What better way to spend a rainy Vancouver Sunday afternoon than learning cooking techniques and taste tips at a cooking class with a group of friends?
With wine paired to drink as we tasted each course - and sipped between courses - it was a relaxed and satisfying way to wind down the weekend.
Ten of us assembled to learn from Chef Hilary, how to make a velvety cardamom-flavoured carrot soup, smoked salmon croquettes, crusted eggplant wheels and mussels in lobster stock.
Hilary pointed out up front that for savoury dishes, she preferred to use recipes as a guide , allowing for more creativity and spontaneity in cooking. So rather than having us reading recipes instead of watching, she would email the recipes to us later.
Cardamom carrot soup with carrot ribbons and lime leaves
First up was the preparation of ingredients for the carrot soup.
Divino Wine Bar
1590 Commercial Drive,
Ph: (604) 258-0005 or Reserve Online
We were planning to see a play at The Havana theater. Having enjoyed several pre-show meals at Havana Cafe in the past year, I wanted to explore some of the other pre-show options on Commercial Drive. Within easy walking distance of both The Havana Theatre and The Cultch there is quite a range of dining choices. We decided to try Divino Wine Bar, located at the corner of Commercial and Gravely about 2 or 3 blocks south of the Havana Cafe and Theatre.
Red Door Pan Asian Grill
2996 Granville Street
Phone (604) 733-5699 or Reserve Online
We were going to see August: Osage County at the Stanley Theatre and decided to see what Red Door was offering for Dine Out Vancouver. The restaurant is very conveniently located for both the Stanley Theatre on Granville Street and the Pacific Theatre on 12th, so I have enjoyed meals at the Red Door Pan Asian Grill several times before.
They were offering two Dine Out menus, each with choice of starter, main course and dessert. One was for 18 dollars and the other for 28 dollars. My friend chose the 18 dollar menu and ordered edamame, followed by spicy ginger beef with Thai chili peppers, Mongolian noodles and vegetables.
Le Gavroche Restaurant
1616 Alberni Street
Phone: 604-685-3924 or Reserve Online
I was invited by friends to meet for dinner at Le Gavroche. It had been years since I last ate there and the restaurant had been on both our lists of places to dine. Dine Out Vancouver 2011 gave us the impetus to do it.
We were promptly seated and water provided. There were two Dine-Out menus offered, each with wine pairings. Although there were many dishes on the regular menu that were tempting, in the end we all opted for the Dine out $38 menu.
The Keg Steakhouse and Bar at Granville Island
1499 Anderson Street
Phone: (604) 685-4735 or Reserve Online
We were going to see Floating at the Granville Island Revue Stage. My companion was "craving steak" so we decided to visit the Granville Island Keg for a pre-show dinner. Like many Vancouver restaurants, they were offering a special prix-fixe menu for the annual Dine Out Vancouver promotion.
We were comfortably seated in a booth near the large central fireplace. The dark wood and muted lighting created a warm and relaxing ambience.
We were heading off to an 8 PM show of Sensation of Magic at the Havana Theatre, so we thought we would get supper at the Havana Cafe before the show. They don't take reservations, but the person on the phone said that if we were there by 6:30 we should be able to get a table without a long wait.
One of the best aspects of writing for ReviewFromTheHouse.com is the chance it affords me, from time to time, to interview people who are committed and passionate about their work. Some such as professor Errol Durbach, Bard artistic director Christopher Gaze or playwright Emil Sher, work in theatre.
Others like Kelowna chef Rod Butters or Vancouver Foodie Tours operator, Michelle Ng, work in the food industry.
Charming, articulate, bursting with energy and passionate about food - those were my immediate impressions of Michelle Ng as we sat down to chat about her new venture, Vancouver Foodie Tours.
I was caught up in her enthusiasm as Michelle explained her Foodie Tours concept to me:
The tours are for passionate foodies who want to sample the best restaurants and cafes in town. Each tour lasts approximately 2 and a half hours. In this time Michelle introduces participants to 4 - 6 restaurants where they sample signature dishes, meet the owners and chefs, and get the inside scoop on how the restaurants began and what continues to bring in the crowds. Examples of places that the Foodie Tour may visit range from the Bonchaz Bakery Cafe where Michelle and I met for coffee, to fine dining restaurants like Coast or Italian Kitchen.
Each place is personally selected by Michelle because it offers a food experience that she values. As I learned, the Bonchaz is named for their pastry specialty; an oven baked milk bun topped with a crisp golden crust and a hint of fresh ground coffee, that comes in 5 different flavors.
Federico's Supper Club
1728 Commercial Drive,
Ph: 604-251-3473 or Reserve Online
I have been on the hunt for places to "dine and dance" in Vancouver but this seems to be a rare entity these days. Federico's Supper Club is one of those few places that has a dance floor, albeit not large.
The evening when a group of us decided to check out this restaurant turned out to be the second special event night that featured Executive Chef Romy Prasad giving a cooking demonstration of a 5 course, wine-paired "Taste of Italy" menu.
On inquiry, we learned that startinging promptly at 6 pm, Chef Prasad would show us how to cook each course, then the dish would be served together with a 3 oz pouring of a matched wine. Joe Borean, the maitre d' and sommelier would describe the characteristics of the wine. The cooking demonstration and dining was scheduled to be completed by around 9 pm and would be followed by music for dancing, featuring Federico. All very cool!
In spring, summer, fall and winter in British Columbia's stunningly beautiful Okanagan Valley, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society organizes a Festival to celebrate wine, food, culture and a wide range of summer and winter outdoor activities.
I was in Kelowna for the May 2010 Spring Wine Festival and met with Christina Ferreira and Blair Baldwin of the Society to learn about the origin and current festivities of these Wine Festivals.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the first Fall Festival which was an informal gathering of local 5 wineries to party and celebrate the end of harvest. The Spring Festival was started much later but over the 16 years of tracking attendance at these two festivals, it seems that their popularity is now on a par.
Thirty years later, the Spring and Fall Festivals have grown into 10 day events that see approximately 200,000 visits to participating wineries. About 1000 people attend the smaller weekend long Winter and Summer Festivals held at the resorts