Browsed by
Author: leanne + susie

Dark Table

Dark Table

Last weekend we went to Dark Table for dinner. We had heard of Dark Table but this was our first time to try it out.

The Dark Table experience is like no other in Vancouver. Upon arrival, we were shown to the outdoor lounge (it’s cold in winter so dress warmly) and given menus. After making our selections we were introduced to our server, Dustin, who took us inside. There is absolutely no light in the dining room so we were led to our table single file, hands on shoulders. The servers are all blind or sight impaired so when you pass through the doors of Dark Table you are entering a world of darkness similar to theirs. With Dustin as our guide and helper we felt totally safe. This is huge for me as I hate walking in darkness. I remember the first time Susannah and I went camping and we walked down the camp road late at night to get to the bathrooms and I was completely freaked out by the surrounding blackness.

We were guided past several tables and then turned to the left to reach ours. Once seated, Dustin explained how the dinner service would work and then left us. It felt a bit weird sitting opposite each other in complete darkness. We could hear other people but had no idea how near or far away they were. Susannah and I slowly explored our surroundings with our hands to see how big the table was and what was on it.  Dustin returned and served the wine that we had ordered. I was quite worried about knocking my stemmed wine glass over but the tables are quite spacious with nothing superfluous on them so it was pretty easy to find a safe spot for my glass that I could locate again.

We had ordered the three-course (no-meat) dining experience. Our “surprise” starter arrived and placed in front of us. I soon learned how hard it is to pick up a mouthful of food from a bowl when you can’t see. I think my first three forkfuls came up empty. I’m a big “Hell’s Kitchen” fan and I love the “taste it, make it” sections where contestants have to identify elements of a dish then recreate it. I have a bit of a super-nose so I thought I’d be better at identifying what I was eating but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I could easily pick things like tomato, cucumber, eggplant, but then there was a grain that I struggled to identify. I thought it was couscous or quinoa but it turned out to be bulgar wheat.

Susannah and I ordered different main courses – I ordered the vegetarian surprise and Susannah ordered the prawn risotto. We were able to sample each other’s dishes by carefully pushing our plates toward the center of the table. Susannah’s risotto was nice and the prawns were perfectly cooked but my “surprise” dish was disappointing. It wasn’t so much a case of not being able to identify elements of the dish, but more that it didn’t really have much flavor. Still, it was fun to try to identify the components of each dish.

The dessert was lovely and we both got a good handle on what it was.

Overall I’d say the food was a bit underwhelming.  It’s true that some of the appeal of dining-out comes from the food’s presentation. By removing the ability to tease the palate visually, the experience relies on texture and flavour. The depth of flavour was missing from the menu at Dark Table so the food was a bit bland.

The experience though was something else. I’m not sure if “enjoyed” is the right word, perhaps “appreciated” is better. It was definitely worth going to challenge ourselves and to gain more of an understanding of others.  I would recommend it if you’ve never been before.

If you’ve been to Dark Table, let us know your experience in the comments below.

 

 

 

Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum

Heritage Christmas at the Burnaby Village Museum

It’s that time of year again. As Fall turns into Winter, the skies are grey more often than not, the temperature drops, and it rains a lot. This year we’ve even seen a pretty good amount of snow. I often struggle a bit in Winter, both with mood and motivation, but one thing that I do love about this season is the fantastic lighting displays that are created in and around Vancouver.

One event I enjoy every year is the Burnaby Village Museum’s Heritage Christmas. This free event has something for the whole family. There’s a variety of entertainment, a scavenger hunt for the kids, and fantastic vintage themed lighting displays.

the main street at Burnaby Village with lights
The Main Street

Christmas bears in sweaters at the Burnaby Village Museum

the dancing ladies at Burnaby Village with lights

img_4668

This light display in the Bandstand is sound activated and changes colours which is fun when the Village gets busy.

the bandstand at Burnaby Village with people

 

This year there are musicians scheduled throughout the day and evening – here’s the Irish “choir master” leading the crowd in a sing-along at the bandstand.

sing along at Burnaby Village

There are also heritage carol singers roving through the Village.

