• Sep19

    Nathan Barrett, Nicola Cavendish
    [Nathan Barrett, Nicola Cavendish]

    The Arts Club Theatre opened its 51st season this week with Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles. A finalist in last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this one-act, 95-minute play binds a 91-year old grandma with her 21-year old aloof, hippy grandson as he takes a breather at her Manhattan apartment following a cross-country bike trip.

    Billed as a dramatic comedy, 4000 Miles is the perfect vehicle for Nicola Cavendish, returning to the stage after a three-year hiatus. She plays Vera, a feisty, opinionated widow who lives in the comfort of a well-lived-in, 70’s era-furnished apartment with a view, her daily communication consisting of a phone call from a neighbour in the apartment across the hall.

    Nicola Cavendish

    Next to Nicola’s outstanding portrayal of a posture-challenged old lady, the generation gap is the play’s bold theme. While Nathan Barrett’s Leo hardly resembles a modern dude living in the 21st-century, he does know how to fire up a laptop and jack the neighbour’s wifi. Our Leo is more interested in the outdoors, spending money he doesn’t have on a climbing wall in the city, and daily visits to an urban garden.

    While Nicola is obviously given the juiciest lines in Herzog’s play, Leo gets to shine later in the evening, as he opens up to confront his loss. Two minor roles (Ella Simon, as on-again, off-again girlfriend Bec; Agnes Tong in a scene-stealing role of quirky pick-up date Amanda) offer a few pauses between the main event: Leo and Grandma.

    Nathan Barrett, Agnes Tong
    [Nathan Barrett, Agnes Tong]

    One minor problem that I had with this play is the lack of character development of non-speaking roles. Occasional mention is made of another couple of characters who were apparently pivotal in Leo (and Bec’s) lives, however it’s hard to piece the puzzle together or feel much compassion for Leo’s situation until his big reveal (as mentioned, towards the latter part of the play).

    Nathan Barrett, Ella Simon
    [Nathan Barrett, Ella Simon]

    Bec doesn’t seem to add much to the play once she does appear, even though Grandma does recall her being part of Leo’s life. What makes this a great play to watch is the way that Leo and Grandma begin to warm up to one another’s personalities. He becomes the son she never bore; she becomes a great sounding board for his troubles, provided her hearing aid is in place!

    Set and Costume Designer Barbra Matis has created a thoughtful, detail-rich set complete with crocheted quilt on the sofa, lots of wooden accent tables, bookshelves filled to the brim, and plants, vases, and knick-knacks of all shapes and sizes. Scene changes are appropriately complemented by 70’s-era music by Bob Dylan and his contemporaries, courtesy of Sound Designer Peter Cerone.

    Nicola Cavendish, Nathan Barrett

    Funny, heart-warming, and easy to digest, 4000 Miles graces us with growing up, getting older, and tragic loss—all with a generous helping of humour.

    Directed by Roy Surette, 4000 Miles continues at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage through October 12.

    All photos by David Cooper.

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  • Sep18

    Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens in Flashdance - The Musical
    [Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens in Flashdance - The Musical]

    Flashdance – The Musical, the stage adaptation of the 1983 hit film that defined a generation, will perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from November 11 to 16.

    With electrifying dance at its core, Flashdance – The Musical tells the inspiring story of Alex Owens, a Pittsburgh steel mill welder by day and a bar dancer by night with dreams of one day becoming a professional performer. When romance with her steel mill boss threatens to complicate her ambitions, Alex learns the meaning of love—and its power to fuel the pursuit of her dream.

    The original Paramount Pictures film was a worldwide smash hit that became a pop culture phenomenon, grossing over $150 million with a Grammy Award-winning soundtrack.

    Flashdance – The Musical features a score including the hit songs from the movie, all of which became Top Ten global radio hits, including Academy Award-winning title song “Flashdance – What a Feeling,” “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “Manhunt,” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”. In addition to these hits, 16 brand-new songs have been written for the stage with music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Robert Cary and Roth.

    Robbie Roth’s music has been heard on stage, screen, and radio all around the world. His songs have graced the Billboard charts in America, and appeared on record alongside Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, and many others. His work has been featured on “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”, and in a number of films and documentaries.

    Robbie is most often hired to write and produce for established and upcoming recording artists. In the theatre world, Robbie has been hired as composer on a number of new musicals, and has written and produced records for Tony Award® nominee, Gavin Creel.

    Robert Cary is the director of the feature films Ira and Abby, Save Me, and Anything But Love. Ira and Abby received the Audience Favorite award following its premiere at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival and was released by Magnolia Pictures in 2007; Save Me premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the US in 2008.

