A cocao bean story and my night at Winnowing Wednesday with @EastVanRoasters

Tonight I went to Winnow Wednesday at EastVanRoasters. It was a great foodie experience all about chocolate and helping a social enterprise at the same time. I discovered this event via a @ScoutMagazine Tweet:

And later read Mia Stainsby’s review of the shop in her Vancouver Sun article.

I signed up instantly.

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Cream and Sugar, yes please!

Cream and Sugar

Cream and Sugar

Here is a sweet new blog I recently discovered, called CreamandSugar.ca. They have a creative concept, not to mention a fabulous title,  where two bloggers, with two different lifestyles, from two different cities collide under one URL sharing their love of food.  One blogger is from Edmonton, who brings the sugar, and the other is from Vancouver, and brings the cream. Sweet.

I just saw the heavenly looking post titled salted white chocolate oatmeal cookies – I know what I’m baking next!

And I particularly love Cream’s “solo suppers beyond cereal” series, and Sugar’s “dinner for two and a half” series.  Brilliant posts, and their titles are catchy. The fun dual content, great photos and array of recipe ideas makes this food blogging tale of two cities worth bookmarking…

PS. These ladies Facebook and Tweet too!

#18 – An Original Wine Blog to Start Your Week

It’s Monday again. Hmm.

Depending on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person, you could be reminiscing about the lovely weekend you just enjoyed and likely included some wine? Or perhaps you are really feeling the heat of your Monday and have begun counting down to your next wine-time…

But then there are others who enjoy wine on a routine basis, regardless of the day of the week: as true aficionados and connoisseurs, like this blogger, who confesses to enjoying wine almost daily.  I think there is nothing wrong with that because it is, after all, all about the moderation.

This brings me to blog share #18, which I felt should cover the beverage side of our food scene in Vancouver.  Because naturally, food pairs frequently with wine and with wine being a whole other world of it’s own outside food – there is a lot of information to consume.  And if you are like me,  you may not know as much about wine as food, so it is helpful to have more educated people to follow on the topic, like Sean Calder – host of Vinifico.

VINIFICO, is a magnificent wine blog, based in Vancouver. Yes, a blog purely about wine, and some food too.  The name of this blog alone is a tasty one, I am a fan of the puns myself, so I cannot help but appreciate other pun-makers.  Blogging since 2005, Sean has hosted Vinifico and describes his blog as his online wine journal – with contributions from his friend Graham here and there.

Follow Vinifico and you are in for some fantastico-pours, bites, and wine event updates.  And like many trendy bloggers, Sean is on twitter too.

 

Vinifico - Vancouver Wine Blog

Vinifico - Vancouver Wine Blog

 

#12 – A Samantha Jones Food Blogging Experience

Yes. Really, a Samantha Jones food blogging experience, which for me parallels to the scene in Sex & The City 2, when Samantha meets Miley on the red carpet and they are caught wearing the same dress! Gasp! Granted the angle the movie took was more about Samantha dressing age-appropriate, but on another level it was still a fashion faux-pas experience. What do you when you are expected to have your own look, and you look the same?

Same dress, same shoes, same blog look – whatever your fashion medium may be, it is your look but when someone else has the same look, what does one do?  In the blogging world, there are a finite number of looks to dress your blog in for those at the mercy of  wordpress or blogspot designs (until one day you can branch out and hire a creative team to rebrand your site).

In my recent food blog scene research, I have now come across more than one  blog with the same look as Beyond The Dough – and all are also Vancouver based bloggers. Perhaps purely a case of great minds thinking a like, but at first I did not know how to react. Should I share them or try to change my look?  Personally, I feel the look of one’s blog is an important image – like hosting guests in your home – you  want to be inviting and encourage people to return.

Today, I choose to embrace my fellow food bloggers and their fabulous content – just as Miley and Samantha chose to do, gracefully. One dress can be worn in many different ways, just as a blog can.

Each of these Vancouver foodies have been blogging longer than myself and each has a different story to tell, with a different angle to the food scene than myself, and with great content of photos and stories. We each share two things in common 1) a clean contemporary blog look and 2) we are each based in Vancouver and love sharing about the food here!

For my blog or bust challenge post #12, check out each of these Vancouver Food blogging divas, in no particular order:

#12A – The Well Tempered Chocolatier – I met this food blogger in August at a food tasting event. She writes on ‘the science of sweet things’, and has been blogging since 2006!

#12B – Vancouver Good – I also met this food blogger at the same August event, her blog happens to cover ‘all things good about Vancouver for visitors and locals’ and naturally includes alot of food! Angie’s blog is organized conveniently so you can find what you want – like a local food / travel directory.

