Friday, May 31, 2013

EAT! Vancouver (and drink craft beer)

So what is Eat! Vancouver? The title is a dead giveaway that there’s food involved, but it could be a pie eating contest (ok fine, then it would be called EAT PIE! Vancouver). The festival was this past weekend May 24 – 26th at BC Place Stadium and it was packed with vendors (food, travel, household goods), various stages for cooking and presentations as well as an adults-only section Tasting Pavilion to sample wine, spirits and beer.

I was given a free pass to attend as a blogger thus, we purchased a ticket for my husband (online $14, door $16) and headed out Saturday morning. The food vendors had free tiny samples and giving us the opportunity to have a small taste worked in their favour. They did well by us as we bought a number of items including pasta, truffle salt, truffle pesto, local honey, chipotle peanut butter, meat rub, natural dog treats (no, I didn’t sample these), cheese and a few other items. The prices were good thus; we trudged along with three cloth bags of groceries. For others, though, I suspect it was a giant Costco as they lined up from booth to booth to get the next free sample and never bought a thing. Fourteen bucks for lunch is a good deal I suppose.

The crowd was a mix of Costco samplers, foodie-wannabe’s, cooking enthusiasts, and people of all ages. The event showcased Food Network celebrity chefs providing cooking demonstrations, seminars and over 250 vendor booths.

Some items, such as the alcohol samples and restaurant vendors, were ticketed items but those too were very inexpensive. My husband downed a Dunn’s open-faced meat sandwich for $3.50. Watching the guy carve the meat was amazing – he was a master at slicing meat thinly at lightning speed. The alcohol samples varied but most beer and wine was one ($0.50) or two tickets but there were others, like the sake we tried, that were eight tickets ($4). This was premium sake though. I’ll admit, I didn’t do much more than glance at the spirits and wine, after all this is Beer and Travel Adventures, but there was a good mix of people attending almost every booth. I say almost as the Molson Canadian Wheat Beer booth guy was lonely. Very, very lonely. He even had some wheat in a vase to spruce up his booth but alas, the wheat didn’t draw the crowd. Sorry Molson dude.

Dunn's Meats!
The craft beer booths, though, had lots of action and it was great to hear people stop at one of the newest kids on the craft beer block, Parallel 49 Brewing, and see their interest pique when they heard they’re located in East Vancouver. Shows like EAT! Vancouver are a great way for people who aren’t familiar with our local craft beer scene to sample their beers and see that there’s more to offer than the macro choices you see at a lot of restaurants and bars. Other than P49, from the local craft beer scene we saw Steamworks Brewing, Vancouver Island Brewery, R&B Brewing and Dead Frog Brewing. Way to represent!

Guess which one is Dead Frog's pimped out schwag booth...

We sampled a few beers and sake and I bought a great spicy Caesar from the Mott’s Clamato booth.  For you non-Canadians that haven’t experienced a Caesar, it’s wayyyy better than a Bloody Mary. Yes, it’s clams in the juice but it works. Trust me. Come to Canada and order a spicy Caesar. Do it.

After a few hours, we escaped the crowd and headed out. There was still a steady stream of people coming into the venue and I suspect they had a successful weekend. There is  a lot to explore at this event and I encourage you to check it out next year!
Our groceries... mmm truffles!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Japanese / Italian Beer Dinner at Pumphouse

Master Sushi Chef. Italian Chef. Craft Beer. Birthday Celebration. Sounds like a winning combo to me. We attended this collaboration dinner to experience this gem at the Pumphouse Pub in Richmond, who host a monthly long table dinner. This month, they went off the rails to have Sushi Master Shunji Yamamoto and Executive Chef Daniela Iaci collaborate to create a meal that blended these two unique cultures and culinary expertise. It was evident that a lot of planning went into the menu and as both chefs are busy at their day jobs, Daniela is at the Pumphouse Pub (and is currently creating a brand new menu) and Shunji is the sushi master at Kitanoya GUU in Richmond. If you really want to experience a treat, go to GUU and ask Master Yamamoto create dishes for you rather than eating off the menu. This experience will be more expensive than the regular menu, but you won’t regret it.

The birthday boy of the night was no other than Dan Colyer, half of the dynamic duo from Fuggles & Warlock Craftwork. If you’re local to Vancouver, you may have been lucky enough to try their Super 8-Bit that they made at Alameda Brewing in Portland. Dan and his brewing partner, Tony Iaci, are home brewers and when the fine lads at Beerthirst tasted various renditions of Super 8-Bit they called up Alameda to see if Dan and Tony could brew at their facilities. Alameda graciously agreed and the rest was hoppy history. Not sure if it’s public knowledge yet so I won’t spill the beans, but I know that they have another brewing adventure up their sleeve with another brewery. Stay tuned! I’ve been lucky enough to sample a number of their beers and these guys create some amazing beers and graphics. I may get to say I knew Dan and Tony when....