    Brad Rouse, Edgar Godineaux, and Natalie Caruncho will recreate award-winner Sergio Trujillo’s (Jersey Boys, Memphis, The Addams Family) direction and choreography. Flashdance also features a book by Robert Cary and Tom Hedley (co-writer of the original screenplay with Joe Eszterhas).

    Tickets go on sale this Saturday at 10 am; group ticket purchases of 10 or more are now available via phoning 1.800.889.8457. Visit the website for more info.

    Flashdance – The Musical
    Dates: November 11 to 16
    Venue: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 649 Cambie Street, Vancouver
    Tickets will go on sale Saturday, September 20, 10 am at all Ticketmaster outlets, online, and via phoning toll-free 1.855.985.5000.

    Get social!
    Flashdance – The Musical on Facebook
    Flashdance – The Musical on YouTube
    Flashdance – The Musical on Instagram

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  • Sep18

    VIFF Industry Conference banner

    The VIFF Industry Conference, the West coast’s premier screen-based media conference, takes place during the heart of the Vancouver International Film Festival. From October 1 to 4, experience four days of professional development, with a wide range of session topics—and over 50 panelists.

    This conference aims to include everyone, not just those in the film industry. TV, cinema, video game, social media, advertising, and animation fans will also enjoy and gain a lot of valuable insight from the conference.

    Martin Wood, Michelle MacLaren
    [L to R: Martin Wood, Michelle MacLaren]

    2014’s VIFF Industry Conference highlights include:
    Power to the Indie Day
    Back by popular demand, the Power to the Indie Program and Lab empowers filmmakers to explore and leverage new partners in direct distribution, marketing, and audience engagement in order to help them succeed in the competitive marketplace. The Digital Lab provides collaborative opportunities for selected filmmaking teams to explore and create individual, actionable strategies to assist in the crowd funding, marketing, release and distribution of their films.

    Totally Indie Day
    A VIFF Industry highlight for the past nine years, this day-long series of sessions is designed for (but not limited to) emerging writers, directors, and producers of film, television, and digital media. Join speakers such as Jay Duplass and Guardians of the Galaxy screenwriter Nicole Perlman for panels and workshops on everything from TV directing to crowd funding to utilizing new technologies. The day will close with an Indie Day Mixer, the perfect chance to mingle with other delegates and guests following the sessions. Visit the Totally Indie Day site for details and speakers.

    Speed Dating session
    [Speed Dating]

    Telefilm Canada Tête-à-Tête and Speed Dating Meetings
    More meetings = more access. Established and emerging industry professionals are welcome to sign up for a limited number of one-on-one meetings with VIFF Industry’s acclaimed guest speakers and BC-based local production companies.

    All Kinds of Funny
    A comedy session featuring self-proclaimed motorcycle and cat enthusiast Adam Reed, co-creator of Sealab 2021, Frisky Dingo, and creator of ARCHER

    Networking and Parties
    Industry delegates and Day Pass holders get access to a variety of networking events, including Industry Cocktail Hours, Women in Film and Television’s Moulin Madness, and Emerging Talent Day Reception.

    VIFF Industry also includes writers from some of the best-known episodic TV shows and blockbuster films in this year’s Genre Smash. Learn how writers successfully straddle genres, understand their audience, and how to create in-demand celebrated fiction!

    VIFF Breaking Bad event
    [Full house for 2013's special celebration of Breaking Bad]

    A few of many featured writers and panelists include:
    Adam Reed: Creator of ARCHER
    Craig Borten: Screenwriter, Dallas Buyers Club

    Nicole Perlman: Screenwriter, Guardians of the Galaxy

    Chris Collins: Executive Producer/Head Writer, Sons of Anarchy

    Simon Davis Barry: Creator of Continuum
    Corey May: Lead Writer, Assassin’s Creed
    Alex Marvar: Director of Marketing, VHX
    Matt Di Paola: Managing Director, Digital Innovations, Sid Lee
    Nicole Clemens: Senior VP Series Development, FX Networks

    Peter Gould
    [Peter Gould]

    All sessions will take place at the Rogers Industry Centre located in Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour Street. A full list of speakers can be found here.

    Get social!
    VIFF Industry on Facebook
    VIFF Industry on Twitter

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  • Sep17

    Dining at Araxi, Whistler

    Since opening its doors in 1981, Araxi Restaurant continues to be a well-loved destination on the Whistler fine dining scene, from Executive Chef James Walt’s farm-to-table seasonal offerings to a multiple award-winning wine list boasting over 1,000 labels.

    Dining at Araxi, Whistler

    The indoor/outdoor bar features prominently as we enter the restaurant on a late summer evening. Walk inside Araxi and you’ll notice the busy bar on one side and a marble-topped oyster bar on the other, with beautiful tiered seafood towers and platters being prepared amongst the oyster-shucking action.

