infused with the beautiful blossoms, making for a smooth tasting green.

    White Spring and Sakura! Sakura! teas

    White tea is often compared to champagne for its delicate qualities. TWG’s White Spring Tea is classified as a rare tea and is only available for picking three days per year. The buds have a natural fragrance, paired with a gorgeous cherry blossom aroma.

    Urban Tea Merchant/Sakura Tea Service
    [Sakura Tea service]

    Often regarded as a great symbol of hope and renewal, cherry blossoms symbolize the ephemeral nature of life.

    Urban Tea Merchant/Sakura Tea Service

    Easter-themed Tea Party Tea is a blend designed to pair with both savoury and sweet foods; black-tea-based, it has a defining vanilla aroma at the nose.

    Another tea in the spring lineup is Mad Hatter’s Tea, an Easter-themed tea for kids.

    Urban Tea Merchant/Sakura Tea Service

    Urban Tea’s culinary team draws inspiration from the entire TWG assortment, creating a unique flavour experience for each item on the menu. The Urban Tea Merchant also plans to expand this fall: its collection will top 500 teas for the ultimate in tea gastronomy.

    Urban Tea Merchant/Sakura Tea Service

    The three-tiered Sakura Tea service includes sweet and savoury items:
    – Miso-maple glazed sablefish in butter lettuce
    – Tokyo-Singapore Tea tuna tartare
    – Rosette of smoked salmon with wasabi aioli
    – Wagyu Beef Yakitori
    – Weekend in Venice Tea strawberry tart
    – Tuxedo-dressed strawberries
    – TWG Tea macarons
    – Sakura! Sakura! Tea caviar beads wrapped in melon
    – Fresh fruit and assorted chocolates

    Urban Tea Merchant/Easter brunch
    [TWG Easter tea service]

    The Easter Brunch Tea service includes:
    – Imperial Lapsang Souchong chicken cone
    – Tomato Tea sandwich with piave and watercress aioli
    – Rosette of smoked salmon with wasabi aioli
    – Poached eggs Florentine, Hollandaise
    – Scrambled egg with Northern Divine caviar, crème fraîche

    Urban Tea Merchant/Easter brunch

    The Easter tea service will be offered from April 3 through 6, and includes Easter Tea, Easter Brunch, and MadHatter’s Tea Service (for children), all available with teas from TWG’s spring collection.

    Urban Tea Merchant

    Founded in 2004 in Singapore by Karinna and Tom James, The Urban Tea Merchant is a luxury tea company offering both fine tea and tea accessories. The Vancouver location is the retail brand’s exclusive Canadian partner. TWG (The Wellness Group) celebrates 1837, the year that Singapore became a trading post for teas, spices, and fine epicurean products.

    Urban Tea Merchant tasting

    TWG’s collection happens to be the largest in the world, including products from every tea-producing country’s harvests. TWG Tea boutiques are located in London, New York, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Hong Kong and in other major cities, sold in gourmet shops, served at fine hotels and restaurants as well as on international airlines.

    Urban Tea Merchant is located at 1070 West Georgia Street in Vancouver.

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  • Mar25

    Sandy McGill of Designworks USA, BMW Group
    [Sandy McGill, Lead Designer of Color, Materials, and Finish at BMW Group DesignworksUSA]

    Yesterday morning, a media group was invited to breakfast at the ultra luxurious Fairmont Pacific Rim Presidential Suite to learn about BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA and one of its leading designers based out of the Los Angeles headquarters.

    Sandy McGill breakfast at Fairmont Pacific Rim-2

    Sandy McGill began as an intern at DesignworksUSA; she’s currently been with the design consultancy for just over two decades. DesignworksUSA is a global design consultancy and subsidiary of BMW Group providing design consulting services for BMW Group brands including BMW, MINI, and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars as well as external clients such as Microsoft, Starbucks, HP, Mohawk, Embraer, and many more.

    Sandy McGill breakfast at Fairmont Pacific Rim-4

    Sandy’s color work has been reflected in all the BMW Group brands, including the 2005-2009 Formula One cars. According to research, 80% of consumer purchase decisions are based on colour choices. Sandy and her team work to customize colour finishes, materials, and develop interiors for both Designworks’ individual collection and manufacture programs.

    Sandy McGill breakfast at Fairmont Pacific Rim-1
    [Marrying DesignworksUSA with Italian design elements at the Fairmont Pacific Rim]

    From smartphones to refrigerators, cars to rails, the globally-focused team works to find design solutions to innovative products. Designworks has expanded to offices in both Munich and Shanghai.