Dinner time. Hope you have your appetite on board and a thirsty palate as we have some great beers from Beerthirst to pair with this collaboration dinner.

Course One
Portobello and oyster mushroom tempura served with and Italian spicy roasted tomato sauce and a Yuzu citrus ponzu aioli
Paired with Elysian Savant IPA

The mushrooms were tender and succulent. I paired the Portobello with the roasted tomato sauce and the oyster with the aioli. Both were great combos and the spicy kick in the aioli was a welcome addition. The Elysian Savant IPA complimented the spicy and complex flavours that both sauces shared and the carbonation in the beer cleansed the palate.

Course Two
Korean-style spicy beef tartare with arugula salad and a horseradish crème fraiche; topped with red onion and capers
Paired with Elysian Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale

The thinly sliced, spicy tartare was amazing. It was relaxing in a light crème fraiche and topped with a thin slice of parmasen. The Superfuzz is a great beer. The blood oranges work so well with the pale ale but I could have done with a hoppier beer to work with the spices in the beef. 

Course Three
Mac-n-Motoyaki: roasted kabocha pumpkin purée with motoyaki sauce, sautéed shrimp, cauliflower and macaroni noodles
Paired with Elysian Immortal IPA
My pasta-loving-non-sushi-eating husband rejoiced when he saw this. Motoyaki is a style of Japanese cooking in which seafood is baked with a mayonnaise based sauce on top, traditionally served on an oyster shell. Ours was served in a foil tin but it didn’t take away from the experience. The sauce was mild and the combination of pumpkin, shrimp and cauliflower worked well together. The Immortal IPA paired well with this dish although I wonder if the Superfuzz should have been the beer for this course as this dish wasn’t spicy and didn’t require that extra bitterness from the hops.

Course Four
Aburi sushi and uni risotto finished with a drizzle of soy sauce and crispy homemade prosciutto
Paired with Odin Freya’s Gold Kolsch Style Ale

The preparation of the sushi was part of the show. Master Yamamoto prepared the sushi while a number of us admired and took pictures. The sushi was fresh, favourful and perfectly seared. The sea urchin in the creamy risotto was delicious! What an amazing course. The Odin was a good choice for this pairing and if you know Odin’s styles, they make their beers specifically to pair with food.

Course Five
Japanese-style coffee jelly made with cold-pressed 49th Parallel coffee and topped with marscapone
Paired with Alameda Black Bear Stout

Whoa. Coffee jelly, coffee and marscapone? YES PLEASE! The strong coffee flavours and the Black Bear Stout sang a happy tune and danced a wee little jig in my mouth. Beautiful. And the coffee jelly was made by no other than Dan’s wife, Yuri. Superb.

The dinner was $50 and we felt it was well worth the money (their long table dinners are usually $40). This collaboration dinner was unique, fun and exquisite. Slow, long golf clap to both chefs and for Pumphouse and Beerthirst for hosting.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

O'Hare's Gastropub - Craft Beer Speed Tasting!

Our local pub, O’Hare’s Gastropub, has done a fantastic job of embracing the craft beer revolution in the past two years. Every Friday night, they have a new craft beer on tap and it’s usually just one keg so if you don’t show up for Friday Night Beers (FNB), you may miss out. They also launched a Beer Club last May and are now over 100 members strong, including me. O’Hare’s has a liquor store next to the pub and within the giant cooler, lies many a happy craft beer just waiting to find it’s forever (well, temporary) home with a beer geek. We do a lot of our shopping here. Back to the Beer Club, for a one-time fee of $15 you are enrolled in the club, receive 5% off all liquor store purchases and get a free pint at the pub. Every other month, you get a box of beers (approximately ten) for about $60-$65. This is an excellent way for someone getting into craft beer to receive a good assortment of beers but it’s also great for the beer geek as often, the hard to find beers turn up in the box. What a happy little surprise! Beer Club members get first dibs on a lot of the new releases so if you’re not a member, back of the line, buddy.

The pub serves up traditional pub food and they make the best chicken pot pie I’ve ever had. Seriously, it’s amazing. My husband is partial to the Nacho Burger – and yes, it’s just as it sounds – a beef burger with jalapenos, olives, onions, peppers, tortilla chips, cheese, salsa and sour cream. You may need a napkin.

The latest event at O’Hare’s was a Speed Tasting yesterday afternoon. Eight tables of beer from breweries and importers, ten minutes at each table, and usually about four 2 ounce pours.  Couple this with five or six people per group and you have a recipe for a fun afternoon. Beers flowed, appies were served, and 50+ people got to sample almost 40 unique beers. Since it was a Speed Tasting, I thought at the end I’d be exchanging my number with some of the sexy beers and we’d fall in love and live happily ever after. That’s what happens at speed dating, right?