#12C – Ethnic Eats – On covering Tiny Bites yesterday, I learned this blogger is one of their contributors as well. Degan Beley not only hosts her own blog, Ethnic Eats, but contributes to a few other food blogs around town as well. Her Ethnic Eats site includes good eats, cheap eats, photos and and array of menu diversity – as Vancouver’s food scene offers. Her style is very captivating too.

#10 & #11 Finding Tiny Bites & Casual Baking in Vancouver

To wrap up the long weekend, and double up on my blogs (in lieu of missing yesterday, due to giving thanks) here are a couple more quality sites to add to the Vancouver food blog repertoire in my blog or bust challenge include TINY BITES and the CASUAL BAKER.

#10 – Tiny Bites is a blog lead by one, Karen Hamilton, with two additional contributors. Karen is  a women after my own heart, as her blog encourages local tourism and helping Vancouverites decide what to ‘bite’ on. The blog is another award-winning site in the food blogging community – check it out!

Screen shot of Tiny Bites food blog

Tiny Bites food blog

#11 – Casual Baker, is sweet blog written by Sheena, a Vancouver women with a self proclaimed penchant for sweets – bake on my fellow foodie! Her blog is simply baking, since 2006, and covers an array of recipes, handy to have in your shortcuts toolbar as a cookbook in your virtual library (She even has a recipe index – convenient!). Her stories paired with the recipes are great, sometimes including music video YouTube links and other fun-interesting parallels.

Her photography is rustic reflecting the baking and recipes; looking oh so tastefully homemade. I would definitely support this casual baker if passed in a farmer’s market.

Casual Baker food blog

Casual Baker food blog

#9 – Good Life Vancouver

 

Good Life Vancouver web shot

Good Life Vancouver home page preview from today.

 

There are so many ways to find new information these days, it is quite overwhelming, and all of the blogs I share with you I have found through a variety of resources. But tonight, as the rain beats down here in North Vancouver, and I search for a festive dessert recipe for my Thanksgiving weekend, I write to you about a Twitter foodie blog find for today’s Blog or Bust post #9.

Good Life Vancouver is a blog that covers Vancouver and beyond – it is a large site that is well designed and fun to poke around on. The navigation bar includes fun headers like Cook, Dine Out, Drink, Events, Taste, or Travel, making it easy to find what you want fast.

The author, Cassandra Anderton quotes in her ABOUT page that she is a “freelance wine, food and travel writer and broadcaster.  Cassandra appears regularly on Breakfast Television, can be heard on The Shore 104.3 and has been published in The Vancouver Sun, Western Living, BC Wine Trails Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Northwest Palate, EAT Magazine and Concierge Quarterly….”

As a local food & wine guru, Cassandra is clearly abreast of the ‘Good Life’ in Vancouver and shares to us all. Thanks Cassandra – great site!

By the way, I just found the recipe I want to make: Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake from Martha Stewart… Stay tuned!

#7 – A Vancouver Legacy in the Armoury District

About six years ago I worked at my first major food event, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, and it was an amazing experience. The wine fest, as it’s affectionately known to Vancouverites – who actually know about the festival, was an amazing experience then and has been each year I’ve returned as a consumer. It comes around once a year in the early spring at the convention centre downtown, look for the 2011 festival.

It was at this festival that I learned many things about Vancouver’s food and wine scene – including exposure to many of Vancouver’s industry personalities. One of which is Barbara-Jo McIntosh, who has opened a cook book story in 1997 and has been growing every since. Her store,  Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks, is located in the Armoury District (a known design district area of Vancouver just south of downtown) – originally she opened in Yaletown.

 

Barbara-Jo McIntosh

Barbara-Jo McIntosh, Photo by Tracey Kusiewicz, www.EATMagazine.ca

 

She was recently inducted to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame, as a Friend of the Industry, and is incredibly well known in Vancouver and beyond for inspiring culinary enthusiasts of all levels and sharing cooking lessons and events in her store.

Well, Barbara-Jo also has a blog, which is my Blog or Bust #7 share, called Cooks with Books. It is staff-authored and includes recipe reviews from their favourite cookbooks – high quality content. And **secret** if you purchase a book referenced in her blog, there is a discount offered: see their blog home page for more information.

If you’re in the area, visit her store because she has helped put Vancouver on the map as a food city. If you are anything like me, you could be her store for days…

What is your favourite cookbook?

Baker’s Market: A Sweet Find in South Vancouver (with #4)

Connie at Bakers Market

Connie, founder of the Baker's Market, staff's her own booth on opening market day.

This past Saturday the Vancouver Baker’s Market reopened for it’s second fall season, after opening last year. It will now be open every Saturday from now to December, 11am – 3pm; and although it’s a bit of a trek to get to in South Vancouver, it is worth the trip!

Connie started the Baker’s market last year, and is excited about kicking off another season of local bakers. “Every week we get different vendors, so you gotta come every week to check it all out,” she said amongst the buzz of the market.

