Sunday, November 27, 2011

News Flash - Annika of Social Bites

Photo Courtesty of Social Bites

I recently met Annika from Social Bites back in October as a group of us had dinner to participate in the Candlelight Conservation Dinner.  We all chatted about our love of food, our plans for the holidays and our side projects that sometimes drive us crazy or keep us sane.

A Social Bites excursion is not just a dinner party. With the latest Social Bites event coming up on December 10th, 2011 in the Bohemian-like neighbourhood of Commercial Drive, I thought it would be the perfect time to sit down with Annika to learn more about her project and her love of food.

1)    What is Social Bites? 
Photo Courtesy of Foodist
I like to call it my foodie friend machine.  Social Bites is a project of mine that provides an opportunity to bring people together who are passionate about food and meeting new people. From a diner's perspective, you choose two hobby chefs you would like to visit with a dining partner.  The dinner event starts at 6 pm and you sit down with another pair of dinner guests. You’re there for about an hour and then the chef has to kick you out and get ready to invite the next guests who will arrive in 30 minutes.
2)    Tell me about how your love of food started?
Raised in Germany, I’m used to large home cooked meals and it’s the family style foods that resonates with me. I grew up in a butcher family so meat is a big thing, especially pork.  Mom made solid meals, nothing fancy but that stuck with me. I’m a big venison fan and rabbit.  It reminds me of holidays and Christmas.
3)    How did Social Bites get started?
The concept of dinner excursions has been in Europe for a long time.  I’ve been to many in Berlin and other cities and I wanted to bring that to Vancouver.  
4)    Tell me about the hobby chefs? What can we expect from them?
Generally there are 4 chefs.  I ask them to make one dish or sampler of dishes that they love that have memories or things that they want to try out or represents who they are. I don’t assign a theme.  It’s about the cook and what they want to showcase. 
One hobby chef has a Moroccan theme.  Another is just a surprise.  One hobby chef was given some elk from a friend who is also a local butcher.  Commercial drive has an alternative culture and one chef lives with 6 other people and they have a community garden and farm. He will be talking about the urban farm and energy efficiency and, using the ingredients from their farm, will be making an open flame stoned soup.
5)    Why did you choose the area?
The areas are chosen where the hobby chefs are. When we pick the community we want people to explore the area between dinners. When dinner is finished all of us, the guests and hobby chefs, head to the hot spot.   In the past we’ve had it at an art gallery, a chocolate store, café, and at boutiques.  This time it is at Riot
The hot spot is where we all have dessert compliments of our dessert partners.  This time we will be doing some cupcake tastings by Dolce Delights.  The hot spot is also where we vote on the favourite dish.  All the dinner guests cast their vote based on taste presentation and hospitability.  It’s out of ten; everybody does it on their own. The winner will receive a gift certificate to Divino restaurant on Commercial Drive.  We also have gifts for the hobby chefs from Gypsy Jams and Liquid and Solids who makes an amazing BBQ sauce that is hemp based.  The other thing that we’re doing different is that each hobby chef will get a kick-start as all received gift certificates from Donald’s Market.  Our partners are great – Ethical Deals has always been very supportive and have been awesome over the years.
Photo Courtesy of Greedy Guts
6)    How have Social Bites and the excursions changed over the years?
When I started, I wanted to do this at people’s home rather than in restaurants (which is the 
norm) and people said that it wouldn’t work on planet earth. So I tried to do it with restaurants.  But I remembered I went to a fundraiser at someone’s house and they did an outdoor feast and the whole experience was what I wanted for Social Bites.  So I went back to the original concept.  In the beginning I had ambitions of making it bigger but I stepped away because it’s not about that.  It's not my business, it’s my project.
7)    What is your definition of Foodie? 
Photo Courtesy of Foodist
That’s a good question.  See for me it doesn’t have anything to do with whom you are or know, how many restaurants you have been to, or being able to identify the ingredients.  Anyone can be a Foodie.  If you like to dine with family and friends, enjoy a good meal, enjoy the work that’s been put into the dishes, appreciate the ingredients, and the overall dining experience, I think that’s what makes you a Foodie. 
8)    What are some memorable moments with Social Bites?
It’s amazing the relationships that come out of them. This guy brought someone he just started dating and he thought it would be good to see how she acts in a social setting.  Soon after, they participated as hobby chefs and a couple of months later they got married. I like to think that I had something to do with that!
9)    So can followers of social bites anticipate in the New Year?
The next Social Bites dinner excursion will be in Gastown, which is a hot bed for foodies.  I already have one interested hobby chef so I’ll be looking out for more participants!

