Tag Archives: blueberry

Salt Spring Island weekend mini-vacation

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of getting older, or the fact that I moved from a house into a high-rise apartment building, or the fact that there are two construction sites across the street from me, but I’ve been finding the city tiresome. Don’t get me wrong. I love Vancouver, I love my neighbourhood (and its impressive 95% score on a walkability index) and I love not having a car.

View from Salt Spring Island getaway house

This is an arbutus tree. I never knew they were red. Or so pretty.

But still, it’s nice to have friends who invite you to islands for long weekend mini-vacations. Friends with parents with houses on Salt Spring Island. You know, friends with parents with houses on Salt Spring Island with views like this from the back porch.

And speaking of said porch, candelit dinners with friends are also wonderful. One night it was barbecued ribs, another night handmade pizza.

And piiiiiie. One strawberry-rhubarb, one blueberry. I did not, however, bake them in this darling little wood stove—I used a convection oven. But they sure look pretty on top of it, so let’s just pretend. Let’s also pretend that this picture isn’t blurry. And I’ll pretend that I hadn’t been drinking wine in the sun all afternoon.

Pie!

Pie! One strawberry-rhubarb, one blueberry. Both delicious.

Salt Spring Island, for the uninitiated, is a mecca of educated hippie artistic fantasticness. Where nary a multi-national chain can be found, and where there are no fewer than three soap companies. (These are clean hippies, understand.) And at last weekend’s Saturday market, it seemed that the entire island could be found at the city square.

And what a market it was. Gorgeous pottery, hand-knit hats, sock monkeys, carnival masks, tie-dyed yoga pants, hula hoops: it was all there. And, of course, lots of artisan food vendors and stunningly fresh produce. The farmers market aisle was fragrant with the scent of basil, and everywhere you looked there was an heirloom tomato more perfect than the last. And stripey Portuguese garlic, all coy in its basket.

Portuguese garlic at Salt Spring Island market

Stripey!

I discovered that Foxglove Farm, with its farm dinners, accommodation and education programs, has the best raspberries that I’ve tasted in years. I ogled the selection of fresh goat cheeses from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company (almost too pretty too eat).

And yes, I found chocolate.

Salted caramels from Chocolate Beach

Caramels with Himalayan sea salt. Tasty.

Chocolate Beach is a teeny tiny chocolate company run by Joanne and Rob Burns. She’s the chocolatier, formerly goat cheese maker, formerly something else. She’s now retired and making chocolates with certified fair trade chocolate from Cocoa Camino. Her sea salt caramel, a pleasantly chewy caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with pink Himalayan sea salt, was lovely. Rob manned the other side of the booth with an impressive display of fudge.

While I didn’t try this tarte au chocolat, it’s awfully pretty. And I’m a sucker for a cursive chalk on a chalkboard. It helps that this table was run by a very friendly French couple who spoke like zees.

Tarte au chocolat

Cue accordion music and Audrey Tautou cameo appearance.

My sweet tooth also spied other treats: stacks of buttery shortbread from Bite Me! Gourmet Treats and honest-to-goodness cannoli from an Italian food stand.

And, because I clearly hadn’t had a decadent enough day, I had a pineapple-coconut popsicle from the Salt Spring Island Fruitsicle stand. Self-proclaimed “creators and purveyors of delicious, fruit based iced lollies,” these were the hit of the market. Popsicles that taste like real fruit. How novel.

All in all, a great weekend away.

Stacks of shortbread

Stacks of shortbread from Bite Me! Gourmet Treats

Cannoli

I love cannoli, but I can't get a good cannoli in Vancouver. These were good (but not like the stuff you can get in Montreal).

Chocolates from Chocolate Beach at Salt Spring Island market

An assortment of chocolates from Chocolate Beach

Candlelit dinner on Salt Spring Island

Life was made for candlelit dinners with good food, good wine and great company.

Sunset, glorious sunset from the porch.

And now I'm just being mean by posting this. But look! Stunning!

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Summer competitions: Seattle chocolate salon, Vancouver blueberry festival

Ahhh, summer. All I want to do is sit on a porch eating cherries, discarding the stems and pits wherever they land. Maybe, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll cut up some watermelon and have a seed-spitting contest—but only if I know I can win. Or hey, there’s always long afternoons on sunny patios with endless pitchers of sangria.

