Vancouver Greek Summerfest Win

A week and a half ago I returned from almost two months in Greece. It’s wonderful to come home, but I always feel like I leave a part of me (the Greek part) overseas. However, that’s why it’s great to live in a culturally diverse city like Vancouver. You can always find places and events that help you reconnect with your roots. I was delighted, therefore, to win a $25 gift certificate to the Vancouver Greek Summerfest.

Vancouver Greek Summerfest Serves Up Deliciousness

Vancouver Greek Summerfest
Loukoumades

Greece is famous for its ancient ruins, glorious beaches, and its fantastic food. For more than 30 years, volunteers from  St. Nicholas & Dimitrios Church have been making everything from the famous roast lamb dinner to loukoumades, irresistible Greek donuts in honey and sesame seeds. I enjoyed everything I ate, and it was an added bonus that this year they had drinks like Loux iced tea that I can normally only get in Greece.

A George Michael Impersonator, Greek Folk Dances, and More

Vancouver Greek Summerfest folk dancing
Greek Folk Dancing

Another way I connect to my heritage is through enjoying the kind of dance and music the Vancouver Greek Summerfest presents. It’s interesting to see the various performances and note how the dance and music changes, depending on the region in Greece they originate from. On a lighter note, I was sorry to miss the George Michael impersonator. Fun acts like this, as well as acts from other cultures, are always great.

St. Nicholas & St. Dimitrios: A Place of Serenity

Vancouver Greek Summerfest Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church

Before I leave the Vancouver Greek Summerfest, I always stop in at St. Nicholas & St. Dimitrios. The Greek Orthodox church is a quiet place amidst all the excitement of the festival. The iconography and chandeliers in Greek Orthodox churches are traditionally elaborate. Thus, you need to sit and take it all in. Fortunately, the church has explanatory notes that give you a better understanding of what you’re seeing.

So, you have until July 14th to experience all this for yourself! Swing by and hear some great music, dance, eat, and live a day the Greek way!

Flor de Caña Rum Party Prize

Flor de Caña: The Taste of Summer

I was fortunate enough to win entry for myself and three friends to the Hot Nica Nights Fire and Ice celebration. We arrived at the North Vancouver Shipyards and made our way to the outdoor venue. We could smell the burning tiki torches and hear the music long before we actually arrived at the Flor de Caña rum party.

When we did enter the outdoor venue, the first thing we noticed was the view. The blue sky and the blue inlet merging together, almost making

North Vancouver Inlet view

us forget we hadn’t suddenly taken a plane to a more exotic locale. I think I might have appreciated it even more, had I known that these beautiful summer skies would soon be replaced by a smoky haze.

 My Rum History

In any case, we were here primarily to try some Flor de Caña rum. This rum comes from Nicaragua, and has a 125-year heritage. Now, I’m going to be totally honest here. Prior to this event, I had never heard of this particular brand of rum. I tend to drink Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend and really enjoy it in various cocktails. However, I have tried other kinds of rum, including Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Havana Club, and Lamb’s. Also, I should mention that this was my first experience at a rum tasting too.

We each received two tickets at the door: one for a glass of the 12-year-old Flor de Caña and one for the 18-year-old. We could also have unlimited tastings of the seven-year-old rum, either straight or mixed.

Age Matters

Flor de Caña rum

I began by trying the 12-year-old rum on the rocks. It had a nice spicy, yet mellow flavor. I liked that it wasn’t overpowering and that I could enjoy it on its own.

Next, I went for a cocktail made with the seven-year-old. It also contained simple syrup, lemon juice, and hibiscus tea. Absolutely fabulous! Hands down, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, and I do claim some prior imbibing experience in the cocktail department! It had just the right amount of sweetness, which was key, so that I could enjoy the rum itself.

Finally, I tried the 18-year-old. That packed a powerful punch. Too much of a punch for me. At this point in the evening, one of my companions questioned whether we should be drinking rum straight at all. In his words, “What are we, pirates?” A difficult question indeed.

Will I Be Buying Flor de Caña?

Yes, I think so. At least, I’ll alternate between it and my Appleton’s. I’m not sure, given that I do drink rum only in cocktails, that I would spring for the 12-year-old, though. I feel like the seven-year-old definitely did everything I’d like a rum to do.

What I really want is the recipe for that hibiscus tea cocktail. Flor de Caña does have some great concoctions on their site, but my favorite libation is nowhere to be found. If you can track it down, my loyal readers, please leave a comment, send smoke signals, whatever you can to help me solve this truly first world problem.

Dutch Cheese For the Win!

What a Gouda Win It Was

Sorry, the pun was too much for me to resist. Yes, I won $50 of Dutch cheese from the Holland Shopping Centre! The win also conveniently occurred close to my open house party, so guests got to enjoy the following (see pic):

    • Pesto gouda: green and very delicious
    • Asparagus gouda: surprisingly good
    • Medium aged gouda: a classic, must-have
    • Goat’s milk gouda: a nice alternative for the lactose-sensitive
    • Smoked applewood cheddar: not Dutch, but delicious!
    • Tomato basil havarti: again, not Dutch, but still yummy!

