Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival lives on 

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The theatre company responsible for the creation of one of the world's largest wine festivals is no more but Vancouver's celebration of wine is living on.

The organizers of the 35th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival are pressing ahead despite the Vancouver Playhouse folding due to the huge debt the company is carrying.

When the news hit on March 9, the wine fest organizers were quick to point out that the trouble with the theatre operations doesn't negatively impact the wine event.

So, last week, we learned the sights of the 35th edition of the fest are set on California.

Each year the festival focuses on a region and a global focus is put on a wine variety. In 2012, the regional theme was wines of Chile and the global focus was on Cabernet.

In 2013, California gets the headline and the global focus is on Chardonnay.

The festival is set for Feb. 25 to March 3 next year at the Vancouver Convention Centre West once again and at select restaurants and venues in Vancouver.

The festival is a Mecca for everyone in B.C. and the Pacific Northwest with any interest in wine. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in the world and it attracts a "who's who" of the wine industry.

The event set a new box office record this year by selling tickets valued at $1,077,608.

Those who take in the festival next year can look forward to tasting a full range of California wines. The state boasts that it grows more than 100 grape varieties.

"A world leader in sustainable wine growing practices, California vintners produce high quality wine that is environmentally friendly, economically sound, and socially responsible," says the wine festival society in a news release announcing details of next year's event.

Mourners of the theatre company might be wondering what the wine festival organizers plan to do with the proceeds of the 2013 event. The release indicates the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is working with the theatre company to determine what will happen on that front. An announcement is planned for later this year.

Stewart on Top again

Bearfoot Bistro sous chef Jimmy Stewart isn't enjoying immunity this week on Top Chef Canada, but he is in the top four from the elimination challenge.

This after squeaking through the Quickfire Challenge.

The Quickfire was a palate tester and Stewart says it is really tough to identify cold meats. The Cheftestants had five minutes to sample and identify 14 proteins. The final edit of the show doesn't reveal the time limit but Stewart confirms it and says he could only get through nine of the 14 meat samplers.

"Blindfolded tasting — I can't even tell you how hard that is," he says. Four of the contestants identified five of the 14 foods and one of them was Stewart's bandana buddy named Jonathan Korecki from Ontario.

"I must be a slow eater," says Stewart.

The Elimination Challenge sees the stars of the show cooking with less than appetizing ingredients like duck liver, beef tongue and brains.

Stewart's ingredient is brain and David Chrystian's duck liver converts smoothly into an ice cream dish.

"This is the best dish Jimmy (Stewart) has ever made," says head judge Mark McEwen as he digs into his plate of brains.

While Stewart wins high praise for the dish he isn't enjoying top honours like last week. The duck liver ice cream takes top spot and David Chrystian of Toronto wins the accolades this week as the show champion.

Sergio Mattoscio gets the other end of the stick for his poutine dish.

"Poor Sergio, he was one of my roommates," says Stewart. "He didn't commit to any of the dishes."

The judges lambaste his beef tongue and truffle poutine so the Montreal resident is out of the competition. He joins Sarah Tsai, Kunal Ghose and William Thompson on the scratch list.

Stewart says one drama that doesn't make it to the screen involves Elizabeth Rivasplata, who was running out of time at the end of the Elimination Challenge.

"Liz was going down hard," Stewart says. "She had two minutes left and I asked her if she needed help."

A response of no prompts Stewart to check back a minute later and with seconds left Rivasplata accepts help from Stewart and gets the dish done in time.

He says his desire to please guest judge Chris Cosentino is the motivator to help a competitor.

Stewart says his show is catching on at his restaurant, as it was a sell out this week. Over the next weeks while Stewart is on TV he and his boss, Melissa Craig, will prepare dishes inspired by the show.

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