    Started two years ago, the individual program entails craftsmanship and exclusive materials, including high quality Merino leather and hand-selected woods. A single log is used to maintain uniformity as well as colour throughout a car interior.

    Sandy McGill breakfast at Fairmont Pacific Rim-3
    [The stellar view from the Presidential Suite]

    To go a step further, customers can choose individual manufacturing, including custom monogramming on the seats, decorative trim, and limited-edition products.

    Customers are invited to the Designworks USA studio to create the car of their dreams. A virtual wall shows a full-size car model, including all choices made during the consultation to get a complete picture prior to ordering.

    We asked Sandy what the current trends in custom car interiors are. Browns seem to be replacing black as the new go-to colour. Green is also due to make a comeback for customization. What influences car designers? Architecture is a biggie, as well as the Milan Furniture Fair, where the latest on-trend designs are revealed and showcased.

    The Vancouver International Auto Show is on now through March 29 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. Visit DesignworksUSA online for more information.

    at BMW Group DesignworksUSA

    More about Sandy McGill
    For DesignworksUSA external clients, Sandy has developed color strategies for consumer, medical and aviation industries. Consumer products include Nilfisk vacuum cleaners, HP printers and Varian Medical Systems. Aviation strategies include Embraer and Pilatus. Sandy designed a top-selling carpet collection for Lees Carpet that is currently installed in the DesignworksUSA design studio.

    Sandy has recently led the BMW Individual initiative at DesignworksUSA where BMW 6 and 7 series customers can come to DesignworksUSA for a personal color, trim, and paint consultation in the context of BMW Design.

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  • Mar25

    Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

    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 Milos Forman’s 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

    Jack Nicholson plays McMurphy as if he were born to it, and the supporting cast provides fine, detailed performances.” — Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

    Considered one of the greatest American films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest swept the top five major Academy Awards of 1975. Based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey and set in a mental institution, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest deals with a very 1970’s issue: individual versus establishment.

    In two towering performances, the battle of the wills is fought by minor criminal Murphy (Jack Nicholson) and domineering Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), the cold and efficient matron of McMurphy’s ward. It’s a world of hammer and tongs, including those quintessential Nicholson grins.


    Actress and singer Colleen Rennison is a Vancouver native who began her acting career at five years of age and has appeared on many television shows and feature films including The Story of Us, The Outer Limits, and Down River.

    In 2008, she relocated to New York to attend Circle in the Square Theatre School, leaving after one year to pursue a music career. Since returning to Vancouver, Colleen has released a critically acclaimed debut EP, Boo Hoo Hoo, with her blues-rock band No Sinner and solo album See the Sky About to Rain.

    Vancity Cinema Salon with Colleen Rennison Presents One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    Date: Tuesday, April 7, 7:30 pm
    Venue: Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: $13.00; may be purchased online

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  • Mar24

    Plaza Premium Lounge at YVR

    Plaza Premium has recently upgraded its latest lounge at YVR’s new A-B Connector on Level 3 Domestic departures, joining three other spaces in the airport for a total of 16,500 square feet for travellers to relax while in transit. The 6,390-square foot space is part of the company’s goal to offer travellers a first-class experience regardless of their chosen airline or ticket class.

    Plaza Premium Lounge at YVR

    We recently experienced the lounge, designed by Kinney Chan of renowned Hong Kong design firm Kinney Chan & Associates. After checking in at the front desk, either walk up the spiral staircase or take the elevator to get to the lounge level.

    Plaza Premium Lounge at YVR

    At this point, you can either relax at the bar with a glass of wine, beer or coffee drink or walk over to the buffet and dining area for a full meal or snack.

    Plaza Premium YVR-7

    We arrived in time for the end of breakfast service (served from 6 am to 11 am). Lunch and dinner offerings include fresh pastas, paninis (grilled veggie and smoked chicken on the day of our visit), salads, a range of cheeses, pastries, and hot and cold drinks.

    Plaza Premium YVR-3 Plaza Premium YVR-4

    There’s plenty of variety and healthy options to keep you going while you’re headed between cities or countries. A chef prepares the pastas and paninis to order (we noticed a friendly Air Canada pilot ordering his go-to smoked chicken panini while we were there).

    Plaza Premium YVR-2

    Hot dishes rotate on a weekly basis; two daily soups (vegetarian and meat options) and pasta (plus two different sauces) are always on offer.

    Plaza Premium Lounge at YVR

    The lounge is modern and offers lots of comfortable seating for guests to take a load off. Airport wifi works just fine in here and there’s a row of computer terminals off to the side of the dining area as well.