Carol singers at Heritage Christmas, Burnaby

The scavenger hunt requires some looking in windows and careful observation of the displays.

Ladies light display at the Burnaby Village Museum
“9 ladies dancing”

Father Christmas is onsite as well.

Father Christmas at Burnaby Village Heritage Christmas

There is a lot to see and do, no matter what the time of day or the weather. I really enjoy the warming heritage atmosphere, even in the snow!

Cabin in snow at Heritage Christmas

Elworth at Burnaby Village

The giant Christmas tree at Burnaby Village

Lights on the tram barn at the Burnaby Village Museum

This year Heritage Christmas runs from November 19, 2016 – January 2, 2017 (closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Check it out. Just remember, it’s cold when the sun goes down so dress warmly and, as always, have fun.

Enchant – Vancouver’s Christmas Light Maze

Enchant – Vancouver’s Christmas Light Maze

Enchant, the world’s largest Christmas light maze, has opened in Vancouver. We attended the Premier Media event to see the lighting of the 60+ foot Christmas tree and to experience all that Enchant had to offer.

So how was it?

I’ll start by saying the light displays are awesome. The Media Premiere came after a huge storm the night before that saw the venue suffer some opening setbacks, and it poured with rain while we were there, but even so, we loved the light displays.

60ft Christmas tree in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
The 60 foot Christmas tree central to the maze
light tunnel in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
An amazing light tunnel
Reindeer lights in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
Beautiful light displays and reindeer

As perfect as we wanted the evening to be (especially for photos and video), remember that this year, November in Vancouver is proving to be extremely wet so you should definitely dress for the weather. Umbrellas are ok but the organisers are expecting thousands of people so the venue is likely to be crowded.  I’d recommend dressing for the weather; rain boots, raincoats, hoods, toques, and gloves. The terrain of the maze is wood-chip which is generally great for soaking up water, but having experienced it after a storm and during a deluge, I would say that while the site is accessible, it’s not easily so. If you are bringing a stroller, go for an all-terrain one or leave the stroller at home and use a carrier. For those with wheelchairs or scooters, the terrain would be quite challenging if wet. Not impossible, but very challenging.

Kids will love it. The printed card that you get when you enter is like a scavenger hunt. Find all 9 of Santa’s reindeer within the maze, get your card stamped at each one and, once completed, exit knowing you have helped save Christmas. There’s a whole story to the saving of Christmas and a storybook you can buy as well.

Reindeer lights in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze

Santa is onsite too which is fun.

Kids meeting santa in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
Remember, you are helping Santa save Christmas
Santa in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
Selfie with Santa

There is food available for purchase with 12 food trucks on site. We love Disco Cheetah so that’s where we beelined, but there were other good eats as well – tacos, hot dogs, pub fare, mini donuts, glow-in-the-dark cotton candy etc. There’s also a covered area with some seating and a bar that serves a variety of winter warming beverages – the mulled wine was great on a cold, wet evening. There are not a lot of sheltered areas though so if it’s wet and crowded this could be a problem. There’s live entertainment in the tent area – on our night Topline Vocal Collective performed and they were outstanding.

The Marketplace is a large covered tent area worth checking out. Over 40 local vendors are featured so it could be a great place to do a little Christmas shopping. Support local!

Marketplace in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
The Marketplace

Enchant Vancouver is located in the Olympic Village at W1st Ave & Crowe St, just East of Cambie. There is a parking area right next to the entrance of Enchant, but that’s for staff. Go about a block further East and there’s a larger lot with free parking. There are parking people at the entrance to direct you, but the lot has no lights and no signage at the entrance so I think many people simply didn’t know it was there.

Enchant Vancouver is on now until December 31st. Ticket prices are as follows:

Adult tickets 16+ $19.95
Child 6-15 years $14.95
Seniors 65+ $14.95
Family Pass $59.95 (2 adults & up to 3 children)

The big question – is it worth it? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I think that the lights are really good, the concept is great and perhaps next year with a few kinks ironed out, this could become one of Vancouver’s regular go-to events. As I’m all about photography it was definitely on my must-see list and with that in mind, my only real complaint was the weather, but hey, we live in RainCity, right?

