My Chocolate Tree chocolatesThe best thing about touring the booths at farmers' markets and craft fairs, is meeting the entrepreneurial artisans who are so passionate about their products. Here are some of the sweet treat goodies I found at the December Got Craft? holiday fair. They will be selling their treats at other markets and fairs so check them out.

Toffee shortbread cookieThe selection of finds shown here include Honey from Mellifera Bees, caramel popcorn from  Batch Sweet Kitchen, Karla's SpecialTeas, exquisite chocolates from MyChocolateTree, brilliant coloured flavoured chocolate from Coconama Chocolate Company, and shortbread cookies from Half Baked Cookie Company.

For those that specially appeal, their websites are listed at the end of this post.

Cilantro leavesWe humans are a wonderfully diverse species. Just think of the different languages and cultures that have evolved in different parts of the world. One aspect I find especially fascinating is the question of taste.

 For example I have a strong aversion to whole olives, yet I enjoy tasting different olive oils. On the other hand I love anchovies on pizza  – a choice that causes some of my friends to throw up their hands in disgust and order a plain pizza margherita with only tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

But most of all I absolutely loathe cilantro, one of the most widely used herbs in South American foods. Cilantro, also known as coriander is the name of the leafy portion of the coriandrum sativum plant. In many cuisines, specially in Mexico, South America, and South-East Asia it is widely used to add a kick to foods. Most people who like cilantro absolutely love it in their food. Unfortunately if you are among the 21% of Asians or 17% of Europeans to whom cilantro tastes like a foul soap, even a touch of cilantro in a dish can render it distasteful. Blamed for this are the aldehyde chemicals that confer a unique flavour to this plant.

Carousel Theatres cast: James and the Giant Peach James and the Giant Peach
Based on  the book by Roald Dahl
Book by Timothy Allan McDonald
Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Carousel Theatre for Young People
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
Dec 6, 2014 to Jan 4, 2015

Deb Williams, Julian Lokash & Patti Allan. Photo by Tim Matheson.Vancouver, BC: Carousel Theatre's James and the Giant Peach is a visual feast to delight everyone from wide-eyed six year olds to their misty eyed grandparents. The design team of Al Frisk (Set), Lights (Gerald King), Puppets (Annett Mateo) and props (Heidi Wilkinson) have created an playing space filled with a riot of bright bold colours and objects,  in which Barbara Clayden's charming and imaginative costumes still succeed in standing out. The John Fluevog shoe junkie sitting beside me was casting looks of envy at the feet of the Bugs, clad in gorgeous Fluevog footwear.

The musical tells of the adventures of James Henry Trotter, a young boy living in an orphanage because his parents were eaten by an escaped rhinoceros. Taken to live with his only remaining family, wicked aunties Spiker (Patti Allan) and Sponge (Deb Williams), James encounters a mystery man who concocts a magic potion to help him. But things go badly wrong and James finds himself at sea on a giant peach with a collection of bugs:  Centipede (Scott Bellis), Grasshopper (Alex Rose), Earthworm (Jonathan Wimsby - who also plays the mysterious Man), Spider (Maykayla Moore) and Ladybug (Kaylee Harwood).

James is played by young Julian Lokash with the confidence and aplomb one would expect of an established actor. He put heart and soul into being James and it shows.

 

Got Craft? Holiday Christmas Craft FairEleven days till Christmas family get-together and stocking-stuffer gifts remain to be found. Luckily this weekend a two day holiday craft fair - Got Craft? - is open from 10 AM to 5 PM today and Sunday at the Maritime Labour Centre.

location of Maritime Labour Centre, directionsNot sure how to get there? Here are directions.

I found  many unique artisanal products ranging from infused salts to unusual teas and wickedly delicious popcorn snacks.

Nobu Japanese Restaurant at Caesar's Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard S,
Las Vegas, NV
Ph: (702) or Reserve Online
Nobu on Urbanspoon

Nobu Las Vegas restaurant in the Nobu Hotel located within Caesar's Palace is the largest of the 31 Nobu restaurants located round the world from Dallas to Dubai but we were still not sure of being able to be seated when we spontaneously decided to eat there.

