Dorie’s Cookies – Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

I baked up a storm the last two weekends, helping stock the bake sale table at the craft fair my mother organizes every year. I made three selections from Dorie’s Cookies this year, including the Cranberry Spice Cookies that were one of this month’s selections. I took out some squash that I’d frozen to make the variation of the Sweet Potato Pie Bars, but my mother got hold of it and turned it into several delicious creations of her own, instead. Luckily, I’ve got a really big squash ready to roast, so I’ll make those bars some time before the holidays.

Peanut Brownie Sablés

I also made the Peanut Brownie Sablés and the Melody Cookies (in snowflake form!), along with several batches of cookies from other cookbooks and recipe cards. I managed to taste a couple of cookies along the way (thank goodness for broken cookies!), but I was in production mode, so didn’t take great photos of any of them.

Melody Cookies, masquerading as snowflakes

I am going to have to make all of these again, at a time when they’re not earmarked for sale – they were all so delicious that I was sorry all I got was a share of the very few broken bits when they were unpacked. The Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies were especially lovely, because they’re not sweet – amongst all the sugar bombs on the table, they made a nice contrast. I loved the way the butter and cranberries played against the spices. It’s a perfect cookie for a grown up dessert tray or a grown up cocktail nibble.

Cookie Mix and Match Bake Sale Table

I may not have gotten to eat many cookies this weekend, but I’m going to steal one of their ideas for my next cookie swap – the mix and match table was a huge hit!

November’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Advertisements

Spring Into Action

img_6610

The clocks went forward an hour on the weekend and the lighter evenings are waking me out of winter hiberation mode. Which makes it a good time for a round up, don’t you think?

Here are a few things that have caught my newly refreshed eye:

I haven’t yet made time for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s current show, MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, but I need to correct that soon. It seems like everyone I know has been making multiple trips to the exhibit – the whole gallery is devoted to this exploration of contemporary cultural production and it’s too much to absorb in a single visit. If you’re in Vancouver before it closes in June, you should block it liberally into your itinerary.

Last year, I brought a recipe to the AvoShowdown, competing against a number of Vancouver bloggers. This year, the general public is invited to submit a recipe – 16 competitors will face the judges on April 10th. You can find all the details here: Call for Recipes – Avocado Showdown. I’m looking forward to attending as a spectator this time around!

The Eastside Flea has moved from Commercial Drive to Main Street and have a bigger, permanent home. If you’re a vendor, they’re looking for all sorts of goods purveyors for their grand opening on April 16th & 17th.

The Femme City Choir brings their new show to the York Theatre on June 5th & 6th – I’m telling you now because it’s best to get your tickets early. Their shows sell out.

Food and community find perfect expression in the Food Connection Friends Potluck Dinners. For folks in and around the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, they hold regular potlucks and DIY food workshops. There’s one coming up this Friday, March 18th, in fact.

But the big question this week is would you rather celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by rocking out to Pogues tribute band, Shane’s Teeth, at the WISE Hall’s annual St. Paddy’s Day Bash, or are you more into the nostalgic (and nearly as lively) sounds of the Irish Rovers? Just let me know – I’ll be sipping on a Guinness while you decide.

A Little Cheer

IMG_5915

I think it’s high time I shared a holiday round up, don’t you?

Craft Fairs

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for craft fairs. This time of year they are at their peak. I’ve got a selection of favourites for you.

Make It! is big, comprehensive and worth an afternoon’s browse.

Toque is a fundraiser for Western Front, so it’s not surprising that the wares on display have a fine arts sensibility. It’s always a hit.

Got Craft? still sets the bar for what’s indie and in when it comes to craft fairs. This year, they’re taking the show to North Vancouver.

Shiny Fuzzy Muddy is organized by some of my favourite artists and it’s a small, curated show full of beautiful art, jewellery, and apparel. If you’re thinking about buying yourself a present this year, do it here.

Markets

It’s not all about crafts, though. Holiday markets are a pleasure all their own.

The Baker’s Market is back, just in time for the holidays. It’s a one-stop shop for indie sweets purveyors, so prepare to get all your stocking stuffers out of the way.

The Vancouver Christmas Market imports (literally) the Germany holiday tradition and is always popular. Go hungry.