Hanging lights in the Enchant Vancouver Christmas Maze
A walk through light display

If you are going, or if you have been, let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

 

 

Fright Nights at Playland

Fright Nights at Playland

It’s Halloween time again. That means it’s also time for the spooktacular Fright Nights at Playland! With 15 rides, 7 haunted houses, live shows and an ensemble of roving actors, it’s a full evening of freakish entertainment.

This year we were lucky enough to be provided with Rapid Passes to Fright Nights (thanks CTV YVR!). Rapid Passes gave us expedited access to each of the haunted houses and 5 of the most popular rides at Playland (The Beast, Hellevator, Atmosfear, Music Express, and the Wooden Roller Coaster). It was very crowded so it was awesome to be able to by-pass the long line ups. With almost no wait time we were able to get on all 5 rides, plus The Corkscrew, Hell’s Gate, and Crazy Beach Party, as well as see all the haunted houses.

The rides were awesome and by the end of the evening I was pretty hoarse from shrieking – in fun and fear.  The Beast is touted as Canada’s most extreme pendulum ride, and it really was quite extreme. We sat in the outward facing seats and held on for dear life! I think I was actually shaking from the adrenaline rush when we got off the ride. The Wooden Roller Coaster was bone-rattling fun and I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting. Built in 1958 this famous ride can only be described as an oldie but a goodie.  After the ride, check out the photos taken on the second drop – the range of facial expressions is good for laugh. My other favourite was Atmosfear which is a giant 360 degree swing 218 feet up in the sky. Oddly enough, being so high wasn’t scary and the views of the city were incredible, making this ride very enjoyable.

The Haunted Houses were fun. Keeper’s Doll Factory and the Haunted Mansion were my favourites but Fear was pretty good too. With the variety of houses there’s pretty much something for everyone on the spectrum of fear.

Here’s a POV video of our fun-filled Fright Night!

If you love all things Halloween and are up for a bit of an adrenaline rush, this could be for you. Fright Nights runs until October 31 so there’s still time to go and face your fears.

The Fair at the PNE and Wham Bam

The Fair at the PNE and Wham Bam

It’s that time of year again – The Fair at the PNE is on! This summer The Fair runs from August 20 to September 5. As always, there’s a ton of things to see and do. On opening day we headed up the road (the PNE is literally a 15-minute walk from our apartment) to check things out.

One of the things I really enjoy at The Fair is the Marketplace. There’s always some really cool stuff to look at and if I had oodles of money I would come out fully loaded with new stuff. This year we were impressed by a few things but were very restrained and only purchased one item – the the Miracle Grill Mat. This little mat looks to be an awesome addition to our barbecue kit. It’s designed to help grill those little things which often fall through the grate or items which would usually be grilled on a hot plate. For non-meat-eaters like us, this is going to greatly increase the amount we can use our barbecue. The barbecue booth was extremely hard to walk by because the grilling vegetables smelled so good!

Grill guys

Another item of interest was this air sofa. You’ve probably seen them advertised before but it was great to be able to test it out. Susannah gave it a big thumbs up so we’ll probably look at getting a couple of these for car camping someday.

air sofa

This booth sold 3-D jigsaw puzzles or models and some of them looked quite intricate. The tower in the front looks very “Game of Thrones”.

3D Puzzles

And then, of course, there was the store with a box full of Pokémon.

Pokémon

As always with The Fair at the PNE, there was food and lots of it. It’s always interesting to see what crazy food combos will make an appearance. Some of it looked interesting, others were just plain weird. I opted for poutine from Unroutine Poutine – I just can’t get past poutine – it’s soooo good!

For the carnivores there were 4 or 5 barbecue vendors side by side, competing for the best barbecue.

Lots of meat at PNE

There is just so much to see and do. It was so hot that day we chose to arrive in the later afternoon, but you really could spend the whole day there. There’s shows, demonstrations, animals,are and dinosaurs! The dinosaurs are actually pretty cool because they animate randomly which can be fun for kids and adults alike.

