Okanagan’s world-class food and restaurant scene

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

( http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?zh=vans )

No matter what the reason, every Okanagan visit proves to be a lovely break for me!

The most recent one took place this early Fall, when trees were at their ultimate forms of natural beauty; when orchards and vineyards were changing hues.  With many shades of red and gold adorning the highways and the random sun emitting warmth into the car, the 4-hour drive was a pleasant one.    

We chose this time to go simply because the vines and wineries at harvesting time were calling. Oliver, Summerland and Penticton were our destinations. While visiting wineries and tasting the wines were the main focus, we were both ready and excited to bite into the top-notched restaurants and food programs we heard so much about. The fact that the valley has always been the land of bounty, where orchards, farms and ranches flourish, the region’s developing into a sensational food and restaurant scene is a natural fit. From artisan cheese-makers to lamb-roasting dinner; music and wine to chefs’ wine-paired feasts, Okanagan is now poised as the haven for culinary tourism.

Our delicious journey began at Miradoro (Tinhorn Creek), where Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest (formerly of Aurora on Main & E. 8th), partnered with two Marcs of Gold Medal Plates fame.The two champs from Atelier in Ottawa and Auberge Du Pommier in Toronto brought along their magic wands and the three of them orchestrated an evening of palate supremacy, the ticket price of $155, along with a take-away gift bag of a bottle of Tinhorn Creek wine and other gadgets, was enchanting. Take a look at this lavishly presented plate of Scallop and Lobster poached in butter with the pickled garlic and miso sauce as the surprise flavour factors. 

#1 Miradoro


Breakfast next morning was a $12pp very generously-prepared and displayed continental buffet breakfast, beverages included, inside the modern, quaint and beautiful lakeside Watermark Beach Resort Hotel where we stayed the night. The word continental was an understatement, with hot eats such as eggs and bacon; cold treats such as smoked salmon and fresh fruits; oven-fresh baked goods including croissant, the value was exceptional. Full and happily contented, we began our packed program of the day.

The much anticipated lunch at Hester Creek’s Terrafina was as hearty and delightful as any family-style meal in Tuscany would be. The pan-fried Squids and Smoked Trout Sandwich were masterfully done. Unpretentious was the dining room and the ambiance, locally-sourced and tastefully-crafted were the seasonal menu items. We were told that Terrafina’s made-to-order pizza was ‘Okanagan famous’, no wonder we say quite a few of them on some of the tables.#3 Pan-fried squids

#4 Chef at TerrafinoTucked away in the lush green garden at the back of Hillside Winery’s tasting room, the country setting of Hillside Bistro was particularly warm and welcoming in the gloomy nightfall. Executive Chef Robert Gordonier may be young, but the flavour profile of the dishes we ordered that evening showed nothing short of innovative ideas and culinary senses. Infusing local recipes with Asian ingredients and seasonings is much more challenging than some might assume. The application of hoisin sauce in the braised beef shank was a real showcase of how it should be done. An extra thumbs up to Gordonier who gave the credit to his Chinese wife!#6 Hiiside-chef & his own sauces#5 Hillside - Braised beef shankBlessed with a majestic view, Vanilla Pod Restaurant at the very architectural building where Poplar Grove lies was the perfect lunch spot on a mild autumn day. The reflection of the sun upon the surrounding vineyards and river belt was as sumptuous as the meal. We opted for a couple of simple lunch items to share, but simplicity here referred only to the name of the dish, the presentation and the depth of each dish was astounding. The salad was a collection of the latest harvest of plump, juicy and colourful grape and cherry tomatoes from the garden; the artisan cheese in the ham & cheese sandwich established its own name and fame; but it’s the rice pudding that took my breath away! “Many locals come here just for this pudding!” said our waiter. The golden rice pudding, presented stylishly, was beyond my imagination. We did thank the waiter for insisting us to try!#8 yummy rice pudding

Wines of South American

Words: Henry Yuen ( http://www.taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )

Why are wines from Argentina and Chile so likable? Mostly because the price point to quality ratio is never disappointing; definitely excellent values for those wine lovers whose affinity is quality driven rather than reputation alone. No doubt certain varietals flourish in specific parts of the continent; be it Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere in Chile or Malbec in Argentina. The consensus is that these varietals are perfect match to the terroir and growing conditions and is difficult to replicate in other parts of the world.

Vina Santa Rita Winery

santarita_triple_c_red07__41915_1374682842_1280_1280This winery in Chile is known for it’s offering of the familiar ‘120’ tier of wines. On top of this, they have the ‘Reserva’, ‘Medalla Real’ and the coveted ‘Triple C’ tiers of wines. The ‘120’ tier is tagged with everyday price that is considered to be very consumer friendly. For example, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon offers adequate black fruits and earthy aroma with berries, tobacco and tannins on the finish and delivers beyond the price sipping pleasure.

The 2010 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon is a higher tier at $14.99. The fruit is more intense with cocoa and tobacco on a smooth finish. Up a few notches is the 2009 Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $19.99. It carries more complexity and   fruity intensity on the nose, followed by a lengthy, velvety finish. The 2007 Triple C (55% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere) at $38.99 portrays skilled winemaking technique and varietal cultivation. Well-balanced and full-bodied with bold and intense flavour, definitely a classy wine showcasing how much Chilean wines came around since the bulk wine era.  

While the Santa Rita line up is impressive, other worthy considerations are:

Concha Y Toro Trio at $14.95 – A fine effort that combines black fruit and plum as the welcoming bouquet; and a hint of spice and tobacco to finish.

The 2011 Errazuriz Estate Carmenere – At $14.99, this is a mouth-watering beauty with red fruits and ripe berries on the nose and a chocolate and cocoa finish.

Finca Decero

Finca Decero Winery from the Mendoza region of Argentina is a rather focused winery. Decero literally means “from scratch”. They find out what’re best for the terroir first then concentrate the expertise onto crafting those wines. As a result, only red varietals are grown. There is no attempt to stretch its resources beyond what the appellation, the soil and the land are providing.  As a matter of fact, the results are so positive there is no need to consider anything else!

