This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now
I’m not going to talk about it. I’m sick of talking about it. We all know what we’re meant to do (wash hands, stay two metres apart, wear masks) so just do it, please.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the joys of seasonal salads. I made one the other day (pictured above). From my garden: kale chopped into fine ribbons, fragrant mint and basil, crunchy kohlrabi and a knuckle-sized red onion which I sliced wafer-thin. From my veg box: sun-ripened peaches which I skinned and sliced into chunks, small candy-sweet cherry tomatoes, an English cucumber (peeled and chopped) and juicy, sweet corn which I just cut off the cobs without cooking. I made a dressing of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt pepper and nutritional yeast and dressed it well. Put it in a favourite bowl and attacked—it tasted like hope and joy.
Seasonal flavours bursting with the memories of happy summers past are a reminder that good times are still possible as long as there are summer salads to look forward to. Go make one.
Then go spend all your spare money with these guys…
1. Order all the things from Granville Island
Facebook/ Vancouver Foodie ToursI had half a mind to write something about how it was almost worth all of this *gestures at smoking ruins of the world we once knew* if it led to a delivery service from Granville Island, but that seemed flippant at best. So let’s just say that a delivery service from the folks who bought you Vancouver Foodie Tours—which includes beloved vendors such as Lee’s Donuts, Oyama Sausage Company and Benton Brothers Fine Cheese—is one of the few good things to have happened for a while. Check out the site, where you can order from individual vendors or pick a curated experience. I love the look of the Market Box which includes product from around eight different vendors and is excellent value at $89.99. Vancouver will be significantly worse off without our amazing Granville Island artisans, I urge you to support them by shopping here, after all, what says "happy" like a box of Lee’s Doughnuts?
2. Eat millions of peaches
We are in the height of peach season, folks, and there are no peaches better than the ones from the Similkameen. Track ‘em down at your local farmers’ market and look out for my peach purveyors of choice, Honest Food Farm; organic, delicious, and juicy as F. I know I keep urging you to get into canning but seriously, if you want this amazingness in your life when we’re in the heart of the monsoon and grey of winter, then get your ass in gear and get canning. Ask around—I bet you know someone with a water bath canning pot and if not, any big saucepan will do, as long as the water will cover the lids of the jars and you put something on the base of the pan so the jars don’t shatter. Youtube tutorials are your friends. Or, of course, try freezing them, they’ll still be so good!
3. Drink wine made by cool folks
Speaking of the Similkameen, I just wanted to give a shout out to Clos du Soleil winery in Cawston who just stuck their necks out and spoke up against the racist stickers which appeared in their local diner. It’s often not the easiest thing to do to speak out in a small community, so I wanted to publicly thank them for doing the right thing, suggest you buy all their wine ('cause it’s fantastic and made by folks who are actively speaking up against racism) and also add my voice to theirs and stand up against any form of discrimination.
4. Support the new kids on the block
In the midst of this painful, frustrating and frightening time that we all find ourselves in, it’s incredibly heartening to find folks who are forging ahead and opening up new spaces. The hospitality industry operates on wafer-thin margins at the best of times, so please hurl your support at these champs.
Open now, Bar Gobo (pictured) offers up food from brilliant chef Andrea Carlson (Burdock & Co) and beverages from the excellent Peter Van de Reep (sommelier of the year 2019)—what’s not to passionately adore about this new project in the old Tuck Shop space at 237 Union Street? Treats such as burrata, duck rillette, oysters and cheese and charcuterie boards adorn the menu, and the drinks list will be tighter than a very tight thing indeed. Van de reep texted me after their first week of service to tell me what to expect: “We're a casual, fun, small, wine and snack bar. Natural and delicious wines from producers we're super excited to showcase and seasonal snacks!”
Opening mid-September in the Opus Hotel, Capo & The Spritz brings together the superstar power of the Autostrada Osteria culinary team and the bar smarts of Kaitlyn Stewart. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Opus as it was the first place I ever stayed in Vancouver and I’ve had a lot of good times there over the years. I asked Kaitlyn what they had planned when they take over La Pentola’s space:
“We’re really trying to open up a hospitality-driven, fun, casual place where you can have absolutely killer pizza—and of course craft cocktails that are approachable and pay a bit of respect to the aperativo culture of Italy. You can sit on the Capo side for a quick bite, or enjoy the Spritz lounge for an evening of cocktails.”
