When This Day is a ‘Day’ No Longer

It’s here again. December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Here’s the theme for 2015:

Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

“The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

Persons with disabilities must be able to fulfil their role in society and participate on an equal basis with others. It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual. Often, the societal image of persons with disabilities is impacted by attitudes based on stigma and discrimination, as well as archaic ideas about disability and persons with disabilities that are often the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others. It is important to note that disability is part of the human condition, and that all of us either are or will become disabled to one degree or another during the course of our lives.

By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.”

Nice words, eh? But they don’t mean much to me. Neither does having a day that focuses on disabled people.

They’re just words. It’s just a day.

I don’t want there to be a ‘day’ for disabled people. I don’t want a light shone on disability as something to be celebrated, or marvelled at. I don’t want a day that urges the world to take notice, take action, and suddenly care. I don’t want a day that is designed to leave people momentarily motivated, inspired or guilty.

I don’t want a day makes me angry, and sad and frustrated and diminished and confused.

I believe with all my heart that accessibility and inclusion and the breaking down of barriers should be as natural as breathing. Simply having a day that points out the need for this only serves to raise awareness for a brief time, and then, it disappears.

It’s not what we need.

Here’s what we need, people.

We need a world where accessible, affordable housing isn’t an impossibility for too many of us, and we are relegated to living arrangements that restrict our movements and severely erode our quality of life.

We need a world where we can get hired for any job we want. There may be a glass ceiling for some, but for us, it’s a glass door. You don’t see it’s there until you run smack into it.

We need a world where we can go into any building, without discovering that no one thought to install an automatic door opener, or the ramp is too steep to manoeuvre, or the ‘accessible’ bathrooms don’t accommodate a power chair or a scooter, or someone had put the Braiile labels in the elevator in UPSIDE DOWN.

We need a world where we don’t have to go through the service entrance, or the back door or through the underground parking to access an entrance to a theatre or arena – only to find that we have the worst seats in the house.

We need a world where accessible parking isn’t hogged by those who don’t need it, and where we can actually REACH the parking meter from wheelchair height. We need a world where accessible transportation isn’t a privilege or luxury, but a right.

We need a world where we’re not yelled at because our speech disabilities or our hearing impairments or our cerebral palsy make us automatically stupid or incompetent or drunk.

We nee a world where our guide dogs or service dogs aren’t refused service at a restaurant, or a ride in a cab.

We need a world where we can read a menu in large print, review a document on our computer in a format that will work, or get have interpreters at an event so we can fully participate.

We need a world where everyone who requires caregivers have enough compassionate, competent workers who accommodate our schedules and needs, not theirs.

We need a world where none of us are questioned for our desire to have a family, or our ability to raise kids.

We need a world where our disabilities, mental, physical, and environmental aren’t second-guessed just because they appear invisible to others.

We need a world where we don’t have to push, cajole, beg and badger governments to protect our rights through legislation.

We need a world where being different doesn’t make us the object of bullying, exclusion, condescension and discrimination.

We need a world where all of us are accepted for the smart, talented, beautiful, sexy and valuable people we are.

As I write these words, tears form in my eyes. I know I am lucky to have a disability that doesn’t limit me that much. I can travel, I can take care of myself. I can live anywhere I want because I’m not encumbered by stairs or doors that are too narrow or bathrooms I can’t get into. Hell, despite my lack of sight, I can fake my way into most situations. I can write, I can bring my world to life with my camera. I am loved and appreciated.

It’s still hard, though. I was bullied as a kid and as an adult. I was denied the chance to pursue a teaching career. I’ve had people refuse to hire me. It’s a struggle to find paid work.Maintaining self-confidence is a constant struggle.

But I continue to try. I continue to show the world what I can do in the hopes that it not only helps me, but others, and especially kids. I continue to fight with and for my community.

I’m only one person. But if enough of us fight, and persuade, and influence, and prevail, we won’t have to ‘celebrate’ this day again.

Will you help?