    Plaza Premium YVR-5

    Large screen TVs, newspapers, and international magazines help keep you entertained but we found a spot near the glass walls with a great view of the shops below, and off to the distance, the airfield and Strait of Georgia — just the perfect spot for a steamy cappuccino and quiet conversing.

    Plaza Premium Lounge at YVR

    The open air plan contains lots of wood accents, modern light fixtures, brown leather chairs with cream piping, marble and steel accents and floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

    Showers, towels, and changing areas are all in the back for longer hauls. Consider this a home away from home: the front desk will stow your coat and bags so that you can really relax between flights. Or flight delays.

    Plaza Premium YVR-6

    A single visit to Plaza Premium Lounge starts at CAD $40 per person for two hours, and includes use of the lounge facilities, showers, and all food and beverages. For an additional fee, semi-private resting areas with recliners are available. The Plaza Premium Lounge is open from Monday to Saturday, 6 am to 9 pm, and on Sundays from 6 am to 8 pm.

    The new Plaza Premium Lounge is located past security near Gate B15. Additional YVR Plaza Premium Lounges are located after security in the International Terminal (Gate D53) and after security in the Transborder Departure Terminal (Gate E86).

    Plaza Premium Lounge also operates a Distinguished Visitors Lounge on Level 2 of the International Arrivals Hall. This space is available by reservation only.

    Plaza Premium YVR-1

    With headquarters in Hong Kong, Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited now operates in more than 120 locations in 31 international airports throughout the world, including Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, New Delhi, Johor, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow.

    Look for a Plaza Premium lounge to open inside Winnipeg International Airport this fall.

    We were invited to experience Plaza Premium at YVR for the purpose of this feature. Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Plaza Premium.

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  • Mar23

    Stefan Sagmeister at MOV

    Next month, The Museum of Vancouver will present a vibrant exhibition and profound exploration of one of humanity’s universal desires: happiness. Conceived by one of the world’s foremost designers and creative minds, Stefan Sagmeister, The Happy Show will engage visitors from April 23 to September 7.

    One of the largest exhibitions in MOV’s 120-year history, this astonishing experience will transcend the boundary between art and design and will take over museum galleries and in-between spaces—stairwells, hallways, and restrooms—in order to ask: what makes us happy? 

    Stefan Sagmeister at MOV

    Born in Austria in 1962, Sagmeister’s had a significant impact on design over the past decade, widely regarded for his keen eye when blending typography with imagery in strikingly original ways.

    A multi-award winning artist—including two GRAMMY Awards and the Lucky Strike Designer Award, among many others—Sagmeister is co-founder of sought-after New York design firm, Sagmeister & Walsh. His resume boasts globally-recognized clients such as HBO, Levi’s, The Rolling Stones, Time Warner and the Guggenheim Museum. Sagmeister has delivered several popular TED talks on happiness and design, and has written numerous books including Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far, Made You Look, and Another Book about Promotion and Sales.

    Stefan Sagmeister at MOV
    The Happy Show arrives as the wellbeing of Metro Vancouver residents is at the forefront of attention. The Vancouver Foundation has recently reported that Lower Mainland residents feel lonely and isolated. Our local and provincial governments are now recognizing that social connection is crucial for personal happiness and for a thriving city,” says Gregory Dreicer, MOV Director of Curatorial and Engagement.

    “This exhibition—masterfully created by Sagmeister—will delight visitors with works of art and design as it inspires them to reflect on their own lives.”

Sagmeister, who has documented his struggles with alcohol and drugs, weight gain, and depression, first conceptualized The Happy Show in an attempt to define and control his own happiness during a client-free sabbatical—a year-long break he takes every seven years to creatively recharge. The final display is the result of 10 years of research into his own personal happiness.

    Stefan Sagmeister at MOV

    Confronted with stories about wellness, mindfulness, and sex, viewers will be immersed in an experience akin to walking into Sagmeister’s mind. The Happy Show is comprised of an array of engaging infographics, video projections, and interactive installations, including a stationary bike that powers a wall of neon, a giant inflatable monkey, and a series of gumball machines that displays visitors’ collective level of happiness.

    Audiences will also enjoy a preview of Sagmeister’s soon-to-be-released documentary, The Happy Film, which depicts the artist’s attempts to increase his happiness through meditation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals.

    MOV will further engage visitors in a diverse array of public activities that extend The Happy Show into the community. Programs include a public symposium on ideas for happier communities led by one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject, UBC Professor John Helliwell, Happy Hours that will encourage Vancouverites to meet and inspire happiness through interaction, and a series of guerrilla street interventions that invite social connection.