5. Drink on the Odd Society Patio
One of my all-time favourite local distillers (and fellow vermouth nut), Gordon over at Odd Society Spirits, mailed me a terrific story after I asked about their cool new patio space, which I’ll let you read in full:
“We managed to build a small patio for three tables by talking to our neighbours and getting a private parking spot from one of the ARC tenants. There was always a concrete planter outside our door... next week, we are having an artist paint a small mural there to make the outside space more inviting.
"Weird story: Miriam [Gordon's wife] and I were walking along Robson and we saw an artist painting a small mural, which I really liked. I went up to the artist and asked for her business card because we had been thinking about painting the planter. She said 'I don't have a business card, but I have a website. My name is Katie So.'
"I couldn't believe it because Katie is the artist who did our Amaro label! She went to high school with Mia [Gordon and Miriam’s daughter], but I had never met her. Amazing coincidence! In another coincidence. Katie painting our planter coincides with the start of the Vancouver Mural Festival. Anyway, lots of fun. The mural has juniper berries.”
See, it’s all meant to be! Go see the mural and enjoy fine cocktails. Their new bar manager is the very wonderful Olivia Povarchook, who’s created a whole new summer cocktail menu with lots of cool drinks such as the Nectar of Yarrow with mezcal, Odd Society elderflower liqueur and bittersweet vermouth.
6. Dine OutSide
DOVF/Fable DinerI saw a press release for this super initiative from Tourism Vancouver and whooped out loud. Excellent work, team! I had, of course, forgotten that COVID will likely torpedo Dine Out Vancouver in January, which provides so much stability for restaurants in the off-season. Cross everything (fingers, toes!) that the weather holds out, because Dine OutSide is a great safe way to enjoy the sunshine and snap up prix-fixe menus at $15, $25, $35 or $45 price points, as well as special promotional offers and picnic-to-go packs. Check the website to see what’s on offer, but it does look like all budgets, flavours and styles are covered, so you can try something new every day for the next four weeks until September 21st! Also, why not plan a staycation in Vancouver while you plan your meals? More than 20 hotels are doing some rattlingly good rates starting at $99 a night!
7. In praise of picnics
OK, I know that picnics are a large part of the Dine OutSide event, but I wanted to add a special word of love for them as there are some hella excellent offers that have me raiding my cupboards for a wicker basket and a crisp linen tablecloth that’s at least six-feet wide.
Jules Bistro (pictured) is offering charcuterie and cheese platters, chicken liver mousse, salad Niçoise, bread rolls and chocolate tart; Forage (in the old Timber space) has a BBQ picnic pack with their killer ribs, wings, deep-fried cheese curds and salad; and the always-excellent Cazba on Davie Street is offering up a super tempting trio of Kashke bademjan (pan-fried eggplant served with pita bread), loghme vaziri (skewer of chicken breast, skewer of ground beef and lamb served with saffron rice and grilled tomato) and their spectacular Persian Ice cream ( pistachio, saffron and rose water).
8. Make vegan brunch super sexy with an Acorn take-home kit
The AcornThis is terrific! Acorn is offering a vegan pancake brunch kit for two which includes a mix to make eight pancakes, a jar of Wildflower syrup, heat-and-serve hash browns, strawberry-rhubarb-spruce jam and cooking instructions. You can make it a tad less vegan and add a half-dozen SPCA-certified farm eggs. Love this idea. Heads up—this makes a very cool gift for a friend.
9. Get saucy
Holy smokes! Pidgin is selling their charcoal gochujang sauce, and gochujang citrus spice. I used to beg them to give me extra sauce with their superb chicken wings—it is bloody amazing. Stock up. Put it on everything! Available in the restaurant and also through delivery via FromTo. Oh, and do lend your voice to the campaign to get Pidgin a patio. They’re currently wrestling with the strata at the Van Horne building who are being, let’s say, unhelpful. Details online here.