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Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Finale Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Finale Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Finale Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Finale FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - Finale FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - Finale Fireworks

The sixth and final night of GlobalFest didn’t feature an individual country. Rather, it was a celebration of the festival after 10 years. The venue was also was ridiculously busy, with an estimated 22,000 attendees, and the 50/50 pot ended up being $5,000, versus $2,000 for the Saturday prior! Some observations from the last night of the fireworks:

  • The music, in addition to pre-recorded tracks, also had a live 20-piece string ensemble, playing “Amazing Grace” alongside the fireworks. While the live music piece was fantastic, GlobalFest had elected to put up a ridiculous TV showing the band and facing the North Bowl crowd, which was a bright distraction during the fireworks.
  • The choreography was slow and methodical, and the bursts and streams appeared perfectly timed with the beat. There were also some beautiful patterns, including a burst of a star enclosed by a circle as it expanded. There were also planets exploding with accompanying rings.
  • In addition of the typical slow waterfall effect, the designer had also prefaced it with a blue firework burst that made it appear water was breaking through the side of a rock crevice, before flowing over the cliff.
  • Photographing as close to the water as possible, especially when the camera is close to the fireworks, is the best position you can get into. The farther away you are, the higher you can raise your camera the plane of the water surface, as the reflections will be slightly farther away.

Also announced were the winners of the 2012 GlobalFest competition. Congratulations to the USA, the winner of this year’s GlobalFest competition! My own personal ranking, along with the country that won the competition and also People’s choice, were as follows:

  1. USA (Best of International Fireworks Festival)
  2. China
  3. Brazil (People’s Choice Award Winner)
  4. Philippines
  5. Mexico

The slower, more reflective and calm track list relative to other evenings, had the following songs:

  • Wake – Linkin Park
  • The end of the Doubs – Stefano Mocini
  • Sail – Awolnation
  • Little Motel – Modest Mouse
  • Sinking Friendships – Jonsi
  • Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
  • Midnight City – MG83
  • Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
  • Waiting for the end – Linkin Park
  • Amazing Grace – GlolbalFest 10th Anniversary Tribute

I had an immense sense of personal satisfaction and relief, being able to attend and capture each night of the fireworks. I’ll probably come again next year, and hopefully I’ll remember everything I learned this year about shooting fireworks!

All the fireworks from each performance now available in the GlobalFest Fireworks 2012 photo set!

Globalfest Calgary 2012 - USA Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - USA FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - USA Fireworks

The fifth night of Globalfest Calgary featured the final country of the competition, the USA! We went straight down to the water, and I think my experimentation in different camera positions came out fantastic that night. Some notes from the night:

  • The USA playlist consisted of single choruses and verses from several popular songs, and some song components selected included sky or firework references.
  • The tempo and choreography were tightly matched to each song. The most memorable part was during Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”, where there were four fireworks lit like a fan with a long tail. The fireworks rose, then fell, and when the lyrics “Let’s do this one more time” came on, the fireworks turned back up and rose again for the final time.
  • The firework patterns were more deliberate, and thus, there were not as much continuous loud and bright bangs compared to other nights. I reckon it was easier to choreograph individual verses and choruses versus entire songs, but the song sections that the USA picked out were still chosen and choreographed very well.

The song list for USA included parts of the following songs:

  • Thunder – From Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem”
  • Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
  • We Found Love – Rhianna
  • We are Young – Fun
  • ET – Katy Perry
  • Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
  • Starships – Nicki Minaj
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding
  • Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5
  • Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga
  • Without You – Usher & David Guetta
  • Walk – Foo Fighers
  • Good Feeling – FloRida

After USA’s performance, I would put USA above the China and Brazil performance. With all the countries having their time to shine, guests can now vote for the People’s Choice Award for the best Pavilion, Food and Fireworks display. The Finale on Sunday is doesn’t belong to any country per se, but is choreographed by a Canadian fireworks designer.

Each of the Philippines, Mexico, China, Brazil, USA are uploaded into the GlobalFest Fireworks 2012 photo set!

Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Brazil Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Brazil FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - Brazil Fireworks

The fourth night of Globalfest Calgary was bouncing and busy! Brazil hosted the evening’s fifteen minute show. I arrived relatively late (8:00 PM), so I went to the top of the North bowl, behind all the crowds. Some notes:

  • Brazil’s music was catchy and fun, and the crowd could have easily gotten up and partied to the music. Very tropical-like!
  • The firework designs started with a variety of colour and shapes at the beginning, including four leaf clovers and bursts of horizontal layers of colour. As the evening progressed, more typical shapes emerged.
  • There was excellent use of choreography with the firework types – at one point, they had synced up firework streams and bright spotlights to the different drum instruments used in the song. Well coordinated, executed synchronization.