Dinosaurs

The Fair has free nightly concerts which are included with gate admission, but on Saturday we were in for something even better. Kiss Radio sponsored Wham Bam, which was an all-afternoon pop event. The show was headlined by Hedley, who were awesome. We had a great time!

Jacob Hoggard on piano as part of Hedley

Hedley on guitar

After the concert, we left happy (and full!) and headed back down the street towards home. We were probably at the PNE for about 4 hours but I know that there was a lot we didn’t see so I might have to go again!

What do you enjoy about the PNE? Let us know in the comments.

Vancouver Queer Film Festival

Vancouver Queer Film Festival

2016 marks the 28th Anniversary of Out On Screen’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Between August 11 and 21, the festival is screening 35+ queer films at several venues around Vancouver. I love the VQFF because it is a chance for the LGBTQ2 community (and friends) to come together and see films that are not mainstream and that tell different stories – our stories.

This year Susannah and I chose 3 films to see; Women Who Kill, Aligarh, and Fire Song. We selected these films because their synopses sounded interesting but also because their settings and genres were so different from each other. We chose a woman’s story, a foreign story, and a First Nations’ story.

Women Who Kill

First up was the thriller, Women Who Kill. Morgan (played by writer and director Ingrid Jungermann), is a podcaster whose life is closely entwined with her ex-partner and podcast co-host, Jean. When Morgan meets the mysterious Simone, she embarks on an exciting and fearful journey that is potentially lethal.

Women Who Kill is primarily a thriller.  The plot is story driven and it’s a story that anyone can relate to. Although this movie is about women and features almost all lesbian characters, the characters could have been male or female, gay or straight. It doesn’t matter, the story and theme would still hold. In my opinion, one of the purposes of Queer film is to normalize not marginalize people and I really feel this movie did that.  It was great to watch a cast of women in a film and to feel that that was perfectly normal.

Aligarh

Aligarh is an Indian biographical drama film directed by Hansal Mehta and written by Apurva Asrani. Set just after Delhi High Court’s discharge of Section 377 (the anti-sodomy law), it revolves around the story of Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who, without his permission, is filmed at his home in bed with a male rickshaw driver. Consequently, he is suspended from his position at Aligarh Muslim University on charges of immorality (homosexuality).

His story is investigated by ambitious young journalist Deepu (played by Rajkummar Rao), who explores media ethics and the legality behind Siras’s suspension.

Aligarh is a very important tale that explores the intersections between culture, social change, religion, and sexuality. Manoj Bajpayee is great, bringing soft nuances of expression well befitting his character Siras, who is also a poet.

This film is a story of professional and personal persecution that is not unusual in countries where LGBTQ2 people are marginalized or persecuted. It was extremely moving and made me very aware of how lucky I am to live in Canada.

Fire Song

Our final movie from VQFF, Fire Song, tells the story of Shane, a two-spirited high school senior who is struggling to maintain the balance of self, family and culture. Set on a northern Ontario Anishinaabe reserve, the film tackles the reservation’s problems of alcohol, drugs, suicide and loss, and the challenges faced by two-spirited people. Fire Song is the first feature from writer/director Adam Garnet Jones who is of Cree and Métis heritage.

The concept of “two-spirit” is something that is new to me and has recently been incorporated into the LGBTQ2 acronym with the addition of the “2” at the end. I absolutely love to see acknowledgment of our First Nation’s brothers and sisters in our community.

The film was engaging and moving but at the same time full of hope. Fire Song is a story that needs to be told and was my favourite of the three movies we saw.

The Film Festival aims to show queer films with a different perspective; to make social change through storytelling. Unlike mainstream movies, the VQFF offers a broad spectrum of film-makers – movies made by women, First Nations, transgender, people of colour – movies that embrace and share both our struggles and triumphs. Life is not perfect in these movies, many are about challenge or struggle, but all serve to make our voices louder.

I can’t wait to see what next year’s films will be.

 

 

YVR Food Fest

YVR Food Fest

On Saturday we went to the YVR Food Fest at Olympic Village. Known for the past 4 years as the Vancouver Food Cart Fest, the event has rebranded and expanded to include more food vendors, parties, and food talks. Wandering around the venue and seeing what’s on offer in street food in Vancouver was an awesome way to spend the day.

