Dec 11, 2011

CAMRA Vancouver/Beerthirst Tour de Richmond

Ever wondered what happens when you take 50 beer nerds, stuff them into a school bus named "Gordon" and ferry them around to six pubs in one afternoon, filling them full of brew & snacks at every stop?

Well, as one of said lucky nerds who got to partake in the tour (and its copious amount of pints), I can't quite tell you exactly what happened (what happens on the bus stays on the bus!) - but I can tell you that it involved many delicious beverages, beer-related chants, near-victory over an obscene food challenge and a much greater understanding of what one locale outside Vancouver proper has to offer in terms of craft beer.

Amanda (CAMRA Vancouver) and our trusty steed "Gordon"
Essentially a pub crawl for beer nerds, the concept behind Camra Vancouver & Beerthirst's Tour de Richmond was to get us out of our usual city haunts, and experience some of what the 'burbs have to offer in terms of crafty goodness. Turns out, in the case of Richmond, the offering is pretty darn good.

Oct 31, 2011

Red Racer Pumpkin Ale Bread

2011 might well be the year of the pumpkin ale. In 2010, everyone seemed to jump aboard the winter ale train, but this year, it felt like every brewer and his dog released a pumpkin beer of some kind. This is great news for pumpkin ale fanatics like me, who wait all year for the spicy, gourd-flavoured brew to hit store shelves. Now, instead of a couple of options, we've got a veritable buffet of orange cans and bottles to salivate over.

One of my favourite local pumpkin offerings comes from Surrey's Central City Brewing. Their Red Racer Pumpkin Ale is creamy and delicious, with subtle hints of cinnamon and cloves (pumpkin pie!), and without the overwhelming sweetness of some other pumpkin ales. Nice and balanced, I thought it would be a perfect choice for my first attempt at pumpkin beer bread. (yes, this is my second beer bread post this month. I think it might be becoming a thing.)

Oct 18, 2011

Homemade crusty beer bread

Bread is awesome. If it were socially acceptable (and physically possible) for me to eat an entire loaf in one sitting, I would do it. But despite my enthusiastic appreciation for bread, I'd never once tried to make it myself. This might have had something to do with growing up in the 90s and assuming that owning a breadmaker was a necessary part of the process (do people still use those?). Luckily, turns out it's not - as it happens, bread is actually pretty easy to make. Who knew?

For my first attempt at bread baking, I decided to start with (what else?) a bread with beer in it. I used Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale, and it turned out great - with a nice, almost honey-like flavour. You could use any light beer for a more subtle result, or try a darker, spicier beer for more of a noticeable flavour. I'm looking forward to experimenting with different brews in this recipe.

Sep 22, 2011

Lighthouse Beer Riptide Pale Ale Veggie Chili

It's an amazing experience when two things you love separately come together to create something truly magical. Like beer and snowboarding. Or beer and camping. Or beer and... ok, you get it. This week I had the fortune of stumbling upon one of these mash-ups from above whilst nerding about on the internet. And thus I present to you: beer and chili, together at last.

I found the original recipe on the Lighthouse Brewing website and decided to use it as a base for my chili feast, with a few tweaks & additions.

Sep 18, 2011

Beer adventures: Montreal & Ottawa

Earlier this month, I left my humble west coast abode and headed 4,000+km east for a week with my bestest buddy from university. The plan was to spend a night in Montreal, a night in Ottawa and then head to her cottage in Quebec. Although the focus of the trip wasn't beer, and we only really had one day in each city, I figured there had be some way to work a beer adventure or two into the agenda. And luckily, I was right.

We started with Montreal. Although we only had 24 hours in the city, I was determined to get at least a taste of fresh local beer on my lips. And so, after a quick meal at my favourite cheap Montreal eatery, we headed to Dieu du Ciel, an artisinal brewpub in the Plateau area of the city.

Aug 18, 2011

Camp like a (green) champ

Ah, camping. That coveted chance to head to the woods and get away from it all - to get off the computer, enjoy being with nature and drink a few cold ones on a lake. Unfortunately, sometimes "getting away from it all" also means buying a pile of unnecessary stuff, creating a bunch of garbage, and, in a few select cases, burning entire trees on a fiery inferno started with gasoline (guys on the east side of Harrison Lake, I'm looking at you).