      Holland Shopping Centre: Not Just Dutch Cheese

      If you haven’t been to the Holland Shopping Centre, I recommend you take a trip out to this New Westminster shop. It really has all things Dutch: salty and sweet licorice, croquettes,wooden shoes stroop waffles, tea towels, Heineken beer glasses, dishes, wooden shoes, and of course, Dutch cheese.

      Also, the day I went to pick up my winning cheese, I had one of their deli sandwiches. I was very overwhelmed by the huge choice of cheese. I ended up asking the clerk to slice what she thought was the tastiest Gouda and add it to my turkey sandwich.

      Connecting with My Roots

      One of the reasons I love visiting Holland Shopping Centre is it helps me to connect with my Dutch heritage. My grandfather came to Canada from The Netherlands when he was 18 years old, but I have several cousins who still live there. I’ve been to The Netherlands five times, and have been fortunate enough to visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht, and several other cities over the years.

      My family, and the Dutch people in general, are very hospitable. You’ll experience what they call ‘gezellig‘. It’s this feeling of coziness, warmth, and a certain untranslatable feeling of oneness with the space you are in. I’ve felt it in Dutch bars the most, and I’m always happy to give recommendations as to where to visit!

      My Dutch Bucket List

      Tulips

      I would love to return to The Netherlands again soon, and there are two things I would especially love to do. The first is to see the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. It seems amazing that something so beautiful and fragile as a tulip can require such intricate processes to move it from one location to another.

      The second activity would be a walking tour of sorts. I want to see many of the original buildings that were the inspiration for the KLM houses. These little Delft houses are given to business travelers who fly KLM. Little Kingdom By the SeaWe received these two houses on our honeymoon flight home (even though we weren’t flying business class). Also, Little Kingdom By the Sea is a great resource for finding out all the stories behind the houses.

 

Tot ziens!

Pomme Natural Market Ladies Night Win

Why Free Food is Awesome

I have a special fondness for winning free food. Aside from cold, hard cash, I think food is the most useful kind of prize. I’m also a big fan of consumables at the moment. After 15 years in the same house, we’re moving. Thus, the less we have to box and cart with us, the better.

Pomme Natural Market

It was especially delightful that the free food in question came from Pomme Natural Market via their Ladies Night on October 21st. Pomme is an amazing place. It is the anti-supermarket. The store is packed full of out-of-the-ordinary yumminess in a manageable space. I’m often looking for dairy-free food and healthy carbs and Pomme offers lots of options. My mother and my friend Anne, who came with me to Ladies Night, like Pomme’s selection of vegetarian products.

Ladies Night

Ladies Night was a lot of fun. I drove in after a long day’s work downtown, happy for the change of scene. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. So many ladies in one space! However, Anne and I made our way around the store sampling and playing various games, at which she excelled and I performed rather badly at. As usual, I also enjoyed my Pomme shopping trip and taking advantage of the 10% discount that evening.

The Find of the Night

Wild Hibiscus in Syrup
Wild Hibiscus in Syrup

So, as I mentioned, there was some serious sampling going on at Pomme’s Ladies Night. I was attracted to one particular sampling table, as I saw a large crowd around it and heard the lady offering up the samples saying in a hushed tone, “These are from Australia.” It was if she was presenting the first Martian food ever to grace planet Earth! That being said, the wild hibiscus flowers in syrup stuffed with goat cheese were so delectable. Definitely has the wow factor necessary for Christmas entertaining.

Winning Update

Surprisingly, 2016 is starting to look better in terms of winning now! I found out about this prize the day after my Ghost Train win. The tickets for the event were only $10 each, but just look at what was in my swag bag! Strictly speaking, I should value this prize at $20, but I am tempted to up it a little. Ah, well, I’ll think about it at year end. Stayed tuned.

2015 Ends With Two Wins!

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 was a great one for all of you, and that 2016 will bring you much joy and happiness. Personally, I’m sad to see 2015 go. I had one of my best years ever—a new job, great graphic design classes, a wonderful trip overseas, and some fantastic new friendships.

With all the changes in my professional and personal life, I didn’t have as much time for entering contests in 2015. However, I did have some memorable wins earlier this year and December ended with two wins; a great way to end 2015. Continue reading “2015 Ends With Two Wins!”

Okanagan Spring Brewmaster’s Dinner, Part Two

Beer Reviews

For those of you who missed last week’s post on Win #4, I will provide you with a brief recap of what happened. The rest of you can skip gleefully past the next paragraph and get ready to learn what my husband thought of five Okanagan Spring beers.

I was delighted to win two tickets to the Okanagan Spring Brewmaster’s Dinner at Mamie Taylor‘s courtesy of Miss 604. However there was a problem. I don’t drink beer. I have tried many times to cultivate a love for Canada’s national beverage, but I have failed. However, I have somewhat redeemed myself by marrying a devotee of the brew. Thus, if you’re here for the beer, here are some excerpts from the on-the-spot reviews I got Ryan to record:

Okanagan Beer
Okanagan Beer

Beer #1: Okanagan Spring Pale Ale

“This is a particularly nice beer…It’s a nice, well-balanced, mellow beer..really approachable. I could pretty much drink this all day, and possibly I will.”

