Studio Fair 2017
The weekend of Studio Fair is THE date I mark in November. Not Black Friday; oh god, not Black Friday. I’d sleep on a bed of broken glass to avoid that (if I didn’t already work retail). Every year, I invest multiple days at the Civic Center, across both floors, perusing and purchasing from various vendors. What I appreciate most about the event is the broad spectrum of cuisine and crafts. I drop down hundreds of dollars each year at the fair, at the end looming over a mountain of sweets, sours, savories, and souvenirs. This, along with Northern FanCon, are my can’t-miss locations/dates. And like that epic event in May, I can also take pride in running a table. But don’t think this is self-promotion, taking my podium here to plug my own merchandise…on the right-hand side of the main hall.
I am among masters of the craft, though not claiming to be one. Calligraphy. Cross-stitch. Embroidery. Knitting. Lace-making. Metalwork. Needlepoint. Patchwork. Pottery. Quilting. Sculpture. Sewing. Spinning. Weaving…and yes, I basically copied/pasted from the handicraft page on Wikipedia, but the point is, it’s all there. All I need to do is surf the consummate skill of my more talented collaborator.
However, I won’t lie, the ultimate destination for me, like in the preceding years, was the food. I can’t deny it, and those that share my passion know the value of that half of the event. There are hallmarks so dependable that purchasing from them is more an expectation than a decision. It doesn’t matter if I am still sitting on product from last year (which I am). I can’t help but support many of these vendors.
Vikram Bajaj is the first name that comes to mind. I would call him an anchor, or rather the gatekeeper given his position at the cusp of the exit door. I do not make Indian cuisine at home unless it is touched in some way by Vikram’s business, Ace Curries to Go. Anyone reading this knows I don’t need to deify the achievements of this. Ace Curries often go home with a near-empty truck. This year will be no exception. By the end of day one, most of their sauces were close to selling out. If you planned on Sunday, you might want to reconsider.
Eric Whitehead is another one of my stalwarts. The man behind Untamed Feast indeed loves connecting to customers despite his already meteoric success since winning at Dragon’s Den years back. This year had been rough; sales were high, but supply was low. Untamed Feast gleans from the wild landscape across Western Canada, and the summer forest fires certainly affected stock.
And I love, love, love the guys at Aji (Ah-Hee), easily the best condiments on the planet. They often sport recipes mixing their sauces with guacamole or ketchup, but I usually just spoon it raw from the jar. They are also near the exit, across from Ace Curries, so best to turn around before you go.
Also near the previous two is Ultimate Gourmet, offering a broad mix of spices, blends, and most importantly, hot chocolate. Like, the definitive hot chocolate, that which all other winter-warming drinks are compared.
Up the hall from them is Dvorak and Tickleberrys. The latter you no doubt know if you ever traveled through Okanagan Falls and sampled their ice cream. Across from them is another favorite, Thelma’s Goodies. They’re the ones with those fantastic jars of preserved veggies, like their diabolical spicy garlic and Brussel sprouts. This will be a tough weekend for them given the patriarch of the business, Vern Gordon Henderson passed away less than a month ago. The booth is catered by his children this go around, and I sincerely want them to return home with not a bottle of stock remaining.
Empty stock is common with Bean Boy, a vendor I keep buying from, regardless if it’s the Penticton Farmer’s Market, the Ladner Farmer’s Market, or this (seriously, I kept bumping into them this year). These are the best tubs of hummus the world has ever seen, and I just secured a freezer’s worth.
Near them is Sweet Thea, a mandatory visit, and one of the only bakeries at the Fair. Their German-inspired goods are the stuff of legend, like their fruit cakes and stollen (stop it, autocorrect), the latter which must be left out for at least a month before consumption.
My final recommendation before this article breaks under its own obsequiousness (look it up; it’s a word) is Coconama. A newer arrival, Coconama takes the top prize in generosity. You only need to stand there; the host will just hand you toothpick after toothpick of fudge samples until you walk away. I know he offers a dozen variations, but the man just doesn’t stop.
So that’s my wrap up for now, but this only scratches the surface. I didn’t even get a chance to talk about Nut & Fudge, Milsean, Lone Willow, Made With Love, Rootables (oh wow, Rootables), or That Extra Touch, all vendors I bought from, and this was just Friday. I think I just got a table to fund my purchases elsewhere at the fair. We still got two more days of this!