To learn more about Social Bites, or if you want to participate as a dinner guest or even a hobby chef at one of the dinner excursions pleas check out the Social Bites site:

Social Bites:
Twitter:          @socialbites

Watch how Social Bites works:

You may also be interested in:

Dawn from The Bench Market
Judy from Dirty Laundry
Trish and her Pink Kitchen

Pecha Kucha 19 Vancouver

Finally - I made it to my first Pecha Kucha!  For those of you who don't know what this event is about, let me introduce you:

"Pecha Kucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public.  
It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It's a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace" - Pecha Kucha website

This was the final Pecha Kucha of the year for Vancouver and the topic was food and drink.  As a growing force in the culinary world, Vancouver is rising in the ranks of cities with edible treasures.  We are blessed with fresh seafood, lush fertile land for fruits and vegetables, wine country just hours away and enjoy the different influences from the various cultures that are brought to us by our diverse population.  

19 presenters shared their stories about what inspires them, their passion, and their personal stories.  

Forgive me for the awful photos - I was using my iphone and taking pictures of the slides.

Guest Host - Andrew Morris of Scout Magazine

Alexandra Gill - Food Critic

Julia Spitale and Shera Kelly - Wheely Slow Cooking Tour

Adam Chandler - Owner and Chocolatier, Beta5 Chocolates

John Neate - Owner of JJ Bean

Sophie Dikeakos - Owner of Sophies Cosmic Cafe

Terry David Mulligan - Host of Tasting Room Radio

Heidi Nobel - Owner and Winemaker of Joiefarm wines

David Robertson - Chef and Co-owner - The Dirty Apron

Chef Todd - Chef at 12b

Quang Dang - Executive Chef at West

Michael Kaisaris - Director of Re-Up BBQ

Some favourites:
Sophie Dikeakos' personality and charm lit up the room as she talked about family and staff, her passion and her fond memories.  

I think everyone just wanted to hug her because she is so inviting, so passionate and so vibrant.  She is eccentric, open and so full of life. And if you know anything about Sophie's Cosmic Cafe you'll know that the people flock to this restaurant and line up all morning to grab breakfast or brunch because because of the food and atmosphere.

I've been to Sophie's Cosmic Cafe and her personality is alive on each wall.  There's always something interesting to see that will put a smile on your face.

John Neate - owner of JJ Bean talked about the business' philosophy - People, Product and Place - The people are the most important thing and without them, the product and place are nothing.  It is the people who make it special, it is the people who breath life and personality into the product, and it is the people make their customers welcomed.

Jeanette Ordas of "Everyone Likes Sandwiches" shared heartwarming stories about her childhood and how these experiences have inspired her to do what she does.  She focuses on simple foods and is resourceful, thrifty and creative.  Cooking to her was very personal and sharing these stories evoked some special memories.  I was very touched and admired her courage to share them with such a large audience.

She even shared a simple but tasty recipe:
Food of the Gods - Chocolate Toast

Quang Dang - young Executive Chef for West, who seems to be the star of the culinary world at the moment shared with us his thought process when he is masterminding a new dish.  Using Uni (Sea Urchin) as his medium, he went on to invite us inside his fast moving mind as he furiously brainstorms ideas to create not only a delicious dish but how he constructs a piece of art.

As a Chef, Teacher and Owner of The Dirty Apron, David Robertson has been instrumental in changing the face of the Vancouver dining and food experience.  He is the man behind favourite restaurants such as Bao Bei, Chambar, Medina (my favourite brunch spot), Calabash and The Dirty Apron.  Andrew, the guest host, described The Dirty Apron is a place that is emblematic of Vancouver's love of food.  