The vineyards, located at the foothills of the Andes at an elevation of above 1000 meters, are granted with adequate sunlight; ideal conditions of warm days and cool nights, Mother Nature’s gift benefits the grapes to flourish to the fullest.2010 Decero malbec-bottle

Five wines are produced from this single vineyard producer. What not to like about the 2010 Decero Malbec? Nothing! This enticing example of a typical Argentine Malbec is well crafted with herbal aroma and dry cherries bouquet; laced gently with a hint of mint, the reserved oak treatment enhanced the balance of the wine. The 2010 Decero Petit Verdot is from a 40 acres vineyard. A fruit forward wine exhibiting flows of red fruits and plum. With 16 months in new French oak, this wine is delicately smooth with soft tannins. The 2010 Decero Syrah has a fine combination of barnyard earthiness, limestone and herbal aroma. On the palate, it is peppery with generous ripe plum and black fruits. 14 months in oak produced the velvet body structure. The 2010 Decero Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied with black current and prune on the palate. With light stem contact during fermentation, it gives the wine the balance tannins. The aroma of sage along with a hint of fine cigar and tobacco note provides a lengthy and luring ending. The 2009 Decero Amano is a fantastic wine with the 2006 vintage garnering 94 points from Wine Advocate and the 2007 getting the Top 100 wines from Wine Enthusiast. The 2009 with great finesse is as fine a wine. A blend of 60% Malbec, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Tannat, the bouquet of black current and dried stone fruit is a beautiful invitation. On the palate, this full-bodied wine is jammy with soft tannins and a hint of smoky and cocoa on the finish. The benefit of the gently basket pressed, 20 months in French oak and a year in bottle gives this wine the unique touch that lingers. A good demonstration of the winemaker’s determined focus and a sincere testament of not having to do too much but staying with what you know best.     

As for other Argentina Malbecs, I like the Norton Reserva Malbec ($17.99), with its jammy, plum and spice aroma with a smoky finish. The Altos Las Hormigas Malbec ($15.99) is a good deal with plum and berries fruits and the finish is earthy and spicy. My favourite is the 2007 Valle Las Acequais Malbec from Mendoza ($22.99), it only takes the first sip to love its fine effort.  It is a full-bodied Malbec with lots of red fruits and prune on the nose and silky soft tannins. If you want to find out what a good Argentina Malbec tastes like, this is it!2007 Valle Las Acequais Malbec from Mendoza

These are great examples of good valued South American wines that deliver consistent quality and signature craftsmanship. At very approachable price points, South American wines have no doubt been garnering more and more retail attentions.

Fall is here, let’s eat your heart out!

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant=zh-hans


Quinto Quarto: Brain & Bottega Dinner

Chinese are known to eat everything and anything, well almost! When it comes to offal, we eat plenty! Quite often, when the term ‘internal organ’ is mentioned, facial expressions of surprise, dismay or even disgust are shown, sometimes verbal expressions such as ‘barbarian, non-human’ are added. You could imagine how happy and awed I was to sit amongst fellow offal eaters at Campagnolo Roma; ready to indulge into an evening of ‘tendon, ears, skin, heart and brain’!

Oh yes, pig brain! That’s part of the Quinto Quarto: Brain & Bottega Dinner Chef Nathan Lowey in stored for us, in time to inject some Halloween mood into every body there. But before brain was served, we had to go through the following extremely creative and somewhat exotic dishes:



1/ Puffed beef tendon that reminded me of shrimp chips Chinese restaurants often serve with Crispy chicken.

2/ Pig ears that shaped and deep-fried like French fries; extra crunchy thanks to the soft ear bones.

3/ Pigs Trotters which were deboned, braised and then fried.

Primo: Pasta with softened julienne pig skin  – who would have guessed those semi-translucent shreds were pig skins?

Second: Beef heart stuffed with sweetbreads and black truffles, the texture of the heart was a lot like beef tongues.

And now, the brain – blended into the dark chocolate torte, was indeed a piece of cake. Finally, the Vanilla ice cream sprinkled with duck crackling bits!

To go with the wild menu, we had the following wines from Bottega, a young, innovative and very energetic winery who produces grappa, wine, sparkling wine and liqueur that distributes to 120 countries worldwide:

Bottega Prosecco N/V , Bottega Pinot Grigio 2010 , Bottega Valpolicella Ripasso 2010 

Bottega Amarone 2009 , Alexander GrappaIMG_5114

Both Campagnolo on Main and Roma put on one-of-a-kind feasts regularly. Go online to find out when and what the next one will be!



Mushroom Festival at Siena

For those mushroom-craving folks who may not be able to or are not too keen on going deep into the forest for mushroom hunting, Siena’s $32 three-course Mushroom Festival menu comes highly recommended, by the four of us who last week, had a joyous dinner there!

We ordered two mushroom dinners, a sumptuous plate of antipasti, a grilled flat iron steak and a mushroom risotto. The total ticket price $140, tax included.IMG_5125

In terms of value, the $32 menu was almost as good as a steal, simply because the portion, flavour and presentation of each single course were solid.  Good choices were offered for the first and main courses. The texture of the crimini & oyster mushroom soup was creamy but silky smooth. My pork tenderloin with morels was tender and juicy; the olive oil sautéed potatoes and Chianti sauce elevated the palate satisfaction. The porcini stuffing in theravioli was a bit too salty for our liking but the charred shallots and the Madeira cream were marvelous. Not a steak person, but the two slices of grilled steak I bit into were one of the most flavourful beef I had in recent months; the balsamic-basil marinade did its trick. Same comments could be made to the risotto – steamy hot with perfectly balanced amount of creamy and cheesy texture – bravo! IMG_5133

White chocolate and black truffle tart was the dessert that came with the mushroom menu, but I had to order the blackberry panna cotta off the menu and found myself absolutely lost in it. Black was the colour; started with blackberry-blended top layer which was a fruity and sweet sensation and eggless custard was velvety and dreamy.

