1 Comment Karen HamiltonNovember 18, 2011
Yes, you heard right…Vancouver’s got a Festival de la Poutine!
Are you as excited as I am about this?! Imagine yourself this Saturday, spending 4 hours of your afternoon feasting around at Vancouver’s top poutine spots, or having a full all-you-can-eat poutine dinner card while the live band churns out Francophonic tunes.
Having just returned from an epic, coffee-fuelled adventure in Montreal, you’d think I’d be sick of poutine…but I only had the chance to go once, despite 4am attempts to find late-night poutine near our home base. What I am sick of is the flu: it’s been with me off-and-on since Sunday, oblivious to my prior committment to being one of the judges for the Poutine Contest. Hopefully my ability to eat solid foods returns to me overnight, because I cannot. miss. this. event.
Free, poutine-filled family activities at the Hellenic Community Centre
The afternoon Poutine Crawl and evening Poutine Contest are both sold out, but families need not despair. Between noon and 5:30pm, Festival access to Hellenic Community Centre is free and family-friendly, with activities including a temp tattoo station, a battle of the bands, and a dedicated kids’ section. Sounds like a great plan to keep the little ones occupied while elders indulge in affordable bowls of poutine.
Stand by for a late-night poutine drop-in
Despite the sold-out status of the evening, the Festival still wants you to have a chance to hang out with them. So check in close to 11pm and see whether you can drop by as the dinner crowd retires. Live band action, Francophone karaoke, and hopefully some remaining poutine should ensure that late-night arrivals will be bien amusés.
Festival de la Poutine de Vancouver
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Hellenic Community Center, 4500 Arbutus Street, Vancouver
Family Fair: noon – 5:30pm, FREE
Poutine Crawl: noon – 4pm, $20 (sold out)
Poutine Contest: 6pm – late, $20 (sold out)
Late-night Access: 11pm – late
Leave a Comment Bruce NguyenNovember 7, 2011
I like coffee.
But I’m far from a coffee snob. Yes, I have a Hario hand-cracked burr grinder at home. And yes, I’ve been known to bring my own french press to the office. But I’ll order a small black from Timmy’s with the rest of my Canadian brethren, and I’ve voluntarily drunk instant coffee multiple times this year alone.
While I hardly have the most discerning taste in coffee, it’s a large part of my life. So when the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show came to town, there was no question where I was going to be.
My three highlights of that weekend involved coffee cupping, comparing brew methods, and a compelling round of the Canadian Cup Tasters Championship.
Coffee Cupping Basics Workshop
Karen and I cupped two flights of coffee to better understand two factors that affect the taste of your brew: processing method and terroir.
The first flight demonstrated processing method and consisted of three cups: an Ethiopian bean processed naturally, a semi-washed coffee from Indonesia, and a wet-processed coffee from El Salvador. One of the main distinctions is based on how much of the cherry is left on the coffee bean as it dries. The natural method leaves the cherry intact around the bean; wet processing removes most of the cherry pulp from the bean before drying; the semi-washed method falls somewhere in between.
The impact of the coffee fruit on the final brewed product was readily apparent on the tongue. The naturally processed cup contained citrus notes more akin to tea than to any coffee I’m used to. The semi-washed coffee gave off its characteristic earthy musk. We were able to pick up on these differences just from smelling the coffee grinds that formed a crust atop the coffee liquor.
The wet-processed El Salvador was the cleanest tasting and expressed the most brightness. One person at our table described its marked acidity as sour, but our seminar hosts from JJ Bean were quick to correct her, saying that sourness is a state used in the coffee world to specifically refer to flaws: “We never say a good coffee is sour.”
I understand that sour can be thought of as rancid, but having grown up on sour soup and pickled vegetables, I feel that there’s nothing wrong with calling something sour–as long as it’s done lovingly. And let’s face it: Acidic Patch Kids would never have taken off.
The second flight of coffees were all wet-processed, though each were grown in different parts of the world. The differences here were subtle, and I had a lot more difficulty picking out the individual nuances, which meant I had to keep sampling more and more coffee.
I was okay with this.
Coffee brewing showdown: Chemix vs V60 vs AeroPress vs French Press
The next seminar I attended covered open brew methods, with plenty of air time for the perfect 60 degree ‘v’ shaped cone of the Hario V60 pour-over dripper (oh, that’s where the name comes from). While I sincerely love a good infographic and number crunch session – especially when on a caffeine high - my head was brimming with industry stats and acronyms when I was simply seeking a taste comparison.
And I found it, making my way through the trade show floor, arriving at booth hosted by Cafe Gabana. They delivered samples of their coffee made in a Hario V60 drip cone, a Chemex coffeemaker, an AeroPress, and a French Press. Unfortunately, Karen was busy at the Tea Sommelier 101 course, so no visuals of this highly educational demo.
Everyone else was going gaga over the V60 and the over the laboratory-like elegance of the Chemex, but I found that I am still–and probably will always be–a greater fan of the oily, sediment-rich brew that the paperless French Press gives.
