Home for the Holidays!

With December less than 48 hours away, here is the holiday segment from The Express Vancouver at the Dirty Apron Cooking School (the clip begins 7mins in).

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Happy Holidays!

Dirty Apron: a Vancouver Foodie Bucket List Must!

Dirty Apron Cooking School

Dirty Apron Cooking School: 540 Beatty Street, Crosstown, Vancouver BC

I joined a mini-class at Vancouver’s Dirty Apron Cooking School for an upcoming SHAW TV holiday segment, and I certainly felt like a culinary pro! Their cooking school is designed to make everyone feel that way – be a kitchen pro for a day.

First we received a lesson from the Chef on how to make a fun holiday-entertaining appetizer – then we made the same recipe ourselves using their kitchen stations.

My experience was incredibly fun and I dub this a Vancouver Foodie Bucket List must!

The classroom set up reminded me of being in highschool home-ec class, with the demonstration mirrors above the Chef station, and the personal instruction provided to us as we made the recipe on our own.

Learning new things in the kitchen is a top pass-time of mine, and here I learned some new basic knife skills and techniques for preparing the recipe ingredients – I loved every minute of the class. The surroundings were professional and it felt like we were on a food tv set: I was giddy over the gourmet kitchen experience!

Kitchen classroom work stations

Kitchen classroom work stations

Once the Chef’s interactive cooking demonstration was complete, we manned our stations to find everything portioned out for the recipe – just like on tv! Each station is equipped with all necessary tools, pans, and fun kitchen accessories.

My heart raced with excitement as we began by cutting our onions for caramelization. I’ve chopped an onion dozens of times before, at home, but here it became an adrenalin rush for me – I am an foodie-anomaly though!  I was excited to be in the kitchen setting, fitted with my apron and hand towel tucked into my side – we cooked up a storm! And then we feasted!

My first puffed pastry tart, after the first bite:

Savoury goats cheese pesto puff pastry tart

Savoury goats cheese pesto puff pastry tart - garnished with rocket, tomatoes, cheese, walnuts, and drizzle of olive oil.

A tasty tart - perfect for holiday entertaining.

A tasty tart - perfect for holiday entertaining with rich colours of green and red...

At the Dirty Apron Cooking School you’ll WATCH, LEARN, COOK, EAT, and really HAVE FUN! I recommend their classes are for everyone, and they make great gifts too because anyone can participate : from amateurs to culinary-enthusiasts!

Stay tuned at Shaw Express for their holiday entertaining segment from the Dirty Apron Cooking School.


#28 – A Day in the Life of a Vancouver Food Blogger

@Sherman38

Photo credit: @Sherman38

“Wherever there is food I will go and eat it – I just think food is great wherever you find it.”

On Monday Sherman will celebrate two years of food blogging in Vancouver. A Teacher by day who never thought he’d have time to blog, soon found himself blogging daily and capturing a hearty audience with Sherman’s Food Adventures.  He now sits atop the UrbanSpoonVancouver Blog Leader Board. His then to now story is a humble one all the way, as I learned when we met recently.

Do you blog full time? No, it’s just my hobby still.

How did it start? We would go out and eat after [hockey] and I would Tweet or Facebook that I’m at this restaurant.  Then people would say, ‘hey Sherman, why don’t you tell us more about the food you’re eating?” But I wasn’t really into it. I just liked eating and taking pictures. One teammate continued to bug me about it, saying you like it, so you should write about it. I said, I’m busy I have a full time job, a family, there is no way I can do this. People kept pestering me, then, I signed up for an account. I wrote one post… The writing was simple… I posted it up, and a few more posts. Then, finally I got my first comment!

Were you promoting your blog? No …I thought, someone is reading this other than my friends? Like Julie & Julia. Then I’d write some more, and I started carrying a better camera around. I don’t know when it happened, but it became that I wanted to do it, I wanted to do it better, and so I did.

Which of your posts generate the most activity? The posts that I get the most hits on are for La Charcuterie, it’s just this sandwich shop in Port Kells [Surrey] with this sandwich guy called the Sandwich Nazi who berates his customers. The sandwiches are ok, they are good value; I guess people want to experience ‘the Sandwich Nazi’. Other than that, a lot of trendy restaurants from tourists and people looking for the hot spots in town.

Do you follow other bloggers? You have to, because no one person can follow everything. I guess that’s why people read blogs in general, because I want new ideas to eat out too. I can’t drive around and try everything. I’ll read other blogs and if it looks good I’ll check it out…to confirm it, or dispel if it is bad. I’ve met a lot of other bloggers too…we are sort of like a little community.

