Flavour On The Go: A Visit to the Maille Flavour Studio

Maille mustards Prisma illustration

Vancouverites are used to consoling themselves with our proximity to mountains, forests, and beaches. It takes our minds off the things we secretly wish we had closer proximity to – like the Maille boutiques that can be found in places like Paris, London, and New York.

Happily, Maille Canada brought the boutique experience to us last weekend, when they visited the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival.

They were kind enough to invite a number of bloggers to an early afternoon media event to kick off the day’s activities. I was happy to say yes, hoping that I’d have a chance to sample some more of their Malossol pickles and to try some of their exclusive mustards. I did both, and more besides.

Maille treats and custom mustard

Maille had set up work stations where visitors could mix their own custom mustards (I used their Moutarde à l’Ancienne as a base, adding raspberries, rosemary, and black pepper). They had both their commercial and boutique mustards at the ready, with bread sticks and cornichons standing by. There was a cocktail station, serving tiny Maille crocks of the Que ca Maille!, which blends Dijon mustard with lemon, apple juice, thyme, and vodka. And there were waves of appetizers that made the most of Maille’s products.

Maille Gourmet Mustards

Tasting their various mustards one after the other is a good education. Their Chablis mustard is bracingly strong, but nuanced. Their flavoured mustards run from ones that could easily be eaten alone to those that are meant to complement other flavours or finish a dish.

Harry Lalousis, Maille mustard sommelier, highlighted mustard’s role as an ingredient in his presentation to us. He asked us to think about how the mustards in our kitchens can enhance the food we cook, while breaking free of recipes in favour of creativity and taste.

Maille Vinaigrette Demonstration

As a demonstration, he shared his vinaigrette ratio with us: 3:2:1 – olive oil:vinegar:mustard. Once you have that, you can let your creativity flow, based on what is in your pantry and what you’re preparing. He quickly made up two vinaigrettes on the spot, using his ratio and measuring by eye. His first vinaigrette made use of Maille’s raspberry vinegar and original Dijon mustard. The second, their white wine vinegar and mustard with White Wine, Mangoes and Thai Spices. The first is perfect for topping a salad of spicy greens. The second, marinating chicken, fish, or even tofu. I enjoyed the way he made creative cooking so accessible, while demonstrating ways to make the best of the products we’d been sampling.

Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival

Afterward, I was almost too content to visit the food truck festival and accompanying artisan market. I’m glad I didn’t skip them – the artisan market was full of BC producers of wine, spirits, and beer, along with artisans and makers. The food truck festival, with around 100 to choose from, provided enough exercise to whet even the most sated of the mustard samplers.

Artisan Market at The Anvil

I came away with contacts that I’d like to pursue in future blog posts and a full belly from the (more than I care to admit) treats I found at food trucks. I’ll be marking my calendar for next year and crossing my fingers that Maille’s Flavour Studio will make a return visit.

Maille mustards and cornichons

If you’re in Montréal, you’ll have the last chance this year to sample Maille’s boutique line – the Flavour Studio will be visiting Festival YULEAT next weekend. I’m tempted to fly out.

I received an invitation to the Flavour Studio press event, along with a jar of custom mustard and a jar of Maille’s Malossol Cornichons from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

A Late Summer Round-Up

Informal Installation

August means vacations, farmers’ markets, days at the beach and in the woods. But there’s also a surfeit of festivals, performances, and events this month. So when your vacation days are spent, your fridge is full, and hungry bears take precedence over hikers, there’s still lots left to do.

Here are a few of the things that caught my attention:

The PNE is more than just mini-doughnuts, Superdogs, and gravity-defying rides – it’s also a musical treasure trove. Their Summer Nights series is a mixed bag of nostalgia acts and current bands, with great seating (if you get there early) and an unbeatable price – it’s free with admission to the Fair. This year’s highlights include Culture Club and A Tribe Called Red.

The Museum of Vancouver has another intriguing exhibition running this summer and fall, All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds. I love the way their curators stretch stretch the boundaries of what a museum is supposed to contain. This show includes a seed bank, fly fishing gear, action figures, and drag wear.

The Vancouver Mural Festival may be over, but its legacy is the art it has left in its wake. Make your own Mount Pleasant walking tour, using the mural map as your guide.

And then, there’s Pet-A-Palooza, for those who think that free samples aren’t something that should be restricted to humans.

There are also festivals, markets, and performances happening all over Metro Vancouver over the next few weekends. It can be hard to decide what to do. I had that problem this past weekend. I ended up at the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival. On Friday, I’ll tell you why.