He explained that after years of success as a chef he wanted to share his knowledge to others.  When he approached the owners of Chambar they expressed their interest in partnering with David on this pursuit rather than have him teach at a another school.  Together, they opened up The Dirty Apron where David would be able to teach people in his own space.

David announced that "Cooking is the new yoga" - and that in order to be successful, you need to "Find, Follow, and Fuel".

Listening to these people, I can't help but see the pattern that runs through each speech and story.  Their success is based on passion, diligence, direction and drive, and an acute sense of self awareness.  Their stories weren't interesting because they were giving us their business plan - they were interesting because they were sharing something personal.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cornucopia 2011 - Whistler - Masquerave

Photo Courtesy of Spectacular Link

The Masquerave is THE after party to go to if you attended Whistler's 2011 Cornucopia.  It's been five years since Whistler hosted this event and it was on everyone's lips as the most anticipated event of the celebration of wine and food.  Taking place at the Bearfoot Bistro, owner André Saint-Jacques re-imagined this event as a benefit party for ONE DROP, an initiative of Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil.

This event is hosted by a long list that reads as the who's who of chefs.  From Vancouver to Montreal, each chef and team invite the guest to try their newest creations and learn more about their expert skills.  The list of culinary celebrities aim to temp the guests are:
-'C's Rob Clarke
-Gord Martin from Bin 941 and Go Fish
-Cioppino's Pino Posterero
-Hidekazu Tojo's from Tojo's restaurant
-Jason Labahn from Black + Blue
-Pedro Gonzalez from Coast
-François Blais from Bistro B
-Jean-Luc Boulay from Le Saint-Amour
-Jérôme Ferrer from Europea Restaurant
-Laurent Godbout from Chez L'Epicier
-"Oyster Bob" from Joe Forte's in Vancouver. 

Trying to keep Jean-Luc Boulay's treats to myself
Ice wine filled frozen meringue prepared in liquid nitrogen
I am being fed breaded sheep testicles.  Really.

This event is a feast for all the senses as your eyes are entertained by the glitziness of the event, the scantily clad burlesque dancers and models and dancers dressed only in body paint and colour displays of culinary delights.  Even the ice sculptures have vodka running through their delicate "tunnels".  

This event is a perfect combination of eroticism, music, food and wine.  Rest assured I will be making this an annual event!
Photo Courtesy of One Drop

Cornucopia 2011 Whistler - Crush Gala

Soon after my trip to London, I took a short but much anticipated stop to finally experience Cornucopia 2011 at the beautiful and world class resort city, Whistler. Held annually since 1996, the Cornucopia is Whistler's premier wine and food extravaganza. The annual event features a seminars by leading chefs, winemaker dinners, gala tasting events such as Crush and sizzling after-parties like the Casino Royale and Masquerave.
Our group checked out Crush on Friday night.  Immediately, we were given a wine glass and then we turned the corner and faced a convention room full of wine tasting, charcuterie, chocolates, desserts and other amazing spirits.  I had to cut myself off with still 2 hours left in the event as I was getting pretty tipsy.

I really enjoyed Spicebox Canadian Whisky. Now this stuff is strong and I think it was the beginning of my quick decent into inebriation.  Through "cold fushion" they are able to blend the delicious notes of spices and vanilla.

It's the perfect drink for a cold day as the strong deepness of whisky warms the body but the flavours of nutmeg, cinammon and vanilla could seriously make this drink the go-to beverage for Christmas.

The makers of Spicebox Whisky connects the product to the story of prohibition.  The packaging and the website aims at creating an experience for their whisky lover and I for one appreciate their creativity.  Some special person will be getting this for Christmas.

Though there was every wine under the roof I had to stop for a bit of food from the wonderful participants at Crush.  There was a large crowd around SIDECUT's steak station.  Served in modern martini glasses, I had to sneak in their and grab one as soon as I could because the team there couldn't get them catch up with the demand.  But I got in there like a ninja.

I stopped by the Crepe Montagne for a little sweetness. The strawberry sauce was a bit too sweet, as was the fudge vanilla but the chocolate sauce was lovely.

Admittedly, I felt a bit overwhelmed at the event.  If it weren't for the pictures that I took, I may not have remembered the products that I was pleased with and I'm certain that I'm not the only one.  But it certainly was a Cornucopia of Wine - and I recommend newbies to check it out.

