Monday, November 30, 2009

Faces to Names - Lattimer Gallery Open House

As many gallery-hoppers and art enthusiasts will likely agree, one of the frustrating things about viewing and/or analyzing and/or enjoying artwork is the disconnect between artist and audience. There have been so many times in my life where I have disliked but been intrigued by a work thinking "Perhaps I would like or at least appreciate this piece if I could ask the creator a few questions!" Creative context and conceptual clarification are vital to a great deal of artwork that has been produced (especially in North America and Europe, with those obscure colour field canvases, dadaism, action painting, et cetera) since the early 1900s. Galleries and museums often make some attempt to explain the work that they display, but sometimes those brief, vinyl-lettered blurbs on the wall just don't cut it. Sometimes you really do need the artist present, or at least a recorded artist statement - in audio or video or text - to help your brain digest the weirdness in front of you.

I love attending the annual Open House at Lattimer Gallery ( because many of the First Nations artists that display their work at the gallery are present on this festive night. The gallery's Open House takes place every year during the first week of December, and it is a great opportunity to get some Christmas shopping done, to partake of the free wine and cheese, and to meet a few of BC's most talented Native artists. Having received my MA in Northwest Coast Art, I have a particularly keen interest in this market, but this is a unique event for anyone who enjoys the art of our coastal First Nations. Furthermore, it is a useful event for those who wish to ask some of the artists about specific myths, aesthetic systems, symbols or techniques used within Northwest Coast art.

If you have ever been doing the dishes or walking the dog or raking leaves in the nippy Vancouver rain and just thought to yourself "What the heck is a Sisiutl anyway?" then you can definitely gain something from attending.

Oh ya, did I mention the free wine and cheese?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The (Meat)ball and Chain

I have a bias against chains.

Chains on lame-o posers...great. Chains on snow tires...a-okay. Chains with balls attached to them...a fact of life. But restaurant chains...I don't like them. I don't trust the capitalistic principles behind them, I don't approve of their ubiquitousness (geographically and victually), and I don't appreciate how their primary selling feature is an absence of culinary creativity.

Thus, when my sister wanted to dine at the Glowbal Group's Italian Kitchen for her birthday dinner, I reluctantly agreed (birthday demands quash any dissent amongst the ranks). Lo and behold, we had an excellent meal! Darn!

The decor was Ikeaesque and forgettable, and the menu was filled with commonplace Italian standards, but those spunky young fellas in the kitchen knew what they were doing with our supple veal and tender gnocchi. Our table ordered the Veal Scaloppini Bresaola (perfectly seared, with baby veg and truffles), the Chicken Saltimbocca (tender and unique with the addition of grapes), the Penne Arrabbiata (al dente and piccante), the Spinach Salad (just like Mary-Kate Olsen: scrawny and overdressed), the Gnocchi (simple and delicate) and the Jumbo Prawn Linguini (again, pretty basic but well prepared with ginormous prawns).

After our meal, I was sitting there, content and surprised over the skill with which everything was cooked. We had a fun, agreeable meal, worthy of a three-star or B ranking. However, I bumped this up to a four-star (or B+ / A-) ranking when our cookie-cutter, winsome waiter brought my sister a complimentary tiramisu. This really was unexpected and nice.

How can you NOT appreciate this generic gesture of quality customer service?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hopscotch and the Chowder Chowdown

By nature, I am not a very social person. I enjoy being by myself, and I generally dislike crowds of people. Therefore, I have avoided events like Vancouver's Hopscotch Festival ( and Oceanwise Chowder Chowdown ( in the past.

This year, things were different: a friend bought me a ticket to Hopscotch as a birthday present, and I won a pass to the Chowder Chowdown from Yelp ( and Mobio.

Hopscotch was fun, and my passion for single malts managed to repress my mild social anxiety for the evening. Plus, the world looks a whole lot friendlier after the first few drams enter the bloodstream! I attended the Tasting Hall, which was filled with reps from numerous scotch distilleries, in addition to reps from non-scotch-related distilleries such as PatrĂ³n tequila, Buffalo Trace bourbon and Highwood rye. There were also more than a dozen craft breweries distributing their malty beverages, if one needed a break from sipping (or slamming, in my sister's case) the hard stuff. I will hit up Hopscotch again next year for sure, but I think I may register for one of their formal events rather than the Tasting Hall.

I went to the Oceanwise Chowder Chowdown last night and am nursing a mild chowder hangover this morning. I didn't even know I could eat that much shellfish at one time! The Chowder Chowdown takes place IN the Aquarium and is a competition between ten of Vancouver's best restaurants. Just to make this event THAT much cooler and enjoyable, the Aquarium and Oceanwise teamed up with the Craft Brewers Association of BC to pair each chowder with a domestic beer. This three-hour event consists of meandering around the tranquil tanks of the Aquarium sampling amazing chowders from the likes of Coast and O'Douls whilst consuming unlimited amounts of micro-brewed beer. This is actually what I imagine Heaven will be like. At the end of the night a vote takes place - by both the public and a panel of judges - as to who makes the meanest chowder in the city.

Save the dates for both of these events when Fall 2010 rolls around. They suit the season, they are completely unique, and they will likely cure you of any social phobias that may be lingering in your psyche.