• Nov21

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-1

    Vancouver craft beer lovers have one more beautiful space to raise a glass: Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House officially opened its doors on Tuesday in the old Chambar space on Beatty Street.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-5

    “In one of the earliest English legends, the Devil’s Elbow is said to have been a meeting place for two lovers – a young man and woman – whose woman’s father did not approve of their union. The father swore that he would rather the Devil take his daughter than have the two lovers meet again. On their next meeting, the Devil appeared and chased the terrified couple across the moor. When the Devil reached out to claim his prize, a loud voice boomed out and turned the Devil’s arm to stone. The Devil tore off his bent arm and threw it to the ground, and this crooked place in a road in Derbyshire became known as The Devil’s Elbow. Today, the term “Devil’s Elbow” is found as a place name in many areas of the world, where there are extreme bends in a road, trail or river. The Devil’s Elbow Class IV rapids on the Elaho River north of Squamish, BC is one such place, and is the namesake for Howe Sound Brewing’s Devil’s Elbow IPA, which lends its name to this alehouse.”

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-4

    The space is warm and inviting, seats up to 170 people, contains lots of rustic wood furnishings, a full range of Howe Sound Brewery beers, and a sweet tasting room in back.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-7 Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-6

    The theme of the art pieces was to combine beer, breweries, and devils or Hell. Howe Sound Brewery’s graphic designer Tom Pedriks commissioned six up-and-coming artists to create their own interpretation of that theme.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-10 Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-12

    The Devil’s Elbow owners have sourced rustic leather seats and gorgeous wooden tables; a large hollowed-out canoe hangs from the ceiling towards the side kitchen.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-11 Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-8

    The menu features smoke house dishes including ribs, smoked duck BLT’s, beef brisket, and beef and lamb sausage. Several other options (soups, salads, light dishes) will appeal to non-meat eaters. I can highly recommend the Asian sticky ribs ($13) with a sweet, spicy sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. Goes down well with a Pumpkineater Ale or a Hopraiser IPA. You’ll likely not go wrong with the IPA Mac ’n Cheese either.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-2

    And desserts? How about a slice of deep-fried cheesecake with phyllo pastry, served à la mode, or a hemp fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce ($8 each).

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-3

    I’ll be returning for more of those sticky ribs, and a glass of seasonal brew. Also look for other BC brewery selections (such as Parallel 49’s Ugly Sweater Milk Stout) a whiskey-charged cocktail list, a nice assortment of North American whiskeys, plus a few red and white wines.

    Worth trying: the triple pub trifecta in a cocktail: Beer, Bourbon and Bacon: 12 oz. pale ale, 1 oz. bourbon, smoked bacon on the side; $12.

    Devils Elbow Ale and Smoke House-9

    Keep an eye out on their website for cask nights, beer and whiskey events, and food-pairing dinners as well. Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House is located at 562 Beatty Street in Vancouver and is open 11:30 am to midnight from Monday to Friday, 10 am to midnight on Saturday and Sunday, plus weekend brunch.

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  • Nov21

    Smith Teamaker bags

    I was recently invited by Travel Portland to sample Smith Teamaker loose-leaf teas, and am finding a fast favorite in the Jasmine Silver Tip, a full-leaf Chinese (Fujian province) green tea combined with delicate jasmine blossoms.

    Steven Smith is one of America’s great tea pioneers. He started Stash Tea Company in the early 1970’s, later went on to co-found Tazo (a company he sold to Starbucks in 1999 for a cool $8 million), and in 2009, Steve Smith returned to the tea world together with his wife Kim to create a new line of tea, Smith Teamaker, raising the bar yet again on high-quality loose-leaf tea.

    Hand-packed boxes

    To back up even further, Smith was part of Portland’s natural foods scene in the early 1970’s, serving as a partner in the city’s first organic foods shop. After a trip to Southeast Asia, Steve was inspired to begin a tea company, and Stash was founded along with two partners. The team was at the forefront of the domestic mint business as they harvested and processed hundreds of tons of mint leaves annually, selling to companies including Celestial Seasonings and Lipton.

    No.55 Lord Bergamot String Tie

    Tazo arrived after Stash was sold to Japan’s oldest tea company, Yamamotoyama, in 1993. Smith was after developing a tea brand that would involve artful blending using high quality teas and botanicals, sourced through trusted global suppliers.

