Faithful readers already know how much I enjoy the topic of food. Although I'll admit I'm not much of a cook, I can muddle by with some basics.
Well, good news to like-minded foodies.
Let me tell you all about some tasty happenings in and around Langley this week.
Let me start by telling you of a party out in Aldergrove this Saturday at the chocolate shop.
It was 20 years ago that Maureen and Rob Robinson started what's today known as Milsean Shoppe - a sweets manufacturing operation that first developed on their Aldergrove farm and grew from there.
It actually all started before that, in 1981, when Maureen first poured out dark buttery toffee onto fresh sliced almonds and coated it with creamy white chocolate. Little did she know how incredibly popular it would be, and ever since then, she's been immersed in the sweet world of confections.
After a decade of manufacturing her delicious crunch from their Fraser Valley farm, the Robinsons decided to relocate the growing business - but they were insistent - despite contrary feedback from friends and fans - to keep the shop in their hometown of Aldergrove.
With few sites to choose from, they continued working from the farm, waiting for just the right building.
It wasn't until 1997 that they heard rumour the firefighters were looking to move to a new location. After a tour through the old firehall (built in the 1950s), it became clear that the building would be perfect for their new home, as well as their factory, and new retail space where they could sell their sweets to the public and serve up tea, Maureen explained.
In 2002, they finally realized their dream.
They moved into the old Aldergrove firehall on 272nd Street, recreating the space with half of the main floor still dedicated to the factory, while the other half was converted to a storefront.
People will have noticed small changes to the store throughgout the years - including the addition of an old-school fireplace and glass conservatory in 2006 - as Maureen and Rob strived to develop a warm, inviting atmosphere. But the heart of their "sweet" business remains true to that original vision.
This company has come a long ways from those early days of Maureen manufacturing mass quantities of butter crunch during the peak winter season in their basement, to current day where she and Rob - now a trained chocolatier - operate a huge wholesales and retail business with a staff of 20 full-and part-time workers.
This weekend's party, which runs Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and features facepainting, live music, giveaways, and - naturally - Milsean sweets, is a way for the family-run business to express gratitude to the community and its customers for making it all possible.
"We really want to say thanks to the community for their support," Maureen said. "We want to tell them how excited we are to be here," and how they're looking forward to another 20 years in business.
Over the years Rob and Maureen have travelled the world - including Thailand, Peru and most recently Morocco - looking for special handmade items to enhance their operation.
Their original Demerara Butter Crunch, which Maureen created back in 1981, still proves to be their number one product. But their menu is so much larger and diverse, including a full range of chocolates, cakes in a jar, dry cupcake and pancake mixes, clusters, and sauces available.
And new this year is their take-home freezer section filled with Milsean's ever-popular, ready to bake scones, handmade soups, and handmade gelato. But the changes and growth won't end there, Maureen vowed.
As for impending change, she hinted to plans to expand the business and ultimately their landmark building in the next few years, but they've made a commitment to keep faithful to the structure's historic features and relevance.
Compassion on the vine
Speaking of food and beverages that appeal to our tastebuds, there's another event this weekend that involves wine, barbecue, and furry-tailed little creatures.
Township 7 Wineries is hosting a Father's Day fundraiser Sunday that will benefit the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS).
The idea is that people can enjoy a fun afternoon with dad at the 212th Street winery, visit with a few adorable but hardworking pups that will be on parade and doing demonstrations (around 2 p.m.), sample some of the Township 7s summer wines, and feast on a charity barbecue.
This event runs noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and while admission is free, there is a charge for food and a $5 fee for the kids crafts - which involves kids tie-dying T-shirts. Partial proceeds go to PADS, an organization that breeds, raises, trains, and places assistance dogs with people who have a disability.
People planning to attend are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for the number partaking in the barbecue, as well as the sizes for those buying T-shirts.
Barbecue marks fifth
Donna Nicks and her nine-member team at Fresh Gourmet TakeAway are also serving up food in an anniversary barbecue this weekend.
She's hosting a barbecue, and offering up free samples of her company's meals, during a fifth annversary celebration happening Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (barbecue goes 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Fresh Gourmet TakeAway is a meal assembly business targeted at busy parents, working professionals, and seniors.
Nicks started the company in Surrey in 2007 under a previous franchise that went bankrupt. But Nicks wouldn't be deterred. In 2010, she rebranded the business and relocated to Langley - to a location that she says reduced her overhead by 70 per cent and gave her higher customer profile - tucked away in the Willowbrook industrial area at 6280 202nd Street - just south of Save-On.
"The business I started June 2007 is nothing like the business I am running now. Through determination and drive to succeed, I never gave up. I stayed on top of a declining market (meal assembly) and kept looking for new revenue streams to support the business," she said.
Nicks has since developed a seniors program partnering with Veterans Affairs and is constantly growing and evolving.
This food-business entrepreneur said she has lots to celebrate, and has invited her past and future customers to attend Saturday's birthday bash.