Siena’s Mushroom Festival will last till November 6, reservation, I say, is a must! www.eatsiena.com  1485 W 12th Ave.Vancouver.  (604) 558-1485

2/ Something different is happening everyday at Seventeen89

Paul Puratich, a third generation fisherman who knows his seafood like his own palms and Chef Daryle Nagata, one of my favourite Canadian chefs partnered up and opened Seventeen89 recently and is already creating a buzz. No, it has nothing to do with which restaurant was there before, who cares really? But everything to do with what Nagata and Puratich are doing.  Let’s look at the Fall menu line-ups that offers something different on a daily basis. From your choice of beer on tap plus a pair of bratwurst pretzel dogs and Chef’s addictive crispy fries for just $10 on Tuesdays; BYOB with zero cockage fee on Wednesdays and Nagata will happily and readily create hearty, delicious food to pair with your wine; to Senior Sunday when the older and wiser 65 and up get 25% off their meals! Neighbourhood friendliness and reaching out to the community – now we’re talking!Chef Nagata's fall-coloured beef dish

1789 Comox Street (at Denman), Vancouver. Information: 1789.ca or call 604-428-0705Chef Daryle Nagata and Paul

3/ Thomas Haas’s One! Bar – Grab it while you can!

Chocolate and dessert fans know what the name ‘Thomas Haas’ entails. The limited release of 1000 only ‘One! Bar’ is  his newest seduction. The one and only Chocolatier in Canada, Haas’s newly created to-die-for chocolate bar is made with carefully selected wild-foraged cocoa beans from Grenada. He happens to be one of the few Chocolatiers in the world to allow access to this unique and robust vintage of 65% cocoa from Valrhona’s prestigious Sourcers’ Selection. To refine the bar even further, Haas has intensified the flavour profile to 79 per cent using a unique blend of 100 per cent pure cocoa — this bar truly is a one-of-a-kind indulgence for the palates and senses.ONE!-Black

One! Bar Raffle for Canucks Place
In the spirit of the Thomas Haas annual charitable Easter Egg raffle, chocolate lovers will have a chance to win the very first ONE! Bar produced, bearing serial number 0001 and an interactive chocolate experience with Thomas Haas. Thomas will welcome the winner and up to seven of his or her friends to his North Vancouver chocolate kitchen for a fun and interactive evening of chocolate making and tasting.
Raffle tickets will be sold at both Thomas Haas cafés at the following rate: 3 for $5, 7 for $10, and 15 for $20 and will be randomly drawn on
Dec. 3, 2013. One hundred per cent of the funds raised will be applied towards the purchase of toys for Thomas Haas’ longstanding charity of choice, the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

North Shore Store
Unit 128, 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver. 604-924-1847

Kitsilano Store
2539 West Broadway, Vancouver. 604-736-1848 


Wine Notes – Recently tasted wines at Icon

Words: Henry Yuen (Chinese posting: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )

Mid-Autumn Festival and Thanksgivings are good indications of the arrival of a new season – time for the fall release of various wines. I had the pleasure of tasting some outstanding wines and attending an educational tasting session at ICON Fine Wines and Spirits. Headed by big names in the industry: Jay Garnett, Kim Trowbridge and David Walker, this boutique wine agency prides itself with exceptional product portfolios, a more intimate ambiance and personalized services.

De Martino Winery

Over the years I have gone to quite a few wine tasting events and winemakers dinners etc. I got to meet the winemakers and talked to the wineries proprietors. However, at wine tasting in a group setting, the interaction is usually not a long one as there are other people looking for the same opportunity. In winemaker dinners, the winemaker usually does most of the talking and the Q & A session is often a brief one.De Martino wines

So when I was told I would get the opportunity to meet one on one with the winemaker from De Martino Winery from Chile, I jumped at this exciting chance without hesitation even though I had visited their winery last November and thoroughly enjoyed their wines. How often do you have the winemaker all to yourself? I learned a lot from that session as the conversation was free flowing and there was no disruption to sidetrack the focus.

The winery has a relatively long history with almost eighty years in operation and currently operated by the fourth generation of the De Martino family. Head winemaker, Marco De Martino, is full of energy, passion and progressive in his outlook as to the direction of the winery and its viticulture practices. Fifteen years ago, the winery already envisioned its vineyards to be in an organic environment stressing sustainability in its viticulture practices. Today, they are the second largest organic wine producers in Chile. Not only that, a feat not a lot of wineries could even dream of is that their wines are the first carbon-neutral wines in Latin America meaning they are as environmental friendly and responsible as possible!

Marco is adamant that his wines must be good and that all the elements in their vineyards respect the land and provide sustainability for future generations. Most vines are planted in the east-western direction to get the maximum exposure of sunlight. No canopy style of vine management is employed because canopy style while comes with higher yield usually result in lower quality grapes. In terms of winemaking, Marco’s preference is a balanced approach and consequently no new oak is used but rather encourages the wine to develop itself rather than force feeding the result in.

With all the accolades and recognition, how good are his wines?  The Legardo Limari Valley Chardonnay 2011 is a well-crafted with soft buttery texture and a hint of mouth-watering saltiness upon entry. It is lightly oaked to give it the right structure and smoothness. The Organico Maipo Valley Cabernet Malbec 2010 portraits a well-balanced blend with lots of black fruits and prune aroma. It has soft tannins and a hint of herbs that enthrals the palate, for under $20, it is a very good value wine. The Legado Choapa Valley Syrah 2012 is made with grapes sourced from vineyards in the northern cooler region at the foothills of the Andes. This wine is medium-bodied with lots of plum, black current and adequate tannins. The Legado Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a palate-pleaser with lots of black fruits, cassis and currants. 12 months in oak provides a beautiful smokiness and cocoa aroma. The Legado Carmenere 2011 is my favourite. All that you ask for in a fabulous Chilean Carmenere is in this bottle – no more, no less!

All these De Martino wines are priced competitively; there is no down side to stocking them up for the upcoming festive season. It’s nice to chat with Marco and further understand what long term vision of De Martino Winery is all about.  Of course, tasting the result of that commitment is the best way to embrace their philosophy and effort which deserves our attention and a big salute!                      