    Dining at Araxi, Whistler

    Soft lighting, a modern interior, leather seating, and gorgeous floral displays lead to the windowed kitchen in the back. My eyes caught a peek at the pastry chef creating something sinful. On my way back to the patio, I noticed several signed magnums, predominantly BC’s Foxtrot Vineyards’ Pinot Noir, with a gorgeous label featuring a finely-detailed illustration of a bear and a young woman in front of the vineyard.

    Dining at Araxi, Whistler

    Chef Walt’s innovative menus have earned Araxi a reputation as one of Whistler’s top restaurants for 13 consecutive years. Wine Spectator has crowned the restaurant with its Best of Award on numerous occasions, and the Vancouver International Wine Festival awarded Wine Director Samantha Rahn Sommelier of the Year at last year’s annual Vancouver wine event.

    Additionally, Araxi was included in Maclean’s Top 50 Canadian Restaurants in 2012 and regularly attracts an international clientele.

    BC sweet corn and basil soup, Dungeness crab fritter
    [BC sweet corn and basil soup, Dungeness crab fritter]

    Last weekend, my husband and me were invited to sample a five-course tasting menu with wine. In addition to the regular menu, tastings can be customized for groups and for special occasions. We began with a single Dungeness crab fritter in a deep bowl, watching our host gently pour BC sweet corn and basil soup to encircle it.

    Dining at Araxi, Whistler

    The rich crab and sweet corn was a fine match for Sumac Ridge’s Stellar’s Jay Brut 2008, its bubbles gently breaking up the oils in the soup upon repeated tastes. With Araxi’s proximity to Pemberton’s farms, the chefs have a clear advantage of sourcing the freshest, in-season ingredients.

    Pemberton beet salad, Buffalo mozzarella, pecans, quinoa
    [Pemberton beet salad, Buffalo mozzarella, pecans, quinoa]

    The creamy goodness of the soup was followed by a colourful, artfully-presented Pemberton beet salad that included Granny Smith apple vinaigrette, Buffalo mozzarella and whipped goat cheeses, pecans, and quinoa, well paired with a glass of Le Vieux Pin ‘Vaïla’ Rose 2013. The crunchy textures of the beets and pecans, soft goat cheese, and pearly quinoa formed a delightful composite of textures on the palate, successfully complemented with a wine produced with Pinot Noir grapes and steel tank-aged.

    Seared Wild Alaska scallops, 'Peas and Carrots', crispy prosciutto, roasted Piquillo pepper sauce
    [Seared Wild Alaska scallops, 'Peas and Carrots', crispy prosciutto, roasted Piquillo pepper sauce]

    Seared wild Alaskan scallops atop snap peas, carrots, and crispy proscuitto in a roasted Piquillo pepper sauce was presented together with a glass of JoieFarm ‘En Familie Reserve’ Chardonnay 2011. Just a hint of spice in the pepper sauce to marry with the silky texture of the Chardonnay, its crisp floral notes working well with the crunch of the peas and carrots, while the smoky flavour of the scallops and proscuitto were great together.

    Saddle of Rabbit, proscuitto, cauliflower, Chanterelle mushrooms, asparagus and mustard vinaigrette
    [Saddle of rabbit, proscuitto, cauliflower, Chanterelle mushrooms, asparagus/mustard vinaigrette]

    My husband was served the proscuitto-wrapped confit rabbit leg with cauliflower, potato purée, and Chanterelle mushrooms in a mustard vinaigrette; I enjoyed a grilled Mahi Mahi filet, a jumbo grilled prawn, pomme Dauphinoise, and broccolini in a lovely broth that complimented the vegetables while accenting the soft mahi mahi flavour and succulent texture of that prawn.

    Grilled Mahi Mahi, jumbo prawn, pomme Dauphinoise, broccolini
    [Grilled Mahi Mahi, jumbo prawn, pomme Dauphinoise, broccolini]

    The spicy notes of the Mac Murray Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 formed a great contrast for the prawn’s texture. The rabbit leg was paired with Fort Berens Meritage 2011. I didn’t taste the rabbit though I sampled a sip of the wine, admiring its dark colour and bold, rich black cherry aroma with a hint of vanilla.

    Black Forest cake, Amarena cherries, dark and white chocolate mousse, flourless chocolate cake
    [Black Forest cake, Amarena cherries, dark and white chocolate mousse, flourless chocolate cake]

    Our desserts were no less impressive. Araxi’s Black Forest cake, with layers of dark and white chocolate mousse, a drizzle of dark chocolate soaking up the Amarena cherries, and flourless, gluten-free chocolate cake, was brought out along with a baked lemon curd tart in a sweet pastry crust, served with hand-churned crème fraîche ice cream and raspberry coulis. Both desserts featured a glass of Elephant Island Framboise 2013, a fortified Naramata Bench dessert wine noted for its tart, rich notes.

    Baked lemon curd, creme fraiche ice cream, raspberry coulis
    [Baked lemon curd, crème fraîche ice cream, raspberry coulis, madelines]

    Each one of the pairings was successful, however our favourite wine was the Mac Murray Ranch Pinot Noir, a wine so good that Araxi often decides to purchase all cases produced at harvest, making this Healdsburg Pinot Noir exclusive to Toptable Group’s wine list. Owner/TV actor Fred MacMurray, star of such classics as Double Indemnity and The Apartment, later starring in the popular American TV series My Three Sons, spent his free time at the ranch and was regularly involved in the local agricultural scene. The winery is now owned by the Gallo family.

    Our commanding spot on the outdoor patio provided a non-stop visual feast of weekend revelers, families, hikers, mountain bikers, and stagette parties, making their way along the Village Walk. We recommend Araxi for its careful attention to detail, fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, presentation, and understated elegance.

    Dining at Araxi, Whistler

    We were guests of Araxi for the purpose of experiencing a seasonal five-course dinner with wine pairing.

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  • Sep16

    Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-23

    Take four days in the mountains, craft beer, and lots of merriment, and you’ve just taken a peek into the past weekend at Whistler Blackcomb. The Second Annual Whistler Village Beer Festival got underway from September 11 to 14, with a gorgeous backdrop and lots of refreshment for all.

    Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-24 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-7 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-16

    Over 60 Canadian, US, and European breweries were on hand for the Main Event, with a special Gatecrasher Entry at noon for 500 folks who wanted a head start and literally no queues.

    Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-1

    A German oompah-style band kept the crowds entertained, a few food trucks and vendors served up pizza, Aussie meat pies, and Bavarian pretzels, while the Whistler Olympic Plaza was transformed into a gigantic beer garden complete with one-of-a-kind keg art and tabled seating.

    Keg art by Chad Depner Keg art by Andy Fenwick
    [L to R: Keg art by Chad Depner, Andy Fenwick]

    Our top 10 craft beer discoveries and faves (note my love for IPA):
    Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA
    Gigantic Brewing Company Ginormous Imperial IPA
    Ninkasi Brewing Tricerahops Double IPA
    Scuttlebutt Brewing Company Homeport Blonde Ale
    Scuttlebutt Brewing Company Hoptopia Imperial IPA
    Prohibition Brewing Bootlegger Ale
    Four Winds Brewing Pale Ale
    Postmark Brewing Saisonella
    Bomber Brewing Choqlette Porter
    Deep Cove/Whistler Brewing Collaboration ISA

    Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-8 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-4 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-10 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-12 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-15 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-20 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-22 Whistler Village Beer Festival-Main Event-6

    Congrats to 49th Parallel for Best In Fest Award, and to Old Yale Brewing and Whistler Brewing for second and third place honours! More photos of the Whistler Village Beer Festival Main Event can be found in my Flickr set.

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  • Sep16

    Sampling a Spinnaker Pale Ale at Joe Wiebe's Craft Beer Seminar
    [Sampling a Spinnaker Pale Ale at Joe Wiebe's Craft Beer Seminar]

    The Second Annual Whistler Village Beer Festival has grown by leaps and bounds compared to last year’s inaugural one-day event. Held in Whistler Village over the past four days, both beer lovers and sunshine worshippers were out in full force to attend the events, many of which sold out long ahead of the festival.

    From beer seminars to dinner pairings, leading up to Saturday’s big event at the Whistler Olympic Plaza, there was ample choice of beer-related activities for all tastes and budgets. We began our adventures on Friday afternoon with Joe Wiebe’s Craft Beer Revolution seminar held at the Westin Whistler’s Mountain Room.

    Joe Wiebe aka Thirsty Writer

    Since 2008, Joe’s been exploring our province in search of quality craft beer. He recalls a memorable media trip to the Sonoma County wine region, surrounded by scenic landscapes, vineyards, and wine writers. By the second night of the trip, the other writers performed an intervention, collectively suggesting that Joe write about beer (as he seemed to enjoy discussing its merits). The idea stuck and in a timely way too: at the birth of BC’s craft beer explosion.

    Attendees were shown the proper way to savour a beer in hand:
    Look – Take note of the beer’s colour and opacity
    Smell – Is it strong? Hoppy? Fruity?
    Taste – How bitter and/or sweet is the beer? How does it feel in the mouth?
    Don’t Spit – This isn’t wine. Beer has to be swallowed for true appreciation (no argument there).
    Repeat! – Self-explanatory

    John Mitchell (often referred to as the grandfather of craft beer) moved from England in the 1950’s, having worked in the beer industry, and used to cask-conditioned beer delivered from the cellar. He became a bar manager, later witnessing beer strikes in the 1970’s; during that time, the only beer available in BC was from Olympia, Washington. Through frustration and limited beer choices, he decided to open his own brewery in 1980. Back in the day, there were no brewing manufacturers. John would develop his own brew, load seven kegs into his little Datsun truck each morning, needing to sell two kegs daily to break even. Each and every day he’d sell out of supply.

