This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now

Oh, hello summer... we’ve been expecting you. I’d hoped to be getting all excited about strawberries and asparagus but there’s none to be seen. Thanks to the brutal spring we’ve had, most of our seasonal produce presumably took one look at the weather and decided to stay well underground for a little longer. So, alas, a lot of our seasonal treats are a little late this year, but hopefully the next weeks will usher in sunshine along with our usual bounty of fresh fruits and veggies. June-uary, don’t you dare show your face.

Fortunately there are plenty of other things to get very excited about this month so let’s dive in and as evergrab a pile of napkins, it’s gonna get messy...

 

1. Grab all the napkins and eat a Monarch Burger at the American

Monarch BurgerMonarch BurgerOh, damn. Chef Robert Belcham's (Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma) infamous ‘dirty burger’ is set to get an even wider audience now that it’s being served at the American at 928 Main Street as ‘Monarch Burger’. Insanely messy, juicy and table-bangingly good, served up on a house-made milk bun, each patty of 100 per cent beef is smashed to order into diced onions on the grill and cooked in lard then seasoned afterwards. Dirty—and tasty—as F.

Speaking about his inspiration for this pleasingly basic burger, Belcham recalled playing hockey as a kid and getting a burger as a treat from an older lady who ran the rink’s concession stand, “Burgers aren’t meant to be fancy,” he insists. “Most people think it’s a throw-away food, but if you just put some time, effort and technique into it, it can be very good.”

Currently made from beef neck, Belcham’s excited to begin whipping up Monarch (and Dirty) burgers from 100 per cent whole animals soon, working in collaboration with Hopcott Meats in Pitt Meadows as sales of the burgers are going through the roof, and the kitchen can now process whole animals.

“I don’t know anyone who’s doing this,” grinned Belcham, “It’ll be dry-aged for 45 days, we’ll use the rib-eye and sirloin in the restaurants; the rest of the meat will all be used for the burgers. Our first shipment arrives at the end of May. I don’t know how it’ll taste but we’ll find out!”

 

2. Say cheers to South African wine

South African wineJune is South African wine month over at the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, and you can check out a free wine tasting on Thursday, June 8th at the 39th and Cambie Signature Liquor Store from 2 to 6 p.m., paired with samples of Granville Island's Oyama Sausage Co. I must confess to being new to the South African wine party but wow! I’ve pretty much adored everything I’ve tried, with red blends in particular being terrifically drinkableall juicy berries with a silky velvet finish. I loved Flagstone’s Poetry Cab Sauv-Merlot blend with its raspberry notes and beautifully smooth finish, and the Red Escape 2013 blend with cherry-berry notes, which pair wonderfully with charcuterie. On the white side, pop open a bottle of Wild Olive Old Vines Chenin Blanc, just add a patio, some sunshine and go! It's got delish peach and honey notes, and slips down alarmingly easily.

 

3. Check out all the cool events in town

Italian Days on the Drive

That tastiest of days, Italian Day is back on the Drive from Venables to Grandview on June 11th from noon till 8 p.m. This year’s festival celebrates amore so get ready to spread the message of love far and wide. This excellent community event features 14 blocks of amazing Italian food from cannoli and gelato to meatballs, pasta and pizza.

You've got two chances coming up to stuff yourself silly with Chef Tobias Grignon’s delicious food: a Rabbit's Foot Brunch on June 4th, serving up five courses of brunchy goodness for $35 from 12 p.m. He’s also doing a collaboration with Orchard and the Sea on Sunday, June 11th, featuring five courses paired with different ciders from around the world.

The Uncommon Cafe is teaching a ‘You can Can!’ preserves course on June 11th from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m., so you can learn how to capture summer freshness in jars with recipes such as strawberry jam and picked beets and carrots. Sign up here.

And this sounds awesome... the Clough Club and Cartems are throwing a cocktail and dinner doughnut pairing night on Wednesday, June 7th at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45 and trust me, they will be worth every penny.

Black BambooBlack Bamboo (pictured above) is coming to town with a ‘Pop-Up Cocktail Experience’ every Friday and Saturday from June 2nd till September 30th from 8 to 11 p.m., "... focused around cold-pressed cocktails, live entertainment and a unique champagne service catered to celebrations and group gatherings." Well, alright. Entry is apparently "via invitation, online application or table reservation" (faux-snooty for ‘just make a res.’). Check 'em out on Instagram for updates.

LATE-BREAKING BRUNCH NEWS....

Crushed by a hangover? Can’t bear leaving your bed till afternoon? Now there’s no need to miss out on that brunchy goodness. Weekends just got hella meatier: Dixie’s is now open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. serving brunch along with some new burgers and sandwiches.

 

4. Take a trip out of the city

BC Seafood and Shellfish FestivalThe 23 members of the Bottleneck Drive Winery Association have a fantastic event planned: the Grand Sommelier Express, a 90-minute trip on the steam-powered Kettle Valley train through gorgeous Okanagan countryside with wine poured on board by wine growers and makers, complete with a trestle-side stop to taste beer and ciders. Following that there’s a three-course wine-paired dinner with live music and auctions. It all takes place on Saturday, June 24, 2017 (reception 4:30 p.m., train departure at 4:50 pm; dinner at 6:30 pm, tickets $150).