Dinner by Candlelight - Conservation over Romance

Oh, I love social media.  Since I started this blog I have met some great people who have shared what inspires them and what their passions are.  It has changed the way that I interact with people - I approach new relationships with an inquisitive nature and I'm open and interested in sharing ideas and stories.  The world has become smaller and friendlier.

I met Annika from Social Bites in October over Twitter and we found out we not only shared a passion for food but shared several mutual friends.  She invited me to Le Fleuri at the Sutton Place to join her and some new friends for  the Annual Candlelight Conservation Dinner.  Over candlelight, we enjoyed a non romantic dinner, created new friendships and made a statement that conserving energy is a priority.

After the lovely amuse bouche of maple smoke salmon and ikura and I tried to choose something new but when there is duck on the menu I just can't resist.  It was every bit as satisfying as I expected.

 But the to add to our delight, the restaurant manager introduced himself to us and treated us to the well known chocoholic buffet!  Since it was just a couple of days away from Halloween our eyes were being teased by the witch and ghost cake pops, angry macaroons, and candied severed fingers.  But there were other classics such as the chocolate mouse cake, fondue and crepe bar.

Great food, new friends and amazing hosts - t'was such a lovely night.
Fleuri on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

News Flash - Dirty Laundry Vineyards

If you've been following my blog you'll know that me and the "Girls Who Wine" had a blast in the Okanagan, BC's wine country.  Our adventures took us to Dirty Laundry Vineyards and we ooo'ed and awwwww'ed at the great detail and care they took in creating an environment of fun.  Judy Skinner, Sales and Marketing Manager, took time out of her very busy day to answer some of the burning questions on our mind about this popular vineyard.

We had a blast at the Dirty Laundry Vineyard.  What do you want people to say when they step into the estate?

I want them to say "Wow"…this place is incredible!!
Amy, who visited Dirty Laundry, last year, said that there were some changes.  What changes were made to the estate and why?  Do you think it has achieved its purpose?
We have just spend over $2 million over the past 6 months to make DLV what it is today. It has always been very beautiful but our popularity made it necessary to accommodate more people without loosing our ambiance. We have more parking, a 3X bigger "first class" wine shop, a bigger patio with wind breaks and a storage facility big enough to store 20,000 cases. We are at 11,400 cases this year but will go to 13,500 cases for next year…and we still won't have enough to last the season. Just 5 years ago we were at only 2,000 cases. 

Dirty Laundry seems to have a theme of fun and part of that fun is being naughty.  Can you tell me a bit about more about the ethos of Dirty Laundry?
Us Canadians have a great sense of humour…and why not…life is complicated enough. Our goal is treat everyone like they are special and no question is a stupid one…after all, we didn't get to grow up drinking wines like the europeans so we, as a group, have lots to learn. Our "naughty" outlook seems to be appreciated by all. It's a well known fact that sex and humour will get you a long way but we also know the product needs to be amazing as well. Over the past week during wine fest we have won 9 awards for the wines…something to be very proud of. The naughtiness is just to get your attention in buying that bottle…that's the marketers job. Our wine maker, Phil Soo, has the job of keeping you coming back for more.

 There are some great products in the gift shop such as the cloths pins, the shirts, the necklaces, wine stops – how do you decide what works and what doesn’t?
The clothes pegs we give out signify, "Airing Out Your Dirty Laundry." I used to be the Vineyard Manager with a Viticulture background and used the pegs to keep the birds out of the nets in the vineyards. I never knew one day I would be pegging people in the wine shop, (it's actually a bulky business card that's too big to end up in "The land of business cards" if you know what I mean) or hanging a peg from every bottle but they really work to attract attention in a store full of wines. As for the other products it's really all about our logo. If our logo is on it with those naked ladies…it sells. It's really all trial and error…if it works it stays…if not…we try something else. 