Beer #2: Okanagan Spring Sonder Hefeweizen

“This is a wheat beer…and if you like wheat beers, I think you’ll like this one. It’s got a very strong vanilla overtone, which is quite interesting for a wheat beer. Generally, this is like kinda your ideal summer beer.”

Beer #3: Okanagan Spring Cloudy Amber Ale

“I like it a lot, ’cause it’s beer..well, it’s got kind of a nice, mellow amber ale-ness. Basically, an amber ale should have a nice, strong beer flavour, a nice balance of hops, and beer-ness  and it’s got all of that. This is a perfectly, decent amber ale.

Beer #4: Okanagan Spring Porter

“To be honest, my tastebuds are kind of shot by the previous four beers, but if you like porter, I think you’ll like this porter.”

Now, at this point you may be wondering why the first beer of the evening, the Okanagan Spring 1516 Bavarian Lager hasn’t received a review. That is because it was served as part of a michelada cocktail, so it wasn’t possible to assess its flavour on its own. However, Ryan very much enjoyed the cocktail.

When asked what his favourite beer of the night was, Ryan had difficulty picking a clear winner. He enjoyed everything he drank, but particularly liked the porter and the amber ale. They most closely aligned with the type of beers he particularly likes.

Okanagan Spring Brewmaster’s Dinner, Part One

Delectable Delights

I love food. I especially love free food. Perhaps now you can guess my motivation for entering Miss 604‘s contest to win two tickets to the Okanagan Spring Brewmaster’s Dinner at Mamie Taylor’s. I was delighted when I won this prize, however there was a problem. I don’t drink beer. Many times I’ve tried to cultivate a love for Canada’s national beverage, but I have failed. However, I have somewhat redeemed myself by marrying a devotee of the brew. Thus, this is the first of two blog posts on our Thursday evening experience. If you love food, be prepared to revel in my very detailed descriptions of the delectable four courses we enjoyed. If you’re here for the beer, wait for part two, when some on-the-spot reviews on the five beers Ryan tasted that evening will be presented.

Mamie Taylor’s

Dinner at Mamie Taylor's
Dinner at Mamie Taylor’s

This was our first time at Mamie Taylor’s. The atmosphere is warm and the long tables lent themselves well to conversing with our dining companions. I’m not a fan of taxidermy, but I did like the rather whimsical wallpaper of animal targets on the bathroom wall. Vegetarians, however, would be less amused I’m sure. Mind you, Norman Bates would feel right at home.

The First Course

Tuna smokie
The Tuna Smokie

Our first course was a tuna smokie, garnished with fennelkraut and dijonaise. I could never have imagined how flavourful and moist tuna could be. In fact, I never even knew such a thing as a tuna smokie existed. Our table mates also seemed equally amazed and delighted by this passed canapé. I have to give the bun its due as well. So many times I’ve enjoyed the meat of a burger only to have been let down by the bread. This bun was a worthy home for the delectable tuna vessel it housed. Overall, a very impressive start to the meal.

Rock Fish
Rock Fish

The appetizer (also pictured above) that followed was cornmeal fried rock fish with cajun spices, orange, fennel, parsley, and old bay aioli. I can’t remember if I’ve ever had rock fish before, but I found the taste light and somewhat similar to sole. What made the dish special was the crispy cornmeal and the refreshing slaw that accompanied it. I’m not sure I would seek out rock fish for its own sake though, it didn’t have the depth of flavour that I so enjoy in other white fish.

The Entree

Do I have your attention?! Look at the beautifully presented, scrumptious offerings above! The main course was slow roasted porchetta accompanied by roasted apples, polenta, and an olive and herb puree.

Porchetta
Porchetta

The crackling on the porchetta was like the most perfectly crisp bacon that melted in your mouth. Yes, it was rich. But no, I regret nothing! Diabetes, high blood pressure, muffin top, come what may, this was worth every calorie. The polenta was an incredible standout as well, especially given that I have been rather meh on polenta in the past. Again, oh so crispy, and excellently paired with the puree.

The Dessert

Brown Sugar Cake
Brown Sugar Cake

Finally, we arrived at dessert. I was well and truly sated before it arrived, but I was powerless to say ‘no’ once I saw this brown sugar cake. Alongside it was custard made with Okanagan Spring Porter. It had all the depth of flavour of a sticky toffee pudding, but the custard kicked it up a notch by bring beer notes to the party.

Now, having realized I have devoted well over 500 words to describing this meal to you, I strongly recommend that you put Mamie Taylor’s on your must-visit list. Chef Tobias Grignon knows how to put on a culinary show and I for one can’t wait to return for another delectable performance.

Contest note

This is my fourth win of the year, so I’m almost on track with my one-win-a-month goal. This prize, which I thank Miss 604 sincerely for winning, was worth approximately $100, making my total winnings to date approximately $203.