    To his credit, Smith developed over 60 proprietary blends for Tazo, many of which continue to be their top sellers. Once Tazo was sold to Starbucks, Smith and his family took off to Southern France. Once there and settled, he met with small artisanal food and wine producers, again fueling the desire to create a new breed of tea, and in early 2010, that dream took shape in a century-old NW Portland blacksmith shop as Steven Smith Teamaker was born.

    Steven Smith Teamaker-1

    Each ingredient that goes into their teas can be traced through a batch number on the teabags and box. If you’d like to see how this works, visit the batch lookup page and type in 91418. As a graphic designer, I admire the attention to detail that goes into their branding, right down to the messages on the tea bags and on the bottom of the string-tie carton box.

    A range of green, white, herbal infusions, and black full leaf teas are available in the US at Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods, as well as at various hotels and resorts. I noticed one Lower Mainland retailer in Port Moody: Eden West Fine Foods and Gifts.

    Smith Teamaker retail shop

    If you’re in Portland, check out their Teaworks tasting room, with teas to taste in pots or flights, tea products, and other tea-related merch at 1626 NW Thurman Street.

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  • Nov20

    No Exit cast photo

    The fine cast of Never You Mind have taken the grandiose task of mounting Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, a 1944 existentialist play about three damned souls stuck in Hell together. This particular version of hell has no torture devices, nor burning pokers.

    Upon entering Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre, the stage remains dark with a sole chandelier suspended from above, right until the start of the performance. When the dimly-lit stage and red glow finally do expose us to Hell, we see a sparsely-furnished drawing room in the style of the Second French Empire, containing three seating options of varying shapes and sizes, a mantle with a bronze bust, and the aforementioned chandelier. No windows, no mirrors, but a door that encloses an angular room.
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  • Nov20

    Portland in Vancouver-2 Samsung Galaxy S5 Active-2

    If you happened to have wandered along West Georgia and Homer Street on Monday, you just may have been fascinated by an enormous, detail-rich cuckoo clock bearing the iconic Portland White Stag neon sign above it. This beautiful, not-so-little clock forms the centerpiece of Travel Portland’s lively and well-designed winter tourism campaign, “Portland is Happening Now”.

    Portland in Vancouver-5

    The 24-foot, 7,000-pound clock, handcrafted and painted in Portland by entertainment prop designer Nicolas Gros, spent the day in Seattle as well, with the bird chiming on the hour (from 9 to 6 pm), and a surprise element coming out of the doors below. The clock is reportedly the tallest freestanding clock in North America, and spent one day in each of the two cities.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov19

    Touch Of Evil 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 Orson Welles’ 1958 film Touch of Evil.
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  • Nov19

    Saladworks Yaletown-1

    VanEats, a dining package deal website that’s offered a variety of culinary dining passes over the years, has recently partnered with American-based Saladworks (in Yaletown) for a pretty sweet three-course deal, on now though January 10, 2015.
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  • Nov18

    Roam Mobility SIM Holde

    If you’ve travelled to the States with your mobile phone in the past, you’ve surely either experienced sticker shock at your bill the next month, or have paid your Canadian provider a handsome fee to provide coverage south of the 49th parallel.

    A few years ago, I discovered Roam Mobility, a Vancouver-based company specializing in talk, text, and data plans for USA-bound travellers.

    Whether you’re on business or taking a well-deserved holiday, Roam is there with several plans, starting at $1.95 per day for text and data, through to unlimited talk, text, and data, including 400 MB 4G LTE Data for $3.95 per day.

    Roam Mobility USA Travel SIM_560x345

    Simply purchase a SIM card in Canada (either online or at outlets including London Drugs), activate the SIM, pick a plan, and you’re off! You can always access your account online (or via texting ‘topup’ to 7850 by SMS) for topping up a current plan. They also have a toll-free number you can call if you get stuck or need help.

    When you activate a Roam SIM you get your own US phone number that’s yours to keep as long as you as you top up once every 365 days. Your Roam SIM card and US phone number can be topped up and reused anytime you travel. I’ve used their service on several occasions to date. Schedule the start date and time of your plan, arrive at the airport, and you’re good to go (provided your phone is unlocked).

    If you don’t own an unlocked phone, check out the Breeze ($49.95), an unlocked, dual-SIM USA travel phone great for unlimited talk and text plans. The quad-band Breeze includes a hands-free headset, US roaming number, and Dual-SIM cards.

    On business with your laptop or tablet? The Liberty Mobile Hotspot ($99.95) will hook up to five devices within a 150-foot radius.