Blind Tastings – Earls Test Kitchen and Chef Collective Unveiled

I love restaurants. And I love chefs. I admire their talent, their creativity, their passion.

Vancouver is fortunate to have many extraordinary chefs whose stars shine bright in the culinary world. Earls can now boast a veritable constellation of world-class talent – with the introduction of its Chef Collective.

CAB_8411

Last week, Earls unveiled a brand new, million dollar Test Kitchen at its downtown Hornby Street location, and introduced the team of chefs who will work collaboratively to brainstorm, share ideas and techniques and ultimately create dishes designed to elevate every customer’s dining experience.

CAB_8469

CAB_8384

Diners who visit the restaurant at lunchtime will be able to order new dishes, and get valuable hints from the chefs themselves in the main dining room. A few lucky diners will get a view of the test kitchen at a three-seat counter on the second floor.

CAB_8379

The audio visual equipment in the Test Kitchen will allow those guests to see close up what the chefs are creating with two high-resolution cameras that both zoom in and move across the kitchen. That same equipment will also be able to live-stream cooking demonstrations to Earls’ chefs across the country, inspiring them to embrace new ingredients and cooking techniques.

Here’s the team – and some info on the Chefs.

Earls Chefs Group casual

Earls’ Chef Collective, from L to R: Chef Dawn Doucette, Sous-Chef Andrew Hounslow, Chef Tina Fineza, Chef Jeff McInnis, Chef Hamid Salimian, Chef David Wong

Chef Dawn Doucette; Home town Vancouver, originally from Toronto

Chef Dawn Doucette works full time for Earls in culinary development. A chef with many years experience, she was educated at the California Culinary Academy with a degree in Culinary Arts in addition to a professional sushi certificate from TheCalifornia Sushi Academy in Los Angeles (which led to a dream trip traveling to Tokyo to the world-famous Tsukiji fish market). While living in California Dawn worked in the world renowned kitchen of the Zuni Café in San Francisco. Dawn has been part of the Earls family both in the kitchen and as a restaurant manager with Earls and as Director of Culinary Product Development at Townhall and Saltlik restaurants (part of the Fuller Group of restaurants). Dawn travels for culinary experiences, last year studying pasta making in Italy and was recently a competitor on Top Chef Canada.

Dawn’s culinary style encompasses rustic west coast and Californian cuisine.

Chef Tina Fineza; Home town Vancouver, originally from the Philippines and Seattle, Washington

Chef Tina Fineza is renowned for her flair with both Asian and Mexican foods. Growing up in the Philippines, she was surrounded the cuisines of Spain, China and Indonesia and has incorporated those flavours into her recipe development. She worked at Vancouver’s award winning Lumiere restaurant and Diva at the Met before moving to New York to work for the Ryland Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property in New Jersey. She was Executive Chef of Bin 942 and The Flying Tiger. As a culinary consultant in Vancouver Tina has created recipes for Les Faux Bourgeois, Habit, La Taqueria, Commune Café, Oyster Raw Bar, Terra Breads , East of Main, The Roaming Dragon Food Truck and La Mezcalaria.

Tina’s culinary style encompasses Mexican and Latin dishes from the simple to the most sophisticated flavour. 

Chef Jeff McInnis; Home town New York, originally from Florida

Earls knew they wanted to work with Jeff when they tasted his amazing southern style influenced food at a restaurant called Yardbird in Miami, Florida. Born to either fish or cook Jeff grew up on fishing boats around Niceville, Florida, peeling shrimp, cutting fish and cooking on the line at The Marina Cafe. He attended world renowned culinary institute Johnson & Wales University in Charleston before working in the Caribbean, Virgin Islands, San Francisco, Virginia and Miami. Jeff cooked his way into the finals of “Top Chef,” in 2010; He is currently opening a new restaurant in New York City called Root + Bone as well as working with Earls.

Jeff’s culinary skills encompass a distinctive Southern American style as well as vegetarian cuisine.