Buttercup Cake Design at Baker's Market

Buttercup Cake Design at Baker's Market

The opening Saturday vendor’s included our friend Amanda Goats, local pastry chef, who I chatted with a few months ago and has since launched her own business: Buttercup Cake Design.  Amanda will be at the market every Saturday this fall, and is just one of many fun vendors on display.

Miss Mandy’s Sweet Treats, selling mini bundt cakes and home made chocolates, is another vendor at the market and sold out quickly.  Damien’s Belgian Waffles, real Belgian waffles, in many flavours and even chocolate covered were heavenly to sample.  Other vendors included fresh baked bread, cupcakes, cookies, mini-pies, and much more.

Damien's Waffles on display at Baker's Market

Damien's Waffles on display at Baker's Market, white chocolate covered in bottom right - rich & yummy!

The vendor list is available on the market website, but be sure to arrive early because the fresh baked goods move quickly!

There were approximately 12 vendors on Saturday and 10 new vendors will join this coming Saturday – making it a tight squeeze with all the more to feast your fall sweet-tooth on!

Connie had a minute to spare while staffing her own booth at the market, so I could ask about the market’s beginning.

How did the Baker’s Market start? Basically I love baking, and my friends got tired of eating my stuff. And I really felt that there are so many talented people out there who want to share their products, so instead of giving it away I thought we could try a central location where people can share their love of baking.

Baker's Market Guest Book table

Baker's Market even has a Guest Book table with fun fridge magnets!

BLOG OR BUST #4: GOURMET FURY!

The Gourmet Fury is another great Vancouver Food Blog, who also happened to cover the spring season of the Baker’s Market earlier this year.  Although I first learned about Melody Fury, the author, earlier in my summer of blogging. Then, she had just covered solid ground during the Winter Games through her posts with videos, photos, and recipes as part of her culinary tourism angle.

Melody is also the founder of Vancouver Food Tour; and has an accolade of coverage and awards already for her quality food blogging. As another great foodie to follow, Melody continues to validate Vancouver as a quality place to eat. She eats and Tweets, and is a fun follow – enjoy Gourmet Fury!

The Rational Experience of a Corporate Chef with Dwayne Botchar

Every time I dine in a restaurant, if I can, I always glance through the kitchen window – where dishes wait to be served, and the restaurant’s front and back of house teams connect.  It fascinates me to see how others operate in kitchens; I think life in a professional kitchen may easily be my Pandora’s box.

Fortunately, as I journey Beyond The Dough, meeting people like Dwayne Botchar help me piece together real kitchen experiences from a distance.

Dwayne is a trained Chef with over 33 years of industry experience.  Now, he sits on the board of directors of the BC Chef’s Association and is a Corporate Chef and Regional Sales Manager for Rational-Canada – an international company that manufactures specialty kitchen equipment, specifically, combi steamer ovens.

Dwayne Botchar

Dwayne Botchar in between meetings in downtown Vancouver.

Due to frequent business travel, Dwayne’s office is mobile, so we met in downtown Vancouver, at Café Artigiano.  Among the barista buzz and café chatter, I tuned in to learn about combi ovens, kitchen life, and some food philosophy.

“Being in a kitchen is very difficult. There is a lot of stress – a lot of stress. Especially working on the line, which is where everything happens.  It’s very stressful. Would I like to work on the line again? I don’t think so. Would l like to have my own kitchen again? Maybe,” said Dwayne, after I asked if he missed being in a professional kitchen setting.

Later he also added, “It is a very difficult industry. Everyone says look at this great restaurant, great food, and this Chef is famous; he must be rich, etc. It’s not like that. The average salary of the average Chef, is a lot of work for little pay.”

Although he does not work directly in a kitchen anymore, he said, “I don’t have to miss anything really, I still get to do everything I like to do. I cook at home, I volunteer with the Chef’s association and we’re always cooking and doing things. I don’t feel I lack in that area. I could get my hands as dirty as I want, as we say.”

On working for Rational, Dwayne shared that the company only hires Chefs and the oven was also originally designed by a Chef. Among the fun facts I learned about their product line, I was most impressed to hear 95% of kitchens in Europe use them, compared to a mere 10% in Canada. Dwayne said, “we’re about 5-10 years behind Europe in that regard”.

Rational Self Cooking Center

Rational's Self Cooking Center product line. Source: Rational-Canada

What do you enjoy about this role vs. being in a kitchen? There are several things. First and foremost, the machine is an amazing tool and it actually can save time in the kitchen, so it can make a chef’s life easier. One of the reasons I like this company is because I can actually help cooks like myself to breathe a littler easier at end of the day, have more time for creativity, more time to train staff and manage production much simpler. The other reason is I can now have long weekends and holidays…. When you’re out eating that’s when we [Chefs] are in business.