All hail the 11th annual celebration of seafood and shellfish on the Island with the BC Shellfish and Seafood festival (pictured above), an exciting program of tours, dinners, events and parties featuring some of the province’s best chefs, including our very own Ned Bell, Pino Posteraro, Taryn Wa and Chris Whittaker. Tickets are still available to some of the events, so treat yourself to a few days on the island eating and drinking all the amazing local treasures from the grape, grain and ocean.

This sounds so cool! It’s the fifth annual Feast: Food and Films festival, hosted by the Victoria Film Festival from June 15 to 17. From an outdoor screening of This Is Spinal Tap with Phillips Brewing to ancient grains popcorn and a hemp cocktail with Seeds: The Untold Story, they’ll be ‘showcasing six great foodie films all paired with delectable food and sinful sips.’

 

5. Drink for a cause

Negroni WeekI’m cutting and pasting this as really, it stands alone as an incredible testament to the fundraising might of this simple three-ingredient cocktail:

“Welcome to Negroni Week, presented by Imbibe Magazine and Campari. Negroni Week launched in 2013 as a celebration of one of the world’s great cocktails and an effort to raise money for charities around the world. From 2013 to 2016, Negroni Week grew from about 100 participating venues to 6,000 venues around the world, and to date, they have collectively raised nearly US$900,000 for charitable causes.”

Help make that even more by visiting a participating bar between June 5 and 11, and raise a glass to a great cause!

 

6. Say hi to Lucha Verde

Lucha VerdeHopefully open by mid-June, John Cooper (ex-Cuchillo)’s first solo venture, Lucha Verde is opening up on Davie Street in the old Lolita's spot serving up an all-vegetarian Mexican street food menu. Finishing touches are currently being made to the room (check out the hella shiny kitchen floor!) with the old ceiling tiles and tiki panels gone. The menu is being firmed up but will be "super approachable," with treats such as fried-cheese tacos (yes!!!) and elote grilled corn on the cob promised. Although it wasn’t planned, Cooper says that almost all of the menu appears to be gluten-free thanks to a killer batter recipe using NextJen gluten-free flour. Cocktails have been designed by the Keefer’s Amber Bruce and there’s still a late night licence in play. See you at the bar!

 

7. Keep cool with iced tea and iced coffee

Iced Tea and CoffeeI love switching up my latte to a morning cup of cold brew when the weather warms up, and afternoon iced tea sessions are a definite summer tradition too. Indulge in both of those icy passions with summer drinks at Caffè Artigiano who have new a summer drinks menu featuring affogato (espresso, vanilla gelato), granatino (cold-brew coffee and dairy blended with ice to slush, chocolate or caramel sauce drizzle) and a rather delicious sounding caffeine-free Italian soda range with San Pellegrino, berry syrup and fresh blueberries.

Fancy tea folks, TWG Tea has a new luxe range of iced tea teabags which are hand-sewn, free from metal staples and glue, and made of silk. They come in 15 different flavours such as French Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint Tea, Pink Flamingo Tea and Cocktail Hour Tea. Try them in store and then take ‘em home!

 

8. B.C. booze news

purple ginB.C.’s original small-batch distillery kings, Victoria Distillers have collaborated with Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel to create a one-of-a-kind gin which magically changes from vivid indigo to a softer pink once mixed with citrus or tonic. Butterfly pea flowers give the spirit its unique colour and make it sensitive to changes in PH balance, hence the colour change. Try it at the newly transformed Q Bar at the Empress in a G&T or a signature 1908 cocktail, or bag a bottle from the liquor store and start mixing up some magic at home. Along with its gorgeous colour, the gin also boasts a pleasingly hefty juniper hit with notes of roses, grapefruit peel and the signature Empress blend tea.

I tried Central City Brewers + Distillers Lohin McKinnon single malt whisky at a tasting during the always excellent BC Distilled festival. Here’s the game-changer that’s going to dispel any doubters when it comes to the question: Can B.C. make decent whisky? Damn straight we can, and this silky spicy whisky shines likes a good deed in a bad world. Pleasingly Scottish in style, they have a Lohin McKinnon 150th Anniversary Edition release for Canada’s 150th: hand-crafted in B.C. with a blend of malted Canadian rye whisky aged in bourbon barrels and lightly peated barley whisky aged in Orloroso sherry barrels. Say cheers to Canada with this local gem!

 

9. Say bonjour to St Lawrence

St. LawrenceChef JC Poirier’s hotly anticipated Quebec-influenced St Lawrence restaurant is finally due to open mid-June in the old Big Lou’s Butcher Shop on Powell Street. With a menu dedicated to French gastronomy by way of Quebec, Poirier describes it as, "country cooking."

“Country cooking or cuisine du terroir is simple, generous and honest, like your grandmother’s cooking... It’s a more regional and traditional style then grande cuisine or fine dining. For me, country cooking is intended to be enjoyed around friends and family members. The essential things are the good taste of the food and the warm, friendly atmosphere of the home (or restaurant). Smart presentation does not matter. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

The menu is still TBA but one of the staples will be a venison tourtière and there will always be a house-made terrine on the menu. Keep an eye on social media for a firm opening date.