    Stefan Sagmeister at MOV

    Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show
    Dates: April 23 to September 7
    Venue: Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: Adults, $14; students (with valid ID) and seniors (65+), $11; youth 5 to 18, $8; available online and at the museum box office

    Images courtesy Sagmeister Walsh.

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  • Mar23

    Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta assortment

    What’s old is new again – at least when it comes to eating grains. That’s the core message behind Catelli Foods Corporation in announcing the launch of new, all natural Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta, a first-of-its-kind product introduced to Western Canadian store shelves in late January.
    I’m all about standing behind a healthy carb: Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta blends 100% Canadian whole wheat with five wholesome ancient grains: quinoa, teff, amaranth, millet and sorghum.

    Chef Lynn Crawford
    Food Network Celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford helped launch the new line of pasta at an exclusive cooking event last week at PICA (Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts).

    “Whole grains and ancient grains have been a healthy choice for thousands of years, and Catelli has transformed this mix of proven ingredients into a simple, delicious and nutritious product,” said Chef Crawford, award-nominated cookbook author and chef-owner of Toronto-based Ruby Watchco restaurant.

    In addition to her busy restaurant, Crawford is host of Food Network Canada’s Pitchin’ In, judge of the Food Network Canada’s Chopped Canada, previous executive chef at Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto and New York — and the first female Canadian invited to participate in the Food Network’s Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters Season Five.

    Chef Lynn Crawford and Ariane Colenbrander of Vancouverscape

    After an intro and chat about cooking with pasta, we were led into PICA’s culinary kitchen, equipped with chef’s toques and aprons, ready to produce Chef Lynn’s chilled noodle salad with ginger wasabi dressing. Lucky for us, the ingredients were already laid out waiting for chopping and measuring, the pasta pots already at the boil.

    This healthy salad is super easy to make, is flavour-packed, and will make for great summer dining options, as it’s easily portable for picnics, camping, and other outdoor adventures.

    Chef Lynn Crawford and PICA culinary team
    [Chef Lynn Crawford and PICA culinary team]

    The first time in any kitchen leads to searches for pots, pans, tongs, measuring cups, and I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the PICA team for lending a helping hand in their kitchen.

    Certified GMO-free (NON GMO Project Verified), Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta is available in three cuts –  Spaghetti, Spaghettini and Rotini. We used Catelli’s spaghettini in the salad (find the recipe below).

    Catelli five grains
    The health benefits of eating 100% whole grain wheat have been touted for years, but what makes the other grains so healthy? Here’s at look at the five grains behind the pasta:
    – Dating back to the 13th century South American Inca Empire, quinoa is high in fibre, protein and minerals – including magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron – and low on the glycemic index.
    – Native to the Americas and prized by Aztec civilization, amaranth is rich in protein, containing all the essential amino acids, key vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron.
    – Originating in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4,000 BCE and 1,000 BCE, teff, a poppy seed-sized grain, is high in protein, fibre, calcium, thiamin and iron.
    – Domesticated in Northeastern Africa over 5,000 years ago, sorghum – a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and magnesium – is known to support digestive health, help fight cardiovascular disease and help control blood sugar levels.
    – Cultivated 4,000 years ago from wild West African grass, nutty-flavoured millet is known to be heart healthy, containing high levels of protein, magnesium, and niacin. Alkalizing to the body, millet is considered one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available.

    Ariane Colenbrander of Vancouverscape at PICA kitchen, Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Want to incorporate these healthy grains into your cooking? I’m working together with Catelli® to offer one lucky reader a year’s supply of Ancient Grains pasta. That’s 60 boxes of pasta! To enter, follow Vancouverscape on Twitter and simply leave a comment below describing your favourite pasta dish, or retweet the following:

    Enter for a chance to win a year’s supply of Catelli Ancient Grains pasta from #Catelli & @Vancouverscape http://goo.gl/EU0Jk5

    Do both for an extra entry. I’ll draw a winner at random on Monday, April 6 at 5 pm. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Good luck to all entrants and here’s a toast to healthy eating!
    Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains pasta retails for $3.29 and is available at major retailers in Western Canada. Visit Catelli® online for more product info.