Pouring: Crooked Coast Altbier, Driftwood Pale Ale, Farmhand Saison, Fat Tug IPA


Table 2Aqua Vitae Imports
Pouring: Moa Methode, Moa Pale Ale, Moa Blanc Evolution, Moa Imperial Stout, Moa Noir

Table 3Howe Sound Brewing
Pouring: King Heffy, Oatmeal Stout, Lager, Pale Ale, West Coast IPA #1


Table 4Beerthirst
Pouring: The Commons Urban Farmhouse, Elysian Loser Pale Ale, West Coast IPA, Logsdon Seizoen Bretta, Elysian Dragonstooth Stout


Pouring: Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale, Seedspitter Watermelon Wit, Hoparazzi Lager, Old Boy English Brown Ale, Lord of the Hops IPA


Table 6Modern Malt & Spirits
Pouring: Lazy Boy IPA, Lazy Boy Belgium Golden, Diamond Knot IPA, Diamond Knot Industrial IPA, Caboose Oatmeal Stout


Table 7Afic Group
Pouring: Sierra Nevada Summerfest, Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Magic Hat #9, New Planet Pale Ale (gluten free)

Table 8Beverage Concepts
Pouring: Krombacher Pils, Tin Whistle Stag Apple Scotch Ale, Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale

Did you keep up with the speed tasting? Thanks to Erinn and Grant for hosting a great event and I’m looking forward to the next one! See you for FNB! If you haven’t been to O’Hare’s in Steveston, check it out. You may just see me there.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pucker Up! Sour Beer Dinner at BierCraft Bistro

Sour beer aficionados in Vancouver rejoiced, sang praises to the sour beer gods and rushed to get tickets to BierCraft Bistro’s Pucker Up dinner on May 1st. I even skipped the best session of my Serious Beer Course – the food pairings and off-flavours session – to attend. Hopefully my lovely, wonderful instructor hasn’t any hard feelings for me picking sours over class. But he’ll understand as it was SOURS!

Sour beers have been brewed for centuries in Germany and Belgium. These days, craft brewers in North America are trying their hand at sour beers and we have numerous great examples from The Commons, Cascade Barrel House, The Bruery, Jolly Pumpkin and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales to name a few. The classic styles are Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red Ale, Flanders Brown/Old Bruin, Lambic and Geuze. The sour/acidic beer needs to be paired with the correct food, as does all beer, but the complex flavours shouldn’t scare you off. This dinner showed how sour beer and food can complement each other and enhance the sensory experience.

Don Farion describing each course

The Dinner:
Biercraft co-owner, Don Farion, is a Cicerone and personally constructs the menu with his executive chef. The passion and knowledge Don has about sour beer is evident during his description of each course. Following Don was Rachaal Steele, BJCP (plus about ten other beer designations), who described the beers and explained how each beer would work with the food. Often, we were encouraged to try the food first, then to try it with the beer to see how it enhanced the experience.

1st Course
Two beet borscht, goat cheese crumble, candied lemon zest
Paired with Iain Hill Oud Bruin

The ample portion of red and yellow beet borscht was perfect while the goat cheese added a punch of creamy zing. Iain Hill (from Yaletown Brewing Company) brews an amazing Oud Bruin and we were treated to a glass tonight. Malty, raisins, prunes and black cheery notes – such a great beer.

2nd Course
Baked blue brie, sofritto, granny smith apples
Paired with Cantillon Gueuze

The brie, baked in light pastry, and apples were a perfect pairing with the Cantillon. I haven’t had a beer from Cantillon that I didn’t love and this one is no exception. This highly carbonated beer has a funky hay/straw aroma and flavour as well apple, citrus, vanilla and is a classic gueuze.

3rd Course
Ahi Tuna Tartar, toasted crouton
Paired with Mort Subite Kriek

The ahi was simply divine; perfectly cut and tender. This was paired with a lambic fruit beer which is a sweet, cherry sour beer. Sweet, fruity sour beers are not my favourite, but the pairing worked well.

4th Course
Bangers and Mash – bratwurst, pork and apple sausage, root vegetable mash, sour cherry sauce chasseur
Paired with Duchesse de Bourgogne

Whoa. What a pairing. The pork and apple sausage and vegetable mash had amazing flavours and bowed to the Duchesse. The tangy sour cherry in the beer complimented the bratwurst and sausage. 


5th Course
Bing cherry parfait, Chantilly, crème anglaise
Paired with Petrus Aged Pale Ale

After the bangers and mash, I was pleased to see that the cherry parfait wasn’t heavy as I was already stuffed! The Petrus was the first sour pale ale I’ve had and I was impressed. The tart apple in the beer paired well with the bing cherries in the parfait.

Bonus Round!

Who doesn’t like a bonus beer? And what a treat – a 2009 Vintage Oak Aged Ale (Barrel No. 145) from Brouwerij Rodenbach. This flanders red ale has subtle earthy notes, tart red berries and oak. Thanks for cellaring these vintage beers, Don!

The dinner cost $60 for CAMRA members ($65 without membership) and was well worth the price. We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, beers and sharing the experience with our fellow beer geek friends.