November, 2012

Nov 12

Facing up to winter

Winter is well and truly here in Vancouver; my morning walks with Freddie the dog are becoming a lesson in the art of layering and cunning application of wet weather gear. I have never been so glad of anything as I am of my rubber boots.  But it’s not just ridiculously wet, it’s also bitingly cold down on the beach and my skin has been protesting.

In my efforts to keep things 100% Canadian, from food and drink to fashion, I decided that I should try and track down a Canadian-made winter skin care solution and guess what? There’s a company in Kitsilano (where I’m currently living) that does just that.

Skoah’s funky store on West 4th, Kitsilano

I went to see Skoah on West 4th Street to get a ‘facialiscious’ facial and came away with great skin care advice for the change in season too. During my treatment, my therapist, Katarina, gave me some savvy tips and showcased a wide variety of Skoah’s range. The first thing that I noticed was the creamy quality of the products; Skoah use shea butter, olive oil and coconut oil in a lot of their products and I have to say I really liked it. It felt nourishing and not at all harsh on my wind-chapped face.

Katarina’s advice for me was simple but it’s been pretty effective over the past couple of weeks. Katarina told me that I should go back to skincare basics; cleanse, tone and moisturise – I never tone as I always thought it was too drying but she steered me towards Tonik, an alcohol-free toner which balances the PH of the skin and helps strengthen it with hyaluronic acid.

I find most exfoliators are too rough for my skin, but Face Skrub uses perfectly round beads which gently polish the skin without causing it stress. The proof was looking at my skin afterwards – no redness at all and the blend of plant extracts that Skoah use to calm and soothe the skin certainly seemed to do just that for me.

A slick of this means winter is no longer a problem for my skin

Katarina also recommended that in winter I should look at ‘layering’ product on my skin like I do with clothes, so – using a serum to help strengthen my skin and reduce the capillaries bursting which happens when I go from cold to hot and back again, the Skin Quench contains ceramides which can help with that. Her final two pieces of advice were to lessen the effects of the intense changes in temperature by wrapping a scarf around my face whenever I go outside, so that my skin cools slowly and also to look at using an extra-thick product like the Face Balm, which has olive oil and shea butter to keep my skin hydrated and rice bran wax to form a barrier between my skin and the elements.

I’ve followed her advice and yes — it definitely seems to be working. The switch from autumn to winter seems less harsh on my skin and I love that it’s all from a Canadian company who are based right here in Vancouver.

Nov 12

Whistler Weekend

One Mile Lake, just past Whistler

Winter takes on a different feeling when you have one of the world’s most beautiful mountain playgrounds on your doorstep. When it rains in Vancouver, you know that it’s probably snowing just 90 minutes away in Whistler, making perfect powder to play in. Whistler is less than two hours away from Vancouver and the drive there on the Sea to Sky Highway is simply breathtaking. The road twists and turns as you hug the coast and venture higher into the mountains. Each turn brings a fresh and gorgeous perspective. Take it slow though; it’s also one of Canada’s most dangerous roads. So stick to the speed limit and don’t try out any F1 moves.

I stayed at Nita Lake Lodge, a little distance from Whistler village and for me, if you’re looking to soak up the relaxing side of the mountains, the perfect place to chill. I loved my room on the top floor; huge ceiling and a gorgeous fireplace. I curled up on the sofa, reading a book and got lost watching the flames. I have to mention the staff here; the brilliant receptionist who went the extra mile for me as I’d forgotten my adaptor plug and she found a mac cable for me so I could re-charge and the friendly driver of the hotel’s shuttle bus who cheerily drove me back and forth into the village.

Nita Lake – the perfect view for breakfast

There’s a spa at Nita Lake – which unfortunately I didn’t get to try out – especially as it has those gorgeous Ila treatments which I love. No matter, I spent time in the spa’s yoga studio doing some Pilates and then padded out in the minus six chill to the outdoor hot tubs, slipped off my robe and hopped into the bubbling warmth. There is something magical about your sore muscles getting massaged by bubbles as you lie back under a blue sky and look at the snow on the mountains. I was lost in nature worship again!