There is quite a bit of “Hollywood” magic in the marketing.  Can you tell me more about where this originated and how it relates to the over all theme?
We used a company called Brandever to come up with the new name…we used to be "Scherzinger" but hardly anyone could remember the name…much less pronounce it. I was very shocked with the new name since I was on the front lines to make it work. To be quite honest I was horrified to now be called "Dirty Judi"…but with the way the wines are selling I'm Ok with it now. Classy and funny…that was my entire approach to marketing this name. I do a lot of marketing in house but we still use Brandever for most of the new labels. I love naming or renaming the wines and seeing how much the sales soar after that. 

What are some things that fans of Dirty Laundry can look forward to in the future?
We have lots in store for the public. We really just finished stage 1…we still have many more stages to come. Our new Events Room just opened up, (upstairs from the wine shop), so there are endless possibilities for this and our new wine club…"The Bordello Wine Club" is ready to be launched soon with 3 tiers of signing up.
I’m a big fan of the Hush, Rose – what are the fan favourites?  Why do you think that’s the case?
The Hush ,(blush) and our Woo Woo Vines Gewurztraminer are definitely our big sellers. Our Bordello, (meritage) is the red getting the most attention along with our Kay-Syrah. The Albertans love our Riesling which just won a GOLD at the Peoples Choice Awards in Kelowna last week. Our Bordello won a Silver there and last year when I entered the Hush we won a GOLD for that. Canadians still love a bit of sweetness to their wines. As we mature as a country as far as wines go we will slowly go for the dryer wines and the reds. That's just how it is.

The Dirty Laundry Vineyard was like a Disneyland for people who drink wine and like to have fun.  I couldn’t help but notice the strong appeal that the theme has with women.  Was this the intent? 
Just woman…with all those underware garments hanging about??? (and parking signs with 38DD, etc., etc?) I believe this is a great place for all ages, cultures and sex. We use signs with pictures more than words so they are self explanitory. As for the Disneyland effect…YES…who doesn't love Disneyland!! (When I hear that I love telling people I have the same birthday as Walt…and I do). We are a destination and not just another wine shop or business, word of mouth has proven to be the best marketing tool…if you have a great time we just hope you will tell 10 of your friends.

Our host shared the story of Sam and his Chinese Laundry.  Can you tell me who came up with the idea of incorporating this great story and using it as a theme for the entire product and organization?
"Brandever" from Vancouver who came up with this name based it on a real life story about Summerlands' past. We tell the story a hundred or more times a day…the public loves a little element of truth and all the hidden meanings and of course "the logo" which is classy yet houses about 7 naked ladies when you use that other part of your brain to have yet another look. All the other little descriptors we have developed over the years…if it makes you smile…we keep using it.   If you're visiting the Okanagan I highly recommend stopping by Dirty Laundry Vineyards to enjoy the experience that they create.  
Dirty Laundry Vineyards
7311 Fiske Street
Summerland, BC
V0H 1Z2
Phone:  250-494-8815
Fax:  250-494-8850

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Slip cover for the sofa bed

I've always envied people with lovely couches.  I seem attracted to clean lines, simple tuft detailing and white leather.  Unfortunately, I have a billion other things that need immediate attention and funds and most of the couches that I've seen are just a bit too big for my little home.

I wanted a couch that folded down so that I could accommodate guests and there weren't a whole lot on the market that fit my budget, apartment and style aesthetic. So I found a cheap little sofa bed that was about 64" long and folded down to the size of a double mattress.  But alas, it was a horrid color and I pursued the labourous task of making a slip cover.  I wanted to create tuft detailing so I stitched a grid like pattern and then sewed leather covered buttons in a pattern.  But it was huge fail.  Instead of puckering and creating a luxurious effect, the buttons just sat on the top and were incredibly uncomfortable to lean against.  So - I scratched that detail.  Sometimes, things don't turn out the way you want it to but you take it as a learning experience.

The sleeper sofa that I bought is the same one seen here in black and I bought it for a $99 which was a ridiculous steal:
Here is a picture of the couch with the cover in my old apartment:

Yuck, you can see the boxes in the corner as I was preparing to move to my downtown apartment.

In this picture of the couch in my new apartment, can see by the bunching of the slip cover, it isn't my best work.

What would you recommend for a couch that is less than 68" long?  It doesn't have to be a sofa bed.  CB2 and West Elm have had some great apartment sized couches for the budget conscious.  I'll visit this topic in the future.