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

As we slowly turn just a little closer to the sun, I get the feeling that patio season will be here before we know it. To celebrate the first flowers bravely poking their heads above the ground, as well as shining a spotlight on all that is essential for you to eat and drink this month, I’m focusing on some of the amazing culinary events happening this month too.

So go out! Eat things! And as ever, take a napkin or two, things are gonna get messy...

Polite reminder: As you get ready to celebrate on March 17th, don’t forget: every time you say ‘St Patty’ instead of ‘St Paddy’ a leprechaun dies. Horribly and painfully.

 

1. Say hello to Botanist

FairmontFairmont Pacific Rim HotelHuge news from the crew at the Fairmont Pacific Rim who finally have a name and some very exciting staff announcements for their new concept to replace Oru. Welcome Botanist, which will: "celebrate harmony with nature, showcasing the botany of British Columbia and the region in an environment that is as rich and diverse as the terroir it represents, The experience will reflect a new Pacific Northwest, one that has always been here, just waiting to be discovered.”
What has me shrieking with glee is the news that David Wolowidnyk, who left Cin Cin last year, will be back behind the wood in tandem with Grant Sceney, overseeing a creative cocktail lab, and there will be a Champagne Lounge curated by Jill Spoor. On the culinary side, chef Hector Laguna will be in charge. It’s sure to look astonishing as it’s a collaboration between Ste. Marie Design (Kissa Tanto, Pidgin, Savio Volpe) and Glasfurd & Walker (branding geniuses behind Meat & Bread, L’Abattoir etc.) More—so very, very much more—about this next month...

 

2. Drink B.C. whisky

BC.WhiskyCentral City BrewingWhen the distillery laws changed in B.C. a few years ago, new distillers began with whisky and put down their first creations to rest for the requisite three years in an oak cask (what you need to do before you can call it whisky!), and then got on with the rather quicker business of making gin, vodka and the dozens of other incredible B.C. spirits that are on the market now. Well, those three years (and more) are up, so you’ll start to see the fruits of those early labours. New to a BC Liquor store near you, try Lohin McKinnon single malt BC whisky, matured in premium oak barrels and made from the finest Canadian Malted Barley. I’ve often said that in 20 years or so, B.C. could become like the Scottish Highlands for whisky tourism and this smooth and subtly spicy number, all silky with wood and vanilla notes makes me think I just might be right.

 

3. Support Dining Out for Life

Dining Out for LifeDining Out for LifeIt’s the 23rd annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser on Thursday March 30th, when participating restaurants across B.C. donate 25 per cent of their food sales in support of local men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the past 23 years, DOFL has raised over $3 million which translates into an average of 100,000 meals delivered each year to families and individuals who need help. No one needs a better reason to get a group together to make dinner plans, so check out this list to see who’s participating this year and make a reservation!

 

4. Get the new tasting menu at Ancora

AncoraI was blown away by how fresh, delicious and just unlike anything else in the city chef Ricardo Valverde’s new Peruvian Tasting Menu is. It’s on offer for all of March and takes you on a five-course journey through food memories from his childhood, but with ultra-modern twists and using all-sustainable West Coast ingredients. It’s a terrific value at just $60 and honestly, just table-bangingly wonderful. His Papa a la Huancaina, with a smoked sauce, velvety slices of white and purple potatoes spangled with herring caviar was so good it was hard not to scream for seconds. Another instant favourite, the short rib seco, meltingly tender on a bed of quinoa and bright with tart, pickled shallots had us pondering whether it was the kind of place that would mind very much if we licked the plates... Go, and splash out on the all-B.C. wine pairings which begin with Sumac Ridge bubbles (hurrah!), end with icewine and take in serious hitters from Culimina, La Stella and Mission Hill along the way.

 

5. Drink (and eat) all the Cha Le Tea

Cha Le TeaWell, this is going to be insanely popular: beautifully Instagramable vacuum-extraction tea-makers who will make the perfect cuppa every time; small-batch teas sourced from independent growers in China; a menu of tea-infused toast-toppers created by chef Darren Brown (ex-of the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Oru); and—the masterstroke of genius—tea-infused puffs and two sweet-milk chocolate/salt caramel tea-infused spreads created by Adam Chandler of Beta5 which will be available to buy for takeout. Yeah, I think that should do it. The nori notes of matcha mashed into avocado for shrimp-topped avo toast is divine and I really loved the on-tap kombucha too. They’re in Yaletown at 1207 Hamilton Street, and so far open 8 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

 

6. Skwachays Lodge First Nations pop-up dinner

Pop-Up DinnerAside from the excellent Salmon and Bannock, I’m always sad that we don’t have much in the way of First Nations cuisine here in Vancouver, so I was excited to hear of this pop-up at the Skwachays Lodge Hotel & Gallery on March 3rd and 4th. I’ll leave it to the organizers to explain their event:
"Cooking for Reconciliation is a journey toward Truth and Reconciliation using Indigenous foods to create a better understanding of pre-colonial Indigenous culture and the impact of colonization. Our traditional foods have the ability to nourish and cultivate awareness and compassion. That is the real heart and soul of Indigeneity. How we think and conceptualize ourselves. How we tell one another about ourselves and how we create beauty, comfort, food, art, tradition, song and storytelling." -Rich Francis.
Since 2010, Rich Francis has been working to raise the profile of modern indigenous cuisine. He's a member of the Tetlit Gwich’in & Tuscarora Nations (born to his Gwich’in father and Haudenosaunee mother), originally from Fort McPherson, N.W.T. and now lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The former Top Chef Canada finalist currently operates a catering business and is looking forward to opening his restaurant, 7th Fire in Saskatoon. Partnering up with Ocean Wise, there are four seatings for this gala, on March 3rd and 4th at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Buy tickets here.