Describe an average blogging day? I generally blog about every meal. Blogging used to be a lot busier, but now I’ve built up a bank of posts…  Before work was busy, I would intentionally go out to eat after work and meet up with some other bloggers. Go home. Download photos. Post-process them. Maybe write the article, maybe not, if I’m tired, I won’t. Refer to my notes… Sometimes, I wouldn’t be done until 2am.

[On posting schedules] Some of them I post right away, strike the coal while it’s hot. Like some of these new food carts, people want to know about them. If I leave it to two months later it will be old. So I post it right away.

Have you tried many of the food carts? Yes I have been to a few of them. The best one I’ve been to is Re-Up BBQ: it’s a pulled pork sandwich. It’s right near the art gallery. For what it’s worth, it’s really good. Obviously someone from down south might think otherwise, but we are in Vancouver….  It’s good, it’s $6 and it’s filling.

Are most of your adventures in Vancouver? Mostly Vancouver, I traveled a lot prior to blogging – I wish I started [blogging] earlier. …But I do blog about restaurants when I’m out of town. Recently I came back from Portland in August, there are some really good restaurants down there, it is very eclectic.

What did you like in Portland? I went to a place that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pine State Biscuits. They just make biscuits. There is one called the Reggie, it is a biscuit, a piece of fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, and option of a fried egg with country gravy. It puts the double down to shame. But it’s delicious. You can’t get that here.

Pine State Biscuits: The Reggie

Pine State Biscuits: The Reggie

Do you cover a diverse range when eating out? I like anything. From the dives to the best restaurant in town. To Langley, to downtown, to the North Shore, to Abbotsford. Wherever there is food I will go and eat it – I just think food is great wherever you find it.

We wrapped up talking about an industry event we both had recently attended. We agreed how it is nice to meet the people (i.e. chefs) behind the scenes, he added, “You know what is surprising about Vancouver: you walk into Bishop’s and John Bishop greets you, you walk into Vij’s and Vikram Vij greets you, you walk into Cioppino’s and Pino is cooking in the kitchen. You don’t get a lot of that in some of the other cities…  Every time I’ve been to these restaurants, they are there; and that provides a personal touch that they really do care about their business and are there for their customers.”

Sherman is a genuine foodie through and through! A delight to talk to, and is well known in the food blogging community. He’s even joining some fellow bloggers at a food blog convention in San Francisco soon. I kind of wish I was going too…

Sherman's Food Adventures

Blog or Bust Share #28: Sherman's Food Adventures

Your Quay to Great Soup with Ralf Dauns

The Soupmeister

The Soupmeister store front sign in Lonsdale Quay Market.

As the heat wave passes over Vancouver, back to school hovers around the corner. Inevitably cooler weather will soon follow, and your iced café becomes an extra hot latte and your salad becomes a soup! While it may not be what you crave on a hot day now, a hearty bowl of soup is a serious staple for fall eating.

But soup takes time, so you can count on your local Soupmeister in North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay to dish up the best of the best every time because its all done in house.

Ralf Dauns at work. Photo credit: Soupmeister.ca

Ralf Dauns at work. Photo credit: Soupmeister.ca

This serious soup expert was born, raised, and educated at Masters level in Germany and has now been in soup business in Vancouver for more than 15 years. Ralf Dauns, recently expanded his market location in January 2010 to include more kettles than ever – allowing up to five different soups prepared and served each day during their peak months (September to May).

So before the soup season kicks into high gear, I sat down with Ralf across from his shop in the market, to learn more about his experience, great soup, and a bit about community…

What are your most popular soups? We have a few staples like clam chowder, seafood chowder, Italian wedding. …Some soups fall out of favour and some come back or some ingredients are not available. [It also depends on] the market price, usually the higher the price the lower the quality – so you want to make good quality.

What is your favourite? I like soups with beans and meat, for example, the Sicilian connection: prawns, sausage meat, different beans, a little parmesan cheese, its almost like a chili.  It depends on the time of year and what mood you are in.

Do you oversee every batch of soup? Yes. Between [my sous chef] and me we taste the soup.  Sometimes we bring in the younger guys as well, to taste, so they understand when you add this, they see what makes the difference.

After being in the business this long, what inspires you to make soup now? Number one, as my friend also says, I really love to cook. …And the other thing is the satisfaction you get from all the variety of customers. You get customers of all ages and backgrounds. Then I run into somebody who used to come here as a kid. 89% of our customers are regulars.