The trucks were laid out in a large circle chuck wagon style which made it easy to wander around and check things out.

Hunger Management

The event was very family friendly with some good things to do.

Ping Pong at YVRFoodfest
Have a little ping pong play time
Water Spray fun
Mini spray parks for the kids
Who doesn't love ice cream?
Who doesn’t love ice cream?

There was also a pop-up marketplace selling everything from sunglasses and T-shirts to handmade crafts.

Sunglasses at pop up market

Pop up market

And there were DJs.

DJ playing at YVRFoodfest

Some of the vendors had small tasting plates available. Here is a mini taco salad (without the taco) that we tried from Vegan vendor Gypsy Trunk.

Sampler of vegan food

We sampled some dauphin potatoes from C’est Si Bon which were lovely, light and fluffy. Then we tried a tofu taco from Korean vendor Disco Cheetah. So good!

Tofu Taco at Disco Cheetah

At this point we decided to check out the liquid refreshments on offer. There were yummy juices…

Juice Vendor at YVRFoodfest

Oh look, a bar!

Pop up bar at YVRFoodfest

We sampled two different styles of Rosé, each with a distinctly different colour, flavour and body.

Rose
Church 13 on the left and Okanagan Crush Pad on the right

Then, more food. After much thought and debate we chose the spicy tempura prawn sandwich from Hunger Management. It was spicy, it was rich, it was HUGE.

Shrimp sandwich

After sharing that we decided we were pretty much done. We were going to try some Hurricane Potatoes but we were just too full for more food. They did look good though and we probably would have gone with a garlic parmesan flavour.

Hurricane Potato

On our final circuit of the Festival (walking off the food) we stopped to watch Slavic Rolls being made. Slavic Rolls are a traditional Eastern European dessert made from sweet yeasty dough. Here’s a short video of the charismatic vendor making them.

After being given a teaser taste of the home-made Bavarian cream we just had to try a roll. We chose the Bavarian cream with raspberry jam. Yum!

Eastern European Slavic Rolls

Done, done and done. We couldn’t fit in a single morsel more.

Stressed-Desserts

The food festival was really enjoyable. Many of our favourite food trucks were there including Tacofino, Nuba, and Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck, but for us the YVRFoodFest was a great opportunity to try new foods and find new favourites. We had a great day out and left feeling filled and chilled.

Closet Monster – mini movie review

Closet Monster – mini movie review

I love to watch films that aren’t made by big budget film studios. It’s not that I don’t watch mainstream movies because I do, I really really love going to the movies. It’s more that I find independent or alternative films are designed to appeal to a less broad target market so they will often deliver something that mainstream movies do not.

This is true of Closet Monster, Canadian director Stephen Dunn‘s debut feature film, a coming of age story set in a small repressed town in Newfoundland and Labrador. The film stars Connor Jessup as Oscar Madly, a creative and imaginative high school Senior struggling to accept his sexuality and Isabella Rossellini as, oddly, the voice of Oscar’s talking pet hamster, Buffy.

As Oscar struggles to deal with the fall-out of his parent’s break-up and the trauma of witnessing a violent anti-gay attack, he becomes increasingly isolated. His struggle is communicated in conversations with his hamster Buffy, who offers support and advice.

Mixing reality with fantasy, Closet Monster does a great job in telling Oscar’s story. I don’t usually enjoy boy-becomes-man movies but I did enjoy this one. Oscar’s character trying to come out while wrestling with his inner homophobe and fear of rejection is a familiar story to many people in the LGBTQ world.

Closet Monster premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian Feature. I really enjoyed it and while I know this movie won’t appeal to everyone, I hope many of you will like it too.

Take a look at the trailer.

Happy Pride!

Happy Pride!

The last time I went to the Vancouver Pride parade was at least 7 or 8 years ago. I remember that it was a super hot day, just like this year. I remember Jack Layton camping it up in the NDP float – that was cool because he had been a longtime LGBTQ supporter.

