Tag Archives: fun

Vancouver’s First Cupcake Challenge

The moment I found out Vancouver was having a cupcake bakeoff, I looked at GingerMan and said, “We’re going. They’ll have free samples.” He smiled at me and said, “You had me at Free Cupcake.”

My choice for Best Cupcake: The Neopolitan by Frosting Cupcakery

It was an overcast Vancouver morning, but it was all sweet frosted happiness at Yaletown Roundhouse. Throughout the day, 1110 people came by to taste the wares of top-notch local bakers and cupcakeries. My only suggestions for improvement: a slightly larger room and a free glass of milk. 8)

Vancouver Cupcake Challenge organizers Nicole Marie Events and Follow Me Foodie invited the public to sample delicious treats and help select the People’s Choice cupcake, while a panel of judges (including a few local foodies) put in their votes for the Judges’ Choice and Blogger’s Choice.

Fabulous door prize at the Vancouver Cupcake Challenge.

Congrats to Frosting Cupcakery and Big City Cupcakes! You guys take the cake. As a cupcake connoisseur, I appreciated the unique flavour combinations presented by all the contestants. Several memorable participating bakers (including the challenge winners) are profiled below.

Frosting Cupcakery ~ Winner of Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice

Smiling bakers from Frosting Cupcakery!

Cake and ice cream is a birthday party classic. Frosting Cupcakery immediately won me over with their Neopolitan cupcake: a vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry combination that really tastes like ice cream! Their exotic Love Potion cupcake marries flavours of mango and passion fruit, and the Caramel Crunch is a divine confection of buttery caramel and madagascar vanilla with bits of Skor Bar.

Based in Langley, I’d say this cupcake shop is definitely worth a trip! They have a fantastic assortment of delicious treats and wonderfully creative recipes for holidays or any days, plus they host birthday parties for kids and offer custom cupcakes for special events and weddings. Take a peek at their cupcake menu!

Scrumptious samples from Frosting Cupcakery

Big City Cupcakes ~ Winner of Blogger’s Choice Award

When they say “big” the’re talking about the cupcakes, too. Way more than a mouthful and loaded with yummy frosting. No skimping on the good stuff. Many of their cupcakes also have fillings! The best of the bunch is the Lemon Drop: Vanilla cupcake with tangy lemon filling and lemony buttercream frosting. They also offered samples of the Strawberry Cheesecake (yes it has cheesecake filling) and the Truffle, which has a ganache truffle filling.

Big City Cupcakes has three Vancouver locations: Downtown (1015 Howe St.) ~ Kitsilano (2206 West 4th) ~ Point Grey (4481 West 10th). See their website at bigcitycupcakes.com for a complete list of locations and menu of yummy flavours, including gluten free or egg & dairy free options.

Indulgence

Sweet ladybugs and flowers!

Pastry chef Clare Thomas offered three luscious little cakes including Pistachio Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Tangy Lemon Buttercream, and a perfectly delectable Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Sweet Caramel Buttercream. The texture of the cake was divine (moist and not too dense) and it had a lovely deep chocolate flavour. I loved that some of their baby cupcakes were topped with candy flowers and tiny little ladybugs. So cute!

Cake Tease

Really creative and artistic bakers in North Vancouver with excellent taste. Their unique Oreo Cookie cupcake even had cookie crumbles in the cake! NOM! Not only does Cake Tease make yummy cupcakes, they also do fabulous structured and sculpted cakes, too. Have a look at their photo gallery.

Pink Sugar Cupcakery

Fresh ingredients, small batches, and no dairy or eggs! Pink Sugar calls their sustainable goodies “eco-chic party treats” and offered three fantastic little cupcakes to sample. The toasty coconut cupcake was a huge hit with Gingerman, and the Peanut Butter filled Chocolate cupcake was moist and delicious. An excellent flavour combo! The Chocolate Strawberry cupcake was also supertasty, with real strawberry puree in the frosting. People in Victoria are lucky to have Pink Sugar in their neighbourhood. Check out their inspiring menu of designer cupcakes.

Vancouver Events: The Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat racing began in southern China as a Summer Solstice fertility ritual to ensure a good harvest. During the fourth century BC, the story of  patriot-poet Qu Yuan becomes integrated in Dragon Boat history. Qu Yuan was banished from his beloved country and, in despair, leapt into a river clutching a heavy rock. The people tried to save him, racing out in their fishing boats, defending his body from fish and water dragons by beating drums and splashing with their oars.

#5 crew looks relieved to cross the finish line first

Modern Dragon Boat races still occur near the Summer Solstice and at the opening ceremony for race events, a Taoist priest performs an “eye dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragons and bless them, cleansing the racecourse and envigorating the paddlers.