Where do you recommend going for dinner in Vancouver? Well do you have a lot of paper? [pause] A fun and interesting place to go to is SALT.  It’s a great little place, like going to a French charcuterie…. There are tons of places though, the Chef [Jean-George] at the new Shangri-La’s Market is fantastic, and smaller places like Cioppino’s are great.

I could tell he wanted to list dozens more, but then he added, “There is a place I bring people to all the time. It’s a burger joint, but it has the single best view in the entire city.  The Galley at Jericho Sailing Club…has a 160-degree view of everything from English bay all the way over to Vancouver Island…The food is fantastic. The Chef there is solid.”

As we wrapped up, I was left with a bit of food philosophy, “Vancouver really is a great place for food. It really is. Food, besides the obvious that you have to eat to survive, as humans, we have taken it to a whole other level – its an experience now.”

He added with strong conviction, “And food is social. You can break down more barriers of multiculturalism through food, than you can of any other method. When people sit down and break bread together, you learn about customs and so much happens. What happens around the table is what matters.”

As we walked away from the table to go our separate ways, I felt like our conversation definitely mattered.

PC Confections opening soon by Paul Croteau

Paul and team prepping the tasting plates.

Paul and team prepping the tasting plates.

Not too long ago, I sat down to a Refuel table with some fellow Vancouver food bloggers, where two small plates of decadent sweets – also known as mignardises – were presented to us.

The sweets are the work of Paul Croteau, a pastry chef at Refuel, who also runs the pastry program at Campagnolo Restaurant, which is the production kitchen for Paul’s debut high-end confectionery, PC Confections.

PC Confections

PC Confections, first plate.

My inner child was forced to hold back from devouring all the sweets in one continuous motion as Paul began the tour, complete with his Quebec French accent and bits of broken English.

“Our main confection is the macaron, we have seven flavours right now, and we’re going to have more” he began. With, “a sweet breakfast this morning… [your] front plate from left to right, it’s a good balance, it will not destroy your palate”

The first, a passion fruit jelly, he explained how it was made and as we tasted the first light jelly bite silence found room along with several

smiles. “The passion fruit is very bright, you can see the flavour go through all the sugar. Next is the raspberry jelly. It tastes more like a jam… but its pretty good. They come together in the packaging, nice accompaniment to each.”

Paul Croteau

Paul Croteau leading the tasting tour of his work.

Nougat was next, “basically egg white with cooked honey and then we add cooked sugar. …it’s hard and soft in texture, with hazelnut, almond, pistachio, cocoa nibs, and covered with chocolate.…to protect the nougat”

Onward to the almond Florentine square – served untraditionally on a sweet dough with a subtle candied grapefruit flavour. He said, “I think it’s my favourite!”

Crackles of parchment unwrapping in the room revealed next, “The little candy is a soft salted caramel, like a caramel but very very soft and very buttery. It’s almost same amount of sugar and butter. And we add cream a little bit. It’s salty a little bit, so it comes through very nice”

We finished the first plate with the grignotines, “…hazelnut caramelized, with salt, and then covered with chocolate, and finished with cocoa powder. It’s very nice when you watch a movie you can eat them instead of popcorn, I like to do that – sometimes.” He smiled and we laughed.

Paul's Macarons

Paul's Macarons

My sugar buzz began to peak, but I forged on with pleasure to the next plate of macarons – French almond meringue sandwich cookies with seasonal flavoured ganache fillings. From vanilla

pistachio, to salted caramel, to chocolate, the light heaven bites of macaron crumble at first in your mouth and then simply melt away. “The

finish should always have a nice sheen to it, and be soft inside with a light crumbly soft texture outside. That’s the sign of a good quality macaron,” he said and I believe him because he makes up to 1000 of them each week!

PC Confection Macarons

PC Confection Macarons, plate two.

What makes Macarons so tricky? Pretty much everything. First the egg whites need to be a little bit old. It’s easier to whisk a good strong meringue. Then, this technique…the temperature of the oven, how long you have to cook them, and then the packaging [or they break]. …So it’s a long process.

Why are they more popular out west now? They are so popular in Paris.  In New York they started maybe 5 years ago, in Montréal started maybe two to three years ago. Everyone loves macarons. They are delicate, very nice texture and flavour of it. I hope that in Vancouver we are going to have the same trend.

PC Confections packaging

PC Confections packaging

What is your favourite macaron? The caramel one. I love doing the ganache but its too sweet for me. Yesterday I was cutting [almond] Florentines in the squares and I ate all the edges; and as I was wrapping the caramels, I ate a few of them too! So I go for run too.

A sweet guy with a sweet job, check out Paul Croteau’s PC Confections coming soon to 1020 Main Street.

PaulCroteau1

Paul Croteau, photo credit: PC Confections