Chef Hamid Salimian; Home town Vancouver, originally from Iran

Born in Iran and raised on the Caspian Sea, Hamid brings an exotic palate to Earls dishes creating new dishes and bringing a flavour twist to update existing menu items. His influences come from the simple, traditional Persian cuisine though his main area of culinary study was French cuisine. Hamid’s background is in fine dining and hotels working at the Sutton Place Hotel and The Metropolitan Hotel, where he was Executive Chef as well as Chef of the award winning Diva at the Met. He is currently Captain of Culinary Team Canada and splits his time evenly between the Earls Test Kitchen, where he works 3 days a week, and as a culinary instructor at VCC. He and his wife, Chef Jennifer Peters, are also opening a gluten free bakery this year in Vancouver.

Hamid’s culinary skills encompass Persian cuisine and French cuisine blending both those cultures into Asian and West Coast cuisines.

Chef David Wong; Home town Vancouver, originally from Nanaimo, BC

Chef David Wong also works full time in our Test Kitchen. He is an award winning chef from Vancouver, most recently as Executive Chef of the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the award winning restaurant ORU. Dave has too many awards and medals to even list but we would say that  his Gold medal win as part of Culinary Team Canada in Basil, Switzerland and representing Canada at the  Bocuse d’Or held in Lyon, France – are two of the most prestigious culinary awards in the world.

David’s culinary skill encompasses a number of Asian cuisines as well as seafood and shellfish. 

I was fortunate to attend a tasting dinner after the formal tour of the Test Kitchen and introduction of the chefs – and the food and original Earls cocktails lived up to the event.

IMG_0012The tea pots are the receptacles for the Mad Hatter, a warm vodka-infused brew and a personal favourite, and the Tequila Sunset combined el jimador blanco, with aperol, lemongrass, fresh orange and lime juices, and meringue foam. I’m not a tequila drinker myself, but it was a popular choice among the other guests.

CAB_8492

I did try a delicious and refreshing Moscow Mule, in a distinctive mug, simply consisting of Smirnoff vodka, ginger and fresh lime with a sprig of mint. I’m surprised and a bit amused by the fact that, at age 60, I’m starting to like cocktails!

CAB_8503

We were also treated to a cocktail demonstration by Earls Beverage Director Cameron Bogue, who prepared an Old Fashioned with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Demerara sugar and root beer bitters, and an Earls original – the Cabin Fever, with Crown Royal, Tawny Port, ginger, pineapple, lemon and moondog bitters.

As for the food, we were treated to more deliciousness than I could handle, including BBQ Pork Buns with Hoisin Hot Sauce, Cilantro and Roasted Peanuts, and Vietnamese Style Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Daikon Salad and Toasted Naan. But here are my favourite dishes of the night.

CAB_8532-2

I thoroughly enjoyed the Earls Cobb Salad, featuring lobster, bacon, egg and my favourites – lots of blue cheese and avocado!

IMG_0010-2

And I loved the spicy kick from the fiery Malaysian Hokkien Noodles with Red Pork and Prawns – so good, but such a huge portion!

IMG_0011-2

And I even managed to nibble everything on the dessert sampler – from the classic Key Lime Pie to the Chocolate Hazelnut Bar with Salted Caramel, and the Chai Panna Cotta with Hibiscus and Pineapple. Oh my…

I’m looking forward to going back to Earls and sitting at the counter overlooking the Test Kitchen and watching the Chef Collective in action. And you can expect that I’ll be posting all the details!

And my #EyeOpener for this post? As simple as salt and pepper. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s grabbed the wrong spice mill because the salt and pepper mills were identical. Earls gets it. And the solution is so simple… See for yourself!

CAB_8456

My Roving Eye – Windows, Doors, Wheels and Wanderlust in Paris

Gallery

This gallery contains 20 photos.

I’m feeling very nostalgic today. Maybe because it’s spring, maybe because I’ve just discovered some photos I thought were lost – but my mind and heart are back in Paris, where I was two years ago…wandering. I’m not saying that … Continue reading

Blind Tastings – Finger Lickin’ Goodness at Earls Yaletown

“Some 30 years ago, Leroy Earl Fuller and his son Stanley Earl Fuller had a simple idea: a laid-back burger & beer joint. When the restaurant started, there was no question about what the name would be. It had to be called Earls.”