Starving after all that beaming at the mountains I wanted to check out the Southside Diner at the end of the road. I’m so glad I did. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, this was the only place that didn’t hike its prices and the queue for Sunday brunch told me just how good the food was. I sat at the bar and lost a battle against the biggest and fluffiest pancake I’d ever seen. I loved watching the staff plate the food – it would not have been out of place at a Michelin-starred restaurant – but this was diner food made with love and care. I’ll be back next time I visit for sure. I want to try the cornflakes-and-Baileys…

Drinky Brunch at the Southside Diner

I’d read about a spa in town that used the 100-mile principle in its treatments. I’m a huge fan of this idea – using only ingredients from a 100-mile radius to keep the carbon footprint low and truly support local, sustainable living. Eco Chic is tucked away in the village, it’s small but spotlessly clean and had a real sanctuary-like atmosphere. The treatment rooms were compact but attractively-decorated. My therapist Michelle has won herself a place in my Top Five Massages of All-Time. I was meant to be having a full-body treatment with hot stones. The linens and oil used were locally-sourced and the stones were from the nearby Sunshine Coast. About 20 minutes into the massage, Michelle stopped and started quizzing me about my sore shoulders and horribly stiff leg. She decided that what my body needed was intense trigger point therapy instead and that’s what she gave me, focussing on my back. I stayed face-down for the whole treatment and yes, it was painful at times but oh wow, that loose muscular-release stayed with me for days. I left the spa and had to go and sit in a cafe for an hour or so before I could drive, I was so relaxed. Go and see her when you visit! An amazing intuitive therapist.

I’ll be back to Whistler soon to check out some of its famous restaurants and, SCREAM!, to try a skiing lesson. I’m nervous but I can’t wait to try it out. Any tips for first-timers… let me know.

I stayed as a guest of Tourism Whistler and was hosted by the Eco Chic spa. My views are 100% my own.

Keep Exploring Canada  and find out more about Whistler


Nov 12

Chowder Chowdown at the Vancouver Aquarium

The only accessory any smart Vancouverite needed tonight was a wooden spoon and voting slip from the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood Chowder Chowdown event at the Aquarium.

Forget designer bags or statement shoes: this spoon is all you need…

Twelve chefs, twelve delicious chowders, all competing for the honour of being voted the People’s Choice at the end of the night. I had such a great time; I hopped on the free old-fashioned trolley bus service that was laid on for the evening and rattled through town towards the Aquarium in Stanley Park. Once there, I was given my wooden spoon and slip and so galloped inside to start tasting.

What goes with chowder? Beer, of course! From the Granville Island Brewing Co.

What crowds! This was a sold-out event. I love that people turned out on a drizzly November evening to find out more about sustainable seafood and celebrate the great food culture of Vancouver. One of the first meals I ever ate in Vancouver, two years ago, was at C restaurant which was where I first read about the Ocean Wise initiative, the brainchild of the Vancouver Aquarium, dedicated to teaching consumers about how to make smart choices when it comes to sustainable seafood.

Better move fast…

In a nutshell this is the idea: overfishing is a huge threat to our oceans. The world’s marine life is quickly being depleted. A recent scientific study predicted a world-wide fisheries collapse by 2048. The only solution is to turn back from the brink, and to begin consuming seafood in a sustainable manner.

Definitely the winners of the best presentation award!

So, when you visit Vancouver, make sure you choose Ocean Wise seafood. It’s guilt-free eating because it fits these criteria:

  1. Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures
  2. Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research
  3. Harvested in a method that ensures limited bycatch on non-target and endangered species
  4. Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.

100% sustainable AND delicious

All the restaurants that took part tonight work within those guidelines. I’ll be doing my best to support them — and so should you. It was a tough choice; I adored the spicy tomato-y flavour of Chef Alex Tung from Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria’s chowder and the amazing citrus foam on Chef Dana Hauser’s chowder from Herons -The Fairmont Waterfront, was superb. But the winner of the People’s Choice was new opening Chef Chris Whittaker for Forage at the Listel Hotel. I will definitely be stopping by to see what else they do… as well as feast on sustainable seafood!