2010 marks the 22nd Annual Dragon Boat Festival taking place in the waters of False Creek in Vancouver, British Columbia. Admission is FREE. Festival entrances are located near Concord Place and Science World. Take the bus or skytrain, ride your bike, or just hoof it and leave the car at home.

A gorgeous day for festival fun.

Of course, there’s plenty of festival food, from dim sum and perogies to Jamaican patties and kettle korn. Vera’s has a burger stand set up, and there’s no shortage of those cute and tasty Mini Doughnuts. Food vendors take Dragon Dollars instead of cash. PURCHASE Dragon Dollars at booths near entryways. Grownups can also buy beer/wine tickets and relax in the Beer Garden hosted by Granville Island Brewery.

About 180 Dragon Boat teams will participate this year, and races are frequent. There’s plenty of fun to be had, so go down and enjoy music from the World Beat stage or peruse goodies and info offered by vendors, companies, and local organizations. Don’t forget to see what’s cookin at the Aluminum Chef contest (finals on Sunday). You might even get to guest-judge a dish!

Find out more about the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.

S’mores Day Cookie Bars

Roasting Marshmallows by ninahale

Roasting Marshmallows by ninahale

I love S’mores. Melty chocolate and gooey marshmallow sandwiched between crisp graham crackers is a time-honored campfire treat. Countless times, I sat staring into the flames, twirling a big puffy marshmallow on on the end of a hand-picked green stick whittled to a fine point, waiting for the perfect browning. Too close or too long in the wrong spot, and it would burst into flame. Sometimes accidents happen on purpose. Please hand me another marshmallow.

In honor of National S’mores Day (August 10th) and the Girl Scout tradition, I present to you this glorious S’moresel from my kitchen. All that traditional smoresy taste in a convenient cookie bar form. I guess that’d be a S’mookie!

Gimme S’more Squares

The recipe for Warm Toasted Marshmallow S’more Squares @ Betty Crocker is pure genius. No eggs required, and totally EASY! Whenever I find the sugar cookie mix on sale, I like to stock up so I can make quick treats like these. They’re totally delicious, pack perfectly in lunches, and go great with coffee or a big glass of cold milk.

Golden Toasted Chocolatey Delicious

Golden Toasted Chocolatey Delicious

I tweaked the recipe a little to produce a smaller batch with more graham flavour and decided to break out some gourmet chocolate bars for the topping. I used Dagoba Organic Dark Chocolate, but many other flavours would be yummy. Also, try your local store brand graham crackers; Safeway’s grahams have an excellent texture and taste and cost less.

Get Ready
  • Preheat oven to 375° and grease a 9×9 pan.
  • Chop fancy chocolate bars to make about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate bits.
  • Bash or food process about 8 graham crackers to make 1 Cup of crumbs.

Make a Grahamtastic Cookie Crust

  1. Mix 1 Cup of Graham Cracker Crumbs with 2 Cups (about 1/2 bag) of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix.
  2. Melt 1 stick of butter, stir in 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract, and add to dry ingredients.
  3. Press dough into pan and bake 18 minutes.

Add the Chocolate and Marshmallows

  • Lightly browned!

    Lightly browned!

    When the cookie crust is done, turn off the oven and preheat the broiler.

  • While the crust is still warm, sprinkle 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate over top and let it melt. Spread melted chocolate to edges of crust.
  • Top with 2 cups miniature marshmallows and return pan to oven about six inches below the broiler.
  • Broil until marshmallows are lightly browned ~ 1 min (watch them carefully!)
  • LET THEM COOL—I know it’s hard.
  • Cut into squares and NOM!

Other S’more recipes:

Flickr Creative Commons
ninahale

Vancouver Farmers Markets: Fresh, Local, and Fabulous!

Vancouver lies in the bountiful cradle of the Fraser Valley, and the  farms and orchards of the Okanagen are not too far away. Being a port city, exotic produce and goods are readily available to consumers, and many items are available year round. Seasonal local products and produce are wonderful, however, and Farmer’s Market season is in full swing in most Vancouver communities come summertime.

I usually buy produce from local independent shops, and occasionally I’ll venture out to Granville Island Market for some “trendy” grocery shopping and a grand day out, but I what I love best is milling about with the locals at a seasonal Farmer’s Market. Seeing an array of folding tables laden with an incredible selection of fresh fruit and veg or homemade goodies or handmade crafts make me feel at home no matter what city it’s in.