Headed for a Heatwave

  

It’s going to get hot here, in the next few days. At the same time, there’s a bounty of summer produce to experiment with. Here are a few early summer heatwave suggestions:

It’s still strawberry season, so make the most of them while you can.

Shortcake

Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes

Salad

Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad

Ice Cream

Ginger-Honey and Strawberry Chèvre Ice Cream

And now, cherries have started appearing in the market.

Cherries

Roasted Cherries

Clafoutis

Whole-Cherry Clafoutis

Gateau Basque

Gâteau Basque

If hot-weather cooking doesn’t appeal, there’s lots to do around town.

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival runs until July 1st this year. There are concerts at venues all over town, but don’t overlook the free shows this weekend at David Lam Park. It’s a beautiful place to relax, picnic, and listen to some stellar music.

If you’d prefer to start your weekend indoors, Rain City Chronicles‘ latest show is at the Museum of Vancouver this Friday. It’s called GUTs and promises “stories of relying on your instincts, acts of bravery, and the organs inside you.”

There are two days left to catch the Festival d’ete francophone de Vancouver.

If you have kids, or if you still have the constitution of one, head over to Playland and test your stomach’s mettle with fair food and amusement park rides.

I prefer my thrills pedal-powered, so Velopalooza is right up my alley. I’m only sorry I missed today’s Tour de Book Exchanges.

Or you could hang out in your backyard (or patio, for you microunit dwellers) and work on developing Summer 2015’s signature drink.

I’ll be here hoping for a nice summer rain.

Summer Slow Down

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Today, I’m sharing a few photos from the last few heat-wave-y weeks. Farms, festivals, and fun have been on my off-hours agenda. What’s been keeping you busy so far this summer?

  

    

Win one of two copies of Jill Colonna’s beautiful Teatime in Paris!

In the Early Summer

Peonies

One of the nicest things about Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is that it runs the gamut from handcrafts to high tech, with all makers being accorded respect. There’s lots to see and do there this weekend.

Once you’ve made the most of Maker Faire, you can reward yourself with a cold brew at Vancouver Craft Beer Week’s Festival on Sunday.

Or you can just get in the mood for Italian Day on the Drive at The Rio. They’ve got a mini Italian film fest lined up in the week leading up to the big day.

Bard on the Beach is back, meaning that it’s well and truly summer. Their offerings this year include a steampunk-inflected version of The Comedy of Errors and a Jazz Age Love’s Labour’s Lost.

If it’s not sold out already, Vancouver’s Femme City Choir promises to put on a terrific show.

Or you can celebrate the oeuvre John Hughes with Hot Wet Art City.

If none of this seems exciting to you so far, maybe a Terminal City Rollergirls Double Header is more your speed.

There’s lots more going on, of course, but that gives you a starting point. There’s also a chance that I might kick back with a cool drink and admire the early summer flowers. They’re so fleeting, after all.

Chock Full of November

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Last Saturday, the Parade of Lost Souls inhabited Britannia Community Centre, leading the audience through a maze of performance, music, and interactive experiences informed by traditions acknowledging the waning of the year. I’ve told you about the parade before, but things have changed since then. The Public Dreams Society has, sadly, folded and Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret has taken over the stewardship of this event so it can live on. If you want them to be able to continue to do so, visiting their Indiegogo fundraising campaign would help a lot.

I’ve peppered the post with photos from this year’s parade, but it’s the rest of the month that I want to tell you about. My favourite event of November is always the Eastside Culture Crawl, which I’ve also told you about before. The Crawl is four days long now and well-worth all that tramping around the neighbourhood, no matter what the weather.

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Now that you’ve set aside those four days for the Crawl, you can finish filling your calendar for the month – here are a few of your choices:

You look like the well-read sort; I just know you have a library card. So, I also know you’ll be thrilled that you can show it at the door for free entry into Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalists. Your appetite for captivating presentations properly whetted, you might want to check out Interesting Vancouver next. There’s also a few days left of the Heart of the City Festival. Or, you can get in on the act (well, workshop) at this year’s CircusFest – I’ll be sticking with my role as audience member, personally. For a less strenous look behind the scenes, you can listen to some of the Culture Crawl’s artists at HOT TALKS: Eastside Culture Crawl.

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There are more exhibitions and performances this month than I can reasonably mention, so I’ll just give you a taste of a few more that caught my attention.

You can pick up some original art while supporting the Seymour Art Gallery at their ‘Art Party!’ exhibition until November 8th. Kevin and I are big fans of Portland’s The Wonderheads and their latest show, Loon, sounds like another instance of their signature blend of magic and bittersweet. Museums matter and are more relevant than ever, as spaces like MOV are proving. On November 14th, I Came to See the Beautiful Things will celebrate museums with music, performance, and discussion.