The winners! Forage – whizzing about so fast I couldn’t catch’ em.

Inspired? You should be! Keep Exploring Canada…


Nov 12

Licensed to thrill at Vancouver’s Shangri-La hotel

It’s Vancouver’s tallest building and I’ve seen it shimmering at me for months…

I’ve had my eye on the Shangri-La hotel  ever since I moved to Vancouver. Towering above the other buildings in the city, it’s been a glittering landmark and one that I’ve been increasingly eager to check out. Turns out waiting two months to visit was two months too long. Where has the Chi spa been all my life? Why aren’t I there right now? If I ask nicely, do you suppose they will let me move in? 

Deliciously decadent private spa treatment room at CHI


Checking in was a breeze, I’d arrived early to visit Chi (OH MY GOD, THE SPA!) and the concierge had spotted me loitering in the lobby with my case. He immediately took it from me to save me the effort of wheeling it to the lift and promised to have it sent to my room. Case-less I zipped on up to the fifth floor… The lift doors open and you’re faced with a cascading wall of water over shimmering rock. A sense of calm is established immediately. I’d booked for the Element Vitality massage, a treatment which combined a variety of massage styles, Swedish, shiatsu and reflexology – blending the best of East and West – as the rest of the hotel does. I visit a lot of spas and I can say, hand on heart, that I don’t think I have ever seen treatment rooms like these before. Each room is its own fully-equipped spa, complete with huge soaker tub, steam room, fireplace, changing area, showers and relaxation area. Very impressive. I wish I could pretend that I am cooler than I am, but as I am not, I’ll confess that I WHOOPED when I saw it.

The first part of the treatment was a ten-minute steam. I love any massage that starts this way; your muscles warm up and the therapy is is much more beneficial. I steamed in my private cabin & then took a warm shower, wrapped myself in a robe and padded out to my therapist who’d prepared a herbal tea for me to enjoy while I chose which ‘element’ scented oil I preferred for my massage. I chose ‘water’ which she told me meant fluidity, travel and independence – exactly right for me. The combination of the different styles was superb, I felt positively boneless when I reluctantly left the couch an hour later. Just a great treatment. In fact, I felt so relaxed I couldn’t face dressing, so packed up my boots and all in spa gift bags, and wafted up to my room on the eleventh floor with a Mona Lisa-like smile on my face.

There! Look through the window – can you see? City, mountains and sea…

I had an impression of smooth crisp fine linens, a decadent bathroom with a gloriously waterfall-like shower and soaker tub, with a whole shelf of doo-dads and what-nots in the bathroom – combs and toothbrushes and all, but then I saw the bed and fell soundly asleep. Always the sign of a stellar massage. The need for unconsciousness immediately afterwards.

I woke to all that I moved to Vancouver for; that wonderful view of city, mountains & water. I sat on the edge of the huge bed and hugged myself with delight. I’d woken feeling refreshed and ready for action – and that meant dinner at MARKET by Jean Georges  and afterwards a party to celebrate the release of the new Bond movie, Skyfall in the Xi Shi Lounge.

And so – to MARKET, honestly? Not the most exciting of rooms, maybe it’s the lighting? Dim, but not intimate, something felt off, and truthfully, the menu didn’t have me leaping with anticipation either. Its focus is on “reinventing classic dishes by infusing eclecticism”. Hmm, a burger with black truffle and Brie, soy-glazed short ribs with apple-Jalepeno puree and a lot of mushrooms seem to feature (not great for me with my raging mushroom allergy).  I guess if I hadn’t been going to a slinky-dress party afterwards, I’d have dug in, embraced a loose waistband and had the beef tenderloin. But a slinky dress night it was, so I hit up a trio from the Raw Bar and planned to sample my date’s rack of lamb.

So, what do you think? Me? Not loving the room. The food is divine though.