Wakefield Wines

Wakefield CabS 2009This South Australia winery in Australia is truly a family business. Three generations of making wines at ClareValley since 1969 and has been successfully passing on the winemaking expertise from one generation to the other, it has deep roots in the community.

Occupying 178 hectare by the Wakefield River, the vineyard has been producing top quality grapes on terra rosa soil (red brown soil loaming over limestone). Combining with warm days and cool nights, the terroir at Clare Valley boasts perfect conditions for growing Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 Shiraz is a fine Australian classic, a lovely Shiraz that has lots of red fruit, berries and plum aroma combined with hints of spice and cocoa; and the benefit from both French and American oak treatment embraces nicely in the finish.

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is a fine expression of the virtue of this juicy red varietal. The aroma of black current, cassis and prune is engrossing. On the palate, it is jammy with a smoky hint followed by a velvety finish thanks to 12 months in French oak (5% new).

The aromatic 2011 Riesling with seductive citrus and baked apple bouquet is well-balanced. The acidity is refined producing a not-too-sweet palate feel which allows this wine to showcase its refreshing and crispy goodness for pairing with most Asian cuisine. Generations of strong winemaking in the family secures the consistency needed to crafting good wines that puts the family time-honoured philosophy intact.

Tea with Dad


TeapotsWords: Stephanie Yuen

We lived in a government housing estate near the old Kai-Tek airport where we would go anywhere within 20 kilometer radius of home on foot. My dad used to walk us to the park to throw basketball, to the dock side to watch ferries rolled in and to catch half-priced matinees in the Kowloon-Seng district. Having a dad who’s a teacher gave us plenty of outdoor activities together. As the daughter who showed immense interest in anything edible even at a young age, Dad had endowed me with special trips to home kitchens, snack joints and this hold-in-the-wall tea shop his friend Uncle Wong owned. As much as I enjoyed family playtime, the recollection of those tea shop visits were endeared moments that belonged to just Dad and I.  The tea sets, tea stories and the many shades of gold and green colour teas in those tiny tea cups casted the fondest childhood memories.

The tea shop, whose name I never registered, located in Kowloon-jai, the ghetto adults warned their kids about. It housed many strange shops, legal or not, and was the source of many nightmares and crime stories. To be able to go inside was an adventure; to walk through the winding alleys, my little hand in Dad’s big, warm palm, was simply fascinating.

The 5’ by 8’ tea shop, dark and shabby and looked every bit like a closed-in patio, occupied the front portion of a ground-floor suite in an old building. We had to step over a narrow ditch running along the alley-side in order to get in.

The soft-spoken Uncle Wong, upon seeing us, would grin and stand up from a bamboo stool, and fetched another stool for Dad to sit on. Since there’s no more space to put in another stool, and no more stool in fact, I stood and observed. As a kid growing up watching my father perfecting the pleasure of drinking tea; and later on as a teenager learning how to brew and sip different kinds of tea, there was this one tea shop occasion that planted my love of Pu Erh Tea, which I treasure dearly to this day.

While chitchatting with Dad, Uncle Wong started to maneuver around while busy with his two hands. Like magic, he pulled up a beautiful old wooden tray in which a 4” dark colour tea cake in a piece of thick yellow silk wrap, a set of Zhi-za teapot including a bowl and six cups laid. Reflecting a nostalgic glow under the 20 watt light bulb, the brownish-purple tea set was as delicate and adorable as a set of fancy toy we could never afford. Uncle picked up the tea cake and with the help of a teeny wooden hammer, broke off a corner and dropped it into the teapot.

Somehow in the tight corner to the left of the narrow counter, a small kettle started to breathe out hot air. He turned off the single kerosene stove, removed the kettle and poured hot water into the teapot which was then emptied onto the cups. After rinsing and warming up the cups with the tea, he dumped every drop from the cups into the bowl.  He filled the pot with hot water once again and then picked up the teapot and distributed into each cup ¾ full of the greenish-brown tea. Without waiting for the invitation, Dad picked up one cup, drank it empty; and the second cup, then the third. “Ahh…” he signed, putting the empty cup back onto the tray. Sitting next to him, Uncle Wong did the very same thing. This they repeated five or six times. The colour of the tea was getting darker and darker but gradually lightened up.   藍標宋~1 

“Wow, such good tea!” They said in unity.

“You still have a few left?” Dad asked, pointing to the cake.

“May be four or five,” Uncle answered. “I left one for you!”

“Thank you!” Dad said with a smile, and to my surprise, handed the cup of tea, now almost dark as ink, to me. “Take a sip!” he told me. And I eagerly obliged.

“What is this?” I took a small sip and started feeling the indescribable sensation that attacked my tongue and side. red label puerh photo[1]

“You find it bitter?” Dad asked.

“Just a bit, but it’s now getting sweeter!” I took another sip, and another.

“This is one of the best old Pu-er tea cakes Uncle keeps.”

“How old?”

“Oh, may be 50 year-old. That’s why it’s so smooth and delicate. It’s very good for you!” said Uncle Wong, as he brought the cake closer to my nose, he added, “Smells very good too!” Absolutely unprepared, I smelled nothing, but the tea certainly was flavourful.

“It’s OK.” Said Dad gently, turning to Wong, he continued, “this should help settle my upset stomach, too much oily stuff in the last couple days!.”

“You bet!” Wong replied, filling the cups with another round of hot tea.

Their conversation with the 9-year old on that day may be short but the arc-shape, firm Pu-er teacake and the dark-brown cups of tea stirred up my interest in Chinese tea to no end. The more I learn about Chinese Tea culture, the stronger my love of tea.