    Roam Vancouverscape Contest 150

    Now I know many of you are longing for a holiday break or a great gift idea for a travel lover in your life. I’ve partnered with Roam to offer two readers a fab bundle for your next American vacation or business trip:

    GRAND PRIZE: Family Travel Bundle
    2 x Roam LTE SIM Cards
    2 x 7 Day Talk+Text+Data Plans
    2 x Roam SIM Holders
    Approx. Value: $100

    Runner-Up Prize: Roam Prize Bundle
    1 x Roam LTE SIM Card
    1 x 7 Day Talk+Text+Data Plan
    1 x Roam SIM Holder
    Approx. Value: $50

    For a chance to win, you’ve got three options:
    1) Like Roam Mobility and Vancouverscape on Facebook.

    2) Follow Roam Mobility and Vancouverscape on Twitter and RT the following:
    I’ve entered for a chance to win a Roam prize pack via Roam Mobility and Vancouverscape http://ow.ly/DWNBO

    3) Name your favourite USA winter destination in the comments section below.

    Do all three for an extra two entries! I’ll draw two winners on December 9 at 4 pm. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Good luck to all entrants and happy roam-free holidays!

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  • Nov18

    Plan Less TravelTonight banner

    If you’ve ever run into the scenario of being stranded at an airport due to flight delays, or been convinced to stay “just a night longer” while visiting friends, there’s an app for spontaneous travel decisions such as these.

    HotelTonight is a last-minute hotel booking app currently available in over 30 American cities and throughout most (not all) of Canada. Here’s a great solution to booking for a same-day stay. The app promises to find and book a deeply-discounted (up to 70%) room at one of the hottest local hotels for you. Sounds good so far.

    Recently listed in Mashable’s 14 travel apps to download before your next adventure, here’s how the service works:

    Each day at noon local time, HotelTonight releases three featured deals for that night in each city (via the free iOS and Android apps).

    NYC, San Diego hotels on HotelTonight

    You can scroll through each hotel’s details and book in “just three taps and a swipe.” You’ll have until 2 am to complete the reservation, and will be able to book one to five nights at a time.

    BC hotels in HotelTonight

    Notable hotels include Toronto’s Cosmopolitan Hotel and Thompson Toronto, and Vancouver’s Moda Hotel and Pan Pacific.

    This is a great concept for visiting friends and family who are looking for a great deal and perhaps have already booked their flight weeks earlier, in order to take advantage of a cheaper fare.

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  • Nov18

    Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson
    [Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson]

    In David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, hugely bankable star Doug Brown agrees to appear in a sure-fire commercial hit, and film producers Bobby Gould (Craig Erickson) and Charlie Fox (Aaron Craven) are convinced that this is their lucky break.

    When temporary secretary Karen (Kayla Deorksen) derails their dream movie by persuading Bobby to dump the blockbuster in favour of a story which can only be described as box-office poison, Charlie is forced to resort to desperate measures.

    This well-known and often-mounted David Mamet play starts with Bobby’s recent promotion to the studio’s Head of Production. Charlie’s been at his side for 11 faithful years, and enters the office brimming with excitement as Doug Brown literally walked across the street to Charlie’s house to say he’d do their film. Now all that’s left for Bobby to do is green-light the production.

    Lots of wit gets fired off between the two colleagues as they build momentum to take a meeting with their boss, studio head Richard Ross.

    In the meantime, a book has been sent Bobby’s way for a courtesy read. This horrible-idea-for-a-movie has been sitting idle on his desk, until Bobby asks the temp (Karen) to give it a read and report back to him later that evening. She leaves the office and Fox begins to tease Bobby, convinced he’d try to seduce her. A $500 bet is made by the men, Bobby certain that he can win the bet. Typical Hollywood film industry banter, thus.

    Craig Erickson, Kayla Deorksen
    [Craig Erickson, Kayla Deorksen]

    Later that night, the scene changes to an intimate, dimly-lit apartment with a city view, with Karen and Bobby on the couch sipping wine. He’s trying to follow her hyper-enthusiasm over the book, but having a hard time staying awake. Her original entrance into the play paints her as somewhat naïve and new to the Hollywood scene, however there’s more to it than meets the eye with this gal.

    The next morning, things have drastically changed. Charlie can’t believe what he’s hearing, and is livid, becoming more aggressive by the moment. The wedge driven between the two men by Karen becomes painfully evident, and she’s called into the office to reveal her motive behind wanting the horrible book made into a film. When things turn back once again, it’s evident that boys stick together in this biz and Bobby, aka an “old whore”, really doesn’t piss on money but sleeps with it.

    Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson

    The stage consists of two rooms at either side: Bobby’s office (with a Hollywood view backdrop on the wall) and his apartment (also adorned with a killer city view). Set Designer David Roberts succeeds in keeping the two main scenes separate but close enough on the small Studio 16 stage to portray a sleazy lifestyle that easily morphs from business deals to evening flirtations.

    Jeremy Piven once performed the role of Bobby on Broadway, and I can easily imagine Ari Gold in this choice role. Craig Erikson does a commendable job of schmoozing and scheming, while Aaron Craven plays the whiney childlike assistant to his boss. He got under my skin in a slightly irritating way at times, but fits Charlie’s mocking, selfish character traits to a t.

    Kayla Deorksen gets the job done, coming across as a powerful, intelligent woman when necessary. In the end though, we realize that it’s every man (and woman) for themselves — Hollywood thrives in that soul-sucking way.

    Directed by David Mackay, Mitch and Murray Productions’ Speed-the-Plow continues through November 29 at Studio 16 Theatre at 1555 West 7th Avenue in Vancouver.

    Photos by Shimon Karmel.

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  • Nov17

    Good Person of Setzuan
    [Steven Olah, Rory Knowler]

    First, I must confess, I did not enjoy The Good Person of Setzuan, by German playwright Bertolt Brecht. When I go to theatre, I want to be immersed in the story, empathize with the characters, and leave with an emotional twinge of something. “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel”, said fellow German Carl W. Buehner, almost a century later. None of that happened in this play.
    Now, I will tell you why Exit 22’s production is, nonetheless, worth attending. In order to appreciate director Stuart Aikins’ re-imagined take, you must understand the distinct style of a Brecht play. Being a fundamental Marxist, Brecht’s plays focus on materialism and how although emotional passion serves humanity, it is neither practical nor sustainable without resources.

    Good Person of Setzuan
    [Michael Dean Henderson, Tyler Richardson]

    He espoused a genre dubbed “epic theatre” in which the audience’s feelings are intentionally divorced from the plot or characters. Using the principle of Verfremdungseffekt (translated as “distancing effect”), he aimed to provoke spectators into critically examining the social problems presented in his works, rather than attaching unproductive sentimentalities to fictional personalities. 

    To achieve this, Brecht plays used various techniques to ensure the audience is fully conscious that they are only observing a representation of reality, a reality that they have the power to change. There are many disjointed elements: actors addressing the house directly in the midst of a scene; an interpolation of songs interrupting the action; scene projections on the walls; actors overtly rearranging the scene; harsh, glaring lights; and finally, no satisfactory or “neat” conclusions. Through all this, the presentation of the problem remains the pivotal focus rather than the plot or any of the characters. 

    Good Person of Setzuan
    [Kimberly Ma, Gavin Langelo, Rory Knowler]
    All familiarity and expectations I longed for in many contemporary productions were absent from this play – this is exactly what Brecht had intended – and exactly how Exit 22 performed it, using Tony Kushner’s English adaptation.
    The Good Person of Setzuan is a parable. Its lesson is clearly laid out in the title: How is it possible for a person to remain good, in a world that rewards evil? Wang, the water seller, has knowledge that three gods will visit the village of Setzuan in search of “good” people to restore their faith in humanity. When the gods arrive, they seek shelter for the night, but are repeatedly refused by everyone except young prostitute Shen Te (Nina Tischhauser), who “can’t say no to anyone”.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov16

    Mayor Gregor Robertson

    By all accounts on local television last night, the place to be was at the Sheraton Wall Centre, where Vision Vancouver was headquartered to await final election results. Mayor Gregor Robertson’s third term re-election was announced past 10 pm, and just before 11:30, he made his way through a stoked crowd and onto the stage, bringing his entire Vision team up with him, high-fives and hugs all around.

    Thinking back to having lived nine years in Vancouver so far, it dawned on me as to why I too am pretty stoked with our city’s mayor thus far.

    Mayor Gregor and I grew up in the same decade – the early 60’s – a tad too young to be involved with the Vietnam War protests, living through the disco-enhanced 70’s and indulgent 80’s, into the dot-com burst of the 90’s, and into a new millennium, a new frontier where the moving economy’s brought more entrepreneurs to the forefront than ever before.

    Burrard Bridge bike lane-28

    When the Burrard Bike Lane Trials were complete, my husband and me were thrilled to see Vancouver begin to take serious steps towards becoming more bike-friendly. We spent eight years living in The Netherlands together, where bikes are prominent and bike routes are found not just in cities, but alongside many of the country’s provincial roadways.