How lovely when your expectations are shattered; the food was perfect. Just wonderful. The tuna tartare with avocado, spicy radish and ginger dressing was one of the best things I’ve eaten. The flavours sung. So incredibly fresh and that perfect balance between spice and heat. The rice cracker-encrusted tuna was marvelous too and the oysters so good I’m afraid I had seconds. The lamb? Heaven. Perfectly pink and given an edge with a chili-crumb crust. I may have had more than my fair share. But I’m not changing my mind about the room, until I try lunch there in daylight, and see whether that makes a difference.

On to the party – I’d heard nothing but great things about bartender Jay Jones, who shakes it up at the Xi Shi Lounge – which would be because he’s rather superb at what he does. My new off-list love is a Last Word, a cheeky Prohibition-era blend of gin, green chartreuse, maraschino and fresh pressed lime juice. Jay whipped up one of the best I’ve had and, bless him, didn’t insist I stick to the evening’s Bond-a-licious creations, although, yes – I had to try the Vesper, of course… The night span past in a whirl of Bond themes, casino fun, glammed-up willowy women and towering Canadians in sharp suits. Hurrah!

Morning arrived with a sore head and (thank goodness) an in-room breakfast, complete with old-school warming cupboard so my much-needed eggs and bacon didn’t get cold. As I write this at home, I can see the Shangri-La through the rain clouds. If I squint I can just about see where the spa might be… how I wish I were there right now.

I stayed as a guest of the Shangri La, but my views are 100% my own. And I still wish I could go and live in that spa.

Nov 12

Five Things We Learned At Cornucopia

Whistler Village

First things first – Whistler is beautiful.

1: Wine dinners are good dinners
And no, not just because you get to try many different wines (although, yes – that is a bit of a bonus too) but because of how much you get to learn in a fun way. I went to the Tinhorn Creek winery dinner at Nita Lake Lodge‘s Aura restaurant. Over four mouthwatering courses, plus dessert, we sipped our way through Tinhorn Creek’s Oldfield series of wines and heard from their Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager, Andrew Moon on the fascinating process of what goes into creating the wines. Just two years ago I tried my first wine from the Okanagan in British Columbia, now I try hard not to drink anything else (did you even know that Canada made wine?! Alas, due to the industry’s current boutique size, they barely export at all. I suspect that in ten years time, Canada will be where Australian wines are now – everywhere and beloved). Tinhorn Creek was new to me, but I’ll be looking out for their wonderfully strawberry-ish Series 2 Bench Rosé  and ambrosial Kerner Ice Wine from now on. Fact of the night for me, was learning how the Rosé was made, I had no idea that in cold seasons you can make great rose from Cabernet Franc grapes, so in colder years, you are likely to have more Rosé being made.

2: It’s called Crush for a reason
The Crush tasting gala takes place in Whistler’s Sea to Sky ballroom in the conference centre in the village. It’s a chance for dozens of wineries to show off what they do and it’s a great opportunity to work your way through a dream of a wine list, one sniff, swirl and sip at a time. Of course the key part to managing that without needing to be carried out is the all-important ‘spit’ bit at the end. If you swallow down dozens of different wines, well – you can guess the rest… I’ve come to the conclusion that either Whistler folk are just very polite and fear causing offense by spitting in public or they really like to drink… I got there on Saturday evening and didn’t see one ‘spit’ all night! Everyone was awfully happy though. The room was heaving, men in suits accompanied women in thigh-grazing minis and vertiginous heels as they clomped from table to table. Earnest conversations took place over swirling glasses between winemakers and wine-lovers. I tried a few wines, sticking as always to my Canada-only policy, I loved Inniskillin’s Pinot Grigiot – I’d only tried their ice wine from the Niagara peninsular in the east of Canada so was delighted to see that they had west coast Okanagan vines too. Pineapple-y and fresh this is another for my To Drink list

Glamour meets wine tasting at Cornucopia’s Crush.

