This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now
As I write this, a huge bowl of cherries and blueberries are macerating with sugar, lemon and Pinot noir in my fridge so I can make jam this evening when the weather cools. I just shucked five pounds of peas for my freezer and climbed a neighbour’s tree to pick apricots. God, I love this time of the year! Now, more than ever, food is providing some serious comfort and I’m putting away as much as I can so I can pop a little Similkameen sunshine into my life in the heart of winter. No matter how small your space, it’s possible to freeze some fruit so you can dive into a juicy fruit smoothie or cocktail, or even make a pie later in the year. Give it a whirl, I promise you’ll love it and 'future you' will have nothing but great things to say about 'past you'.
This month, it’s obviously all about those fresh flavours. Dive into new season everything—from buttery potatoes and sweet peaches to juicy plums and the annual treat of Chilliwack corn. If you’re dining out, I have some advice for you: do not be a jerk! I’m so shocked by news stories of diners throwing food, abusing servers and generally behaving badly. Don’t be those people.
Grab your napkins and a mask, and prepare to get messy...
1. Drink all the Lulu Spritz
Well, colour me amazed! I have, up until this point, truly loathed every cooler I’ve encountered. Too sugary. Too bitter. Brings me out in a rash. Makes me feel sick. Tastes like a burp. Tastes like nothing. Just no. Imagine then my astonishment that a blend of Pinot Grigio, tonic water and natural bitter orange flavours could taste so delicious. Behold the Lulu Spritz aperitif 355 ml can. Their agency, Univins & Spirits is generously donating partial proceeds on sales until August 1st to the BC Hospitality Foundation, to a maximum of $5,000 (Quick! Go buy a four-pack!), so thanks so much for that, but I’d say there’s no better way to celebrate legal drinking on the beach than dropping these bad boys in your picnic basket. Some folks may enjoy a judicious shot of gin in there too.. just sayin'.
2. Head to Burnaby to visit Cayenne Bistro and Grill
I’m still trying to shine a light on restaurants that maybe don’t have the benefit of a PR push, and I’m hearing great things about the Cayenne Bistro and Grill in Burnaby. It’s an East African and Indian fusion spot and scrolling its gallery online has me positively drooling. I’ll let them tell you a bit about what they do: “Inspired by her mother, the owner Zeimina has always had a passion and talent for cooking from a very young age. Preparing delicious meals has been a huge part of her life and she has always enjoyed experimenting with new recipes for her family and friends. She has now opened a beautiful bistro so that she can share her passion and flavours for everyone to enjoy.” Sounds delish, right? And an exciting opportunity to try something new-to-you, too. They offer a daily takeout menu as well as a full menu. The beef is farm-fed, the chicken free-range, and there are plenty of halal, vegan, gluten-free and veggie options. Check 'em out!
3. Don’t be a maskhole No. 1
Chef Jeff Van Geest at Miradoro in the Okanagan is one of B.C.’s most treasured culinarians. I read a Facebook post of his recently that gave me pause to think: “Wearing a mask while working in a busy restaurant environment isn’t fun. Be kind to the people serving you and cooking for you. Be patient. Be understanding. Be thankful that it’s even an option to dine out.” He’s absolutely right! It must be tough to mask up every day to cook in a brutally hot kitchen (especially in summertime!), and wearing a mask to serve in is likely no fun either—along with the added to concern of, "Hey, am I waiting on a table of COVID-carriers?" which must go through their minds a dozen times a day. So, please think about what chef Jeff has said here. And I’d add 'tip like you just won at Vegas’ to that list too. #Don’tBeAMaskhole
4. Buy the Maenam cookbook
Chef Angus An has shaped the taste buds of Vancouver for a decade or more with his modern take on Thai cuisine over at Maenam. Then his flock of casual dining spots, such as Freebird Chicken Shack, Longtail and Fat Mao Noodles, elevated everything from fried chicken and bowls of noodles to way beyond the usual fast-food fodder.
I recently got to take a look at the proofs of his first cookbook and I’m quite excited by what he’s created. This feels far more in-depth than most cookbooks. Each recipe has well laid out instructions and additional tips on how to master the dish. As I read it, I had the curious sensation of feeling chef An was right there at my side, telling me how to best achieve dishes that are definitely not in my usual repertoire, allying any concerns and making me feel that perhaps making Black Pepper Crab with a whole Dungeness Crab was within my abilities after all! There are cocktail recipes too and it’s beautifully designed with drool-worthy photography. Out on August 4th, it looks like you just found a great Christmas/birthday/just because gift for everyone you know!
5. Don’t be a maskhole #2
Drazen ZigicIf you go to a restaurant and they don’t ask your party for a contact number—or you haven’t already given them one—leave immediately and tell them why you are leaving. That restaurant is failing to do the most important and easiest thing to fight the spread of COVID-19—help prevent contact spreading. I understand that folks need to make a living, but we are not helping anything by ignoring this simple rule. Also, I’d say if they are missing this, god knows what else they’re failing to do.
6. Drink all the Argentinian wine
It’s the time of year again, when the Wines of Argentina does a month-long special at B.C. Liquor Stores. It’s a good opportunity to pair bold Argentinian Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignons with BBQ grilled steaks, chops and sausages. I had a terrific Flechas de los Andes Gran Malbec 2012 with a blue cheese-topped bloody steak and garlic potatoes and was positively thumping the table with glee—super silky, bursting with juicy black fruit and a little smoke and pepper. Just awesome.
7. Shout out to the Naramata Inn
John HollandsOh damn, Vancouver, I bet you’re missing the mad skills of chef Ned Bell who blew the city for the lakeside views of Naramata earlier in the year. Still, joy is just a few hours away with dinner and a comfy bed at his new venture, the Naramata Inn. The dining room is up and running now and I’m hearing absolutely nothing but rave reviews. As you would expect, there’s plenty of beautiful sustainable seafood on the menu along with ethically raised meats, but the hyper-local fruits, roots and veggies paired with a gloriously well curated wine list raises the room into a foodie palace.
8. Order in from Ugly Dumpling
I’ve written about the brilliant Ugly Dumpling before ("thoroughly modern dumplings, sustainable nose-to-tail ethical eating ethos, a killer wine, sherry and sake and house-made soba noodles”), but I only just realized that they’re doing once-weekly pickups for their melt-in-your-mouth dumplings (in freezer packs) and exceptional wine, sherry, sake and beer list. Get in! Pickup is Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the restaurant. A 20-pack is $25 and a 50-pack is $50. “Dumpling A will be a more traditional flavour like pork and cabbage. Dumpling B is a meat dumpling (usually pork), featuring something more playful, like spicy daikon or lemongrass and shrimp paste. Veggie dumplings are stuffed with vegetables from the wild and our favourite local farms. Examples include stinging nettle and potato, or kabocha and kale." If you’ve read this and don’t immediately put an order in, well, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.