Brazil gave China a run for its money, and from a technical perspective, the differences and strengths between each country were minor. The song list was:

  • Real in Rio – Carlinhos Brown, Sergio Mendes, & Siedah Garrett
  • Girl of Ipanema – Ella Fitzgerald
  • Cantigas de Capoeira – Mestre Acordeon e Mestra Ra
  • Pais Tropical – Daniela Mercury
  • Aquarela do Brasil – Johnny Mathis
  • Thunder – From Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem”
  • Shared Love – Alexia Ramio
  • Batucada / Samba – DJ Nero

Pretty neat how the whole crowd started pulling out their devices to record, and how that appeared in the final image. I experimented shooting with a lower aperture than my normal (f/8) which allowed me to be a bit more aggressive on the timing but expose the foreground a bit more. I also got a happy accident with the sky getting a bit more colour as well! Trying to find a happy medium between an open aperture, shutter open time and not having continuous fireworks blow out my images. I think that if I keep my shutter open for three bursts in the same spot, then I’m only left to figure out my aperture to get enough residual light and be happy with the depth of field. Continuous improvement, even if it’s already the sixth fireworks I’ve taken this year…

Beside me for the evening was also a (real) fashion photographer, Catherine of White Cedar Photography. Definitely a bit nerve racking, but she was very casual and even gave me some feedback throughout the evening. What a night great!

All fireworks to date are uploaded in the in the GlobalFest Fireworks 2012 photo set!

Globalfest Calgary 2012 - China Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - China FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - China Fireworks

The third night of Globalfest Calgary was almost as busy at Saturday, judging by the pot size of the 50/50 draw ($2,200 vs $1,700)! The evening show was courtesy of China’s competition entry. I sat at the edge of the water in the South Bowl, and had a very close view to the action on Monday night.

  • China’s choice of music was a great variety between fast tempo-based and slower flowing pop songs. A dose of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance was thrown in for good measure.
  • China’s fireworks had more deliberate choreography. China successfully pulled off a collapsing star, with a one large bursts followed immediately by a small burst that imploded inside. China also had bright massive bombs that briefly lit up the entire park. Good tempo between building up the anticipation with the downbeats of the songs.
  • The intense smoke buildup after the continuous low-firing fireworks really hampered the visibility in the latter portion of the show. It was impossible to see the low shots during the last song.

China’s entry surpassed Mexico by far, and was slightly better than the Philippines, a testament to the fantastic synchronization and matching of firework styles to the songs and beat. The song list was:

  • Opening Theme from the Movie, “Shaolin Soccer” – Lowell Lo & Raymond Way
  • A Love Before Time – Coco Lee
  • The End Party – Eason Chan
  • Thunder – From Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem”
  • What’s Going On – Seal
  • Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
  • Zoo Breakout from the Movie, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – Patrick Doyle

Three day’s worth of shots are now in the GlobalFest Fireworks 2012 photo set!

Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Mexico Fireworks
Globalfest Calgary 2012 - Mexico FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - Mexico FireworksGlobalfest Calgary 2012 - Mexico Fireworks

The second night of Globalfest Calgary was extremely busy and popular with the families and kids, and the show was led by Mexico’s competition entry. Some observations from our spot in the South bowl:

  • Mexico’s performance emphasized a lot of national pride, with its green, white and red flag colours constantly lit in pattern throughout the show. Mexico also had a lot more noise, with several loud firecrackers that only left a brief flash.
  • Mexico’s fireworks had more in-sync choreography to the upbeat music, but it was fairly repetitive, with constant repeating small bursts and the occasional individual large circular firework. No other special patterns were apparent.
  • The wind was blowing to the north west, which really dragged out some of the slow floating fireworks.

While the fireworks went with the music and beat nicely, it did not surpass the performance of the Philippines, who had more variety, creative use and better implementation of patterns with the music.

Seating tip: The South bowl has a few of advantages going for it over the North bowl. Not only are you closer to the fireworks, but the hill on the South bowl is also steep enough to not have your viewing angle cut off and helps bring the fireworks to eye level. The main stage is on the edge of the South bowl, with the continuous entertainment to help pass the waiting time! The food trucks are also by the South bowl, while the main ethnic food vendors and standard food options located closer to the North bowl.