3: Cooking demos always have great food
The Viking Stage Series of demos in the main foyer of the conference centre were great. If you love cooking shows then you’d love this. Chatty chefs cooking up a storm in front of you, explaining tips and tricks of the trade and then lovely, tasty samples coming out to the gathered crowd. Yum! I watched the Street Meet food truck chefs whip up heavenly sausage Arancini and pumpkin canollis which they paired with Vancouver’s Granville Island beers. Definitely a hot ticket and at $30 a great price to try something new.

4: When you put twenty champagnes in one room, people gon’ go cray-cray
Araxi‘s Bubbles and Oceans party is legendary in Cornucopia circles. One price, twenty different champagnes and sparkling wines and freshly shucked oysters and seafood canapes. “Go to the back room” everyone advised me. “The back is where it’s at”. So after queueing for 20 minutes in the minus 6 degrees chill, I tottered on frozen legs to the back room and found some rather delicious cavas and champagnes. The pours were generous and there was absolutely no question that there would be any spitting here at all! I wandered as best as I could through the packed restaurant to watch the live entertainment, Kytami, a new age “violinistextremist”, she was amazing and I’d love to see her in concert as it was tricky to thoroughly soak up her music over the cheery roar of the crowd. My advice on this is to come with friends and wear steel-toe capped boots. I have a bruised foot from some gal’s spindly heel who clobbered me in her rampage to grab some of the (admittedly delicious) shrimp!

Love this. These ladies had made their own hats. Too cute!

5: Everything is more fun in a hat
Oh wow, how I love a tea party. And how much do I love tea-infused cocktails! So the blend of the two at the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Whistler in its Mallard lounge was my idea of heaven. It was a sold-out event and I loved the effort that everyone had made. All the women had feathery fascinators or smart cocktail hats. The triple-layered tea tray made me so homesick for Brighton and tea at the Grand! Gorgeous little ham and cheese puffs, pink-hued sweet scones with just-right clotted cream and oh! The cocktails were great too. I tried a green-tea infused Martini which was perfect. Loved this event. It was the first time it has happened at Cornucopia and it’s definitely going to be coming back next year.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler, but my views are 100% my own.

Nov 12

Going native: rubber rain boots

I realised a couple of weeks ago that what worked in Brighton absolutely did not work here in Vancouver. I’m talking about my boots. My lovely leather boots. Which I have happily stomped around in all weathers in England and been bone-dry — have failed at the first downpour here in the temperate rainforest climate of Vancouver. Wet socks. Cold feet. Urgh.

I asked on Twitter for Vancouver boot shots – so thanks to @WanderlustMegan for these scarlet wonders!

And Freddie the dog needs to be taken on a nice long walk at least once a day so I looked at what the locals were doing and realised I needed to put my reservations aside and get me a pair of rubber boots. Yup – the rubber boot is everywhere on the streets of Vancouver. From polka-dot cheapies from Walmart to designer block colour boots. They’re worn with jeans or dresses and it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re on the beach or striding downtown. Rubber boots are where it’s at for the Vancouverites.


And rocking the classic Hunter – thanks to @cwistal

Me, I haven’t worn a pair of wellies since I was a kid, but I cracked two weeks ago when a particularly vicious three-day monsoon-like bout of weather made me regretfully retire my  beloved Brighton boots and head to West 4th street in Kitsilano to seek out anything that would keep me dry. The Vancouverites seem to love a Hunter boot – but I don’t see myself as either a Kate Moss or Middleton-type so I was looking for something else instead. And I found it.

Witness the mighty fitness of these rubber biker boots!

Biker ankle boots which are made from rubber. I knew I had something right when I was stopped twice in one day by breathless women demanding to know where I got them from. This has never happened to me before. Maybe I just needed to wear rubber boots…




Nov 12

Cheers to the Vancouver classics. Part 1: West

The annual En Route Best New Restaurant awards came out recently and shockingly, didn’t have a single Vancouver restaurant on the list. I’ve realised in the few months that I’ve been in town that Vancouverites get very excited about new openings and each seems to be greeted as the Second Coming…
I get that.
New is exciting and everyone wants a new place to succeed, but me, I’m a little more excited about the classics.