But, that doesn't always have to be the case. Here are some tips on how to enjoy staying in the great outdoors without being a jerk to the earth:

Photo by Thruhike98 on Flickr

Aug 11, 2011

Beer adventures: Bellingham, WA

Lately, more and more of our travel plans seems to revolve around beer. And I don't mean just drinking it - I mean beer as a destination, whether it's a brewery, an event or just a bar with amazing craft beer selection. And this is a trend I am totally okay with.

The idea of a Bellingham beer trip started with Boundary Bay Brewery. I'd been thinking about visiting Boundary Bay ever since I tried their IPA at the Central City Cask Festival in June (needless to say, it was good). A couple weeks ago, I got tired of talking about it and decided to finally pick a date. The plan was to camp out at one of the nearby state parks and ride our bikes in to visit Boundary Bay. But... since we were going to be in Bellingham anyway, surely we could squeeze in more than one brewery? And with this logic, 1 brewery became 3. In 24 hours. Here's how it went down:

Jul 18, 2011

Cheaper by the (half) dozen

Ok, let's get one thing straight: I love BC. I'm all about supporting the local goods (including beer) whenever I can. But... sometimes you just happen to be in the United States, staring at a cooler full of delicious craft beers, all of which are $5 or less. And you just go with it. And then you end up with 6 tasty tall bottles in the fridge, straight from Point Roberts, Washington, just begging to be swilled.

Here are some highlights, courtesy of my tongue:

Jul 11, 2011

Easy ways to cut down on food waste

I've always felt guilty about throwing out food - and we eat so many vegetables in our house that it ends up being 3/4 of our weekly garbage (living in an apartment means no city food scraps pickup). I'd had a compost for a while, but was still throwing out fruits and veggies every week, much to my frustration. Finally, the kick in the ass I needed to start getting creative came in book form: American Wasteland by food journalist Jonathan Bloom. The stats are shocking (almost 1/2 of all food produced in the US ends up in the landfill), but some of his big- and small-picture ideas on what we can do to change it are pretty inspiring.

Here are some of the simple ways I've been able to cut down on food waste over the last few months:

Jun 27, 2011

Central City Cask Festival 2011

There's this funny thing that seems to happen every time I attend a beer festival - as the day wears on, the glasses go down quicker, the friends become more plentiful... and the notes get messier.

wait... what?!
But thankfully, it's hard to forget a particularly delicious brew (no matter how many of them you consume). The Central City Brewing Cask Festival - the first of what I hope will be an annual tradition - saw the craft beer crowd gather at the brewery in Surrey to sample specially-made casks from 25 breweries.

my lovingly-filled tasting glass
The beer started flowing just after 11 am, and flow it did. Nobody seemed to mind that it was June 25 and looked more like Feburary outside - we had beer! So much beer!

Jun 13, 2011

Sunday sipping in Steveston

It had been almost 20 years since I'd last visited Steveston, despite living just 30 minutes away for most of those years. We were finally reunited after our two-decade hiatus this weekend - on Sunday, in spite of (or perhaps because of) our car getting broken into the night before, P and I were definitely in the mood for a pint and a bit of an adventure. So, passenger window taped up with a garbage bag (aka ridin' dirty), we headed south-west to check out the beer scene in the riverside Richmond village.

Local spot prawns being sold right off the back of boats in Steveston

May 9, 2011

Homemade green cleaner

I've always been a bit wary of household cleaners. I bought Comet because my mom had always used Comet, but the smell alone always made me wonder if I was giving myself some kind of chemical-induced asthma. But I kept using it, mostly because there weren't any "green" alternatives on the market yet. Then P moved in with me and brought an industrial-sized box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers with him (courtesy of his mom). I'd never used them before, and was amazed at how freakin' well they worked. I was seriously impressed by the innocent-looking little pads. At least until when, despite my protests, P decided to use one to clean something off my arm - which quickly resulted in a nice raw chemical burn on my flesh. I decided then and there I'd rather use some elbow grease and plain vinegar if I had to than wipe something that would burn my flesh all over the house.