Years later in Vancouver, I met up with Eliza Lam of Aroma Tea House on Granville (at W. 65th) who shared her immense tea knowledge with readers of a magazine I was editing for. I had the pleasure of meeting her Dad Mr. Lam, a tea master who owned one of the major tea shops in Hong Kong over a pot of Jasmine blossom tea he picked out and brewed for me. We talked about all aspects of tea culture and the different kinds of Chinese Tea, from white tea to herbal tea; for drinking pleasure and for healthy life style; from tea sets to tea ceremonies. With a display of different shapes and sizes of Pu-er teacakes, he explained to me the history and folklores behind Pu-er tea and the significance of the teacakes. The tea dialogue with Mr. Lam that afternoon opened another door that led me into the ancient tea wonderland. Thanks to Mr. Lam and Eliza, the taste of every cup of tea, expecially Pu-erh has never been the same!          

Mr. Lam brewing tea (HK)

 Special notes on Pu-erh tea cakes: Eliza told me real Pu-erh tea cakes of 50 years or older are now rare commodities. Anyone who has such tea cakes lying around in the storage room or hidden in trunks but has no desire of ever drinking them, dig them out and send them to Aroma Tea House for verification and if the price is right, sell them! Drop by Aroma Tea House or call Eliza at 604-266-7738 to find out details.


To Joe Fortes for giving back this Thanksgiving

The Executive Chef, Wayne Sych and Sous Chef, Ryan Green along with some staff volunteered their time cooking and serving  100-150 people a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to the Dudes’ Club at Vancouver Native Health Society on Thursday, October 10th.Joe Forte giving back #1

The Vancouver Native Health Society Men’s Group, The Dudes’ (Downtown Urban Knights Defending Equality and Solidarity) Club began in August 2010 as a response to the overwhelming demand from community members for better health services for men.  There are many services for women and children in the Downtown Eastside, as well as patients with HIV or Hepatitis C, but very few, if any for men on the basis of gender alone.  In fact, men’s health is still an emerging field of medicine that gets scarce attention.

To Prestons for ‘ Taste of Canada’  Comfort Food Menu

The official ‘Taste of Canada’ menu at Preston (CoastCoalHarbor) is an scrumptious way to salute and embrace some of the signature fares of other Provinces. Peace River Bison Carpaccio and Pierogies with crème fraiche of the Prairies; poutine and Montreal smoked meat of La Belle Province; lobster rolls and seafood chowder represent the Maritimes. Even the ‘Westcoast’ menu pays tribute to the beloved bannocks and the Island’s famous Nanaimo Bar. Great comfort food for the right season and reason!Taste of Canada - Maritime

To the new inductees of BC Restaurant Hall of Fame

The 9th Annual Awards saw some of my dear friends in the F&B industry going up the stage to collect one of the most prestigious awards in the province’s culinary world. 

To Julian Bond, a master chef of all trades; has put his distinctive marks in different corner stones of BC’s gourmet arena. One of the big-named chefs who introduced me to the fascinating arena of fine dining when Vancouver was about to make a huge splash in becoming N. America’s top cities to wine and dine, the very humble Julian who is every bit as passionate as day one when it comes to cooking, teaching and creating magic still impresses foodies like me!      

To Christine Coletta whom I’ve known since the mid-80’s when she started kicking up some serious ideas of making the then young and struggling BC wine industry work! This “Friend of the Industry who has provided exceptional support to the restaurant industry” should, if you ask me, be given a special ‘wine merit’ award!

To Joy Metcalfe whom I adored as a CKNW listener when I first entered the field and lucky enough to befriend when I become a media myself. Always warm and kind, Joy never ceases to show her genuine concern and support to everyone she meets! She is the most respected media personality who truly belongs to the community and any industry!   Joy Metcalfe - hall of famerTo Paul Smolen, the silent ‘giant’ who started his restaurateur life almost 4 decades ago, gives so much to the community but never claims credit in his work. Paul’s Hart House Restaurant also makes DeerLakePark a much more delicious place to relax and share a good time with friends and families.

Salutes also to the other inductees Ernst Dorfler, Caren McSherry, John Neate Jr., Wally Shaw, Sean Heather and Jeff Donnelly, for all your hard works and contributions to the restaurant industry and communities!

To the award-winning BC wines and wineries

Nk’Mip Cellars: One Gold winner (Qwam Qwmt Riesling Icewine 2012), three Silvers (Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir 2010, the Winemaker’s Merlot 2010, and the Winemaker’s Riesling 2011), and nine wines named as Winners (Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2011, Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2010, Qwam Qwmt Meritage 2009, Qwam Qwmt Merlot 2009, Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2010, Winemaker’s Pinot Blanc 2012, Winemaker’s Pinot Blanc 2011, and the Winemaker’s Riesling 2012) in the 2013 InterVin International Wine Awards and named as one of the competition’s Wineries of the Year for 2013. The results put Nk’Mip in the Top 10 overall for this year’s competition.

The Steller’s Jay 2008 Vintage Brut has been announced as a Gold Winner The popular B.C. sparkler. The 2008 Steller’s Jay Brut was one of only two Gold Medal winners in the category of nearly 50 entries, and the only traditional method sparkling bubble to strike gold at the prestigious 2013 InterVin International Wine Awards. 

Mission Hill Family Estate took on the best in the world and won top honours as ‘World’s Best Pinot Noir’ in the under 15 category at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London, England.  More than 14,000 wines from 61 regions around the world were entered in the competition in 2013. Mission Hill 2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir won a coveted International Trophy – the competition’s top award, the first time a single wine variety (red or white) from any region in the world has won both a Regional Trophy for ‘Best Wine’ and an International Trophy for ‘World’s Best Wine’ at the Decanter Awards.

Joie Farm won 3 golds – 2011 “En Famille” Reserve Chardonnay” at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards. The 2011 “En Famille” Reserve Gewurztraminer won the “Best in Class Gold Medal” at the 2013 Los Angeles International Wine Competition; and the PTG garnered another Gold Medal at the 2013 Riverside International Wine Competition.Mission Hill World's best Pinot Noir

Joie 2011 En Famille C + PN









To BC Liquor Stores’s ‘Best of BC’ release

Every year, BC Liquor Stores carefully selects a small collection of BC wines which are in limited supply and high demand. In the interest of fairness to all of their customers, the whole selection is released at once, and this year’s release takes place on Saturday, October 12, 2013 in SignatureBC Liquor Stores across BC. It’s ‘first-come, first served’, so BC wine fans are encouraged to hurry down and snap up the very best that our province has to offer.