    Craft Beer Revolution by Joe Wiebe
    [Joe Wiebe's Craft Beer Revolution]

    Mitchell later helped to set up Howe Sound Brewery. Around that time, Island Pacific Brewing and Granville Island Brewery both opened, as did Spinnaker’s Brewpub in Victoria (their pub had four beers on tap). Fast-forward to 2003, when Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was founded. Suddenly, cask-conditioned beer nights began to arrive on the scene. Soon after, Cascadian (Washington, Oregon, California) craft beers, Belgian, and German-style beers made their way up to BC, with more unique offerings on our liquor store shelves.

    Tap houses were next. The Alibi Room kicked off in 2006, starting as as restaurant, its owners researching breweries, eventually installing 50 tap lines, creating a mecca for craft beer lovers in Vancouver. By 2008, there were over 35 craft breweries in BC, capturing 6.5% of the niche market. In 2012, 50 new breweries opened, the percentage now up to 18%—a $175-million-dollar industry. By next year, Wiebe predicts that we’ll top 100 craft breweries in our province! Compare this with Oregon (200, 50 in Portland alone), Washington (200), and Colorado (300).

    What we sampled:
    Spinnakers Original Pale Ale
    Granville Island Brewing Hey Day Hefeweizen
    Driftwood Brewing Fat Tug IPA
    Old Yale Brewing Sasquatch Stout (this year’s Beer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards)
    Four Winds Brewing Juxtapose Red IPA

    Barley and the Beast Deep Cove beer pairing dinner

    We then headed over to Grill and Vine for Deep Cove Craft Brewers and Distillers’ Barley & The Beast five-course beer pairing dinner. Held al fresco with a view of the setting sun striking the mountains, our group of 20 beer lovers and brewers gathered at a long table to enjoy a menu curated by Chef Scott Robertson and Sous Chef Charlie Wilson for the evening.

    Barley and the Beast Deep Cove beer pairing dinner

    Part of Grill and Vine’s Beer @ The Vine series, this dinner was arranged to coincide with the Whistler Village Beer Festival. Deep Cove also distills vodkas, a couple of speciality gins, and an absinthe at their Dollarton Highway facility in North Van.

    Barley and the Beast Deep Cove beer pairing dinner

    We started with a flatbread, gruyere cheese, and butternut squash plate, paired with Trapper John Lager, a nice, German-style lager, citrusy and light on the palate to kick off the meal.

    Organic Pemberton greens, candied walnuts, smoked cheddar, orange basil dressing

    The organic Pemberton greens went down nicely with our evening’s favourite discovery, Star Struck Rye IPA. The greens were heaped with candied walnuts and an aged cheddar crisp, in an orange-basil dressing, perfect to highlight their IPA’s tropical aromas and citrus-induced bitterness.

    Barley and the Beast Deep Cove beer pairing dinner

    The rye adds a sort of biscuit quality, enhancing the aged cheddar flavour, in turn bringing out some of the rye on the palate.

    Curried red snapper, almonds, mango chutney

    Next up, we had a small portion of curried Red Snapper, served with almonds, mango chutney, and Sun Kissed Tea Ale, a fruit-forward beer steeped with rooibos tea. It’s a nice beer to compliment the spice in Asian dishes, and we agreed its taste reminiscent of ‘summer in a glass’.

    Barley and the Beast Deep Cove beer pairing dinner

    A much more generous portion of braised beef short ribs, with Blue Clair cheesy potatoes, broccolini, and Morel mushrooms followed, paired with Deep Cove’s Loud Mouth Pale Ale. Think big malt, caramel, bold flavour, both on the malt and on the hop sides. This was a wonderful pairing with the short ribs, adding a rich texture onto my palate.

    Braised beef short ribs, Blue Clair cheese potatoes, broccolini, Morel mushrooms Barley and the Beast Deep Cove beer pairing dinner

    How to follow a delicious, beautifully-paired dinner such as this? How about a plate with panna cotta, coffee milk semifreddo, and a vanilla float with Smooth Criminal Nitro Stout. This one boasts oats and hop all the way through, with obvious chocolate notes derived from the malt. What a luscious ending to this meal, complete with conversation, lots of toasting, and smiles all around.