Canadian Cup Taster Championship
To finish off the day, we watched a round of the Canadian Cup Tasters Championship. It’s a test of palette. It’s a test of focus. And I also thought it would be a test of my patience. How wrong was I! While I’m still not entirely sure what I witnessed, by golly was it compelling!
Eight sets of three coffee cups. In each set, one coffee is subtly different from the other two. Competitors race against each other to pick the odd one out as quickly as possible.
It starts out as a cacophony of loud slurping and sniffing. All of a sudden, a hand is thrust in the air as one competitor is done. A minute and 20 seconds?! Surely all eight can’t be correct; the average time for the last two heats was nearly three minutes. Another hand is raised and the two remaining competitors in this heat start to feel the pressure. Suspense builds as results are tallied aloud one by one.
By the end of the two-day competition, Melody Lu of Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters had slurped her way to victory, with a final-round time of 2:57 and 6 of 8 cups correct. She’ll head to the Netherlands next June to represent Canada in the 2012 World Cup Tasters Championship. The rest will have wait for next year’s competition for another chance. And to that end, they will continue their daily training regimen, one coffee cup at a time.
3 Comments Karen HamiltonMay 1, 2011
Tickets are $4,000 for the exclusive experience of having one of BC’s top chefs come to your home and cook an unforgettable meal for and 7 of your friends.
Since I don’t have that kind of money laying around, I’ve asked the BC Mental Health Foundation and the Chefs’ Table Society of BC, the cohosts of this fundraiser, to let me raise the money on Tiny Bites throughout the month of May, all the while profiling the participating chefs and raising awareness on the topic of mental health.
The goal? To give away all 8 dinner spots to those that helped us afford the ticket.
Happily, they gave me the green light last week – and sponsors have already stepped up to offer other cool prizes – so now it’s time to ask you to donate. But first…some background.
Mental health matters to me
Why am I raising funds for mental health awareness? It’s quite personal.
Last fall, I was diagnosed with 3 separate mood disorders. I had known about the major depression for about a decade – it runs in the family and I had briefly sought counselling for it in 2003. However, I was blindsided with the pronouncement that my levels of anxiety, panic, and OCD were also on a clinical scale. It got to the point where my mental health impacted every aspect of my life, isolating me from my loved ones and even manifesting as physical health issues.
The diagnosis came at a very rough point in my life. I was experiencing an identity crisis as my new role as a mother clashed with my lifelong assertion that I was a careerwoman. Being told that I had these disorders made me feel ashamed. I felt like a weakling: my mind and body wasn’t as strong as my spirit wanted them to be. Talking about it, even to my husband, was the last thing I wanted to do.
But talk is what I did. To my family, my closest friends, my therapists, my doctors…and I began to realize that I wasn’t alone. Many of the people I care about have either suffered, are suffering, or have lost their lives due to mental illness, and it is a private hell unlike any other.
There’s unfortunately a huge stigma attached to mental health issues. It makes it hard for people afflicted with mental illness to admit there’s a problem, seek professional help, and find solace and support from their friends and family.
This fundraiser is part of my personal journey to air my challenges so that I can fully come to terms with my illness. I hope it inspires others to find the courage to seek help or support if they need it.
Please let mental health matter to you
Between now and May 31, 2011, we ask you to join us in raising the necessary funds to afford a BC Top Chefs dinner for us to give back to you.
As part of this dinner drive, me and my friends will profile some of the chefs and restaurants that are participating in Top Chefs for Mental Health. I’ll also be opening up a thread on my Facebook Page for people to share their stories about mental health – questions, personal journeys, resources, tips, and anything else you can contribute.
It would mean the world to me and those that are quietly suffering from mental illness if you take part in any way that you can.
Option 1: Donate
Every $50 you donate earns you 1 entry to win one of the 4 dinner spots we are giving away by random draw. The top 4 donors overall will be guaranteed the other 4 dinner spots for being so awesomely generous.
Don’t worry if you give less than $50 – everyone will be entered to win one of the many fabulous prizes that our sponsors have kindly donated. We’ll let you know what they are as the month unfolds.
Our dinner drive counts as a lottery and is therefore not eligible for tax receipts. If you prefer to donate to get a tax receipt, I encourage you to donate directly to the BC Mental Health Foundation. It won’t count towards our $4,000 dinner drive target, and I won’t be able to tell that you contributed (unless you contact me), but your support will be much appreciated.
Option 2: Buy your own BC Top Chefs dinner
If you’ve got the time, interest, and funds, please consider buying your own BC Top Chefs table direct from the BC Mental Health Foundation’s website.
Option 3: Be a good Friend and spread the word
Please tell everyone you know about Top Chefs for Mental Health and this dinner drive on Tiny Bites. If you want to participate on an official basis, review this PDF and tell us how you want to take part.
Thank you for your support
I hope that you stick with us throughout the month of May while we run this dinner drive. I already have a very good reason to get better:
Hearing your stories and getting your support will make the road to recovery all the more sweet.
More info and the fine print
Visit the Tiny Bites dinner drive page for frequently asked questions and more info on the logistics of the fundraiser and giveaways.