The ‘Best of BC’ release and province-wide BC VQA in-store wine tastings. Enjoy a glass of your backyard bounty this month! For details, log onto www.winebc.com

Big River Brew Pub

front door  Brew Pub tower

Words: Henry Yuen (Chinese postings: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/259235/?variant=zh-hans )

Is it true that Vancouver doesn’t seem to have a vibrant beer culture? Not too long ago, selections were slim; big breweries were market dominators.  After much hair-pulling and tug-a-war challenges that took the micro-breweries a long time to be recognized, it gradually got the nod of the liquor distribution to cooperate new regulations. Like any new rules and regulations that hit the news desk, the development did make some head ways amongst corporate markets and public consumers, glad to say that most of them embraced the twist and the beer arena is noticeably much more attractive ever since.

Nowadays, no matter if they are trying to copy the blueprint of Portland or any other popular craft beer cities; or creating own waves, the brew masters are more adventurous. The microbrew culture has gained momentum and growing exponentially. There are an influx of  restaurants, lounges, pubs and clubs with extensive draught beer selections and serving different concoctions crafted by talented local brew masters. The good news is the public likes   it a lot! In fact, BC’s craft beer events and beer-pairing dinners are well attended. I have tasted beers with interesting flavours of bacon flavour, cucumber, chocolate and even cognac; quite often paired remarkably well with food.

What is the next step in the beer-crafting era? What other ingredients can be added? How far can it go? I supposed there is no right or wrong as long as the beers are sold and drinkers like them. However, there is certainly nothing more exciting than to drink a pint of draught ale or larger crafted not just with traditional ingredients but with care, attention and creative spirit!

A recent visit to Big River Brewery, the first and still the only brewery in Richmond, confirms the traditional way of brewing still appeals widely but the fun culture of craft beers is an important part of the game. Basically, good quality ingredients such as barley, hops, yeast and water is what you need. A tour of their facility right next to the brew pub reveals the importance of using good quality ingredients but it is the secret formula applied and the experience of the brew master that craft attractive and enticing beers.  Even with the same basic ingredients, the brew master’s unique craftsmanship and attention to details each step of the way renders different flavours, colours and weight.brew tanks

According to Big River’s brew master Michael Stewart, the simplest description without going through the technicality of the process seems easy to grasp. By comparing crafting beer to brewing coffee where water is process through those ingredients, he describes the basic steps and make-up of beer. But of course, the flavour, colour and taste of the beer to a certain extend is derived from how much the grain is roasted and the different hops and yeast used, and these are the decision of the brew master.

At Big River Brewery, a beer tasting session is not just possible but essential. You can take a look at their Daily Tap Sheet and order a flight of different sample sizes of draught beers all at once to compare the variances. From refreshing fruity aroma to smoky flavour; light to dark colour; clear to creamy; and to those when adding a wedge of lemon makes all the difference, along with the conversation from the bartender or the manager who love to explain and describe the contents of each glass, the experience is both educational and enjoyable!Craft Beer Tasting at River Brew PubThanks to the brewing facility which is a visual affirmation of their ‘craft beer’ distinction and the adjacent ‘Zone Bowl’ bowling alley where the young, the old, teams and families have a good time, BigRiver’s lounge and dining room is spacious and cozy.  Under the sun, the urban-style patio is another spectacular invitation. The interior setting and the craft beer program of Big River Brew Pub is a great alternative to some darkly-lit, shack-like neighbourhood pubs. A charming place to challenge or enhance your ‘beer’ palate while getting some insight into what beer crafting is all about!

Sure numerous beer drinkers still like a pint of traditional ale or larger, no more, no less. However, there are these brew masters who are passionate and creative; they not only try to stand out amongst the crowd in the energized beer platform, they also work hard to prove to themselves they can craft beers to the same level as wine-making. These folks have definitely contributed to the flipping to the new chapter in the beer industry!

Big River Brew Pub #180-14200 Entertainment Blvd. Richmond. 604-271-2739  http://www.zbowl.com          

Joie and her “Gold”

Joie 2011 En Famille C + PN

Words: Henry Yuen (Chinese postings: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans)

What are the impacts of winning awards time after time, especially at International competitions, to a winery?

The consequential effects are inevitably plenty and very positive; and most of the time, followed by direct and indirect financial gains!

Since the award itself is the essential and most convincing testament to the quality and drinkability of the awarded wine, the wine’s market ranking would naturally shoot up! The raised reputation potentially allows the wine to sell itself.  The wine, being in the much more recognized and desired position, can now command a higher price point. Quite likely, more wines bearing the same brand name will be sold.  It is the best window of opportunity to use the award as a marketing and promotional tool; not just on the award wine but the winery as well. Who does not fancy an award-achieving wine story? 

Winning an award is with no doubt a morale and motivational booster to the staff; an affirmation that the winery is heading in the right direction. Most of all, it’s the ultimate endorsement of the winemaker’s skill and the related viticulture practices of the winery.

Joie En Famille Gurwurtz 1This holds true for the wines from Joie Farm who has been constantly seen at the podium receiving awards. Their new tier of wines from 2011 is so impressive to the point that a Gold Medal is handed to them at the recent 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards; the wine – 2011 “En Famille” Reserve Chardonnay has been swept off the shelves. And it didn’t stop there! The 2011 “En Famille” Reserve Gewurztraminer also won the “Best in Class Gold Medal” at the 2013 Los Angeles International Wine Competition; and the PTG garnered another Gold Medal at the 2013 Riverside International Wine Competition. The triple ‘Gold’ is the best statement to the world and Joie so deserves them, even their entry level Gamay and Pinot Noir won various wine awards! Bear in mind that these are competition awards that speak solid volume instead of those merely recognition awards handed out by various wine related organizations.

