Matthew Coulson, Sarah Jane  Pelzer and Elliott Loran  relaxing between showsThe Vancouver run of Ride the Cyclone is coming to an end with a final performance at 8 PM tonight. Then it is off to Whitehorse  and then Toronto from November 10 to December 3 for this group of talented performers in this year's run-away hit. I heard that several of the Toronto performances have already sold out so I sent E-nudges to theatre buddies in Toronto to make sure they get their tickets early.

Bursting with curiosity to learn more than I read in the program and from the ridethecyclonemusical  website I met with three of the group in between shows to learn a bit more about them. Sarah Jane Pelzer who plays Jane Doe,  auditioned for the first workshop over three years ago and has been in the show ever since. Without white makeup and those dark scleral lenses, she is lovely, and totally alive! Elliott Loran who plays Ricky Potts, and the unforgettable Space Age Bachelor Man joined after the first workshop was held. He is as energetic and enthusiastic as Ricky is introverted, and delightful to interview.

Michelle Ng of Foodie ToursCharming, 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.

Chef Butters To set the stage- or perhaps I should say - to set the table - for the "supping" aspect of our Destination Travel: Kelowna I arranged to meet Chef Rod Butters at his restaurant, RauDZ, on Water Street, on the first morning of our visit. An icy wind was blowing through the streets of downtown Kelowna and by the time we arrived at the door of the restaurant we were chilled. Chef Butters invited us in and promptly offered to brew Americanos. We stood at the bar and sipped the coffee and I gradually felt the warmth seeping back into my body.

I was familiar with his culinary biography but curious about a few of his culinary adventures so we began our discussion there. A B.C. native, Chef Butters was born in Port Coquitlam and worked at The Keg during high school. He went to Indiana State on a baseball scholarship and then played in Washington State. He returned to Vancouver to attend culinary school, and then worked at Scaramouche in Toronto, Four Seasons Hotels in Toronto and Vancouver, the opening team at Chateau Whistler among other places.

In 1996 he embarked on an exciting venture as the opening chef and co-manager with Charles McDiarmid, managing owner, for the new Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Opening that quality of world class hotel and restaurant in the middle of nowhere with the challenges of getting staffing and supplies to the West Coast of the Island, was one of the stand-out experiences of his life. Chef Butters commented that this remarkable achievement was a testament to everyone that worked to make this happen from dishwashers, housekeeping and office staff to management.

I understood what he was saying because the Wickaninnish Inn holds a special place in my heart. In October 1999 my brother and sister-in-law came out from South Africa to visit with my husband, who was quite ill at the time. We wanted to show them something special about British Columbia and we picked Wicknninnish Inn as that special choice. The flight we booked stopped in Victoria and then the small plane flew north for a while along the mountainous spine of the Vancouver Island Range. The image of breaking through the clouds into a V of sunlight just before landing at Tofino,is engraved in my memory.

At the Inn we had a beautiful room looking out onto an inlet with huge waves breaking on the rocks. The second memory I hold from that time is soaking in the hot tub in our room  and observing the sight and sound of the crashing waves and foam spraying from the rocks.The third memory is of savoring the flavours of the wonderful meals we enjoyed over the days that we were there. Our visit to Wickaninnish Inn was all too short, but it is one of the treasured times that comfort me whenever sad thoughts come to mind.

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