When my friend Tracey posted an easy recipe on her blog, I had no more excuses.

I tested it out on the bathroom today and it works like a charm. Took about 3 minutes to make, gets rid of the grime and best of all - no chance of chemical burns in the forecast! Sweet. You can get the recipe over on Tracey's blog, Short + Sweet.

May 8, 2011

Easy miso soup

Soup is my comfort food. Anytime I'm sick, sad, cold or hungover, I reach for a bowl of warm, brothy goodness. One of my favourites is miso soup, especially if I've got a craving for something salty. Since it usually only costs about a buck in Japanese restaurants, I figured it must be cheap and easy to make and decided to give it a try. I've been making it in big batches ever since. So cheap, so easy, so GOOD.

Apr 29, 2011

Beer cocktails: the Lotusland

I've always liked beer just fine the way it is, so I was never really enthralled at the idea of adding booze to it. At least until my last birthday, I wasn't.

P took me to Lotusland, an organic winery in Abbotsford, for a tasting. Within an hour, we'd befriended the hilarious woman behind the bar (who also happened to be one of the owners). We mentioned we were more beer nerds than wine connoisseurs, and she responded with: "Well in that case, you gotta try something." She promptly disappeared to her car, and returned with a single bottle of Okanagan Springs Black Lager and a tiny bottle of Van Gogh espresso vodka (what - you don't store your booze in your vehicle?!). She then proceeded to pour us a small glass of heaven - which shall henceforth be known as the Lotusland.

Apr 27, 2011

Snacks that rule: kale chips

Is it just me, or is everyone all about kale chips lately? No? ...Ok, maybe it's just me and my healthy nerd friends. Regardless, kale chips are so good, you don't even have to be a health nerd to like them (and you can always alternate them with handfuls of Doritos). I've never been a huge kale fan (so bitter!), and I'd always buy the stuff and then let it go bad while I tried to come up with something inspiring to do with it. Problem solved! Yum.

Apr 22, 2011

Countdown to VCBW

In the past, I used to just have one craft-beer related event to look forward to each year: the annual Fall launch of pumpkin beer (yep, I love me some gourd-flavoured brew). But ever since last spring, thanks to the Vancouver Craft Beer Week folks, I've got something else to get excited about - something much, much bigger (and the fact that it coincides with second-round NHL playoffs definitely doesn't dull the celebratory vibe).

In only its second year of existence, Vancouver Craft Beer Week is 9 glorious days of tastings, premieres, casks, food pairings and general celebration of everyone's favourite malty beverage (you can read more about what VCBW means to the craft beer community on BC Brews).

But now, onto the important part - the events.

Apr 11, 2011

To hop or not to hop?

I can't believe I'm going to admit this publicly, but... I am not a huge fan of hoppy beers. Yeah, I said it. If you haven't yet closed the browser in disgust that I still dare to call myself a craft beer fan in the Pacific Northwest, give me a chance to explain:

Apr 8, 2011

Red lentil & rice veggie burgers with sweet potato wedges

Despite being full of veggie-munchers like me, it's tough to find a good veggie burger in this city. It's even tougher to find a good store-bought version. The ones that are flavoured in an attempt to taste like meat have never gone over well with me (Me: "Taste this for me, I think it might be meat. Gasp! I think they served me meat!" P: "This tastes nothing like meat. Do you even know what meat tastes like?!") and most of the rest of them are bland as hell.

After several years, I finally got sick of watching P chow down on a plump, juicy, freshly-made beef burger while I sat and chewed on my cardboard "mushroom patty". And so I threw down my bun (figuratively) and decided I could probably do it better myself. My first attempt is a lentil-based burger:

Apr 5, 2011

Let the planting begin!

Between monsoons this weekend, we managed to get some containers set up in the yard. Radish and lettuce seeds went into fresh dirt, strawberries were transplanted and decorative grasses... were decorative? But here's the best part - total amount spent so far: $0. Yep, that's right - our ridiculous plan of landscaping without spending any money actually seems to be working!

Apr 4, 2011

Beet and bean borscht

I've always enjoyed the saying "cheap like borscht." But I don't think it quite gives borscht all the credit it's due. Something like "cheap, easy, delicious and the coolest colour EVAR like borscht" would be more accurate in my books.