See the GlobalFest Fireworks 2012 photo set for all the shots!

GlobalFest 2012 - Philippines Fireworks
GlobalFest 2012 - Philippines FireworksGlobalFest 2012 - Philippines FireworksGlobalFest 2012 - Philippines Fireworks

My first visit to GlobalFest on Thursday night was a success, and it kicked off with the 2011 People’s Choice award winner, the Philippines! Some quick notes:

  • Fireworks started at 9:48pm, and ended at 10:12pm. By the time I got there at 8pm, it seemed like half the attendees had already arrived! I would expect the fireworks to start earlier each night as we are (unfortunately) losing sunlight by the day.
  • Firework animations included smiley faces, butterflies, a slow waterfall effect and a blooming flower. Each was wonderfully executed.
  • Music included Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”, and a classical piece to end it off. The south bowl speakers seemed to cut off every now and then, but at least the north bowl speakers made up for it. Lets hope they fix that for the next country.
  • Parking is a bit pricey – Expect to pay $15 if you want a reasonable spot, and that will still involve a 10 minute walk. At least the proceeds will go to the non-profit group attending that lot.
  • The mosquitos and bugs were not as bad as expected, but a blanket for the ground will make your stay more comfortable. A light jacket is definitely recommended as it chills quickly once the sun sets.

Check out all the GlobalFest Philippines fireworks on Flickr. Mexico is on Saturday August 19th, and I bet with the great weather, it will be extremely busy!

The Melbourne Skyline and Giant Sky Wheel, taken from Boathouse Drive
The Olympic Torch, Vancouver, BCThe CN Tower, as seen from Roundhouse ParkCalgary Evening Skyline

The 2012 Liveability Ranking survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is out, and the cities remain relatively unchanged in rank compared to the previous survey: Melbourne and Vienna hold the top two positions, with Vancouver and Toronto next, and Calgary tied with Adelaide for fifth place. The difference between first and fifth is less than a full point: 97.5 (Melbourne) vs. 96.6 (Calgary).

The scores are based on EIU’s qualitative ratings (EIU opinion and field correspondent), alongside some quantitative measures. I’m a bit curious myself how humidity/temperature affects the score, as it scored by “Average weather conditions.” Private education and private healthcare are also considered, implying that more accessible private services correspond to a higher liveability score. Not sure how big of a weighing private services contribute to the score though, because all Canadian counterparts scored 100 for Healthcare, yet I’m not sure of the obvious existence of private healthcare locally in Calgary. The categories are:

  • Stability
  • Healthcare (including private health care)
  • Culture & Environment (including weather)
  • Education (including private education), and
  • Infrastructure

At the end of the day, the scores may be used as a guideline for paying employee premiums for city relocation. A score 80+ indicates than an employer would pay no premium for an employee to work in Calgary (96.6), whereas an employee working in Tehran, Iran (45.8) should be paid a 20% premium. I’m sure I would ask for a bit more in that case.

You can register to download the free report at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Liveability Ranking website.

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen's open kitchen in the upper dining area

“They’re confident,” I mused to my friend, referencing the large floor-to-ceiling windows as we walked into 80th & Ivy. The windows were perfect for allowing passer-bys to glimpse at the festivities inside. Generally large windows are a risky move, amplifying the crowd and ambiance, or lack thereof. They are reserved for bold restaurants, and I reckon 80th & Ivy is one of them.

The entire set-up reminded me of the restaurants in Melbourne, where the restaurants design their decor with a degree of purposefulness and taste, to make guests feel like they’re walking into a premium establishment. 80th & Ivy was split into three sections: the lounge-type area with high metal bar stools surrounded by the well stocked bar and 10-foot-ish high windows, the patio and heaters separated by the sliding door facing 17th Ave, and the raised dining room joined by the open kitchen. Metal chairs and wooden tables are the furniture of choice. The corner of the lounge section has a fabric couch and large coffee table – its as if you’re sitting in your own living room where you can eat breakfast or have a glass of wine. The three sections cleanly combined metalwork seatings and mission-style tabletops and decor.

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen Brunch Menu80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen Dining Room

We came right at the 10:00am Sunday opening, so we were quickly seated and served by Simon. Simon guided us to the back of the menu to the brunch section, and highlighted that the orange juice was freshly squeezed, pointing to the tabletop appliance at the bar. The menu itself was written with a bit of creative flair, as the Orange Juice was listed with a feature of “Vitamin C.” I opted for the French Press coffee ($3.50, sourced from Coffee Concepts), while my friend opted for the freshly squeezed glass of the orange juice ($4.50).