The “En Famille” series, crafted with exceptional care by winemaker Heidi Noble, spent 10 months in barrel and a full year in bottle before release. According to her, “these small lots, low yield wines are a true expression of the Okanagan Valley’s finest with meticulous canopy work and stringent green thinning to produce grapes that render full phelonic ripeness and complex flavours; even though 2011 was a short growing season.” The judges all agreed!

Here are the gold grabbers:

Reserve Chardonnay: Before telling you the grapes were handled and selected handled with extreme care, it’s good to know wines made with grapes from these two sites (Okanagan Falls & Naramata) are no strangers to winning awards. Inspired by Heidi’s love of French wines, this beautifully-balanced Chardonnay lingers in your palate with meandering fruit notes of longan, dried honey dates and sugar apple. Pair it with Sauté prawns and scallops in a birds nest, Deep-fried spicy tofu or Pan-fried lightly-breaded pork chop with sauté onion.

Reserve Gewurztraminer: Floral and aromatic, this Gewurztraminer is laced with hints of star fruit and honeyed almond. The note of candied ginger that follows brings out the mild spicy layer. Pair this with Curry coconut pork or chicken, Seafood Laksa or even Satay.

PTG “Passe-Tout-Grains”: With equal share of Pinot Noir and Gamay harmonized together, this wine speaks great volume. The vitalizing red berry fruits mingle nicely with the underlining earthy and herbal hints. The slight spicy and smoky tones make this wine a good fit for dried-meat platters and barbequed fares. 

The Joie 2011 series of En Famille wines has just been released this September.  They are worth a trip to the liquor store. If you are a frequent shopper and happen to come across them, pick up one or more bottles. They will surely impress your wine cellar and your dinner guests.

This the season for apple picking and pumpkin hauling


Words and Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant=zh-hans

 If summer belongs to beaches and barbeques, autumn surely relates to farms and pumpkins!

“Take a closer look to this season’s festivals and feasts, aren’t they all about the fruits and vegetables our farmer-friends harvest around this time? What about those apples and pumpkins?” This was what my mom, a nature lover, used to say.petting zoo

Perhaps they are the reasons why kids love to go visit the farms, even in the rain. All they need to do is put rain gears on, and out to the farms they go, to pick the corns and pumpkins and sing along on hayrides. Oh, but adults, my mom for one, would find themselves having as much fun too! Their facial expressions, once surrounded by golden shades of yellows and browns, shining gourds, big and round pumpkins and hanging apples, are blissful!Pumpkins of all colour ans sizes

Now that my mom is no longer with us, so this time, it’s my sister and I who went to Fraser Valley to a magical place called Taves Family Farms in Abbotsford to re-live those carefree moments. With the help of a Google map, the 40-minute drive on Hwy#1 was very a pleasant prelude to what we’re about to encounter, probably because city slicers like us do treasure any excuses to leave work! This time more so since some U-pick actions at this popular family fun centre along with a corn maze, a bee hive, a jumping pillow, a petting zoo, pony rides and hayrides were waiting for us! 

The first pair to greet us were kind of sloppy and daring, but as friendly as expected. Even to young kids, as long as they keep their hands to themselves. The two big and tall llamas in their own gated home were surely handsome and cool, not bad at all for a couple hairy gate keepers!IMG_4582

 We picked up a site map at the entrance and were reminded to read the U-pick Policy at the back. Glad we did! Though we picked blueberries, picked hazelnuts and strawberries, but this was the first picking apples, any tips and guidance would help!

We have been eyeing the bins of pumpkins since we drove in. They were lining up along the driving path, at the entrance and further down the lane to the pumpkin patch. If you think pumpkin is pumpkin, think again! Those golden orange ones of all sizes and various round shapes are just the beginning.  There are bright red ones great for cooking, smaller yellow ones for baking and even white ones. What about Full Moon, Harvest Moon, Cinderella, Sugar, even Ghost for names? The task here – choosing which ones to haul home!

giant ghost pumpkiinscinderella pumpkins

After saying hello to the baby animals in the petting zoo and bumping our way through the corn maze, we decided to take a break and went into the shack where the bee hive and the apple cider machine located.  Farm fresh apple cider and garnished hot dog never taster any better!apple u-pickingAnd off to apple u-picking we went! The orchard, adorned by lines of apple trees where Alkmene, Honey Crisp and Fuji apples hung like Christmas lights, was extremely engaging. My sister started picking the first big apple she came across but did not take long to realize that many more were down the lane. My intention to pick my favourite kind – Fuji – was demolished instantly.  Let me assure you, any ripe and flawless apples you could pick from the tree with your own hands will be the best! Country store

With a bagful of apples and a drum-like red pumpkin in our hands, and big grins on our faces, we headed back to our car fully exercised and elated! Next time, we’re going to bring the whole family!

Taves Family Farms

333 Gladwin Road, Abbotsford. 604-853-3108   www.theapplebarn.ca





October Food and Wine Events


1) La Table – A series of French communal dinners designed to evoke sharing, conversation and a sense of community.

Where: Le Parisien 751 Denman St.Vancouver B.C.

When: The inaugural La Table Choucroute Night. Tuesday, October 1 at 6:30pm

This evening will take guests on a taste trip to the charming land of Alsace. Diners will gather around one single long table and share in tarte flambée, warm apple strudel, and choucroute; the epitome of Alsatian cuisine, combining hearty German fare with elegant French cooking. 

Dinner will be paired with Gentil from the House of Hugel. This wine revives an ancient Alsace tradition of combining noble grapes to create a refreshing and spicy wine with finesse and body. Dinner is priced at $65 inclusive of tax, gratuity and wine pairing (an eventbrite service charge will be added at the time of purchase).  