With restaurant failure rates running high (around 60% fail within their first three years) to me, the definition of a successful restaurant is one that keeps people coming back for more, year after year. With that in mind, I wanted to raise a glass to West and its inspirational bartender, David Wolowidnyk who won Bombay Sapphire’s ‘World’s Most Imaginative Bartender Award’ for his Beldi cocktail earlier this year.

David Wolowidnyk’s winning cocktail, the Beldi.

The gin is infused with saffron and ginseng, Martini Bianco cold-steeped with Green Tea and mint, add to that a cinnamon syrup, bitters and a toasted Coriander mist and you have a rightly world-class drink. I sniffed; a spicy whoosh of coriander, then drank and tasted mint and the green tea, before the warm cinnamon took over. Like a good perfume, this drink has layers; spicy and sweet then minty and aromatic. I love the lemon garnish – a star punched out of a thin peel to represent the Moroccan flag. It’s that kind of attention to the small details that make West a bar that you want to come back to again and again.

I love the bar, a cherry wood counter running along the side of the room adjacent to the restaurant. An old-fashioned library staircase rattles across the back wall as David and his team climb up and down, handing bottles to the waiting staff. It’s dark; it’s the kind of place you want a long, late lunch or dinner spent playing footsie under the table. Bottles, neatly arranged and under-lit glow like jewels. There’s a handsome list or you can ask David to make you something special, tell him what you’re in the mood for and see what he suggests. You will not be disappointed. West’s days of appearing on any ‘Best New…’ list disappeared a decade ago – and oh! How relieved they must be. Cheers to a Vancouver classic.

Nov 12

Ladies who lunch: Part 1. Glowbal Grill

If you’re going for lunch with a girlfriend you’ve not seen for a while, then there are a few important things a restaurant must have for it to be a success; patient staff who A) don’t try to hurry you up and B) don’t mind if you get a little flirty after that second glass of wine of wine, a secluded nook so you can spill major dirt without being overheard, a variety of things on the menu that you can share as you always end up wanting exactly what she ordered – cos hey, you split that amazing prawn thing that one time – and cool music that is loud enough to cover any snorts of “OH MY GOD, you did WHAT?” but not so loud that you can’t hear full details of exactly what it was that she did…

Impossible to not love a chef who shares his recipe secrets AND brings dessert.

At Glowbal Grill, I think I may have found all that, situated bang in the heart of Yaletown. Perched at a table for two in a quiet corner opposite the bar, I got to watch the action in the open kitchen as well lean in and listen to everything my girlfriend was telling me.

Glowbal is known for its steaks and satay and so that’s exactly what we ordered, I could have happily eaten a whole bucket of the crunchy spicy-sweet deep-fried Buttermilk Chicken as just one is plainly nowhere near enough and the Albacore tuna tataki was one of the best I’d tried; lightly seared and delicate. Lucky then, that we’d got the same each, as I could easily see a fight breaking out over Who Would Have The Last One.

Honestly, how beautiful are these Heirloom tomatoes?

Any place that has Burrata on the menu is somewhere I’ll probably like as it’s one of my favourite decadent cheeses – made from mozzarella and cream and tasting of heaven. Glowbal’s Caprese salad came with a satisfying wedge of creamy Burrata along with tomatoes that were like a little burst of sunshine.

It’s actually a fight for me to not just get up and go there and order this RIGHT NOW.

Satay, salad, you’d think we’d be full, but oh – you’d be wrong. Proper girl lunches (at least ones that I have) should have as many courses as possible, as that gives you time to catch up and everyone knows that food eaten in great company doesn’t add an ounce of weight… So on to the famous steaks, served with the best sprouts I’d ever tasted, flaky with Parmesan, zingy with chili and (yup) deep fried. We couldn’t stop eating them and neither will you – here’s the recipe. Make them. People will love you for it. Are the steaks worth the hype? I’d say so. I loved the crisp salty puff of fat on the outside and the meat was everything you’d wish it to be; tender and juicy and from prime Canadian stock.