    Catelli Chilled Noodle with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

    Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing (serves four)
    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 8 minutes

    1 package (340 g) Catelli® Healthy Harvest® Ancient Grains Spaghettini
    2 cups (500 ml) snow peas, thinly sliced diagonally
    1 cup (250 ml) shelled edamame
    1 small English cucumber
    2 cups (500 ml) Napa cabbage, finely shredded
    1 cup (250 ml) red pepper, cut into matchsticks
    3 green onions, thinly sliced
    1 ripe avocado, sliced
    1/4 cup (60 ml) cilantro leaves
    2 tbsp (30 ml) black sesame seeds
    Ginger Wasabi Dressing:
    1/4 cup (60 ml) seasoned rice vinegar
    3 tbsp (45 ml) canola oil
    2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce
    2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
    1 tsp (5 ml) lemon zest
    2 tsp (10 ml) brown sugar
    2 tsp (10 ml) sesame oil
    1 tsp (5 ml) grated fresh ginger
    wasabi to taste
    1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Rinse under cold water until well chilled; transfer to large bowl and set aside.
    2. In a pot of boiling water, cook snow peas and edamame until tender-crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water until well chilled; set aside.
    3. Meanwhile, halve the cucumber lengthwise and use the end of a spoon to scoop and discard seeds; cut cucumber into julienne strips.
    4. Ginger-Wasabi Dressing: Whisk together rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger. Season with wasabi to taste.
    5. Add cucumber, snow peas, edamame, Napa cabbage, red pepper, green onions and avocado to noodles; toss with enough dressing to coat.
    6. Garnish with cilantro leaves and black sesame seeds.
    Tip: If time permits, chill the noodle dish by refrigerating for one to four hours.
    Per serving: 590 calories, 19 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 710 mg sodium, 84 g carbohydrates, 145 g fibre, 13 g sugar, 21 g protein

    Photos courtesy of Catelli Foods Corporation.

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  • Mar20

    Garrison Brewing In Session ISA-1-2

    Garrison Brewing’s newest release, In Session ISA (India Session Ale), is an easy sipper, nutty and smooth with a subtle hoppy bitterness containing both citrus and tropical fruit flavours. This one’s got a beautiful golden colour and uses El Dorado, Belma, and Crystal hops.

    It’s low in alcohol at 4.4% abv however isn’t shy on flavour and hops. We enjoyed the vanilla aftertaste in this food-friendly ISA.

    Hop lovers can pair this ISA with steak, burgers, or focaccia.

    In Session ISA comes in a six pack of 341 ml bottles, available at Garrison’s retail store by Seaport Farmers’ Market as well as at private liquor stores in Nova Scotia.

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  • Mar20

    Weapons Of Mass Distraction
    [Weapons Of Mass Distraction by Birger King on Flickr]

    I’ve often had this discussion with fellow bloggers, my husband, and friends in the community. What exactly IS the worth of a blog post to a PR company or event promoter?

    First off, a typical post contains valuable information, photography, and a lifespan that far outlasts traditional media and local weeklies. It’s also spell-checked, copy edited and curated for online audiences, made concise and to the point in a compact format (at least in my world). Secondly, the post can be shared around the globe via social networks for months, even years on end.

    Why some companies don’t see the fundamental value of a well-written post is a puzzle to me. Advertisers charge for every possible magazine and newspaper spot, whether it be for advertorials or ad space. When a writer posts valuable content on a site for the world to see – for free – it not only devalues the industry but takes away precious time from other tasks, healthy outdoor breaks, fitness, and quality time with loved ones.

    Let’s be honest: if there’s a company that aligns with your ethics and offers up product in exchange for your valuable time, that’s certainly a viable means of building a working relationship that hopefully over time will translate to monetary gain on your end. So many companies have approached me (and continue to do so daily) hoping that I’ll place their product, service, or event on my site for free.

    I understand that you’ve given me content and photography that’s simply a matter of cut and paste into my WordPress (or other CMS) dashboard. Sure, the intern may have overlooked a grammatical error or two, but heck, why should I take the time and go over the copy, looking for irregularities? I mean, come on, you’ve given me an easy time-saving way of posting your content.

    Here’s why. I take pride in my work and whatever imagery I choose to add to the story.

    And then there’s that time thing again: would you want to spend your days emailing bloggers and writers for free?

    The next time you approach a blogger to write for free, remember how much time goes into their daily routine, aside from that ‘simple cut and paste job’— admin, web maintenance, editing, photo sourcing/shooting/editing, and yes, a LOT of emails.

    Over and out.

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  • Mar19

    Team Art Institute of Vancouver/People's Choice winners!
    [2013 People’s Choice Award winners Team Art Institute]

    For 15 years, the Healthy Chef Competition has challenged groups of BC-based culinary schools, hotels, and restaurants to gather their fruits, herbs, and vegetables, square off against one another and create fantastic plates where the produce is the star.

    Sliced sweet soya braised duck breast, sautéed duck meat with diced vegetables on squash shell wild rice tower
    [Sliced sweet soya braised duck breast, sautéed duck meat with diced vegetables on squash shell wild rice tower]

    Judged by a panel of certified BCCA chefs, the properties will vie for awards in a variety of categories including Best Entrée, People’s Choice, and the Healthy Plate Award in this year’s 16th annual competition being held on March 25.