    Vancouver’s attractive on many fronts; steady population growth plus crazy housing prices have moved thousands to the suburbs. With high-rises dominating the downtown skyline, it’s no wonder residents are aiming to live closer to their workplaces and choose to cycle or walk rather than drive.

    Notice that I didn’t mention transit. I have issues with a transit system that’s costlier to use than my own car (and that includes parking). Still, there’s hope that Gregor and his colleagues will expand Skytrain lines and add that badly-needed Broadway subway from Commercial to Point Grey in the not-too-distant-future.

    Smorgasbord with Dan Mangan-38

    The Mayor’s a great role model. He’s active, fit, musical, forward-thinking, tech savvy, and environmentally-friendly, and loves a good craft beer. Not perfect, but taking on some pretty tough issues — affordability, climate change, and Vancouver’s homeless population. We’re looking forward to seeing what he’ll do in this next term.

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  • Nov13

    Jeremy Leroux
    [Jeremy Leroux]

    For much of the late sixties to early 1980’s, American author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was de rigueur reading for anyone wishing to be considered hip. Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) established his reputation as a writer like no other when it came to witty observations on the human condition. His lengthier Sirens of Titan (1959) had taken the sci-fi story and made it literature.  
    The 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five came out just as the Vietnam war was really heating up. American youth were waking up to the fact that friends or neighbours (and perhaps themselves as well) were being drafted to fight a war in a land they’d never heard of.

    Boxer Muhammed Ali voiced the concern of many when he refused military induction, declaring that he had no quarrel with his so-called enemy. Those with authority stripped him of his championship titles and of his livelihood. To even the most cynical, this seemed outrageous.
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  • Nov13

    Alex Gullason, Neezar
    [Alex Gullason, Neezar]

    The year is 2136. An embedded generation is getting off on downloading ‘feelies’ through their sensory implants and hardware. Enter one Ginger 5000, a souped-up, sexy redhead who’s employed as a medical service android at the hospital. Her diet consists of plutonium-239 once every decade. She’s adorable – and yes, technically a fembot – but she also has the capability to desire love.

    Ian Rozylo, Alex Gullason
    [Ian Rozylo, Alex Gullason]

    The sleek, hardware-enhanced world of The Virtual Stage Theatre’s Broken Sex Doll (in a remount of 2012’s Cultch hit musical) is filled with people who’ve lost the ability to touch, hence the feelies. Each week, Billy Crumble (Ian Rozylo), host of This Week at The Feelies, picks the best uploaded feelie of the week.

    Chelsea Rose Tucker, Benjamin Elliott
    [Chelsea Rose Tucker, Benjamin Elliott]

    Enter Darryl (Benjamin Elliott), who’s in need of a hardware upgrade at the hospital where Ginger (our heroine) works. Soon, he’s up and ready with some “interesting” enhancements that he later finds will lead him to both fame and trouble.
    Continue reading »

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  • Nov12

    Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company Dancers
    [Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company dancers]

    Ballet BC will light up Vancouver next month with Nutcracker, the quintessential holiday ballet beautifully brought to life by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, turning 75 this season.
    Follow the fearless female heroine, Clara, as her Christmas dream becomes our magical reality. Danced to Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, Clara’s turn-of-the-century stately mansion becomes a whirlwind fantasy of live toy soldiers, dancing mice, and a mischievous bear that steals the Christmas pudding. With her Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy by her side, Clara confidently overcomes all obstacles on this wild Christmas night!
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  • Nov10

    Parfumerie 2014
    [Dani Lemon, Stefan Winfield, Madison McCord, Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin, Bill Murdoch]

    If you were asked to name a classic Christmas-time story, what comes to mind? Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life? Ever heard of Illatszertár (translated as Parfumerie) by Hungarian playwright Miklós László

    Most people will be familiar with the storyline but may not instantly associate with this “obscure” romantic comedy. Its ideas have been pilfered for three successful movies and an even more splendid Broadway musical. The adaptations center around two people with a tumultuous real-life working relationship, but have unknowingly fallen in love with each other as secret pen pals. Sound familiar yet? 

    Modern audiences will recognize this plot from Nora Ephron’s 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Previous movie adaptations have also featured blockbuster actors of their era: Jimmy Stewart starred in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 The Shop Around the Corner and Judy Garland headlined Robert Z. Leonard’s 1949 In the Good Old Summertime. In 1963, Parfumerie was turned into a full Broadway musical dubbed She Loves Me.
    Continue reading »

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