I love a good haul post, especially when it’s all about food. As I mentioned yesterday, when I went to the Vancouver Winter Farmer’s Market, I got absolutely drenched in a crazy rainstorm (aka the visiting Pineapple Express system). It was a bad time to find out that my waterproof jacket isn’t actually waterproof or that my umbrella can’t actually stand up to anything stronger than a single raindrop.Dundarave olives, Earnest ice cream, Salt Spring Island cheese and Thai Princess curry

I managed to tough it out for half an hour though, before becoming almost too cold and wet to function. This meant that I was only able to buy a few things at the market. BUT for a girl whose teeth were chattering so much, she could barely see straight, I managed to buy some pretty awesome food products. And the best part is that they’re all from local British Columbia-based companies.

Figaro’s Folly, $7 – Dundarave Olive Company

Dundarave Figaro's Folly Olives

These big, green olives are stuffed with a mixture of fig, apricots and honey. It’s a tasty sweet mix that goes well with the saltiness of the green olives, which I found to be a lot less salty than the olives you’d get at the supermarket. It went really well with the creamy Romelia from Salt Spring.

Romelia Goat Cheese, $12 – Salt Spring Island Cheese

Romelia goat cheese froSalt Spring Island Cheese

I LOVE THIS CHEESE. It’s everything you would want cheese to be – super creamy, rich, and flavourful enough to leave a mark without kicking you in the head. Believe me, I’ve met enough aged blue cheese to know the difference.

Green Curry Quick Stir-Fry Sauce, $9 – Thai Princess

Green curry quick stir-fry sauce from Thai Princess

Suratin, the owner of Thai Princess, was absolutely fabulous. He saw that I was practically drowning on dry land and told me to try his curry sauces to help warm up. Was I a sucker for his marketing ploy? Yep. Was he a really nice, helpful and informative man who really knew his product inside and out? Hell yes.

This green curry isn’t too spicy, which lets you get the flavour profile of all the ingredients, especially the lemon grass. One of the cool things about this curry is that it’s gluten, wheat, and dairy-free (yay coconut milk!).

Maple Walnut, $10 – Earnest Ice Cream

Maple Walnut ice cream from Earnest Ice Cream

I remember when this local company started showing up at events last year and love that it’s really taken off. The Maple Walnut was one of the last two flavours they had by the time I got to them. Yep, even on an intensely rainy day, they managed to sell out of nearly twelve different flavours! That’s how good their ice cream is.

The ice cream is infused with a natural maple flavour without being overly sweet and the toasted walnuts add the right crunch to make this ice cream highly addictive. And if the idea of finishing this pint in one sitting makes you feel bad (it really shouldn’t), then you can turn that frown upside down knowing you can return the recyclable glass jar to the folks at Earnest and they’ll give you $1 back!

What cool products did you take home from your last visit to a farmers market?

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I felt a little bit like a postal worker when I checked out the Vancouver Winter Farmers Market last weekend. You know the whole “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night” thing? Yeah, I have a much better idea of what these guys have to go through now.

Things to do in Vancouver: TheVancouver Farmer's Market

Rainy Vancouver weather and gorgeous Ambrosia apples

I’m pretty sure the idea of braving the winter cold just to check out a farmer’s market doesn’t really appeal to everybody. I’m even more certain that going out in a monsoon just for a farmer’s market is reserved only for the insane.

Well, I guess you can call me crazy because that’s exactly what I did last Saturday. But in my defense, it was only drizzling when I stepped outside that day. The monsoon didn’t hit until it was too late to turn back. Go unpredictable Vancouver weather.

But it was kind of worth drowning on dry land because I got to go home with some seriously tasty goodies (check back tomorrow for that post). Any guesses as to what they could be? :)

Vancouver Farmers Market haul

Why Farmers Markets are Awesome

Farmers markets are renowned for being the spot to find locally and organically grown fruit, produce, and meats. You’ll also find locally made goodies like cheese, honey, and, in my case, Thai curries! The vendors really know their stuff, so feel free to ask them any questions you have about what they’re selling – where is it grown? How is it grown? Why are your apples so much redder than the ones I get at the supermarket?

Thai Curry Vendor at the Vancouver Farmers Market

Also, did I mention the vendors are also really nice? When my umbrella broke, the guy who sells the Thai curries let me hang out under his stall and helped me warm up by offering me multiple tastes of all his curries. Great customer service always gets me.

In Vancouver, the farmers market goes year round, so if you’re looking for things to do in the winter, I definitely suggest checking it out just to see what hidden treats you could dig up (try to go when the sky isn’t pouring buckets though. I worry about you).

Other Things to Do at the Farmers Market

Aside from getting to see local musicians and performers bust out their talents, the winter market is also a treasure trove for Vancouver food trucks. While I was swimming around on dry land, I spotted Vij’s Railway Truck, Le Tigre, and Chilitank.

Vij's Railway truck's Butter chicken schniztel

I went over to Vij’s for the Butter Chicken Schnitzel and a delicious, steaming hot chai tea. The chicken was perfectly crispy on the outside (I think they used panko breadcrumbs) and moist and juicy on the inside. The best part was that it wasn’t greasy at all, which made the butter sauce that much better. I loved the creamy tomato-based sauce, which had the right hint of sour and heat. It was perfect for warming me up in the cold, wet weather.

Another awesome thing about the market is that you can swipe your debit card for tokens that you can use at the stalls. I know a lot of people don’t carry cash anymore, so this was really convenient.

The winter edition of the Vancouver Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday until April 21 from 10am to 2pm at Nat Bailey Stadium. 

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I went to a really interesting penthouse party last weekend. It was put on by the fab Saschie and her friends at a really cool space in Gastown. Everyone was told to bring at least one friend so that the party could be filled with strangers to meet and mingle with. But that wasn’t what made the night interesting (although this big wheel of brie on the food table did somewhat make my night).

Saschie Maclean and Karra Barron

I’m just going to say it. We all came to this party to try a berry.

Synsepalum dulcificumi or “miracle fruit,” to be exact.

photo-4

Yeah, I know it sounds weird to throw a party that helps people meet their daily serving of fruit, but this is no ordinary berry. You have to bite into it and let the juice coat your tongue for about a minute. Afterwards, your taste buds are transformed and everything tastes sweeter for about an hour. It’s weird…in a really amazing way.

Limes are like pure sugar. Grapefruits are heavenly. Spicy salsa is sweet with a hint of picante lingering on the edges of your tongue. Pickles taste like…uh, well still like a pickle. So, forget about that one.

Food table at the 1+1+1 Penthouse Social

My point is this little berry is amazing. Almost like drugs for foodies. But not. Because this stuff is natural and it is all legal. Even though I did kind of trip out because of how much better lemons and cheap red wine suddenly tasted!

If you’ve ever tried miracle fruit, what did you think? And if you haven’t, would you?

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If you live in Vancouver, the place to go for a quick winter getaway has got to be Whistler, BC. This small town is about a 2-hour drive north of the Lower Mainland and offers some of the best powder in the world. Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain are so amazing that they were competition sites during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Karra Barron on top of Whistler Mountain

During the winter season, accommodations in Whistler Village, which is located at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb, can be nearly impossible to get. In fact, we ended up staying in Creekside, which is a 15-minute drive from the village. This great alternative to the village is mainly made up of hotels and lodges, but there is a gondola here that will take you straight up to Whistler mountain.

Mmm… Hot Pot

Due to a car accident on the Sea-to-Sky highway (the only road that takes you from Vancouver to Whistler), we didn’t arrive at our Lake Placid condo until 11pm. The late hour didn’t stop us from having an epic hot pot feast though.

Late night hot pot

Hot pot is the cooking technique of boiling vegetables, thin slices of meat, and noodles in a flavourful broth. Once cooked, you dunk your goodies into a dip of your creation before eating.

Hot pot dipping options

A Day on the Slopes

The next morning, we headed up to Whistler for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The gondola’s in both Creekside and Whistler Village run from 8:30am-3:00pm (during the months of November to mid-January).

Gondola to Blackcomb mountain

While you’re zipping down the mountains, be sure to stop every once in awhile to take in the natural alpine beauty surrounding you.

Whistler Mountain view

If you have only a day to spend in Whistler, I highly recommend dividing your time between the two mountains. You can take the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which gets you from Whistler to Blackcomb (and vice versa) in just 11 minutes! There are even two gondolas with glass bottoms that give you a fantastic view of the snowy land below.

Apres-Ski

After a day on the mountains, I make sure my après-ski time is spent soaking in the hot tub with some bubblies on the side.

Apres-ski champagne and music

Nightlife in Whistler is predominantly contained to the village. Garfinkels is always a great time, but I’ve heard good things about Buffalo Bill’s as well. If nightclubs aren’t your thing, I recommend checking out a bar like Citta. For dinner, you can go fine dining at Araxi or make your own delicious mix at Mongolie Grill.