Tickets: http://www.leparisienchoucroutenight.eventbrite.com

2) WEEKLY CUPPINGS at 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

Where: 2902 Main Street at East 13th Avenue

Weekly coffee cuppings open to the general public. Coffee enthusiasts are invited to join the company’s staff to learn a little more about coffee sourcing and regions, and then do a comparative cupping with examples of 49th Parallel’s current offerings.
Cupping is a process that green coffee buyers, roasting teams and quality control groups use to determine quality and viability of a coffee. Where “tasting” is a more casual affair, cupping is a protocol with a 100-point scoring grade that systematically helps coffee professionals judge the quality of a coffee. The team at 49th Parallel cup at the roastery each morning to evaluate current production roasts. They also cup at origin with producing partners, again when a pre-shipment sample of a purchased coffee arrives, and also when a new shipment of coffee is received at the roastery.

When: 2 pm every Tuesday afternoon

Upcoming cupping on October 1: A rendezvous with Roya, also known as leaf rust. Talk about how this disease is affecting cup quality, and then cup unaffected and affected beans side-by-side so you can taste the difference.
Tickets: Must be purchased in advance at 49TH PARALLEL’S MAIN STREET CAFÉ 

3) Campagnolo presents Cerelia

Where: Campagnolo Restaurant – 1020 Main Street

An Italian celebration of harvest in honour of the final Main St. Station Farmers Market of the season. Guests are invited to gather around communal tables, and break bread with old and new friends while indulging in fresh finds, sourced that day, from the Main St. Station Farmers Market and a variety of other incredible suppliers. Produce will be harvested by local farmers which may include: Sapo Bravo Organics, Stoney Paradise Farm, Glorious Organics, UBC Farms,  Klippers Organic Acres, Sole Food Street Farms, Crisp Organics, Cropthorne Farm and Icecap Organics.

When: Wednesday, October 2. 6:30pm

Tickets are $59 plus Eventbrite service charge (tax and gratuity included). Beverages are an additional cost, but guests are invited to bring their own wine and the corkage fee will be waived. campagnolocerelia.eventbrite.com

4) Fraser Valley Food Show

Where: Tradex, Abbotsford

When: Friday-Sunday, October 4-6, 2013
The 6th annual Fraser Valley Food Show celebrates Oktoberfest with the 2nd Great Canadian Sausage Making Competition, 11th annual Master Chef Competition, and at least nine breweries and beer distributors participating in the popular Wine, Beer & Spirits Tasting Pavilion. The show features over 100 exhibitors in the food & beverage industry – many offering products from the Fraser Valley – as well as celebrity chef demonstrations, competitions, menu sampling, and tasting seminars.

a, 2nd annual Great Canadian Sausage-Making Competition 

When: October 5 : Sampling for the first 500 visitors takes place Saturday, October 5 at 11:30am. The sampling fee is 4 tasting tickets (or $2 each) and includes a glass of Erdinger Gluten-Free beer for adults aged 19 and older.

b. The 11th annual Master Chef Competition finals

When: Sunday, October 6 

Information and tickets: www.fraservalleyfoodshow.com 

5) Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, 2013

A 10-day celebration of earthly delights.

When: October 4th to October 14

Where: Various location

This is the only festival of it’s kind in North America, which is held during the grape harvest time. With over 165 events throughout the entire Okanagan wine region, it is the largest Okanagan wine festival.

It is also one of the best festivals to experience vineyard tours, lunches, dinners, unique events and the fall wine harvest celebrations. Events are focused on gourmet wine, food, arts and education.

Tickets & Information: DSCN0876






6) Tasting Plates Event

Where: West 4th (from Burrard to Vine),

When: Sunday October 6th, from 4-9pm

The event will feature Romers Burgers, O5 Rare Tea Bar and 6 more restaurants (to be announced soon.)

Tickets and details at http://tastingplateswest4th.eventbrite.com/
twitter @Vanfoodster and the event series @TastingPlates

Tasting Plates

7) BC Beer Awards & Festival

Where: Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive.

When: October 19, 1 – 6pm

The signature consumer tasting event of BC Craft Beer Month, it features both the craft beer festival and the BC Beer Awards ceremony. it features both the craft beer festival and the BC Beer Awards ceremony. The overall mandate of the BC Beer Awards is to celebrate excellent beer, judging each hand-produced, artisanal beverage on its own merits. Craft Brewers across the province are well-known for their innovation and creativity, something that the BCBA organizers are keen to help honour. 

 Craft Beer Tasting at River Brew Pub

Irish Heather Long Table series

New this year is the Hops Connect Hops Class, led by Danny Seeton, Education Liaison from CAMRA Vancouver. The one-hour session, which takes place the same day from 11am-12noon, will include samples, demonstrations and a Q&A with industry experts. Tickets for the Hops Class are only $10 per person, and only 50 tickets will be available.

Another new offering includes a unique VIP package for up to six guests. For $400 (+ tax), join a beer expert on a 90-minute fully-guided tour through the most interesting craft beer in BC. The package includes priority admission, tasting glasses and a custom tasting guidebook, tokens for all beer sampled on the tour, plus additional tokens for use within the remainder of the festival.

Tickets: $35 (+tax) exclusively via http://bcba2013.eventbrite.ca.

For more information, please visit BCBeerAwards.com or follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

8) Harrison Hot Spring Craft Beer Month

With three must-attend events over two days: Cask Night, Harrison Beer Festival and Oktoberfest Dance.

Where: Harrison Hot Springs

When: Friday, October 25th and Saturday, October 26th

Friday: Cask Night, a fun night of song and games with a warm and friendly British pub feel complete with evening piano music. Saturday, October 26th, beer aficionados will compare the finest crafted beers in BC (and one Ontario participant) at the Harrison Beer Festival. Saturday evening, the celebrations continue with the traditional Oktoberfest Dance.
Tickets start at $18.  Admission includes a complimentary sampling glass and three free tasting tokens. For information and tickets, please visit the Harrison Beer Festival website. http://www.tourismharrison.com

9) The Irish Heather Long Table Series

212 Carrall Streeet, Vancouver. www.irishheather.com

When: Every Sunday and Monday, 7pm

A dining event on a 40ft communal table that sits 40, friends and/or strangers! Guests get a meal and a beer in a communal setting, for $16. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free diets available.

Reservation: reso@irishheather.com