    Lemon orange sabayon tart
    [Lemon orange sabayon tart]

    The event is open to both trade and public and returns this year to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver.

    Healthy Chef Competition-60

    At your table, find a sealed mystery envelope pointing you to the property whose food you will enjoy, in addition to music, light entertainment, a silent and live auction and the awards ceremony. This event is co-hosted by the BC Produce Marketing Association and the BC Chefs Association. The money raised from the auctions will benefit several local charities.

    People’s Choice Award’s Choice Award – Art Institute of Vancouver Culinary School
    [Art Institute’s Sous Vide swordfish, tropical fruit salsa, grilled papaya puree]

    Healthy Chef Competition-54

    BCCA’s Chef Boban Kovachevich sums up the intense but friendly competition: “The team chef is like the conductor of an orchestra and everyone needs to do their part to make it a success – it feeds their souls.” With an estimated 500 guests attending, the pressure can be intense!

    Hosted by CTV’s Marke Driesschen, the evening will continue with music, light entertainment, silent and live auctions culminating with the awards ceremony.

    Emcee Marke Driesschen of CTV
    [Emcee Marke Driesschen of CTV Vancouver]
    Participating restaurants will include:
    e.b.o Restaurant Delta Burnaby Hotel Conference Centre, Grand Villa Casino – Chef Keith Pears
    Vancouver Community CollegeChef Colin Gill
    Art Institute of VancouverChef Daniel Riviere
    River’s Edge Restaurant – Sandpiper Gold Course, Pretty Estates Resorts – Chef Jonathan Gee
    Burnaby Central High School Ace-It ProgramChef Stephen Wade
    Mosaic Grill/Grain Tasting Bar – Hyatt Regency Vancouver, Chef Jeff Szombaty
    The Wild Fig RestaurantSous Chef Sherwin Batac
    Tivoli’s RestaurantChef Cory White
    TorafukuChef Clement Chan

    Healthy Chef Competition-67

    16th Annual Healthy Chef Competition
    Date: March 25, 6:30 pm
    Venue: Hyatt Regency Hotel, 655 Burrard Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: $90.00 (price includes taxes); available via online form or by phoning 604.944.0179

    Your ticket includes appetizers, dinner, entertainment and a swag bag full of healthy produce, coupons, and other fun surprises.

    Get social!
Twitter: www.twitter.com/BCProduceBC
    Hashtags: #foodiesYVR #BCPMA

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  • Mar19

    PiDGiN Mushrooms, snap peas, egg, soy yuzu brown butter
    [Mushrooms, snap peas, egg, soy yuzu brown butter]

    On the occasion of bringing new Executive Chef Shin Suzuki on board, PiDGiN hosted a group of media and food writers to its award-winning Gastown eatery earlier in the week.

    PiDGiN salmon, fish roe
    [Salmon, cod roe]

    Along with a recent menu revamp, PiDGiN has gained national recognition for culinary excellence. The menu will be a combination of tried-and-true favourites (including Parisienne gnocchi and Dan-dan kohlrabi noodle salad with tofu and almonds) alongside some of Chef Suzuki’s own creations.

    PiDGiN Raw scallops, pomegranate, red curry oil, daikon, green apple PiDGiN Potato & mentaiko udon, spicy cod roe, seaweed butter
    [Raw scallops, pomegranate, red curry oil, daikon, green apple; potato & mentaiko udon, cod roe]

    The dishes are beautifully presented and upon sampling offer a great combination of flavours, textures, and colours alongside a curated list of craft cocktails, single malt scotches, Japanese whiskies, wines, sakes and beer.

    Chef Shin Suzuki PiDGiN
    [PiDGiN Executive Chef Shin Suzuki; photo courtesy of PiDGiN]

    Toronto born and raised, Chef Suzuki looks to traditional flavours from his Japanese heritage and combines them with classic French techniques. His plates are highly composed and influenced by bold spices and humble ingredients from East and West, a perfect match for the ethos of PiDGiN.

    PiDGiN Parisienne gnocchi, radish, radish green pistou, ricotta PiDGiN Fried chicken wings
    [PiDGiN Parisienne gnocchi, radish, radish green pistou, ricotta; fried chicken wings]

    Honing his skills at Ferrandi Paris, the French school of culinary arts, Chef Suzuki’s resume boasts stints at many of the most acclaimed restaurants in Paris, including Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, and Taillevent, where he trained under Chef Alain Solivérès.