So, by now you might be looking for a little bit of fun in this list. Doctor Strange’s Future Think Dinner Show might fit the bill. Or maybe all this activity just worked up your appetite. In that case, the Ocean Wise™ Chowder Chowdown will fill your belly while supporting sustainable seafood simultaneously. And with that out of the way, you can concentrate on some pre-holiday shopping therapy at a few of the MANY craft fairs that November brings.

Blim is always a good bet and The Province has a nice list that extends all the way into December. I’m also going to put in a good word for the craft fair that my mother is helping to put on at Sts. Joachim and Ann’s Parish in Aldergrove. They have some great crafters and artisans lined up.

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And before I go, I’d like to remind you that this month, civic elections are happening across Metro Vancouver. The Broadbent Institute has started an interesting initiative to increase voter participation. Feed Democracy is a non-partisan awareness campaign that has some of Vancouver’s favourite spots to eat and drink signed on to help get the vote out. In Vancouver, advance polls opened today (though, rather maddeningly, not on the east side) and the big day is November 15th. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, there are at least three more all candidates meetings to go.

November, you are no wallflower.

Festivals, Fall, and Fun

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The days are getting noticeably shorter, now. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot left to do before the first frost. Now, that’s true for my garden, but right now I’m talking about all the summer events that are still keeping the city busy and the fall events to come.

Family Fun

There’s still plenty to do before school begins and MetroVancouver‘s activities for kids, youth, and families would be a good place to start – you can learn to fish, take a nighttime stroll in search of bats, or help clean up our shorelines.

I like to celebrate the end of summer the way generations of BC folks have and visit the PNE. Who could resist a fair that provides farming displays, a building full of gadgets, super dogs, more food stands than you could ever visit, and an amusement park?

Speaking of traditions, Saturday movies were a staple of my childhood, so I’m glad there’s a series of $2.50 family movies for kids of this generation.

And for those of you who are ready to embrace autumn with your family, there are a LOT of corn mazes in Metro Vancouver. The Chillwack Corn Maze is the best-known, but Hopcott’s Meadow Maze, Bose Corn Maze, and
Mann Farms’ Wizard of Oz themed maze look like a lot of fun, too.

Adults Can Have Fun, Too

Start with Forbidden Vancouver‘s walking tours, which focus on Vancouver’s seamy side – speakeasies, brothels, and murder most foul all make an appearance.

Bored with brewery tours? Hit up Gin & Tonic Fridays at Long Table Distilleries for a weekend treat.

Who Said Festival Season Is Over?

TAIWANfest brings August to a close with films, lectures, food and more.

For a more rhythmic affair, the Vancouver International Tap Festival is back, culminating in a mass tap explosion on Granville Street on the 31st.

After you’ve finished dancing your heart out, it’s time for the Fringe Festival, bringing the city alive with theatre as we move into autumn.

Then, head over to the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival to kick off film fest season.

Harvest Bounty

Many of the community centres around Vancouver are hosting food-focused workshops this fall. For instance, Cedar Cottage Food Network is giving workshops on fermented foods, putting your garden to bed for the winter, cheese-making, and bread baking.

There are also plenty of harvest festivals coming up, too, like the Bowen Heritage Applefest or Earthwise Society’s Tomato Fest.

And right now is when the farmers’ markets will be overflowing with great produce, so it’s time to stock up.

Eventually, you’ll have to go home, so make sure you’ve made the best of the harvest while it lasts. With any luck, you’ll be eating well until it’s time to break ground again in the spring.

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A Holiday Round Up

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We’re well into December now and we’ve even had some snow here, so it’s hard not to feel a bit of holiday spirit. There’s a lot going on this month, with some of my favourite craft fairs yet to come, seasonal music and performances, and more. It’s been a while since I’ve done a round up, but what better time of year? Here’s your holiday hit parade.

Arts & Crafts

Shiny Fuzzy Muddy is the sophisticated older sister of the craft fair. It’s the place to find investment pieces in art, clothing, and jewellery. Which makes Got Craft? their slightly alternative cousin. I’m going to drop the metaphor before I get to Circle Craft, I swear. Well, one more. I don’t know whether Craftacular is the punk rock youngest or the mischievous middle child – you decide. A short look at Refresh‘s vendor list might take care of a good chunk of your gift list (or your wish list). Another upcoming favourite is Blim, which looks like it has some fun in store. And if your heart needs a little melting, I think the Winter Wonderland Children’s Art Fair should do the trick. It’s an opportunity for ten to nineteen-year-olds to sell their wares, from art to crafts to baking.