 

7. Happy hour recommendation

Happy HourLeila KwokI have feelings about this particular happy hour bite at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar. Chef Alex Chen’s Korean galbi (grilled) hot dog with American wagyu beef is probably one of the most exquisite items on offer in the city for a tenner. Juicy porky heaven, topped with tart pickled veggies, a smear of mouth-watering, joy-inducing chili paste and wrapped up in a sweet warm brioche bun. If you’ve not had it yet, just stop whatever you are doing and get over there to remedy that. It’s on their daily happy hour menu from 3 to 6 p.m. and it’s completely fantastic.

 

8. Drink B.C. amaro

AmaroBeloved of bartenders, amaros are a delicious category of spirits in the liqueur family, made by macerating herbs, flowers, roots and other (mostly) bitter botanicals in alcohol, then sweetening and aging in wood. Odd Society Spirits has created ‘Mia Amata’ made up of 35 botanicals from around the world such as Brazilian tree barks and local elderflower and magnolia. It’s wonderfully velvetybitter then sweet. With rich notes of chocolate, it positively kisses your mouth as you drink it. Totally delicious it’s available from the distillery in 375 ml bottles for $22. Make sure you have some stashed away for your next dinner party, it’s the perfect digestif.

 

9. Beer news!

Beer NewsParallel 49 Brewing Company has launched their third Brews Brothers collaboration pack with an old skool hip-hop theme including four USA West Coast-based breweries. The mixer-pack includes four 650 ml bomber-style bottles and will be available for purchase at select BC Liquor Stores and private liquor stores throughout the province. Beer lovers can look forward to all-new, limited edition brews such as Blazing Arrow, a tawny IPA made with Gigantic Brewing Company (Portland, OR), What’s Golden, an “east meets west” IPA developed with Green Flash Brewing (San Diego, CA), Gettin’ It, a Northern farmhouse style beer made with 49th State Brewing (Anchorage, AK), and Baby Got Back, a hoppy hefeweizen beer brewed with Scuttlebutt Brewing Company (Everett, WA).

Pink Pints, the Vancouver Chapter of Barley's Angels—an organization that is all about supporting and educating women who want to learn more about beer (making it or getting into the industry)—is hosting a cask-paired dinner on Wednesday March 8th, International Women's Day. Four women-brewed beers with be on offer paired with a three-course dinner at the Craft Beer Market on West 1st Avenue.

 

10. Pop-up dinner fun

Pop Up DinnerMilk CommunicationsCELEBRATE WITH CHAMPAGNE

Tableau is hosting a wine dinner with Moët & Chandon on March 20th. On the menu, everything from lobster and caviar to Cornish hen, truffles and foie gras paired with four different champagnes, so yeah, this looks to be decadent as hell. And the winemakers will be on hand to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about those beautiful bubbles. Dinner is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $189 plus tax and gratuity. Guests can secure tickets by calling 778-373-1620 or emailing: events@tableaubarbistro.com.

10TH ANNIVERSARY

The Salt Tasting Room is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and they’re pairing up with the divine Moon Curser Vineyards from Osoyoos for a night of wine, cheese, cured meats and condiments on March 27th.

FARMER'S APPRENTICE & KINOME JAPANESE KITCHEN

Two chefs, two dinners, and a heck of a lot of deliciousnessthat’s what’s on offer when David Gunawan from Farmer’s Apprentice gets together with Ryoma Matarai of Kinome Japanese Kitchen for a duo of one-off dinners. The first is on March 13th at Kinome and the second at Farmers Apprentice on the 27th. Both will feature six courses of local, sustainable and organic ingredients plus wine and sake pairings. Tickets cost $120 per guest and include tax and gratuity.

BREAKFAST FOR A CAUSE

Not strictly a dinner, but definitely food for a good cause, now in its fourth year, IHOP is back on March 7th with its ‘free short stack o’ buttermilk pancakes’ day which raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network hospital in local communities. Score your stack in exchange for a charitable donation and enjoy the sweet taste of doing good mixed with a sugary maple syrup and fluffy pancake high.

 

11. All the fun booze events

Wine EventJennifer SchellDRAM COME TRUE

Oh damn, the ‘Dram Come True’ night looks to be a booze fiend’s dream with unlimited drams of Scotch, gin and other spirits from distilleries from across the globe including Scotland, Japan and India on offer alongside local wine and craft beer and (thankfully) food from Hawksworth, Savoury City Catering and Gyoza Bar. The magic happens on Friday March, 10 and raises funds for the Vancouver Writer’s Festival.

WINE FOR WAVES

Always one of the city’s most fun wine and food events, the spring Naramata Bench launch, Wine for Waves at the Four Seasons on April 28th is on sale now, with proceeds going to benefit the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program.

WINEMAKER FESTIVAL

Score your ticket now for the Garagiste wine maker festival downtown at the Art Works Gallery in Vancouver on Saturday April 22nd when you can meet the winemakers, taste cool wines and buy your favourite bottles to take home.