    Cook the Vote Party at Pidgin-15

    About PiDGiN
    Designed with beauty and comfort in mind, PiDGiN and its menu represent global travels and life experiences by both its owners and chefs. With no distinction between casual and fine dining, the expertly crafted menu exudes a delicate approachability associated with familiar flavours and childhood memories. 

    Pidgin is located at 350 Carrall Street and is open Mondays to Saturdays from 5 pm to midnight and Sundays from 6 pm to midnight. Also consider checking out their ‘before and after dark’ happy hour (5 to 6:30 pm and 10:30 pm to late).

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  • Mar18

    SALONTEA The Romantic (green tea-infused) macaron by Kitchening

    Jour de Macaron returns to Vancouver for the fifth year in a row on Friday, March 20, with many citywide bakeries offering a special macaron and/or supporting a cause with purchase.

    Wasabi macaron with caviar and cream topping

    This year, look for creations by Bel Café, Faubourg (all three locations: Kerrisdale, downtown and West Van at Park Royale; 100% of proceeds benefit Canadian Cancer Society), Soirette (portion of sales to Make-A-Wish Foundation of BC and Yukon), French Make Baking (by donation to BC Children’s Hospital), Thierry (10% of sales benefit St. Paul’s Hospital) and Thomas Haas (Kitsilano and North Van; 100% of proceeds go towards helping Canuck Place Children’s Hospice).

    Grab a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy some of these fine little treats for several worthy causes!

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  • Mar18

    El Naturalista El Viajero Mary Janes

    Out here on the West coast, spring is definitely in the air, and these pretty little El Viajero mary janes by El Naturalista capture the season in a range of colours. I was sent the El Viajero’s in a lovely shade of spring green. One thing about El Naturalista shoes that I can count on: comfort right out of the box. I can’t say enough good things about a well-crafted, high-quality shoe that doesn’t need a breaking-in period!

    El Viajero translates to The Traveller in English. These shoes are created for long walks and are lightweight enough for carry-on packing.

    El Naturalista El Viajero Mary Janes

    The leather is treated with natural oils and grease to produce a softness; the light grained texture is complemented by a comfortable, low rubber sole and El Naturalista’s green icon, updated from their former frog logo.

    El Naturalista El Viajero Mary Janes

    The shoes arrive in their own dust free drawstring bag along with a pair of heat-moldable anatomically-designed insoles that pop right in. If you wear custom orthopedics, this is a great advantage as you can easily place those into the shoe instead.

    A custom fit is created when the heat of your foot meets the NATFIT insoles. The soles are specially designed to work with your feet’s natural steps.

    El Viajero

    How it works
    – Put the NATFIT insoles into a microwave with the writing face up.
    – Heat at medium power for 40 seconds.
    – Place the insole into the shoes and put them on.
    – Remain standing, exerting pressure on them for about two minutes.
    – El Naturalista recommends keeping the shoes on for at least an hour to ensure your footprint will be transferred to the insole

    These insoles aim to improve stability when walking and create less vibration in the lumbar, knee, and ankle regions of the body. I walked with the shoes before and after heating the insoles, and I can say it really does make a difference when your feet are molded to them!

    El Naturalista El Viajero in sunset orange

    The El Viajeros look great with jeans as well as with tights and skirts. Depending on the colour, I could see these being dressed up or down. They’ve also got an easy velcro closure across the center to adjust to your foot’s width.

    El Naturalista El Viajero in black

    The El Viajero mary jane is also available in blue, brown, grey, grosella (red), sunset (orange), white and black and retails for 150 Euros/CDN $201/US $157. Prices reflect Canadian and US currency exchange rate as of this writing.

    Donate to El Naturalista community

    A socially-aware company, El Naturalista donates 2.14% of each pair of shoes sold via their community page, www.webelieveinpeople.org. Customers have the option to donate the 2.14% profit via a single-use donation code to one of three communities: school meals in Haiti, fishermen warehouse in Japan, or house for single mothers in Peru.

    Disclaimer: El Naturalista sent me a pair of El Viajero shoes to test drive for this feature. Opinions, as always, are my own. Unwatermarked photos courtesy of El Naturalista.

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  • Mar17

    Squamish Beer Festival

    Following Howe Sound Brewery’s Third Annual Tap Takeover to take place on Saturday, March 26, Squamish will host its first-ever craft beer festival on July 11 from 1 pm to 6 pm at the O’Siyam Pavilion. This centrally-located pavilion will be the spot for sampling over 30 craft beers from BC faves such as Howe Sound and Powell Street Breweries to California’s BarrelHouse Brewing Company.