Most of these are taking place this upcoming weekend, but for the truly last-minute shopper (putting down the mirror, now), there’s still hope. The Eastside Flea and the Last Chance Christmas Craft Fair have got you covered. They’re both on that last weekend before St. Nick arrives.

Food

What better place to start than the Vancouver Farmers’ Market Holiday Market? Then, there’s Gingerbread Lane, a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which technically involves food, but might get you arrested if you actually try to eat it. So, go to the Vancouver Christmas Market afterward and get your fill of Glühwein, Schupfnudeln, and Flammenkuchen. And don’t miss the Winter Solstice Festival at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens. There will be Dragon Spice holiday tea to drink and hot buns to eat while you enjoy the lanterns placed all around the gardens.

Performance

There’s more music, dance, and theatre performances than my fingers care to type up at this time of year, so I’ll just mention a few. The York Theatre is back in action with it’s first post-reno show, Jack & the Beanstalk: An East Van Panto – everything you ever wanted to know about my neighbourhood but were afraid to ask. Another locally set Christmas tale, It’s Snowing on Saltspring, has long been a Christmastime theatre tradition here. Music and stories take centre stage at Pacific Theatre’s Christmas Presence. Speaking of music, Musica Intima‘s Christmas concerts are always profoundly beautiful. Early Music Vancouver is presenting Festive Cantatas for Christmas, featuring their Bach Cantata Project. And the Vancouver Bach Choir will be presenting Handel’s Messiah. If it’s the Nutcracker you’re after, you’ve got two choices. Goh Ballet and Ballet BC are each having a crack at it, so to speak.

Fun

I’ve already told you about Christmas at Canada Place and the rest of the events at the Winter Waterfront District, but there is lots more going on. Free skating at Robson Square, the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens, or for those who are suffering from holiday fatigue, MOV’s Play House: The architecture of Daniel Evan White exhibition.

Like I said, it’s a busy month. I’m going to try to make it to at least some of the events on the list, but I’ll also make sure to make some time for hot chocolate and It’s a Wonderful Life, holiday baking, and visits with family and friends.

Now it’s your turn – what’s up this month where you live?

No Doldrums Here

Live Now

It may seem counterintuitive, but January and February are busy months in Vancouver. Years ago, restaurateurs got together and created Dine Out Vancouver to help combat slow post-Christmas sales. It’s become a tradition and there can be fierce competition to get reservations for the discounted, set course meals at some of the swankier tables in town. One of the most anticipated events, though, is not all that swanky. Street Food City is a four-day gathering of some of Vancouver’s hottest food trucks and many of them have added Dine Out exclusive dishes. I suspect there will be line ups around the block again this year.

Other events have grown up around the Dine Out frenzy, like Feast Van, which offers prix fixe meals at a nice selection of mid-range restaurants, with $1.00 from each meal benefitting the Strathcona Community Center Backpack Food Program. I admire their model – great food for a great cause.

Another favourite of mine is the Hot Chocolate Festival, which runs until the middle of February. It’s a great way to wait out the last of the chill and sample some of Vancouver’s finest chocolatiers.

It’s not all about food, though. This weekend, the Museum of Vancouver is presenting their annual Winter Wander, which allows you to visit all six Vanier Park venues for a total of $5.00. It’s a great way to explore these out-of-the-way attractions and I suspect a lot of people buy yearly memberships after their visits – a boon to venues and patrons alike. It’s also time for the PuSh Festival of Performing Arts, which seems to get bigger and more innovative every year.

In sadder news, the legendary Ridge Theatre will be screening its very last films in the coming weeks as they present their Last Film Festival. Vancouver has lost so much of its cultural capacity and heritage to out-of-control, cookie-cutter condo development. The Ridge and The Waldorf are just the latest casualties.

Though it’s true that venues come and go, in Vancouver they seem to go and go and go. Affordable space for upcoming musicians, actors, and dancers seems increasingly endangered. I don’t think the solution is for ‘everybody’ to move to New Westminster, either.

My worries about the future aside, I’ll leave you with something to look forward to – the 2013 Vancouver Poutine Festival has just been announced and it’s going to be bigger than ever. You might want to make some travel plans for early March, as at least one of my out-of-town friends is trying to arrange.

Secret Souls, Public Dreams

The Parade of Lost Souls has been a yearly fixture in my neighbourhood since the mid-90’s. Public Dreams Society created an event that mixed Mexican Day of the Dead traditions with Celtic Samhain rituals, throwing in Hallowe’en costumes and a circus aesthetic for good measure. In the beginning, it was almost a neighbourhood secret, with artists and queers, students and stilt walkers proclaiming our difference from the rest of the city. In those days, the Drive was the also the home of Vancouver’s Fringe Festival and the Illuminares Lantern Festival (another Public Dreams project). Commercial Drive felt like the seat of countercultural expression, even as we realized that we were really just the harbingers of gentrification. Still, it was exciting to wind our way around the neighbourhood, with decked out houses and alleyways, knowing that new ways of making art (and old ways rediscovered) were being worked out in front of us.

The Parade grew each year, becoming so big that it made the major news reports and more and more people from around Greater Vancouver came to participate. Eventually, the costs for permits, clean up and policing grew to over $100,000.00, while government funding was cut by an estimated 90%. This led to the cancellation of last year’s parade. For a good discussion of the issues around funding cuts to the arts in BC, go here. (Funding cuts to social programs were also deep and devastating.)

This year, Public Dreams revived the parade, in a smaller form that reminds me of its roots. Calling the scaled-down celebration the Secret Souls Walk, Public Dreams didn’t release the route until the day the walk happened, though the accompanying Carnival was advertised earlier.

I was lucky enough to win passes to the preparation workshops for the Walk and was able to attend one of the shrine-making workshops. I decided to make a shrine in honour of my grandparents, as my Grandma died only a few months ago and my Grandpa died the year before.

I’m not an artist. Even my stick figures are almost unidentifiable. So, when I thought about what I wanted to do for my shrine, I just printed out lovely photos of each of my grandparents and hoped that I would find some inspiration at Public Dreams’ studio. I needn’t have worried. The Public Dreams space is like a five-year-old’s ideal craft area. There are materials everywhere, in every shade and texture. Even someone as artistically challenged as I am can fake it there. They’ve also got an amazingly talented cadre of staff and volunteers. The workshops this year were sadly under-attended. If you ever get the chance to go to one, for any of their events, jump at it. Really.




                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       

My grandparents met during the Second World War, in England, where my grandfather was stationed and my grandmother was working as a nurse. She was Irish, he was Canadian. He married her and brought her back to Canada. It sounds simple, but it wasn’t. Whose story is? Theirs included a vow to marry a girl spotted through a restaurant window; an injured soldier’s plea to Vincent Massey to allow his Irish Catholic wife to have their child on her home soil, even though the Irish Sea was closed to passage; and a train journey across a continent with a baby born Canadian in Ireland. All stories for another time.

I thought about these things while making my shrine, but what concerned me most was trying to represent them correctly. I played with the idea of making fishing rods and rosaries, cups of tea and cribbage boards, but I knew that no one would know what they were but me. In the end, I tried to make it simple. Two of the strongest themes in their lives were their shared Irish heritage and their devout Catholicism. My grandfather had been raised Anglican, but converted wholeheartedly later in life and church was a constant in their lives.

So, I decided to make a shamrock and a cross, on a background of Kelly green. Not even I could go wrong with that. I cobbled together a structure made of milk cartons and construction paper, pasting their photos at the back with more construction paper for frames. I painted the rest green, made a sort of purple star as a base for the candle holders and hot-glued cord on either side to represent a shamrock and a cross. I made candle holders out of plastic roses and leaves and finished the thing with a strip of crimson netting. I think it turned out all right, mostly because Bridie and Fred were so beautiful in their youth.

I brought the shrine, along with a small Mexican-themed one that I’d made, to the starting point of the Secret Souls walk on Saturday. One of the volunteers at the shrine station told me later that everyone who came by wanted to know about my grandparents and their story. I really want to thank Public Dreams for the opportunity; it’s a very meaningful process and it’s wonderfully healing to honour one’s dead.

My partner and I went on the walk together, which wound through the alleyways above McSpadden Park. There was a carnival atmosphere present, as there has been during past walks, but it was more subdued. We had to go looking for smaller spectacles, rather than being hurtled past larger ones. I really liked this aspect of Secret Souls. Some of the highlights for me: Thriller zombies at Templeton & East 3rd, the court of Queen Victoria, the still, pale ghosts in the alley and the music of various performers wafting across the neighbourhood.

My only complaint is that the steep alleyways aren’t very accessible and I hope that the organizers take this into account for next year. Everyone should have the opportunity to celebrate the death and renewal of the year and the self.

I’ll end with a few pictures. It was impossible to capture everything that was going on, but these will give you a taste. If you like what you see, please consider a donation to Public Dreams, so they can continue producing such beautiful events.