Monday, August 30, 2010

New Orwell Hotel Mural

In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, First Nations artists recently completed the largest mural in BC. On the side of the Orwell Hotel, at Hastings and Jackson, artists completed the 743-foot mural which represents our urban Aboriginal population and celebrates Vancouver icons. Artists included in the project were: Sharifah Marsden, Richard Shorty, Jerry Whitehead, Haisla Collins, Don Howell and Nicola Campbell.

The cool thing about this project is that it was completely funded through BC organizations. General Paint donated most of the materials, and the other costs associated with the project were covered by the BC Housing Association, the City of Vancouver's Great Beginnings Program, the Strathcona BIA, the Royal Bank, and Britannia Community Services.
The symbolism is complex, but it is based upon the themes of progress, First Nations rights, and urban identities. I love how the old Woodward's sign was integrated into the mural. 

Photo courtesy of The Province newspaper

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Frank N Stein in Ferndale

What more does a man really need in life above a loving family, sausage, and micro-brewed beer? That's right...very little.

At Frank N Stein, a bearded man serves you steins full of fresh, delicious draught beer at America's smallest brewpub. They also offer free pretzels, and the efficient George Foreman Grill behind the high bar will get your weiners hot, lickity-split. You can also play steel-tipped darts while you are waiting for the grill to warm.

Located in sleepy Ferndale - between Vancouver and Bellingham - this little gem places an emphasis on local beer and conversation. Amongst the highlights in the beverage department are the Ferndale-based Atwood beers, which are available in a rotating selection of Atwood Pale, Atwood Brown Porter, Atwood Kesterweizen and Atwood Scottish Lodge Ale. The Kesterweizen, named after the brewmaster's godfather, is my favourite with its low carbonation and pineapple undertones.

Ask for Josh! He is the best barman along the Northwest Coast.

Friday, August 13, 2010

That's Affogato, Not Avocado!

Since the age of 17, I have consumed at least one cup of coffee - in filtered or espresso form - every day of my life. I am not, however, an extreme coffee drinker. I never have more than two cups a day. Over the past two months, I have developed an unquenchable desire for affogato - the common Italian and south German dessert consisting of vanilla ice cream and espresso. 

Perhaps this bestial thirst has been triggered by the unusually warm summer temperatures,  or perhaps my coffee-based tastes are evolving and searching for new flavour combinations. Whatever the case may be, I have been combing the city for establishments that make great espresso, serve vanilla ice cream, and do not require table service. This quest is much harder than you would think for a cosmopolitan city such as Vancouver. 

I have been getting my fix at the following locations, in my neighbourhood, but I would love to hear of other ristretto pushers and gelato mongers in the city. For example, I am sure that Commercial Drive has a few sweet spots. I've been hitting up:

- Trixi's Coffeehaus (3306 Cambie): decent espresso-based drinks and wonderful crepes

- Amato Gelato Cafe (88 East 1st Ave): located within Mario's Gelati headquarters, this cafe has both excellent coffee and ice cream...great stop during a walk around the seawall

- Whole Foods (510 West 8th Ave at Cambie): I know, I self-respecting espresso connoisseur would ever frequent Whole Foods, but they can provide what many superior cafes cannot...affogato!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seasonal Beers: Berries, Ginger and Wheat

One of my favourite things about summer is seasonal beers. Most breweries and brewpubs offer seasonal selections throughout the year, but I find the range of summer beers produced in BC to be the most intriguing and challenging.

This week, I stopped in for a few drinks at my near-local bar, The Sunset Grill, and sampled two fruit-infused beers that both taunted and titillated my tastebuds. The first was Red Truck Purple Haze Blueberry Blonde Ale, which is not bottled and is only available at a select few restaurants and bars in Vancouver. At 6% abv and brewed in a Northern European style, this deceptively light brew is by no means codswallop. Unlike some fruit beers, such as the increasingly popular Fruli, Red Truck's Purple Haze is made by adding the fruit during the fermentation process. When fruit - or any unnecessary flavourings for that matter - is added during fermentation, it results in a subtle, tart concoction that greatly differs from a brew that has been infiltrated by fruit juice after fermentation and filtration. Red Truck's blueberry beer was summery and crisp, with a very dry finish. 

The second beer that I tried was Surrey's Red Racer Raspberry Wheat Ale, which pours amber but smells like you are walking through a dense raspberry bramble...on Saltspring Island...during a balmy mid-summer's afternoon. The Red Racer Razz is made in a similar fashion to the Purple Haze, so the character of this light, mildly-carbonated wheat beer is not overpowered by the fruit. I did find the raspberry flavour a bit cloying near the end, and would recommend the Purple Haze if you are planning on downing a pitcher or multiple pints.

The other seasonal beer that I have been obsessed with over the past three weeks is Granville Island's Ginger Beer. I am not a huge fan of Granville Island's beer due to the lingering Pilsner hops that they use across the board, but the ginger used in this seasonal creation dulls and compliments the hops that normally torment my temperamental palate. I had been aware of GIB's ginger beer in the past, but I had a few pints this year that were cold and crisp and complemented Vancouver's calescent July so well that I will forever associate the Summer of 2010 with this delightful draught. The brewery has now stopped production of this beer, but I purchased two cases to savour into the autumn months.

Keywords: Vancouver Craft Beer, "Vancouver Seasonal Beers"