Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Victoria's Fairmont Empress features ice skating for the holidays

Victoria, BC is beautiful during the holidays, from its colorfully lit BC Parliament Building overlooking Victoria Harbour to the 12 Days of Christmas displays and lighting at The Butchart Gardens. Another holiday attraction is The Fairmont Empress, glowing both inside and out. And this year they've added an ice skating rink, located on the hotel's expansive front lawn.

The covered rink, measuring approximately 60' X 90', offers public skating weekdays from 5-9 PM and 12-9 PM on weekends through the middle of January. Featured activities include Skate 'n Date Nights, Family Skate Afternoons, Sunday Skates with Santa and Christmas Eve Skating with the Elves (which includes hot cocoa and cider). For groups, there are Office Skates, Holiday Parties on Ice and Break + Skate meeting options.  The cost to skate is $10 per person and $5 for children 10 and under. Skate rentals are available for $5.

Photos courtesy The Fairmont Empress

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Scuba Claus returns to the Vancouver Aquarium for daily dives during the holidays

Scuba Claus. Photo courtesy Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

Scuba Claus is back! And the newly expanded Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is welcoming his annual holiday appearance as he does his daily dive in the Georgia Strait. Santa made his diving debut on November 27 and will continue diving through December 24.

The underwater Santa exhibition features colorful marine life found on BC's coastlines, which includes halibut, rockfish, sturgeon, crabs and sea stars. Other holidays highlights include:
  • Electric eel-powered holiday tree, with lanterns that light up when an electric eel discharges a pulse
  • Jelly swarm exhibit, featuring origami jellies beaming with colorful LED lights
  • 4-D theatre film adventure of The Polar Express, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year 
  • Peter Clarkson's Marine-Debris Tree art installation, built with debris collected during this year's shoreline cleanup along the West Coast Trail
  • Frozen Moments: Images of the Arctic photo exhibit, showcasing the Arctic as captured by five photographers: David McEown, Daisy Gilardini, Mark Robinson, Rob Stimpson, Nansen Weber
  • Outdoor maze of decorated living trees
  • Stories and crafts with Scuba Claus' elves
Holiday highlights at the Vancouver Aquarium run through January 4, 2015.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Canada's Remembrance Day ceremonies include visit to Ottawa by Princess Anne

Homemade poppy at The Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa

In the United States, November 11 is commonly known as Veterans Day. But in Canada, it's Remembrance Day or Poppy Day. You can read more about the history of Remembrance Day in my previous blog post

I was in Canada on Remembrance Day during my Great Big Canadian Train Adventure in 2009. Poppies were everywhere, including the one I photographed above. It was placed on Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa, dedicated to Canadian peacekeepers, both living and dead. 

Remembrance Day will be particularly poignant in Canada's capital city this year. On October 22, 2014 an armed attacker shot and killed a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. 

Across Canada, there will be special Remembrance Day events, and Ottawa will be graced with the appearance of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne at the National War Memorial. The ceremony begins at 11 AM on Tuesday, November 11, and will be broadcast on CBC.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Scotiabank Giller Prize Gala: CBC's Rick Mercer replaces ousted Jian Ghomeshi as host of awards show

CBC's Rick Mercer

With the downward spiral of CBC's ousted Jian Ghomeshi, the on-air journalist's to-do list keeps getting shorter and shorter. So it was no surprise that soon after CBC gave Ghomeshi the heave-ho, the Scotiabank Giller Prize had second thoughts about having him host its annual literary gala -- to be broadcast on CBC Monday, November 10 (times vary). Replacing him will be CBC veteran TV host Rick Mercer. Here's what the Giller Prize had to say about the switch on its website : 

"As our broadcast partner, it is up to the CBC to select a Scotiabank Giller Prize gala host. We respect that decision, and that is the decision we communicated via social media yesterday (Sunday, October 26th) in response to inquiries. We all recognize fans and followers are feeling dismay and confusion. We thank those who have offered supportive words to the Giller Prize as we work to bring our occasion back to a focus on celebrating Canadian literature and our six authors shortlisted for this year’s prize. We will share our further updates and those of our partners as they become available."

Rick Mercer is best known for his political satire on the CBC shows This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report. Joining him will be six presenters who will introduce the authors and their books. They include:
  • The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis will be presented by Kim Coates
  • Tell by Frances Itani will be presented by Yannick Bisson
  • Us Conductors by Sean Michaels will be presented by David Usher
  • The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill will be presented by Jessica ParĂ©
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews will be presented by Naomi Klein
  • The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan will be presented by Deepa Mehta
JUNO-nominated classical pianist Jan Lisiecki, a 19-year-old, will perform during the gala. 