Village Life

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Whistler village

On our last day in Whistler, half our group went to the Coco-Cola tube park, while the rest of us went strolling through the village. Shopping, lunching, and ice-skating are just some of the fun things you can do here.

Canadian poutine from Zog's

Definitely grab lunch or a snack at Zog’s if you can. Their Canadian poutine is absolutely delicious and very filling. I also love Avalanche Pizza. They use organic ingredients in their dough, which has a subtle yeast flavour that had me reaching for slice after slice.

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Yesterday marked the second year I attended the Christmas Wish Breakfast at the Pan Pacific Vancouver. This annual event has been going on for 25 years and each year always seems bigger and better than the last. Benefitting the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, all you have to do is bring an unwrapped toy and you get a free breakfast as a thank you.

Pile of toys being gathered for the Pan Pacific Christmas Wish Breakfast

Pan Pacific Christmas Wish Breakfast consistng of scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns and croissants

The breakfast starts at 6am and goes until 9am, which sounds really early, but since it happens on a weekday, it’s the perfect way to sneak in a good deed and hearty breakfast before work. The Pan Pacific is always done up nicely in Christmas decorations and the whole atmosphere is super. People waiting in line can enjoy Christmas tunes performed by a ukelele band and there’s even a choir belting out holiday carols by the growing pile of toys. If you don’t get into the Christmas spirit after attending this event, well, bahumbug to you.

Karra Barron posing with Santa and her friend at the Pan Pacific Christmas Wish Breakfast

Like the year before, I donated the gift of learning (I sincerely believe kids prefer books over LEGO), enjoyed the free breakfast with my girl, Nan, and got to take a picture with Santa. I think this officially makes the Christmas Wish Breakfast my new annual holiday tradition!

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A few weeks ago, I was able to cross two more things off my “Before I Turn 25” list:

  • Take a bartending class
  • Invent an awesome drink

For some reason when I was in high school, I thought the coolest thing in the world was to work as a bartender at Cactus Club. Seriously. I was so obsessed that, a year later, when the restaurant was recruiting at my university, I went and got myself hired. Unfortunately, a job offer at a public relations agency quickly followed and I quit Cactus before the ink had even dried on my contract.

Different bottles of liquor lined up on shelves at the Metropolitan Bartending School in Vancouver, BC

It seemed like my dream of becoming the ultimate cocktail slinger would never happen until one day, a Groupon for the Bar Chef program at Metropolitan Bartending School appeared in my inbox. Suddenly, with just one click, I was going to bartending school (for a few hours anyway).

Before this program, I thought that pouring a bunch of shots into a glass and not gagging when you drank it counted as a cocktail. But our teacher, Micah Dew, showed us that great cocktails actually incorporate a lot more than just booze. He took us to a nearby grocery store and instructed us to get whatever fruits and vegetables we wanted.

Different fruits used in the Bar Chef program Karra Barron took at the Metropolitan Bartending School in Vancouver, BC

Yes, that’s right. Fresh fruits and veggies for cocktails! The Bar Chef program teaches you how to make delicious and exciting drinks with nearly anything you can imagine: blueberries, cucumbers, squash, thyme, rosemary, fennel, figs, honey, bitters… the list goes on and on.

Micah was a really great teacher and after clueing us into the chef part of bartending, he gave us ample time to create our own drinks. My partner Craig and I whipped up two delicious cocktails: The Fennel Mix and Twisted Apple Pie.

Karra's Fennel Mix cocktail made at a class she took in the Metropolitan Bartending School in Vancouver, BC

The first drink was made with a mix of gin, fennel, strawberries and Angostura bitters. We put too many of the ripe strawberries in it, which kind of drowned out the licorice flavour of the fennel, but otherwise it was pretty good.

Twisted Apple Pie cocktail made by Karra Barron while doing the Bar Chef program at Metropolitan Bartending School in Vancouver, BC

Karra and her Bar Chef partner Craig at the Metropolitan Bartending School in Vancouver

Craig and I (that’s us toasting our genius above) really loved the Twisted Apple Pie though. This one is made with muddled apples, a few orange pieces, maple whiskey, and a bit of ginger ale. I rimmed the glass with some cinnamon sugar and topped the drink with a dash of cinnamon right before serving. It tasted just like an apple pie with a fresh burst of orange lingering in the background.

I loved taking this program and learned tons in just four hours. With holiday party season on the horizon, you can bet I’ll be whipping up something a little more adventurous than my usual Vodka Seven!

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