    Coffee milk semifreddo, panna cotta, vanilla float with Smooth Criminal Stout Whistler Village Beer Festival-13

    A big thanks to Deep Cove Craft, Grill and Vine, and especially to the Westin Whistler for hosting us during the Whistler Village Beer Festival. The hotel is very handy for walks into the village, features the Heavenly Bed sleep (which I’ve enjoyed on numerous occasions from Halifax to San Francisco), and a kitchenette, perfect for a morning cup of tea or light meal in between beer sampling!

    Westin Whistler, our home base during the Whistler Village Beer Festival

    The Westin Whistler is located at 4090 Whistler Way in Whistler, BC.

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  • Sep15

    JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-1

    Looking for a lightweight, comfortable, adjustable hand strap for your DSLR? JOBY has the answer in the UltraFit Hand Strap with UltraPlate. I was recently sent one to test out for my Nikon D90.

    JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-3

    The UltraFit’s easy to set up by threading the strap through the camera’s shoulder lug, then working the the thin strip up and over the ladder lock, tucking the excess back into the strap’s pad. The length will adjust to a comfortable distance between your hand gripping the camera and the strap.

    JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-4 JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-2

    The strap comes with an allen wrench to attach the UltraPlate to the bottom of your camera, and can accommodate DSLR’s with zoom lenses and battery grips, video cameras, and interchangeable-lens cameras.

    JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-6

    At 58 grams (0.13 pounds), the strap will also work with a standard 1/4”-20 tripod mount as well as any Arca-Swiss quick-release system, bullhead or monopod. Via two additional 1/4″-20 mounting holes, you can use the UltraFit with a bottom-mounted sling camera strap (see my earlier reviews for JOBY’s UltraFit Sling Strap and Black Rapid’s RS-W1 Camera Strap).

    JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-2 JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-1

    Note: If you’re using various tripods on the go, keep the allen wrench handy. You’ll need to adjust the UltraPlate back and forth depending on your mount. I noticed this when using one of JOBY’s GorillaPods with the UltraFit Strap.

    It’s easy to get to all the controls on the camera with the strap attached. I did notice that getting to the flash card door means moving the strap a bit out of the way, whereas the battery door is easily accessible.

    JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap-7

    It feels solid in the hand and seemed to conform to my hand’s shape pretty quickly. I carry it in my Lowepro Passport Sling, ready to grab at and use for handheld shooting.

    The JOBY UltraFit Hand Strap with UltraPlate retails for CDN $49.99 and can be purchased via Daymen Canada and London Drugs.

    The UltraFit Hand Strap was tested on a Nikon D90 for the purpose of this review.

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  • Sep11

    Arc'teryx Gamma MX Jacket Seaglass
    [The Arc'teryx Gamma MX jacket in Seaglass]

    I’ve been looking for a comfortable, breathable softshell for Vancouver’s upcoming rainy/cool season, and found my answer in the Arc’teryx Gamma MX jacket. I recently wore it on a few local trails for a test drive.

    Arcteryx Gamma MX jacket-5

    The Gamma MX is cozy with a super-soft neck lining that will keep me warm during our soon-to-be chilly Vancouver days and nights. I’m also betting on getting a lot of mileage from this jacket on winter hikes and snowshoe outings once our local mountain peaks begin to whiten.
    Continue reading »

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  • Sep10

    Lovely Red Racer ladies

    The BC Beer Awards & Festival (BCBA) has become one of the most anticipated beer tasting festivals in the Lower Mainland. To cap off October’s BC Craft Beer Month, the event is set to return to the Croatian Cultural Centre on October 25.

    VCBW Rare Brews and BBQ-1

    Following on the heels of last year’s successful awards event, a few new elements have been added for even more sparkle! This year, there will be four Education Classes to choose from. The classes, taught by our industry’s finest, include Off Flavours, Malts, History of Beer, and Hops.

    The Oakwood Kits opening - drinks and craft beers on tap
    [BC craft beer represents at Oakwood Bistro]

    The festival organizers have also increased 2014’s class sizes to accommodate their popularity. Class tickets cost $15 each. Tickets for both the BC Beer Awards & Festival and the Education Classes are now on sale.

    VCBW 2012 Opener-24

    2013’s BC Beer Awards judging drew over 400 unique entries from over 40 BC breweries and brewpubs, with winners selected in 12 distinct categories. Judges included certified beer judges, cicerones, sommeliers, journalists, as well as noted beer and food lovers. The BC Beer Awards adheres to standards set by the internationally-recognized Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP).

    Craft Beer Market Opening-20

    The mandate of the BC Beer Awards is to reward excellent beers—even if not brewed exactly to strict style guidelines. Secondary to this mandate is ensuring that every beer brewed in BC can be entered regardless of whether it fits into a particular style or not. Craft brewers across the province are well known for their innovation and creativity, something that the BCBA organizers aim to showcase.

    A few of the craft beers on tap at Luke's

    Visit BC Beer Awards online for more details.