Many of your staff are local kids, do you have apprenticeships? Not directly the cooking part, but I try to teach them work ethic, and a bit more independent thinking. …I’m not a big fan of writing a list of what to do all day, like franchise style. There are so much structures everyone has these days, so I give them room to grow and have some creativity – it’s a bit harder that way [laughs], but its better in the end.

Outside the market, what is your favourite place to eat? At Home [laughs] …I don’t go out very much, but if we do go out for a fancy dinner we usually go to Le Crocodile downtown – it’s very traditional French, and very consistent.

One of the Soupmeister's daily menu lists.

One of the Soupmeister's daily menu lists.

Lastly, what is the key to good soup? Main thing is a good stock. If you don’t have a good stock then it gets really tough. Then you have to have fresh quality ingredients. You can’t rush a soup. Soup is not something you can make by weighing things out all the time because your ingredients taste different all the time…. The main thing is a good stock, good ingredients, and time. You have to put some TLC in there or its not going to happen.

____________

This serious soup master enjoys what he does and has taken soup to a fine art level.  His soup has become a staple in the community, and that is heart warming in itself.  During our chat, Ralf said, “what I like about it too, it’s become part of the community,” he pointed out a customer at the counter and continued, “his dad used to come here and now he comes here,” you could tell he was proud, and with good reason – it’s more than just soup, it’s soup with a community story.

Almost at Home with Pastry Chef Wendy Boys

Pastry Chef Wendy Boys and Sous Chef Martin Roussel

Pastry Chef Wendy Boys and Sous Chef Martin Roussel make an entertaining pair and a great five course meal too.

Inside Vancouver’s very own Granville Island Market lies a hidden gem of a culinary experience that all foodies simply must delight in – EdibleBC Market Dinners.  After meeting with Eric Pateman, I returned to experience one of his private market dinners hosted by Pastry Chef Wendy Boys.

Shortly after market closing, we were taken to EdibleBC’s retail location inside the market, which transforms at night into a kitchen set for demonstrations.  A black linen table was set with silver and glassware, suggesting formal dining, but it was a casual affair set in the aisle next to shops closed for the night.

Second course

Second course: Local spot prawns, spring greens, grapefruit, pea shoot salad

Informative EdibleBC staff explained the evening’s format, encouraged us to interact and ask questions, and then turned our attention to the main event: Pastry Chef Wendy Boys and her Sous Chef Martin Roussel.

The final two courses

Fourth course, left: Chocolate Mousse with Cocolico sponge toffee awaiting warm caramel foam topping

What followed were five amazing courses created by Wendy, made with ingredients either from within the market, her garden,or her chocolate business. Each course demonstrated right before us as if on a TV set but we could smell the ingredients. The food not only looked amazing, but after seeing exactly how it was prepared it heightened the experience.  It was so casually interactive as well, that I almost felt at home with Wendy.

Fifth Course

Fifth course: Macaroons & Mignardise (second from right her signature vanilla salted caramel)

Known for her signature vanilla salted caramels, the dessert course was certainly a climactic finish. Adding to the feast of an experience, all guests were given copies of each recipe served to try at home, and photos from the evening were emailed to us the next day.

As the night began to wrap up, I was able to briefly chat with Wendy about her background and Cocolico.  When she moved to Vancouver, she was already an established and trained pastry chef with over six years of restaurant experience in Calgary and Montreal, she wanted to try catering and began working at the Lazy Gourmet. “But then the restaurant drew me back,” she said, and worked for another six years in restaurants, including working with Chef Rob Feenie at Lumiere. Later in 2009, she started Cocolico.

What’s the inspiration behind the name of your company? Funny story, I was looking for a name for a long time actually. My company name is Wendy Boys Chocolates Inc. and I thought it was boring, I wanted something more whimsical.  …My favourite word always when I was a kid was coquelicot, a French word which means poppy seed. I always thought it was fun to say, but most Anglophones can’t pronounce it, so we anglo and chocolisized it to Cocolico!”

Is your background mostly French then? I went to French immersion; I’ve always had an interest in French. Then I stuck with it and moved to Quebec, became bilingual, and moved to France. French has always been a big influence for me, and I’ve always worked in French kitchens as well.

Chef Wendy delivered a culinary experience that any tourist – or local – would write home about. If you haven’t tried her signature vanilla salted caramels, the salty sweet confectionery is an an indulgent combination for any sweet-tooth!

Cocolico burnt caramel sauce

Inspired by the dinner, I purchased Cocolico's burnt caramel sauce by Wendy Boys. Cocolico has sold over 30,000 jars to date, making only 140 jars in a batch. It is Wedny's very own recipe, and despite the name, it doesn't taste burnt at all!