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen Eggs Benny

My friend and I then opted for the same dish: The Eggs Benny, with Broek Farms rotisserie ham, herbed hollandaise on a croissant ($15.00), which was also accompanied with a small side dish of sliced fruits in syrup, and evenly seasoned hash browns. We weren’t requested to specify preference when we ordered the eggs, so we somehow got a varying degree of firmness between soft and medium across our four eggs. The hollandaise sauce was enjoyably sweeter than others restaurants, mildly acidic to cut through the creamyness. Upon inquiry to the chef, Simon mentioned that they used clarified butter, which attributed to the less-than-salty characteristic of the hollandaise. The ham which was cut like back bacon, was peel-off tender, not salty and the texture reminded me more of pulled pork than traditional ham, but was still a tasty accompaniment to the flaky croissant, drenched in hollandaise.

There is a certain feeling of indulgence of when eating a standard Eggs Benedict, as the hollandaise sauce is most certainly egg yolks and butter. Now, imagine consuming this on a flaky-because-of-excess-butter croissant, and the horrible realization that civilized society has done something wrong for decades: All Egg Benedicts should be served on croissants, english muffins be damned.

$40.00 (sans tip) for Sunday brunch puts 80th & Ivy into the “standard price for brunch” category. I am glad that if I ever feel like indulging protein with my croissant, I know just the place.

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen
1127 17th Ave SW
Calgary, AB

T2T 0B6
403 452 6905
@80thandIvy (very active, you may even book a table through it!)

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Overlooking the party at the Made With Love competition

The first annual mixology competition, hosted by Made With Love, was held at the Art Gallery of Calgary. I always have had an interest in bartending, hindered by my physiological capacity to handle alcohol. The bartending competition wasn’t geared to be a glitzy showcase of physical dexterity, but rather the quality and use of ingredients.

For the $50 ($60 at the door, price of admission), each guest received a dozen drink tickets, and a lovely “Made With Love” dog tag. Each guest was encouraged to visit each bartender, and give his or her favorite bartender the dog tag. The bartender with the most dog tags won the “People’s Choice” award.

Kenton Hyrnyk (Brix & Morsel) prepares his "Ella Dijo…" Spenny Crosby (Anejo & Liquid Dynamix) "Smoked Manhatten" at the Made With Love competition

I ran into the organizer of the event, Phil Grandbois, shortly after the doors opened at 6pm. In between moments of running ice to the bartenders, Phil gave me a great summary of how the competition operated.

There was a qualification held previously at Mango Shiva, where 20 bartenders competed for the slots available today. After the top twelve were selected, in order of highest score from the qualification round, the bartenders were allowed to choose up to two liquors for the main competition in their drinks. The catch: any liquor chosen could only be used a maximum of two times, and once it was chosen by two different bartenders, then it could no longer be used by anyone else. Skyy Vodka was quickly taken up, Phil added.

Stephen Phipps (CPBA Alberta) prepares the Welcome Drink Andy Britton (80th and Ivy) prepares his "Gonzo's Tiki Punch" Rebecca Davis (Charcut) as she prepares the "Skyy Snow"

Each drink was judged on 4 criteria: taste, technique, visual presentation and use of ingredients.

The event itself was well organized with several volunteers, and the venue was spacious amongst the four floors of the art gallery. While the competition format was not what I had expected (bartenders one-by-one presenting their drink), it was more personal as each guest was able to go up to each bartender and observe up-close the complexities behind his or her drink entry.

All the recipes from the contestants can be found on the Made With Love Facebook page!

Congratulations to the winners: Nathan Head of Milk Tiger for the Judges Choice, and Franz Swinton for the People’s Choice! Also a big thanks to Jessica for access to the event.

OilV Tasting Room

OliV Tasting Room

I arrived at the Kensington OliV Tasting Room late on Friday afternoon, intent on buying a single bottle of Black Truffle olive oil for my popcorn. Once I walked in, my first shock was “Wow, what is with all the bottles?” The room was laid out, wall-to-wall, with a large spread of black bottles topped with pourers and fustis (metal tins). Immediately I am greeted with a warm “Welcome to OliV” from Jan, as he beckons me to the center table of balsamic vinegars. He asks if I’ve ever been, before giving me a quick rundown of the experience. There are 60 different flavours of olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the shop, and each can be combined to make a pairing. He invites me to sample as many different olive oils and vinegars as I would like, and I soon realized he was very serious about his offer.