    2014 BC Beer Awards & Festival
    Date: October 25, 4 to 9 pm
    Venue: Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
    Tickets: $27, available online at Early Bird pricing through October 10; $32 after October 10

    Get social!
    BC Beer Awards on Facebook
    BC Beer Awards on Twitter – official event hashtag: #BcBeerAwards
    BC Beer Awards on Instagram

    The BC Beer Awards & Festival is generously supported by Vancouver Brewery Tours, Chrislan Cermaics, Donnelly Group, Hops Connect, and Canada Malting.

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  • Sep9

    PHOTOGraphie banner

    From September 26 to 29, PHOTOGraphie, British Columbia’s only professional photography festival invites you to be inspired by diverse gallery exhibitions and learn from rich educational presentations at The Roundhouse in Yaletown.

    With something for everyone, PHOTOGraphie promises to inspire, entertain, and educate photo professionals and enthusiasts alike on all things professional photography. This community festival opens with a VIP private gallery reception and continues with free micro-talks for the public, hands-on workshops for amateurs, pros and videographers, and includes photos from the festival’s youth photography contest. One lucky youth will win a Nikon D3300 camera and lens. 

    Trevor and Faye Yerbury
    [Trevor and Faye Yerbury]

    Anna Beaudry, past PPOC-BC President, says “We are proud to welcome Trevor and Faye Yerbury as distinguished keynote speakers to the PHOTOGraphie mix! Their first ever workshop in Canada includes an appearance at the VIP private gallery reception, a free exhibition showcasing their work, and a full day educational program.” 
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  • Sep9

    Vancouver Fringe 2013 logo

    Here we go with another round-up of my Five Fave Fringe Shows So Far for 2014. This year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival has 98 artists, over 800 performances, and 11 days to take it all in.

    This is my favourite time of the year to be in Vancouver (and it should be yours too!), with the Fringe Festival in full swing. Since moving to Canada nine years ago, I’ve been involved with the Fringe in one form or another.

    There’s so much quality theatre that often gets overlooked due to larger productions, out-of-town talent that doesn’t make it out this way, or the frenzy of events that call our attention week in, week out. The Fringe circuit is an excellent chance to take in these shows, often allowing for several in the course of one evening.
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  • Sep8

    Hanna Leireponty

    After its recent Park Royal Shopping Centre opening, Free People is coming to Vancouver with a Granville Street store in October. Park Royal’s new space covers 2,600 square feet, while Granville Street’s will fill 3,400 square feet with the American brand’s eclectic apparel.

    Free People Park Royal
    [Free People's brand-new Park Royal store]

    The openings mark Free People’s 98th and 99th boutiques across the United States and Canada, and will be the brand’s very first stores in BC. To celebrate Free People’s Vancouver launch, the brand has brought on local partners to offer giveaways and live events at both openings (Park Royal just opened on August 29).

    Vantown Sweeps
The Free People ‘Vantown Sweeps’ promotion is currently running through September 21, including four giveaway packages, each centered on a theme: The Makeover, The Night Out, The Escape, and The Taste of the Town.

    Prizes will include $100 Free People gift cards along with contributions from local partners Bioéthique Spa (The Makeover), Amore Natural Products (The Makeover), The Juice Truck (The Makeover), Mellifera Bees (Taste of the Town), Rogue Kitchen & Wet Bar (The Taste of the Town), Food.ee (The Taste of the Town), Steamworks Brewery (The Night Out), Guilt & Co. (The Night Out), and Rockwater Secret Cove Resort (The Getaway). Fans can enter to win the gift package of their choice. Visit Free People’s Vantown Sweeps page for more info.

     Alexandra Spencer

    On October 10 from 5 to 9 pm, Free People will celebrate the Granville Street opening with a “Taste of the Town” event in partnership with local food group Food.ee. Food.ee works with Vancouver’s best in class restaurants to enhance the corporate lunch hour by delivering sustainable and local meals to the workplace. They will be serving up mouth-watering fare from Vancouver faves The Juice Truck, Cartems Donuts, and Finch’s Market Café.

    The first 50 guests to arrive will receive a complimentary gift bag with goodies from Free People, Tarte Cosmetics, and Amore Natural Products.

    The store design concept at Granville Street is inspired by Free People’s globe-travelling girl and the collections that she curates and displays, while the Park Royal space mirrors the brand’s more rustic side with a workshop feel. Both spaces greet customers through custom steel storefronts with double entry doors and feature white-washed wall finishes throughout.

     Natalie Suarez

    At Park Royal, shoppers will find a stronger presence of rugged elements such as reclaimed wood and blackened steel, whereas Granville features two skylights flooding the space with natural light and hand-carved elements to play up Free People’s feminine side.