I loved celebrating Pride but what I did not enjoy was that there were many other political entities, financial institutions and corporate groups in that Parade that didn’t have much of a history with the LGBTQ community. I remember thinking that the gay vote and the gay dollar must have become important to attract so many of them.

Fast forward to this year.

With both Susannah and I having the day off (this is rare on a long weekend) we decided to head down to English Bay to check out this year’s Parade. Wow! It had grown. Not only in the number of spectators but the number of participants as well. And diverse! It was extremely cool to see such a huge variety of people involved in support groups and organisations to gather and unite members of the community. There were LGBTQ sports groups, school support groups, cultural groups, even a church group (I’m not religious but way to go, Anglicans!).

Yes there were political parties and banks, but they had ‘out’ people marching with them and their message of acceptance and support just seemed so much more genuine. Justin Trudeau marching with his family received huge cheers from the crowd and by being there sent an enormous statement to the world.

#BetterTogether rang true.

I’ll admit I had tears in my eyes at times as I found some of the groups marching to be evidence of real social change in the last 10 years. It was also extremely moving to see the #WeAreOrlando tag and to see photos of the Orlando victims attached to pride flags carried throughout the Parade.

Kudos to the organisers and Grand Marshalls Morgane Oger, Danny Ramadan and Alex Sangha for bringing the Vancouver Pride Parade back to it’s roots of celebration and support.

Here are some of my personal highlights. A full photo gallery can be found here.

Dykes on Bikes! A great way to start the Parade.

Dykes on Bikes is aways a fav to start the Parade

Musqueam Indian Band were the the first of many First Nations groups marching.

Musqueam First Nations leading the marchers

Even for the participants it can be an emotional experience. There was tremendous support for Two Spirited people at Pride.

PFLAG is one of my favourite organisations as they help kids and parents.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue services were there with water guns.

As were some very friendly members of the Vancouver Police Department.

LGBTQ Seniors Have More Fun!

There were some um, great displays….

…fabulous costumes

and some interesting groups.

Click here to view the full gallery of Pride Photos.

For me, LGBTQ rights and equality is about being seen without fear. It’s about being yourself. Pride is a positive day where we celebrate and support one another. It brings people together and helps people find other people that are just like them. To know that you are not alone is extremely important and can be a lifesaver. On Sunday I was very proud to live in Canada and to feel supported by so many people in Vancouver.

Have you ever been to a Pride Parade? How was your experience?

Save the Vaquita!

Save the Vaquita!

What is a Vaquita and why do we need to save it?

The Vaquita is the world’s most endangered marine mammal. Found exclusively in the Gulf of California, Mexico, these small porpoises are on the brink of extinction with only about 60 remaining. That’s 60 animals in total and the number is declining fast.

Depiction of 60 remaining Vaquita
Depiction of 60 remaining Vaquita

July 9, 2016 was International Save the Vaquita Day. Approximately 30 venues across the globe held events to help raise awareness of the plight of the Vaquita.  At the Vancouver Aquarium,  renowned porpoise expert,  Dr Anna Hall gave some short talks about the Vaquita. Dr Hall is also President of the Porpoise Conservation Society which is based right here in Vancouver. The society’s mission is to bring awareness to all 7 species of porpoise.

Dr Anna Hall presenting at the Vancouver Aquarium
Dr Anna Hall presenting at the Vancouver Aquarium

We filmed the talks for the Porpoise Conservation Society and I’ll pop in a link here as soon as it’s online. Dr Hall spoke about gill net fishing and how these nets are the main cause of the Vaquita population decline as the small porpoises become entangled in the nets and drown.  Mexico has introduced a 2 year ban on gill net fishing in an effort to save the Vaquita but it is difficult to enforce.

It is not yet too late. You can use your buying power to help. Choose sustainable seafood that has been caught in a way that does not produce by-catch. This will help not only the Vaquita, but other porpoises, dolphins, turtles and marine life. The Oceanwise website is a great place to start.

Explaining the Oceanwise sustainable seafood program
Explaining the Oceanwise sustainable seafood program

IMG_5300

Learn more about the “panda of the sea” at VivaVaquita and help save the Vaquita!