I got this recipe from a pretty random source: the Saskatchewan pavilion at the Olympics last year. They had a booth celebrating their role in North American pulse production (sounds sexy, right?), which included a free little booklet called "Cooking with Pulses." Mmm. Nothing like the word "pulse" to get your appetite going. Anyway, courtesy of the great province of Saskatchewan, I bring you:

Apr 3, 2011

Sweet beer Saturday

It started out as one of those annoying Saturdays where you spend a lot of time driving around doing errands and not a lot of time enjoying it. By 2 in the afternoon we were lost somewhere in Coquitlam in a maze of traffic and construction. Patience was starting to erode, tones were starting to get snappy. And it didn't help that we were both starving. And then, suddenly, we came upon it. A brewpub - in Coquitlam! Who knew?!

And so, moods improving already, we rolled into the parking lot at Big River Brewpub. Although the fact that it was attached to a bowling alley made me doubt its authenticity for a moment, I felt much better when I saw that the brewer's choice pint for the day was a coconut porter. This place had to be legit.

Big River Brewing Coconut Porter

Mar 31, 2011

How to eat healthy for the cheap

Ok, so our food budget ran a little low this past week. I had to get creative. Here's how $60 got the two of us through 5 days of eating (and no, there were no Mr. Noodles involved). I'm just going to list dinners, as 90% of the time we eat leftovers from the night before for lunch:

Mar 29, 2011

Reclaimed light fixture

Look out - I'm getting artsy. This usually doesn't work out well. But fingers crossed.

I got this idea from the latest issue of Sunset magazine, which had a feature on using recycled materials in the garden, including an old glass light fixture-turned-planter:

Mar 27, 2011

Low-impact landscaping

Now that we've (mostly) cleared out the garden, it's time to figure out what the hell we're gonna do with it. Luckily, my aunt just happens to be a landscaper (and a rad person to boot). She came by to help us come up with a plan that fits in with our goal of creating an awesome outdoor space - without buying a bunch of new stuff and creating a ton of waste in the process. Basically, we're aiming to:

- use second-hand material as much as we can (tools, plants, compost, containers, etc.)
- recycle all garden waste
- collect rainwater to use for watering
- plant and grow some veggies, reducing the amount we buy at the store

Mar 26, 2011

Spicy red lentils and rice

I've had a bit of a mixed relationship with lentils. On the one hand, they're cheap, easy to prepare and a good source of protein. On the other hand, if you don't do 'em right, they're pretty damn bland. And nobody likes bland.

Fortunately, this recipe is definitely not. Just spicy enough for my under-developed spice tolerance, this lentil dish is pretty fulla flavour.

Tip: buy lentils in bulk and keep a supply in your cupboard. If you don't have anything to make for dinner, or the food budget is short one week, you can whip up a double batch with rice to get you through dinner and lunch the next day.

Mar 23, 2011

The battle begins, or, attack of the shears!

One of the main reasons I fell in love with our apartment the first time I saw it (in spite of its need for major renovations and horrendous paint colours) was the outdoor space. At close to 1200 square feet, it's like having another entire living space, outside. But like the apartment itself, the yard needed a lot of work - as in, it hadn't been touched in probably 20 years. Now that we've finished with the inside, we finally have time to concentrate on the outside. And just in time for spring!

So then came the shears. There's something amazingly cathartic about pruning. Especially aggressive pruning. Take that 1970s rhodo!


Mar 1, 2011

Vegan pesto sauce

I love pesto. Whoever first thought of grinding up basil, nuts and olive oil into a delicious paste - I salute you. And enjoy the fruits of your genius on a regular basis.

Or, or least I did, until I realized I was lactose intolerant. And almost every store-bought variety of pesto has parmesan cheese in it. Woe was me, until one day I was standing at the deli, forlornly scanning the list of ingredients on a tasty little pesto package, and I realized my mistake. Which was - pesto sauce only has about 5 ingredients in it. Why the hell was I buying it for $8 a package at Safeway anyway? There had to be some way I could make it at home, cheese-free. Later, deli.