Still, it seems to be a season for competition. In fact, there are two coming up next week: the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon and the Vancouver Farmers Markets blueberry bake-off. I’m happy to say that I’ll be judging at both of them.

Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon

As luck would have it, this chocolate salon always coincides with a heat wave. Call it fate. It’s a little unfortunate, since it makes it difficult to really taste the chocolate (less snappy, more squooshy) but it’s still great to see a room full of chocolate fiends. With a nice mixture of bean-to-bar producers, confection makers, this is usually a fun event.

Tickets are $25 at the door. The event runs from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, July 11 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center (2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66).

Vancouver Farmers Markets blueberry bake-off

I make a weekly trip to the Main Street farmers market, where I load up on gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s luscious cherries, delicate summer squash or insanely fresh spring garlic, the market is one of the highlights of my week. I go for the hard-to-find stuff: collard greens, zucchini flowers, heirloom tomatoes. And I have been known to walk away with pounds and pounds of fruit: cherries, apricots, strawberries, raspberries.

And now, blueberries!

To celebrate the bounty of B.C. blueberries, the Vancouver Farmers Market is having a blueberry muffin competition. I’m, ahem, helping them out as a judge. I’m charitable like that. They’re accepting entries until Monday. More information is available on the blueberry muffin competition entry form (opens a pdf).

And even if you’re not entering, check out one of the faboo farmers markets that run across this fine city of ours.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier blueberry truffles

Blueberry ganache. It seems so obvious, but I can’t think of a chocolatier who makes a blueberry ganache. (Anyone care to correct me?)

Apparently, Seth Ellis Chocolatier made these blueberry truffles because one of the founders’ kids wanted a blueberry truffle. I guess it pays to be a chocolatier’s kid.

Photo credit: Rick Levine

Photo credit: Rick Levine

I’ve never seen this shape before – it’s like a pyramid meets a rosette. It’s awfully pretty, with its little cap of blueberry-tinged white chocolate, a dark chocolate shell, and a white chocolate base. The blueberry ganache inside tastes different as it melds with the dark chocolate, and then the white.

The ganache is fairly subtle, possibly too subtle for my liking, but I’m still enamoured with the novelty of the blueberry-ness.

Seth Ellis chocolates are available at select locations in the Denver/Boulder area, and that page will soon be updated to reflect the five NYC Whole Foods that now carries them. You can also buy them online through It’s Only Natural Gifts or through Foodzie.

Science experiments are fun

I’m a little bit obsessed with high-altitude cooking right now. Boulder, CO is approximately 5000 ft above sea level, which, according to my research, is high enough that you can’t just assume that your recipes will work. The thinner atmosphere changes the boiling point of water, which then affects a whole slew of other things. Thinner atmosphere also means that bubbles form easier, so anything that is leavened – whether that’s muffins or bread – will need a bit of tweaking.

Given that I’m supposed to be on vacation, I plan on spending a healthy amount of time sitting in cafes and wandering around town. However, in the remaining time I have, I’ll muck around in the kitchen and test the limits of my stand-by sea-level recipes. Maybe it’ll be a study in blueberry muffins. In principle, that’s an easy enough system to work with. But now that I’ve said it, I’ve jinxed the chemistry gods and the kitchen gods. Oh noes.

Dine Out Vancouver: db Bistro Moderne, take two.

Yesterday’s post was about my first, and rather disappointing, visit to db Bistro Moderne. Today’s post is about my second, and rather enjoyable, visit to the same restaurant.

Right off the bat, I noticed that the service was better. This is probably because we had a late table on a Wednesday night, and the restaurant wasn’t nearly as busy as it had been on Saturday. We were seated in an alcove away from the rest of the restaurant, which afforded a little bit of privacy.

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Cafe Medina: waffle central

I blogged earlier about Patisserie LeBeau’s Liege waffles, and how I don’t really like them. I find that the Liege waffles at Cafe Medina are far superior.

Actually, I prefer Cafe Medina for a number of reasons. In addition to waffles, they now have a full kitchen that serves amazing breakfast (after 9am – you’ve been warned) and lunch. The space is beautiful and tastefully decorated, and the European-accented staff really make you feel like you’ve travelled across the Atlantic.

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