    Free People Park Royal is located at Park Royal Shopping Centre and is open Monday and Tuesday, 10 am to 7 pm, Wednesday to Friday, 10 am to 9 pm, Saturday, 9:30 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm.

    The Granville Street boutique will be located at 2624 Granville Street. Store hours will run Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm and Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm.

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  • Sep8

    The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller

    PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and CDm2 LIGHTWORKS are proud to present a one-night-only performance of The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller on Wednesday, November 12 at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre.

    The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller is a “live documentary” created by Academy Award-nominated director Sam Green, who live narrates the film, accompanied by legendary indie band Yo La Tengo. Together, they set the stage for a remarkable evening exploring the life and times of R. Buckminster Fuller, the 20th century American futurist, architect, engineer, inventor, and author.

    Considered “one of the greatest minds of our times,” Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) was renowned for his comprehensive perspective on the world’s problems. For over 50 years, he developed pioneering solutions that reflected his commitment to the potential of innovative design to create technology that does “more with less” and thereby improves human lives.
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  • Sep5

    Samuel Adams Summer Ale Pairing-1

    With BC’s Sockeye salmon population set to break all records next month (with an estimated 72 million salmon returning to our province’s rivers), we thought it the perfect opportunity to pair with grilled yams, potatoes, and a pint of Samuel Adams Summer Ale.

    Samuel Adams Summer Ale Pairing-2

    This light, refreshing, citrusy ale hits the lemon and olive oil we marinated the salmon with perfectly, working complementary flavors right through to the grilled yams and potatoes garnished with organic cilantro and parsley.

    We prepared the yams and potato combination with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black and white pepper, oregano, and lavender, then wrapping them in foil and placing right on the BBQ for 20 minutes, turning the package each five minutes while the salmon was grilled at the last moment using the same ingredients for two and a half minutes on each side.

    Samuel Adams Summer Ale Pairing-3

    The yam’s sweetness was a great match for the beer’s citrus. We even noticed the crisp crust on our salmon working with the beer, and could also picture grilled prawns or halibut also working well with the Summer Ale.

    Samuel Adams Summer Ale Pairing-4

    While the Grains of Paradise impart a subtle peppery note and smooth aftertaste, the lemon worked nicely with the soft, grilled salmon steaks. Noble and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hop varieties are used to produce a light (5.3% ABV/7 IBUs) beer that’s perfect for a summer supper on our balcony.

    We found Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale at Darby’s Liquor Store in Kitsilano (the beer’s available at BCLDB stores). Stock up and get fishing!

    This is a sponsored post in partnership with Branding & Buzzing.

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  • Sep3

    Canadian Opera Company's Carmen
    [Photo by Gary Beechey; courtesy Canadian Opera Company]

    Vancouver audiences: get ready to be awed again when Georges Bizet’s Carmen returns to the Queen E for six performances from September 27 to October 5. The Vancouver Opera’s box office records were shattered five years ago when Carmen became the fastest-selling VO production in the company’s history.

    The gorgeous production, directed by Joel Ivany, takes place in late-1940’s Spain. The powerhouse international cast will include two sizzling-hot mezzo-sopranos alternating the title role: Kate Aldrich (September 27, October 2 and 4) and Ginger Costa-Jackson (September 28, October 3 and 5). Dashing tenor Richard Troxell will sing the role of Don José alongside Ms. Aldrich.

    Kate Aldrich Ginger Costa-Jackson
    [L to R: Mezzo-sopranos Kate Aldrich, Ginger Costa-Jackson]

    Carmen is a fiery factory worker arrested for assault. Don José is her dutiful guard. But when Carmen ignites Don José’s passion with her gypsy spell, his tragic descent begins. He deserts the army, abandons his family for a life of crime, and when Carmen discards him for a bullfighter, erupts with jealous rage to commit a shocking act of revenge.

    Uninhibited dancing in a smoke-filled tavern, songs pulsing with erotic power, sinister felonies in a mountain pass, murder outside a bullring—sensuous, astonishing, and irresistible, and once considered too sinful to be staged, it’s easy to see why Carmen is among the most popular operas in the world.

    Canadian Opera Company's Carmen
    [Photo by Gary Beechey; courtesy Canadian Opera Company]

    Ms. Costa-Jackson’s originally-slated Don José had to unfortunately withdraw recently following an automobile accident. His replacement will be announced soon. Esteemed Canadian conductor Jacques Lacombe returns to the VO podium for the first time since 2011’s Roméo et Juliette.

    Vancouver Opera's Carmen banner

    Vancouver Opera Presents Carmen
    Dates: September 27, October 2, 3, 4, 7:30; September 28, October 5, 2 pm matinée
    Venue: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 649 Cambie Street, Vancouver
    Tickets: Available online or via phoning 604.683.0222

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