OliV Tasting Room - Vinegars and Oils

Jan picks up the first bottle, an 18-year-old traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. All the fused vinegars in the store use this one as a base, he says. Before I realized it, he poured a tablespoon of vinegar into a plastic cup and encouraged me to slurp it in its entirely. Albeit some initial apprehension, I followed his instructions. I experienced sour, spicy, yet pleasant flavours on my tongue – not what you normally expect when offered balsamic vinegar to taste!

“An equivalent of a good career was spent aging this balsamic vinegar” Jan says while picking up the next bottle, a 25-year-old balsamic vinegar from California. This particular olive oil has spent its own career in an oak barrel, then a cherry wood barrel, and finished in a juniper wood barrel. Another slurp and swirl in my mouth, and I found a more viscous and fruity vinegar that was wonderfully complex, as each aged wood barrel’s flavour came across my tongue sequentially.

Not missing a beat, Jan takes a step to the assortment of olive oils. Similar to how we taste wine, he explains, there are three main characteristics when it comes to tasting oil – colour, butteriness and texture, and the finish with the degree of pepperiness. Each region and its olive oils will have its own type of characteristics, depending on the weather, land composition, and our own palates. He then offers me his standard Arbequina to taste. Slurp, swirl, aerate, feel: I commented on the buttery texture, a bit mild on the back of the tongue, but not quite enough pepper finish. Jan then chose the Koroneiki olive oil to assist me with understanding the pepperiness, which was successful: starting with a sharper and fresher taste, with more pronounced grassiness, it then finished with a prominent peppery bang!

OliV Tasting Room - Row of bottles

Now this is where it appeared Jan was having a genuine blast.

Each regular and infused olive oil could be paired with any of the balsamic vinegars to make a custom flavour. I let him know that I was looking for something to update my standard spring mix salad lunch, and he brought out my first pairing winner – an infused Persian Lime olive oil with a Pomegranate balsamic vinegar.

The pairings didn’t stop after that. He enthusiastically darted all over the store with newly poured plastic cups, filled with Pistachio with Lemon, Pear with Oregano, Orange with Chocolate, and several others. Each one had a varying degree of success with me, but he was open and receptive to each of my candid, uneducated opinions.

He insisted I sample the spicy olive oils. He prepared two cups – one with a Citrus Habanero olive oil and Chocolate balsamic vinegar pairing, and a white balsamic vinegar, used to clean the palate. The Citrus Habanero olive oil reminded me of Silver Sage Winery’s “The Flame” wine, but the chocolate added a smooth component that really made it shine. This was another wonderful combination, perfect for my sister’s upcoming birthday!

I overheard another customer express her delight when she heard about the Mango olive oil as an accompaniment to vanilla ice cream. Or the baked salmon with a White Honey Ginger balsamic vinegar glaze. It was difficult to keep track of them all! Who knew that olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastings would have so many combinations and possibilities?

By the end of my 45 minute impromptu tasting experience, I had tried at least 25 different olive oil and balsamic vinegar pairings, and I didn’t even feel like I scratched the surface. I had to carefully choose the number of bottles I took home, and I ended up with the Persian Lime olive oil, the Black Truffle Garlic olive oil, the Pomegranate balsamic vinegar and Espresso balsamic vinegar (in addition to the Citrus Habanero olive oil and Chocolate balsamic vinegar for my sister).

I did leave the Pistachio and Lemon behind, but that would have to do for now. After all said and done, it felt like the first experience I had with wine tasting – eye-opening and delicious. I look forward to my next visit back to OliV Tasting Room.

OliV Tasting Room
100-1130 Kensington Road N.W.
Calgary, AB
(587) 352-6050

Post-notes: I returned to OliV Tasting Room to confirm the accuracy of my facts. The owner, Isabeau, kindly filled me in and added a few more details:

  • The balsamic vinegars are made from fermented Trebbiano grapes.
  • A mixture of mostly green olives, with black olives and some in between green-and-black olives, are combined for a specific flavour and oil extraction. Similar to how arabica and robusta beans are used to make an espresso blend!
  • First press olive oil implies that this batch of oil came from the first, initial squeeze of the olives. Any subsequent presses involves further chemical extraction, which do not yield as high quality of olive oil.
  • While the olive oils have a two year shelf life, Isabel recommended that the olive oils be consumed within a year, as the flavour dissipates after that point.

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