Speaking of hunger, the Vancouver Farmers’ Market Holiday Market is a great place to shop when you’re hungry, too. There are goods of all sorts, though, so you just might polish off your gift list.

Tourist in Your Own Town

Your condo may be too small to safely install even one string of outdoor lights, but luckily, there are thousands of lights for you to enjoy across the city. Then, work off the hot chocolate at the ice rink.

VanDusen Botanical Garden‘s Festival of Lights is bigger than ever. Tour the grounds, then go for a meal or hot chocolate – they’ve got everything from snacks to fine dining.

See the Capilano Suspension Bridge in a whole new light – well, hundreds of thousands of lights.

Or, keep it simple and go skating at Robson Square. It’s surprisingly magical.

Performance

There are a bewildering number of great performances happening around here at this time of year, so I’m just going to highlight a few.

This year’s East Van Panto is Hansel and Gretel. They’re always hilarious, topical fun.

A Christmas Story, The Musical sounds like fun, too, as long as nobody puts an eye out.

Christmas at the Chan is going to be majestic – five choirs in that space!

It’s the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. So, why not celebrate with the The Vancouver Chamber Choir?

And finally, Vancouver Cantata Singers are performing at Holy Rosary Cathedral. Experiencing the gorgeous acoustics there should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Have you checked out my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways (as they go live) here.

The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show

IMG_5798

I received a media pass to attend the trade show and competitions at The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show, nevertheless, all opinions are my own.

Trade shows have a reputation for tedium, full of dry seminars for industry professionals, stationery samples, and towers of stale danishes.

But, imagine walking onto a trade show floor and almost immediately being handed a latte from one of your favourite local coffee chains. Then, spending the rest of the day sampling coffee, tea, chocolate, pastries and cocktails. All the while, competitions rage along to determine the best baristas and latte artists.

IMG_5795

That’s what visiting the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show is like. There was an enormous array of coffee roasters and tea importers from around the world, with suppliers of everything a coffee shop or tea room could want.

A month later, I’m still sorting through and absorbing the materials I brought home from the show, but I have a few highlights to share with you, along with some thoughts about the show and what it means for the state of hot beverages in Vancouver.

IMG_5799

Tea

I was a tea drinker for years before I ever touched a cup of coffee, so I was especially excited to see so many fine teas, highly qualified blenders and sommeliers, and the Tea Association of Canada at the show. I often drink coffee when I’m out, and as much as I enjoy it, there are many occasions when I wish I felt comfortable ordering tea, instead.

It can be difficult to find a good cup of tea in Vancouver, unless you’re at a tea room. There’s nothing worse than being served tea that’s improperly prepared, of poor quality, or both. Vancouver began solving its coffee problem in the 80s, so I’ve usually stuck with that at most of the places around town. (There’s one local coffee chain that particularly comes to mind – they have beautiful tea, chosen and blended by a talented team, but they pour almost half a cup of loose tea into a bag when they make a large cup. The tea is undrinkable and the leaves wasted.)

This is becoming less and less the case now, with the new generation of coffee shops focusing on the quality of everything they serve. They’re sourcing wonderful teas and preparing them precisely, making my decision of what to order very hard indeed.

This attention is reflected in the strong showing tea made at the show. Many of the conversations I had over the course of the two days left me feeling optimistic about the future of tea throughout Vancouver. Just as barista culture, artisan roasting, and the renaissance in brewing has elevated the quality of coffee in Vancouver, the influence of tea merchants and next gen coffee shops is elevating tea here, too.

So, you can expect to see more top shelf tea at coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. But you should also expect more good quality tea at your grocery store, too. Though the emphasis at the show is on providing products to the industry, there were a number of retail brands in attendance at the show. I saw whole leaf tea, organic and fair trade brands, sommelier blends and more at the retail kiosks. The future of tea is bright in Canada.

IMG_5198

Coffee

For coffee, the future is already here, from discerning local roasting companies to innovative coffee shops. There was a dazzling display of machinery at the show, reminding me that coffee has a lot in common with cars – people love to look at race cars and long to bring an affordable version home. There were beautiful espresso machines, tap systems for everything from cocktails to sodas, and technological wonders.

But what’s really exciting now is that all the innovation we’ve seen in coffee brewing is ready to come home with you. Just look at this page on KitchenAid’s website, if you don’t believe me. Expect high quality coffee from local roasters to show up throughout the restaurant industry, while siphon and pour over machines appear on kitchen counters.

IMG_5797

Aspirations

One of the most enjoyable parts of the show was being introduced to products that were trying to find a foothold in Canada. There was tea from Nepal, chocolate from Ecuador, coffee from Brazil, and BKON’s Craft Brewer – an amazing machine that can infuse flavour into alcohol in seconds or brew a perfect cup of tea at precisely the right time and temperature. These were just a few of the exhibitors who were working to establish themselves here.

IMG_5796

Highlights

Edmonton’s Blue Hour Tea and their “sticky teas.” Premixing chai with Alberta honey is something different and delicious.

I’m hoarding the last of the samples I got from Lumbini Tea. Beautiful, whole leaf, flavourful tea is something to be savoured.

I was impressed by Trumps Fine Food‘s gluten-free collection. Producing tasty gluten-free goods in volume is difficult to pull off.

6 Mountains‘ Pu Erh tea was beautifully presented and served amidst the chaos of the trade show floor. It truly is the king of tea.

I learned a lot at the show and I’m looking forward to following up on leads for future stories, which I hope to share with you in the new year.

IMG_5799

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to visit the Vancouver Tea Festival. They’re at the Croatian Cultural Centre this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and I’ll tell you all about it next Tuesday. If you’re in Vancouver, though, you can find out for yourself. You can buy tickets to the Festival on their website, along with tickets to their educational sessions.

IMG_5800

G-W Portraits: Graham Anderson

IMG_5387

I don’t do weekly grocery shops, as I might if I lived in the suburbs. Living near Commercial Drive, I have the luxury of shopping daily (or nearly so), making decisions about what I have for dinner based on what looks best at the markets.

Our primary grocery store is East End Food Co-op. We can get most of the staples and ingredients we need there, while supporting a co-operative business that has great labour standards and keeps its profits in the community. They focus on fair trade, local, and organic products as much as possible, while providing as wide a variety of quality products as they can.

We don’t buy everything there, but it’s fair to say we do the bulk of our shopping there. I especially love that they’ve introduced us to so much great produce from BC farmers, including heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables I haven’t seen elsewhere.

On Saturday, the City of Vancouver declared East End Food Co-op Day and there was a celebration in front of the store, including cake and Ethical Bean coffee. It was an extra-special celebration, because it’s the Co-op’s 40th anniversary this year. If that weren’t enough, it was also Co-op Week.

I put one of the Co-op’s Board Members on the spot, asking for an impromptu G-W Portraits interview, and Graham Anderson was gracious enough to agree. Here’s what he had to say about Grandview-Woodland, East End Food Co-op, and Saturday’s celebration:

Tea-Tasting at Tea Sparrow

IMG_5451

Rainy afternoons and tea-drinking go hand-in-hand, or at least they do in my world. Well, in my world, tea is a suitable accompaniment for any time of day or type of weather, so let’s just say that rain, afternoon, and tea make a classic combination.

This drizzly afternoon, I was drinking tea at Tea Sparrow headquarters, taking part in one of their famous tea-tastings. I’ve told you before how lucky Vancouverites are to have a say in which teas go into Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes. This time, I was one of the lucky few who got to sip and rate Tea Sparrow’s newest discoveries.

In anticipation of their Second Annual Tea-Off next week, Tea Sparrow invited a few bloggers, podcasters, and recipe developers over to experience one of their tea-tastings.

IMG_5449

We rated six teas and two of them were favourites for me, personally – a dreamy Jasmine and a pure Ceylon cinnamon tea. Two others came close – a light, refreshing herbal mix by the Austrian company, Sonnentor, and a masala chai that was fragrant and flavourful.

And as a bonus, we were treated to Michael Menashy’s enthusiasm and expertise while we sampled our tea. When I share some photos of next week’s Tea-Off with you, I’ll also share some of the things I learned today.

Tea Sparrow’s Second Annual Tea-Off is next Sunday, October 25th, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Heritage Hall on Main Street. Tickets are 2 for $10 in advance and $10 per person at the door.

However, I’ve got two tickets to give away, so one of you can go for free and take a friend. If you’re going to be in Vancouver on Sunday, leave a comment on this post (with a contact email) and tell me about your favourite tea. The first person to do so is the winner!

It’s your chance to get in on the tasting and adjudication that helps to make Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes so special.

Downtown Gourmet: Meinhardt Fine Foods

Meinhardt

When I lived in Kitsilano, I had a few favourite haunts: Videomatica, Zulu Records, Arbutus Coffee, Tealeaves‘ tea room. I also spent time exploring the many shopping streets in the neighbourhood – West 4th, Arbutus, and South Granville among them.

South Granville’s main attraction for me was Meinhardt Fine Foods, which could keep me occupied for hours. Their groceries ranged from affordable to luxury, but they were all a cut above what you could find at a supermarket. There were also gourmet ingredients you couldn’t find elsewhere. It was a great way to supplement the food education I’d been receiving from the cookbooks I borrowed from the library. And it was a great place to treat myself, whether it was an ingredient I was coveting, good quality chocolate, or a meal from their deli and pastry counters.

Eventually, I moved back to Grandview-Woodland, the neighbourhood I’ve always felt was home. My visits to Kitsilano are infrequent and I rarely make it as far as Meinhardt. Food culture has also changed, so that gourmet ingredients are more widely available across the city. But still, I’d like to visit Meinhardt more often.

Prepared

Now, I can. Recently, I was invited to the opening celebration for Meinhardt’s new downtown location at the corner of Granville and Dunsmuir, in Pacific Centre.

They’re not following the same blueprint for their new store, though. Recognizing that they’re opening in the heart of the business district, the store will focus on “grab and go” fare for those who work in the downtown core, those who live there, and Eastsiders (like me) who don’t want to travel across town for Meinhardt’s gourmet goods.

Dessert

Their hot bar, soup, and salad bar offerings are all developed by Executive Chef Elke Brandstatter. If the bahn mi sandwiches I sampled at the party are any indication, running to the store for lunch will be a pleasure.

There is also an impressive pastry case assortment, including sophisticated French sweets like macarons and fresh takes on North American favourites like cheesecake, too.

Sweet bar

What most impressed me, though, were two things:

First, their commitment to high-quality local suppliers, like Mellifera Bees and Chef Enrick. From the dairy case to the bread rack, there are British Columbia businesses represented, supplemented by national and international gourmet goods.

And second, I was pleased with the quality and variety of their M-private label Collection – from olive oil good enough for a bread and balsamic pairing to truffles that wouldn’t be out of place at a dinner party.

General Manager Michael Meinhardt was kind enough to talk to me about their M-Collection goods. He told me they were aiming for quality and affordability. It’s something that’s been missing from the Canadian market, at least in BC, where most private label lines are comprised of budget treats or exclusive luxuries. These snack foods and staples are going to become ubiquitous in pantries across the city.

I was a guest at Meinhardt Pacific Centre’s opening celebration and received a box of truffles to take home. No other consideration was received and all opinions, as always, are my own.

G-W Portraits: Trudy Ann Tellis

IMG_5020

I was lucky enough to share a cup (okay, more than one cup) of tea with Trudy Ann Tellis of Trudy Ann’s Chai last weekend. She’s one of my neighbours and she’s also one of the people who work hard to help create and maintain the kind of community Grandview-Woodland is famous for.

We talked about tea and spices, music, potlucks, and all the things she loves about this neighbourhood.

Here’s a list of the organizations, people, and places Trudy Ann mentions in the video:

Pets and Friends

Whitridge Brothers

Drive Street Band

55+ Centre

Vancouver Farmers’ Markets

East End Food Co-op

Andy’s Bakery

Britannia Craft Fair

Britannia Community Centre

Napier Greenway

These are just a few of the ways Grandview-Woodland builds community. I’m looking forward to discovering more with you as this series continues.

Thanks to Trudy Ann (and Coco) for a great interview!

Got Craft? Spring Edition 2015

6

I was given free admission to Got Craft?, but received no other consideration. All opinions in this post are my own.

Craft fairs have come a long way since I was a little girl. Back then, there were tables full of simple knitted toques, sugar-stiffened lace figurines, beadwork, and Phentex slippers. Everything felt homespun and full of a grandmother’s love, but it wasn’t exactly the right place to find stylish gifts or exciting home decor.

2

These days, craft fairs are where you look for the newest trends in the making, across a number of disciplines. You’re much more likely to find a unique, on trend item at a craft fair than you are in a department or chain store.

4

In Vancouver, Got Craft? was a pioneer of this new style of craft fair. I’ve got them to thank for a number of my favourite pieces of jewellery, home decor items, and well-received gifts. And they’ve helped to establish a healthy network of craft fairs and shows throughout the year here, supporting a diverse array of makers and crafters.

7

Today I visited the first day of the spring edition of Got Craft? and was happy to find lots of new things to get excited about, along with some that have been favourites for a while. And once you finish shopping, you can take in one of workshops led by local favourites like A Spool of Thread.

8

They’re back at it tomorrow and here are some of my personal highlights:

  • Anonum Design, one of a number of vendors that repurpose materials that would otherwise be headed for the landfill. They turn rubber printing blankets into an array of colourful, useful goods.
  • Craft’ed‘s whimsical cards, magnets, and bookmarks.
  • Cabin + Cub‘s wooden accessories. (I came home with a bicycle crest pin for my partner, who was delighted.)
  • The Green Flamingo Design‘s dapper ties and pocket squares, for any gender.
  • Graveley and Sons‘ syrups and infusions

I could go on, but you can check out full list of vendors instead.

9

You needn’t worry about getting hungry, either. The area around the Maritime Labour Centre may be light industrial, but there are treasures around every corner. You’re only a block away from Parallel 49 Brewing, and there are plenty of tasting rooms, restaurants, and coffee shops within blocks. You can find a list of many of them at the East Village BIA website.

1

But, you don’t have to wander far to find something tasty – there are food trucks parked right outside and treats from the likes of Livia Sweets and The Lemon Square in the foyer.

5

And if you can’t make it this weekend, the folks at Got Craft? are also behind Strathcona’s London Fields Shoppe, or you can head over to Tiny Finery in Hastings-Sunrise for a similar commitment to the best of local makers.

3There won’t be another edition of Got Craft? until the the end of the year, but thanks to them and the other entrepreneurs that support Vancouver’s vibrant craft scene, the city is full of markets and shops that will keep you busy until then.

West Coast Christmas Show

I attended the West Coast Christmas Show as a media guest, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

Decorations

Last weekend, Abbotsford’s Tradex transformed itself into a winter wonderland of gifts, family activities, and holiday entertainment. The West Coast Christmas Show had come to town. And the Fraser Valley rushed in the door to welcome it. I was glad we went first thing Saturday morning, because by lunchtime, the crowds really started to arrive.

Gifts

I wasn’t surprised, because the show was justifiably popular. Over the course of our time there, we found handcrafted gifts, all the treats and ingredients you could want for the holidays, and Christmas decorations, flowers and wreaths – along with more gadgets than I’ve seen since last year’s Home Show.

More food

Here are just a few of the things that stood out for me:

Frost Bites Syrup Co. broad range of flavours
Sharon Hubbard‘s whimsical castles
Edible Gardens‘ line of balsamic vinegars
Clearbrook Coffee Company – nothing like locally roasted beans
a paper {life}‘s creative quilling
It’s For the Birds‘ seedcakes

Kids

I was also impressed by how much there was for kids to do at the show. While their parents may have come for the cooking demos and entertaining tips, there were also workshops galore for the small set, along with attractions like Santa’s mailbox and a beautifully set up model train.

More Gifts

Events like this have convinced me that for Fraser Valley residents, there’s no longer any need to drive into Vancouver for trade shows and artisan showcases anymore. What isn’t being produced in your own backyard is coming to meet you at showcase centres like the Tradex.

Food

And there are more attractions to come for the Fraser Valley this holiday season. I was able to get a sneak peek at one of them while I was visiting the Christmas Show. North Pole BC‘s Festival of Christmas opens its doors at the Tradex on November 28th and I got to have a little look around at what you can expect. I even caught Santa napping beneath the Christmas tree.

Preview