I love the smell of sweet fruit in the warm sun, and the taste of free samples. An infinite palette of ripe natural colours  greets me, and I don’t mind the noise and bustle of a crowd of interesting strangers. I daydream my way through homemade bread, cakes, pies, perogis, pastas, samosas, spreads, dips, sauces, and whatever else the cornucopia of tasty treats may offer. I usually come back with a bag (or two) of fresh, fragrant, and delicious things.

strawberries

An array of ripe strawberries.

bakedgoods

Scrumptious home-baked goodies.

mushrooms

Gorgeous fresh mushrooms.

Today, I purchased a dozen brown speckled eggs laid by happy free-range chickens living in the Fraser Valley, and some ground beef and sirloin steaks taken from grass-fed Angus cattle raised on a Cariboo-Chilcotin ranch. I also picked up some red and yellow peppers, fresh strawberries, and a bag of various greens (including pea shoots and dandelion greens). Baked goods were plentiful, and a small rhubarb crisp came home with us, but we ate an apple-compote crepe and a ham & cheese scone on the spot.

Speaking of spot, there were quite a lot of dogs in the crowd or waiting patiently along the perimeter. I enjoy a dog-friendly neighbourhood, especially when people respectfully leash their animals and the pups have good manners. It’s always a treat for me to meet someone else’s dog, since I cannot have one of my own right now.

frenchbulldog

Little French Bulldog

My Favourite Finds:

Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup Taffy immediately makes me think of Laura Ingalls-Wilder making snow candy in Little House in the Big Woods. In the winter, her mother would pour swirls of hot maple syrup into a pile of fresh snow and make sweet little candies. Oh how I wanted to do that, begging Mommie Dearest to let me every time there was a good snowfall, but to no avail. Maple Syrup Taffy works on a similar principle. Among French Canadians, it’s called tire sur la neige meaning “to draw in the snow.”

After a brief hand-wash with sanitizing gel, I selected a wooden stick and the Syrup Guy poured a line of hot syrup on top of a barrel full of crushed ice “snow.” I counted to three and pressed the stick into the syrup at the end of the line, then slowly began to collect the sweet sticky candy, rolling it up on my stick. I let my Maple Taffy lolly sit for a moment to firm up, but I could hardly wait to taste it.

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

Maple Taffy Lolly cooling on snow

It was sticky like caramel, but light and not too sugary. The mapley flavour was clean and bright, like a moment of unspoiled childhood happiness.  I also bought a maple sugar cone for Ginger Man. They are like little tiny ice cream cones, filled with a bit of taffy in the bottom and a more crystalized maple sugar candy on top. Apparently, it’s quite a popular treat among the Quebequois. The sugar buzz kept us going all morning. It was a delightful experience.

Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt

At the Maison Coté booth, there were bags upon bags of spice mixes, peppercorns, and seasoned salts, as well as a shelf of oils, vinegars, and little balsamic spritzers. I picked up some Citrus sea salt (with lemon, orange, and grapefruit peel), a bag of Kitsilano peppercorn blend, and a White Truffle Balsamic spritzer to mist on my greens (I’m told it’s also nice on chicken and fish). I wish I had brought an extra $20 bucks at the time, because I would have immediately thrown it down to have a bag of the Italian black truffle salt. The vendor was kind enough to give me a whiff, and it really knocked my socks off. That earthy, pungent, luscious truffley aroma was truly amazing. Happily, his shop is in the city, so I’m looking forward to visiting and bringing home some of that orgasmic salt blend soon.

Farmers Market Shopping Tips

In the Vancouver area, most farmers markets open between April and July and continue through October or September. The majority run Saturdays or Sundays, but there are several venues with markets on a Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Arrive early to be sure you get what you want, or visit near closing time to get last-minute deals from some vendors
  • Bring CASH to make things simple, or purchase some “Market Money” using your bank card. Use it like cash at any vendor.
  • Some vendors rotate between different venues during the season, but many of them take orders from their websites.
  • BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags! Most markets sell tote bags and packs of veggie bags if you need them.
  • Bike, bus, or walk if you can. Parking in some neighbourhoods can be tricky to find, and drive cautiously around pedestrians. Besides, it’s no bad thing to be a little “green” and leave the gasmobile at home.
  • Keep an eye out for “delivery services” at the market entrance. You can load up with goodies and someone will bike or drive it to your home.
  • Don’t forget, Farmer’s Markets aren’t just for veggies! You can also get fresh eggs, frozen meats and fish, pickles, preserves, oils, spices, honey, handmade soaps, fresh flowers, potted plants, hats, jewelry, pottery, just about anything!

Links

Video of Maple Syup Taffy

Empire Valley Beef

Maison Coté

VFM Seasonal Produce Guide

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets