Tag Archives: Vancouver

The Olympic Flame: Bring it on!

On October 22nd, months before the Olympic games begin, a group of eleven women representing Vestal virgins (Vesta is the goddess of the hearthfire) gathered at the Temple of Hera to kindle the Olympic flame from the rays of the sun. This flame has been transported across the globe to Vancouver, carried by Canadian hands all across the country. The journey by air, land, and water has taken 106 days.

My beloved blurry photo of the flame being passed in Kits.

Last night, I caught my first glimpse of the flame reflected in the window of a local pub, and instantly began jumping up and down yelling, “I see it! I see it! There it is!” At the street corner, two torchbearers met, the flame was passed, and off it ran up the hill, right by me. It took just a moment, then that moment was gone, but the feelings I had stayed with me. It’s the first time I’ve really been excited about something in a long time . . . I don’t mean like “Oh goody, it’s payday!” excitement or “Hey look! Free cupcakes!” excitement. I mean little kid seeing Santa with a bag of goodies excitement. It was cool. And someone did give me a free Coke Zero and a hot cross bun.

This morning, the Governator of California himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, helped kick off the final leg of the torch relay in Stanley Park. The fathers of Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky are also taking part in today’s final run, but the last torchbearer is still a secret. I’ll be watching CTV tonight to find out who it is.

There are demonstrations and protests taking place, and the torch is headed for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where street life is a harsh reality, half-buried under the glitz ofthe Games. Protesters have said they want to prevent people from going into BC Place for the opening ceremonies, but I really hope that doesn’t happen. As much as they have the right to be heard, so does everyone else have the right to enjoy this moment unhindered.

I have been ambivalent about it all up to now—strong feelings either way. It’s a huge hassle and money could have been better spent elsewhere, I’m certain. But the fact remains, the Olympics are right here, right now. And the world really is watching.

It means something. All of this means something. Despite all the crankiness about “inconvenience” and all the protests and politics about where Olympic money could have been better spent, all of this MEANS something. People are smiling. People are cheering. People are feeling good things inside. For the athletes who have trained so hard, for the people who have come to sing and dance and welcome the global community to this beautiful place, for the imports like myself who have come to love a new country, this really is a big deal. The Olympic Dream is real. Tonight, the final cauldron will be lit and that ancient fire will burn in the heart of this city. I’m ready. Let the games begin.

Olympic Torch Relay Comes to Kitsilano

The Olympic Flame has been on horseback, in canoes, on a Dragon boat, and has ridden the Sky Ride to Grouse Mountain. It has ridden bikes, worn sneakers, and been in a wheelchair. It has met the hands of athletes, politicians, Aboriginal chiefs, and community volunteers. It has been celebrated with singing, feasting, cheering, and dancing. In the flame is the spirit of the games, the spirit of competition, and the spirit of unity. It’s an amazing thing that is happening where I am, and I’m glad to be here to witness it.

Security has been heightened everywhere. The streets, the water, the roads, even the airspace is being patrolled, watched, and hovered over by people with tasers, guns, and uniforms. Yesterday, a couple of fighter planes screamed by overhead, and the noise scared me and the cats out of our seats. Completely understandable, of course, but unnerving.

Later this evening, the Olympic Torch will pass by, not too far away. I’ll be going out to see it, though lately, I’ve been vascillating between excited anticipation of the 2010 Winter Games and absolute dread of the maddening crowds and inevitable mayhem they will bring. And we still have not had any snow . . . it’s all back home with my sisters.

Visit Stories From The Road to read more about the torchbearers and community celebrations.

To market and home again, jiggety-jig.

You never know what you’re going to see when a community gathers. As I walked into the Farmers Market, a man was rowing his bike out of the parking lot. Yes, rowing. The seat was on a track, and the handlebars moved like a rowing machine. About a dozen people stopped and watched him go, with a “well whaddaya know” look on their faces, self included. I don’t know how well it corners, but it’s certainly a unique form of transportation. (Watch a Row Bike video at the end of this post)

Crabapples, Amish Gold and Heirloom Tomatoes, and a little French Melon

Crabapples, Amish Gold and Heirloom Tomatoes, and a little French Melon

The markets seem to have an infinite supply of tomatoes right now, many of them heirloom varieties, which makes me extremely happy. I never imagined I could get West Virginia tomatoes all the way in the Pacific Northwest; they’re red, meaty, and delicious, but not always easy to find. Today I picked up some pretty Amish Gold hybrid tomatoes and a simillar roma-stlye red tomato for saucemaking, as well as two squat yellow-flecked tomatoes whose name escapes me. They’re so pretty, and the sign said “perfect for stuffing.” I’ll probably lunch on them in a day or two.

Remember the crabapples I mentioned a trip or two ago? They were two bucks a basket, so I brought them home. I’m thinkin’ pastry or pie. I also went back to the tomato/melon guy for another french melon. He had a golden watermelon today (free samples, YAY) that was absolutely succulent and perfectly sweet. Next week, if he has more, I’m definitely springing for one and heading to the beach. I also got some basil for more pesto. Next year I really want to have a little herb garden of my own. Somehow, I’ll make that happen.

coronationgrapesLast but not least, I found a delightful thing today: Jelly Grapes! There were a few piles of plump little purple grapes in several stalls, so be on the lookout. These are Coronation Grapes, but they look a lot like Concord Grapes. Soon, they’ll be spreading out with some all-natural peanut butter on my morning toast. (P.S. See if your grocer has fresh ground nut butters. I saved $3 vs. name brand in jars, and it’s 100% peanuts with no sugar! )

And now for something completely different. I give you, the Row Bike:

Row, row, row your bike gently down the street.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Row Bike“, posted with vodpod

2009 Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival

In possession of a bus pass while Ginger Man is off playing at the water park @ Cultus Lake, I decided to venture out to Granville Island Market in search of a madeline pan. As usual, I came back with something completely different. I also had the unexpected pleasure of investigating the Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival. The Floating Exhibition is on display Aug. 27-30, and it’s free to see!

Munin's Sail by Foxtongue

Munin's Sail by Foxtongue

The Vancouver Wooden Boat Society says, “The world has enough plastic. Let’s protect something beautiful.” I wholeheartedly agree. Gorgeous sailing vessels and yachts line the docks near the market, interrupted by the occasional precious wee dinghy (cast a ballot for your favourite!). You can tour the SS Master—the last living locally-built steam tugboat—or have a look at an authentic half-size replica of a real viking longboat (complete with red-striped square sail). The viking boat, built by the BC Viking Ship Society at the Scandinavian Community Centre, is named Munin. She’s about 9 years old, crafted from fir planks, and hand-rivited with 3,000 copper rivets. I see her sometimes on English Bay when the winds are right.

Family fun can be had at boatbuilding workships (check the 2009 schedule). Closer to the market: beautiful knotwork, pretty toy boats made of recycled materials, and a crew singing sea shantys. Another fave: Graham Eagle’s whimsical store front “architectural portraits” (combining miniatures, found objects, and a good dose of humour).

As usual, a day at the Market was enjoyable, and although I passed up the madeline pan (trop cher), I did get a new salt grinder to replace my crappy broken one. It’s so cute, I just wanna squeeze it! I also picked up a few veggies and a couple of treats from Stuart’s: a key lime tart and a black forest minicake. They make wonderful things (cheesecake highly reccommended).

Last but not least, I blew my last $5 of fun money on a thrift-store cookbook and a few 98¢ 45rpm records (of all things). I don’t even have a record player, but c’mon! How could I pass these up? Maybe Ginger Man *hint hint* will get me a thrift shop turntable for my birthday. 😉

Flickr Creative Commons
foxtongue

Sunday Morning Market Fare

Another glorious Sunday morning at the Farmers Markets in Vancouver. It was a quick trip this time, and I’d already had breakfast (french toast and bacon), so no Métis Special for me today (that’s a grilled buffalo-sausage on a bun with corn relish and grilled onions with some cinnamon-sugared bannock for dessert). Sigh, I love good food so much.

Farmers Market Haul

A bounty of delicious things from the Farmers Market.

I headed straight for the sourdough loaf (the starter grew up in the Napa Valley, so it’s just like San Francisco sourdough, which is utterly scrumptious). Next stop, heirloom tomatoes and basil. On a whim, I purchased an heirloom melon, which the vendor promised would be delicious (he did not lie). There was a duet playing Celtic music in the center aisle. I wandered the stalls to the sounds of singing accompanied by bodhran or guitar or fiddle or the stamping of feet.  Were I not in a civilized neighbourhood, I might have busted out in a jig. Had I been with my sisters, it likely would have happened anyway.

At one stall, I discovered some pretty crabapples in a box marked “samples,” so I snagged myself one and bit into it. I remember the hard green cherry-sized fruits that hung so temptingly close from our crabapple tree by the forbidden creek. It was planted in a low section of our yard that sometimes flooded during thunderstorms. As a result, the grass was moist and lush and a vibrant deep green. Crawdad holes poked up through the ground here and there, like tiny chimeys made of dabbled mud. If I was barefoot, they’d squish suddenly under my toes and make me shudder. It was important to watch where you were going in my yard. I always picked the fruit too soon, though, and became a sourpuss.

This crabapple was different. It was big, almost golf-ball sized, with skin partly green and partly rosy. The flesh was crisp and tart, but not sour. Altogether not a bad experience. Now that I think of it, I could have roasted them with the pork tenderloin in my freezer. Ah, well. Next time maybe. I decided to add some potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots to my bag. I tried some local canned tuna, which was really quite delicious, but at $5 a can, I just couldn’t do it. I’m completely in favour of supporting local growers and meat vendors, but sometimes it’s just too pricey for my wallet. Green onions for $2.50 when I can pay 89¢ at the produce store up the street? No thanks. And the lovely eggs from those happy chickens? About $3 more than “inhumane” eggs. I hope someday the extra few bucks won’t matter to me.

Altogether, it was a good haul, and Ginger Man and I had a light vegetarian lunch of  walnut-basil pesto, sliced tomato, and cheese on sourdough toast with scoops of sweet melon. So fresh! Such a delight to eat. Plus, I finally got a chance to use my melon baller. 8)

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

Daniel Le Chocolat Belge

Daniel ChocolatesOn an early April foodie safari along Granville Street, I came upon a little chocolate shop, just in time to add a few goodies to my Easter basket. Daniel Le Chocolat Belge had plenty of goodies to choose from. In addition to their regular supply of truffles and molded belgian chocolates in the candy case, there were shelves and displays filled with adoreable bunnies, chickens, and delicious praliné eggs. It was hard to decide what to pick!

I didn’t want to blow my basket budget, so I went with a small box of peanut butter bunnies, four exotic truffles, and a few praliné eggs. I’ve waited ages to break into them, but now I can tell you all about how delicious they are. These are some of the creamiest chocolates I’ve ever had, with gorgeous mouth-feel and flavour. Not grainy in the slightest, not too sweet, and the exotic truffle flavours were fun.

Here’s a rundown of my sampling:

Easter TrufflesDark Advocaat Brandy
Lush and velvety smooth

Milk Cinnamon-Nutmeg
Interesting. Snickerdoodley.

Dark Chipotle
Good. Super creamy, not peppery.
Flavour is a little hidden.

Peanut Butter BunnyMilk Mojito
Excellent! Creamy chocolate with
a fresh hint of mint and lime.