    Food vendors (TBD) will be onsite for pairing with all that tasty, refreshing beer. Live music is also slated for the event.

    Bomber Brewing

    Early bird tickets are now on sale for $32; after April 30, the price goes up to $50. Six extra beer tasting samples will go for $10. Plan on enjoying a day out this summer in our city’s beautiful backyard with craft beer in hand.

    Visit the Squamish Beer Fest website for details. Note that this event is 19+; two pieces of ID will be required for entry. Also, no pets allowed onsite for health regulation reasons.

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  • Mar17

    Arts Club Theatre's West Theatre
    [Arts Club Theatre’s newly-unveiled West First Stage; photo courtesy of Arts Club Theatre]

    Arts Club Theatre’s 52nd season includes programming at a brand-new, purpose built theatre on West 1st Avenue in Olympic Village, the West First Stage (replacing the Revue Stage), as well as perennial favourites Stanley Industrial Alliance and Granville Island Stages.

    13 diverse and entertaining productions—including the premieres of two new Canadian musicals and an array of Broadway triumphs—promise to engage Arts Club audiences old and new next season. Three more productions will visit Metro Vancouver and then tour across the province.

    Nathan Barrett, Nicola Cavendish
    [Nathan Barrett, Nicola Cavendish in 4000 Miles; photo by David Cooper]

    “Next season will be a historic one for the Arts Club as we prepare for the opening of a new theatre space in Olympic Village,” said Artistic Managing Director Bill Millerd. “While still maintaining our roots at the Stanley and Granville Island stages, this exciting new addition will help us to expand our production of new works and allow our artists and playwrights to experiment with different seating configurations and original staging.

    This new stage will host the premiere of Onegin, an Arts Club Silver Commission musical by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone, part of the dynamic team behind A Craigslist Cantata. The shows at the Stanley include an exciting array of Broadway hits, from the 10-time Tony Award–winning Billy Elliot to the groundbreaking Disgraced, which makes its Canadian premiere.

    The Granville Island Stage has the premiere of The Waiting Room, the highly-anticipated musical from Spirit of the West’s John Mann and acclaimed playwright Morris Panych.”

    Red Rock Diner cast, Vancouver
    [Red Rock Diner cast; photo by Emily Cooper]

    “The upcoming season marks a turning point for the Arts Club with the opening of the new West First Stage. It will be an amazing season of productions at all three of our theatres, in three of the most exciting neighbourhoods in Vancouver,” said Executive Director Peter Cathie White.

    “We can now inspire and entertain a broader cross-section of our community and I very much look forward to the reaction from patrons old and new to this wonderful mix of lauded plays, celebrated musicals, and world-premieres from some of Vancouver’s greatest artists. I’m particularly proud that we are continuing our great tradition of heralding new Canadian voices and stories on our stages.”

    Season tickets for the Arts Club’s 2015–2016 season lineup, below, are on sale now.

    Stanley Alliance Industrial Stage
    Disgraced | September 17 to October 18
    A Christmas Story, The Musical | November 5 to December 27
    Pride and Prejudice | January 28 to February 28, 2016
    Good People | March 24 to April 24, 2016
    Billy Elliot | May 12 to July 10, 2016

    Granville Island Stage
    The Waiting Room | October 1 to October 31
    It’s a Wonderful Life | November 19 to December 26
    BOOM | January 14 to February 13, 2016
    The Valley | April 7 to May 7, 2016
    Rock of Ages | June 16 to July 30, 2016

    West First Stage
    Peter and the Starcatcher | November 26 to December 27
    The (Post) Mistress | February 4 to February 28, 2016
    Onegin | March 17 to April 10, 2016

    On Tour (Metro Vancouver and throughout the province)
    Red Rock Diner | October 14 to November 22
    In a Blue Moon | January 8 to 30, 2016
    4000 Miles | February 13 to March 12, 2016

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  • Mar17

    North Brewing Belgian Milk Stout-1

    At first, Halifax’s North Brewing Belgian Milk Stout tastes like a fortified wine (with the nose of a Cabernet Sauvignon), followed by sweet molasses, with mellow chocolate and coffee flavours to round it out.

    We enjoyed the creamy texture of this one, a stout with a toasty quality to match its mild bitterness.

    Brewed with 2-Row, Roasted Barley, Chocolate and De-bittered Chocolate malts, lactose (milk sugar) is added to get that sweet character (lactose is not fermentable by most yeasts). Northern Brewer hops were used for bittering, a light dose of Willamette was used late in the boil for aroma, and a Belgian Stout yeast strain was used in the fermentation stage.

    This Belgian Milk Stout would pair nicely with a range of dishes, from stews to cured meats.

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