The Scotiabank Giller Prize highlights the best in Canadian fiction each year. Beginning in 2014, the prize will award $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the five finalists. The award is named in honor of the late literary journalist Doris Giller and was founded in 1994 by her husband, Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch.
Jian Ghomeshi will be a no-show at the black-tie gala at the Ritz-Carlton.

Watch the Scotiabank Giller Prize Gala live online! Monday, November 10, CBC Books 

Vancouver Island's Wolf in the Fog named Canada's Best New Restaurant by enRoute magazine

A Vancouver Island restaurant came out on top in enRoute magazine's annual Canada's Best New Restaurants. Wolf in the Fog, located in Tofino on the "wild side" of Vancouver Island, bested nine other restos in enRoute's annual roundup of top restaurants in Canada. For those not familiar with enRoute, it is Air Canada's award-winning inflight magazine (and one of my favorites).

Selecting the best restaurants was the mission of food writer Andrew Braithwaite, whose month-long culinary journey took him across Canada from Tofino, BC to St. John's, Newfoundland. The ten winners represented seven of Canada's provinces: British Columbia 2, Ontario 2, Quebec 2, Alberta 1, Newfoundland 1, Nova Scotia 1, Saskatchewan 1.

Chef Nick Nutting of Wolf in the Fog in Tofino on Vancouver Island
 ©JohnCullenPhoto courtesy enRoute magazine 

CANADA'S BEST NEW RESTAURANTS 2014 | Air Canada's enRoute magazine 

1. Wolf in the Fog (Tofino, BC) | "On the extreme west coast of Vancouver Island, where rainforest meets ocean, you stumble up a flight of stairs and into a soaring cedar-clad room above a surf shop where chef Nick Nutting leads a crew trained in the precise details of fine dining." 

2. Farmer's Apprentice Restaurant | Vancouver | "Each small plate -- more often, a bowl -- conjured by owner David Gunawan is a precise jumble of textures and flavours. Digging in is a sort of black magic." 

3. Le Vin Papillon | Montreal | "Long-time Joe Beef guru Vanya Filipovic fills massive chalkboards with organic wines to run with a vegetable-focused cuisine from boyfriend and chef Marc-Olivier Frappier." 

4. RGE RD | Edmonton | "The heart of Blair Lebsack's kitchen is a wood-burning oven that consumes birch and maple at 700F, curing honey ham and smoking Salt Spring Island mussels or even dehydrated local milk during the off-hours."

5. Mallard Cottage | St. John's | "Todd Perrin spent two years restoring a heritage property in Quidi Vidi Harbour for this brilliant mash-up of fine dining and comfort cuisine on the outskirts of St. John's."
Canadian journalist and author Andrew Braithwaite at work.

6. Bar Buca | Toronto | "Rob Gentile's restaurant likes to pretend it's a simple bar for sipping Barolo. You're here to drink, sure, but you're also here to eat things like tiny fried smelt dusted with fennel salt."

7. The Chase | Toronto | "Chef Michael Steh doesn't lean on molecular trickery or audacious ingredients to wow. His food is more direct and more delightful than that, in an atmosphere that makes you want to say yes to things."

8. Ayden Kitchen & Bar | Saskatoon | "Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay gambled that Saskatoon was ready for lime- and lemongrass- and ginger-dusted chicken wings. Ayden isn't about showing off Prairie cooking to the world -- it's about bringing the world home."

9. Restaurant Legende | Quebec City | "Northern Quebec is the culinary hunting ground that Frederic Laplante mythologizes at his capital-city bistro. Cornish hen gets a boreal accent from balsam fir fleur de sel."

10. Edna Restaurant | Halifax | "Jenna Mooers' North End bistro digs up treasure from the fertile soils of Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley and hauls it out of the brisk Atlantic waters."
Ayden Kitchen & Bar was awarded the 2014 People's Choice Award, and all the winners are profiled in the November issue of Air Canada's enRoute and online. There you can also find out where the top chefs travel, drool over a "dream menu" and take a quiz to find out where you should eat (I got Chase in Toronto). The top 10 restaurants will receive their official awards during the annual Canada's Best New Restaurants Gala celebration in Toronto on November 20, 2014.