For dessert, we split a trio of Crème brûlées. And, er, some cheesecake. AND yeah – we may have sampled a beignet or two…  before regretfully rolling out, some hours after we’d arrived. I mentally ran through my Ideal Ladies Lunch check list and yes, Glowbal Grill gets a tick in every box. So – apologies to Nick, our server, for the flirtiness, thanks to the cool music – Prince covers – for the funkiness and hurrah for a menu that offers Things On Sticks for us to share. We’ll see you again soon.

We ate lunch as guests of the Glowbal Grill, but my views are 100% my own.

Nov 12

Food and drink adventures in Yaletown

I’m slowly getting to know the different neighbourhoods around my new city, Vancouver. Yaletown is at the lower tip of the downtown core bordered by the water of False Creek, and the streets of Robson and Homer. It used to be a heavily industrial part of town, but now the warehouses and loading docks have been transformed. It reminded me a little of London’s Docklands in spirit; it seemed to be all about shiny shops and designer-y stores. My first impression (truthfully) was that Yaletown seemed a little… fake. A tad shallow, perhaps?

As you can imagine, this disappeared fairly swiftly…

It’s lucky I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. Yet again, first impressions have proved deceiving. Turns out that Yaletown’s a sizzling hotbed of great little restaurants and bars. Independent business seem to thrive here and one way of showcasing that is in their celebration of food and drink, the Taste of Yaletown, an annual event where more than 20 restaurants offer three-course tasting menus for as little as $25.

I’d never seen this before: aburi flame-seared sushi from Minami

I went along to the launch and got to try little bite-sized offerings from a few of the restaurants participating. It’s a brilliant way to get people to get out of their restaurant-rut and experience new places. With so many participants though I have to ask the organisers to think about extending this to a month. How else could I do all 23 in just ten days!?

It tasted just as good as it looks.

As this is Vancouver, the innovative cocktail scene wasn’t going to be left out and a week later, Yaletown hosted a Shake Up cocktail contest with six of the local bars using a Bacardi rum as a base. I found many of them a little sweet for my taste, apart from the offering from Julia Diakow, from the New Oxford who’d made a gorgeous walnut-infused maple syrup creation, called 15th and Maple with Benedictine and apple cider.

The winner! Thanks so much to Ariane Colenbrander for this great image.

Julia wound up winning honours that night, so yaaay for me, picking a winner. Looks like all those hard hours I put in on a bar stool weren’t in vain…

Nov 12

Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver

Strike a pose…

I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of fashionista. In fact, despite years of writing for women’s magazines I’d never even attended a fashion show before, but I was intrigued about the ethos of Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week – taking the idea of reusing, recycling and repurposing clothes – so went along to see what it was all about.

Stylish — and eco-friendly.

Celebrating its fifth season, Vancouver’s eco fashion week is one of the world’s most exciting ethical style events, bringing together designers and fashion industry leaders. I went to watch the Value Village style challenge. Value Village is an international thrift store with branches in Canada, Australia and the USA. They partner with local charities and community organisations, and over the years have given millions to help those less well off. Three designers, Nicolette Lang-Anderson, Mimi Lauzon and Tony Vu had taken on the challenge of creating an entire show on a $500 budget each, to create and style 10-15 looks to send down the catwalk. A shocking 90 million lbs of clothing end up in landfill sites around the world each year, so I loved the idea behind this; making buying second-hand clothes cool again.

I love that you could easily put that together for the price of a pair of shoes!

I managed to bag front row seats and have to confess that I felt a frisson of excitement as the room began to fill. The shout went out — standing room only — the lights lowered, music pulsed from the sound system and the first show began. I was surprised by how exciting it was, craning on the edge my seat to watch the willowy models stride down the catwalk to be met by a barrage of photographers at the other end, and then sashaying back to quick-change into something else. I came away inspired and a few days later, paid a visit to my local branch of Value Village and snapped up a gorgeous chain-design wrap dress for under $10. A bargain that literally did not cost the earth! Guilt-free shopping at last…

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