We were meeting friends later to see the raunchy  acrobatic show Absinthe in the grounds of Caesar's Palace, and of the several dining options at the massive Caesar's Palace complex  Nobu was our first choice. After leaving the conference hotel where we were staying downtown, we arrived early-ish at Nobu but with no reservation.

There were no tables available but the Maitre d' offered us two seats at the sushi bar where we could watch the line of sushi chefs working nonstop to produce exquisite presentations of sushi maki and sashimi.

Pourhouse Restaurant
162 Water St., Vancouver
Ph: (604) 568-7022  or Reserve Online

Pourhouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I grew up in a small hotel where from time to time, the chef would prepare "marrow bones on toast" for the dinner menu. This was considered a great delicacy. The bones were sliced horizontally in cross-section so there would be a couple of round sections of bone on the plate with thin slices of toast. I remember digging out the small globules of marrow, smearing them on the toast and enjoying the rich creamy flavour. So when I saw roasted bone marrow with sea salt, radish and grilled bread under the appetizer section of this menu, I had to try it.

Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar
2118 Burrard St., Vancouver
Ph: (604) 736-2220    or reserve online

Novo Pizzeria and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

A single thin crust pizza accompanied by two fresh salads was the perfect quantity of food for three petite gals to share  for a casual supper before a movie.

Wine tasting with the SASSYS is always fun, unpredictable and often surprising. We all like wine, drink socially but never to excess.  None among us claim to have palates discerning enough to distinguish a hint of gooseberry from a touch of mango but we all know what we like and don't like.  So although we follow the standard tasting procedures, our tastings are more fun than formal and the  primary point of our wine tastings is to decide whether or not we like the wine, find it good value  and would choose it again.

On this occasion I organised a spontaneous blind tasting of four rosé wines. I had just picked up the two French rosé wine selections I had ordered through the Opimian Wine Society and I happened to have two local rosé wines from British Columbia's Okanagan wine region on hand.

Wide Awake Hearts
By Brendan Gall
Directed by Brian Cochrane
Hardline Theatre & Twenty Something Theatre Production
Little Mountain Gallery (195 E 26th)
till Dec 20th, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Why, you might ask, would a screenwriter turned indie film producer write scorching sex scenes starring his wife, and then cast his longtime "best" friend to play her leading man? That's the starting premise of Wide Awake Hearts, a witty, fast paced play, that opened Friday night in the very intimate theatre space at Little Mountain Gallery, just off Main Street. It's just one puzzle posed by this metatheatrical work, in which "real life" and film making intertwine.

Gall does not give his four characters names but calls them A, B, C and D; a hint that these people are more ephemeral than real?  With the exception of character A who runs the gamut from confident self-promotion to jealousy, paranoia and violence, Gall's "real life" characters are as two dimensional as their celluloid counterparts. But luckily the ability of this cast to work the snappy dialogue keeps the energy high.

Les Faux Bourgeois
663 E.15th Ave.,
Vancouver
Ph: (604) 873-9733

Les Faux Bourgeois on Urbanspoon

Eating the most tender duck confit at a little cafe in the Mirepoix market while on a food-writing course in France almost 8 years ago remains one of my favorite food memories. I have heard great things about the duck confit at Les Faux Bourgeois and this French restaurant has been on my dining wish list for a while. Until now I have not got there but on the evening we were going to see Wide Awake Hearts at the Little Mountain Gallery theatre just off Main street, I managed to get an early dinner reservation for three of us.

Although we were there at 5:45 the restaurant was already buzzing with conversation and just about all the tables were occupied. I was the designated driver for the evening so I did not have any wine. We were served with a basket of sliced French baguette, crusty on the outside, soft inside. I couldn't resist a piece. Two actually!

Two of us decided on the same meal;  La Tarte Flambe Alsacienne to start, and the duck confit to follow.  The third guest picked the warm goat cheese salad, with goat cheese on crostinis, and organic greens with beets, walnuts and sherry vinaigrette. The main course choice was the classic dish, beef bourguignon.

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