Praliné Eggs
Creamy, crunchy, sweet, delicious.
Milk or dark chocolate with a creamy chocolate filling made with ground caramelized almonds or hazelnuts.

Peanut Butter Bunnies
Melt-in-your-mouth cuteness.

About Daniel’s Divine Chocolates

View Daniel’s Chocolate Map

Daniel Poncelet (Chocolatier) was born and raised in Belgium, where he says “chocolate was an inseparable part of my daily diet. I still remember how good it was to let it melt in my mouth and try to make the piece last as long as possible in order to be the last one in the family still enjoying it.”

He learned his craft from Clovis Harmegnie, “an exceptionally passionate Belgian master chocolatier,” and grew to appreciate not only the art of making chocolates but also fine quality ingredients. According to Daniel, this inspired his determination to create chocolates “without compromise, with zealous adherence to purity.”

Daniel uses only 100% natural ingredients to make chocolates that are preservative free with no artificial colorings and flavors and no hydrogenated oils or tropical fats.Daniel sources premium chocolate from world renowned chocolate manufacturer, Barry Callebaut. Callebaut’s chocolate heritage spans more than 120 years, and the company actively supports cocoa farmers and communities as part of its commitment to maintaining a sustainable cocoa industry.

Daniel’s Belgian Chocolates is located at 2820 Granville St. Vancouver, BC with additional locations in Metro Vancouver and Toronto as well as an online shop.

Vancouver Public Library: The Country Kitchen 1850

V.P.L.After a long week, Ginger Man and I decided to spend part of his day off at the library (yes, we are ubernerds). I love libraries, the smell of books, browsing through the stacks, and coming away with a few borrowed treasures. We have a local branch in the neighbourhood, but the main branch downtown is the coolest. You might recognize it in films and TV shows including the Bastille Day episode of Battlestar Galactica and The 6th Day starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The building at Library Square (designed by architect Moshe Safdie) is easily accessible via public transportation (bus or SkyTrain) and plenty of bike racks are available. The square is bordered by four streets: West Georgia, Homer, Robson, and Hamilton. Across West Georgia Street is a colourful Canada Post Office, and across Homer Street is the attractive Centre for Performing Arts (also designed by Moshe Safdie).

The Vancouver Public Library hosts a variety of events as well as monthly readings, workshops, and classes. Pay telephones, computers, and copy machines are available on each floor. Wireless internet access is free. The lobby section has a few retail shops, and you can pick up a drink or a nosh at several eateries in the square.The central library owns over 1.3 million items, and books and materials are moved through the 9-story building on vertical and horizontal conveyors (neat, huh?).

Front CoverI spend a lot of time on the 4th floor, where the cookbooks and toymaking books live. This trip, I came back with three pattern books and a nifty little reprint of The Country Kitchen 1850, which explains how to properly feed your woodburning stove and provides a great deal of detail regarding proper techniques for making and storing bread, butter, and cheese in addition to advice for the selection, care, and feeding of a dairy cow.

The illustrations and adverts are absolutely charming. the Alimentary Store ad promises “confectionary of the rarest quality” and “more than twenty different qualities of superior health chocolate. Also, the No. 1 homeopathic chocolate of the best French manufacture.” But my favourite “alimentive novelty” is the enormous list of items recoomended for “ill persons” including cordials, Absinthe, very old Cognac, Venus Oil, Champagne, and other such cures. I think I’m coming down with something.

Reading this little gem makes me very glad that I have electricity and that I don’t have to spend the whole day milking, churning, kneading, baking, and washing until the hard working head of the house comes home. Incedentally, according to Mrs. Cornelius, “many a day-laborer, on his return at evening from his hard toil, is repelled by the sight of a disorderly house and a comfortless supper; and perhaps is met by a cold eye instead of ‘the thriftie wifie’s smile,’ and he makes his escape to the grog-shop or the under-ground gambling room.” Sounds like an Andy Capp comic, yet maybe, there is a wee bit of truth in there, eh?