Until I read the history of Earls Kitchen and Bar, I had no idea how this iconic chain got its start. And, until this week, I hadn’t eaten dinner at an Earls, ever. Well, that will change. I’ll be going back for the food, the atmosphere and the service. And for another reason, which I’ll save for the end…

So, what drew me to Earls on a pleasant spring evening? Ribs. Succulent ribs. Intriguing cocktails. All part of Earls’ #ThisCallsForRibs promotion.

CAB_5374

And a wonderful group of people brought together by Host Extraordinaire Marc Smith.

CAB_5383

My dining companions also included Dianne ChowMary SheridanBrian Webb, Adrian and Jeremy AKA The Food Gays, Christa Leigh and the awesome Cate Simpson of Earls.

Cate introduced us to the cocktail of the evening – the Mad Hatter. The presentation was fantastic and would have been a perfect addition at Alice’s Tea Party, with a warm vodka-based brew poured out of individual smoking teapots. It was delicious! (And I’m not a cocktail drinker.)

CAB_5411

CAB_5413

And as for the main course…what do YOU think??

CAB_5433A full rack of pork ribs, meaty, tender, just the right combination of sweet and heat, served with some of the best cole slaw and warm potato salad I’ve had in ages. And I love eating with my hands!

CAB_5437

And until June 17, you can get this delicious meal for $25. An extra $4 will get you an Alexander Keith’s IPA.

Normally after a feast like this I don’t even have the capacity to even THINK of dessert. But I did take a piece of Key Lime pie home and had it for breakfast the next day:-)

We all obviously had a ball. Thanks to Marc and to Cate – and to Megan, our awesome server.

CAB_5432

CAB_5394

CAB_5428CAB_5389

CAB_5425

CAB_5443

There’s another, important reason I’ll go back to Earls. When I was looking at their web site, I came across something that made me very happy. An #EyeOpener for sure.

Earls posts its own Guest Accessibility Policy.

How can you not love an establishment that uses words like ‘dignity’ and ‘independence’ when talking about disabled people? We don’t hear them often enough. Thank you, Earls.

 

“Your Menu Was Burning…”

I can’t lie. I love eating out. Discovering terrific bars and restaurants, experiencing the joys of new taste sensations, savouring an outstanding wine – have been a passion and a pleasure ever since I was a student at McGill almost 40 years ago. I just wish that I had had my trusty iPhone and digital camera around to capture all of my dining experiences over the years.

I’ve been fortunate to attend many food and drink related events in Vancouver and document my experiences through the eye of the camera lens. But because I was out of the loop for much of last year, I’ve missed out on many opportunities to add my unique perspective to the food scene.

I’m here today to say I’m back – with Blind Tastings. (Pardon the pun…)

I’m ready to share my eating and drinking experiences in the Greater Vancouver area and beyond, and as usual, I can promise you photos that will hopefully have you almost smelling and tasting what I shoot.

But I’m going to provide an additional twist. And it’s all because of a candle and a menu with a mind of its own.

Many years ago, when my late husband Dave and I lived in Toronto, we went out to dinner at a small cafe. Unfortunately for me, the menu was very hard to read, so I pulled the candle on the table over so I could read it a bit better. It was a long thin menu, and as I worked my way down the list of offerings, I was unaware that the menu curled itself right into the candle. I was shocked into reality by a cup of water poured over me and the server’s voice saying, “Sorry, ma’am, but your menu was burning!”.

That encounter has stayed with me, and over the years, I’ve had cause to reflect how my own dining adventures could result in an improved and more accessible experience for disabled and senior diners.

So, I’ll still be taking great pics, and sharing my favourite menu items with you – but at the end, I’ll add a small tip on what the venue could do, or did do to improve my time there. It may be a real #EyeOpener.

And my very first Blind Tastings post will be up tomorrow!

Now, where do I head next? I’m open to suggestions…

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta