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

I drove down Main Street last week on a super sunny day. Savvy cafés and bars were hurriedly putting out chairs and tables, eager to scoop up some sweet patio business before the sun remembered that this was March and Vancouver and just, no...

I love April. Cherry blossom season! Halibut season! New B.C. wine release season! And yesfor a few short but wonderful daysthe start of patio season! So, you know what to do: eat, drink and soak up all the amazing things April brings.

As always, don’t forget to bring napkins, it’s gonna get messy...

 

1. Eat all the halibut

Joe Fortes halibutYaas! Is there anything more delicious than fresh, juicy B.C. halibut? Look out for it everywhere. Pick up some fresh off the boat down at Granville Island, or head up Main Street to see the chaps at The Fish Counter for some super-sustainable fillets and good advice on how to cook em while you’re there.

My halibut celebration usually takes place at Joe Fortes 'cause that’s where you’ll find halbut fan, chef Wayne Sych:

“I love B.C. halibut season for several reasons. It's the first large run of local fish of the season and it can run into October so it's a long season. For me it's really the start of spring and all our local bounty... first halibut, then salmon, spot prawns, berries and all the local produce. I like to keep halibut super simple, pan-seared to get a nice golden brown crust... no more than medium. I like to finish it with butter as halibut is lean so I like a little added butter and some lemon or capers or just fresh herbs. If preferred, you can drizzle some good quality olive oil instead of butter.”

You’ll find excellent halibut dishes across town, but don’t forget to check out Chicha, who are also going halibut crazy with Peruvian Ceviche with local halibut, gnocchi and pan-seared halibut, and Aji beer-battered halibut sliders.

Provence is featuring grilled line-caught B.C. halibut with shaved zucchini, rainbow carrots, asparagus and shallot salad, fingerling potatoes, tomato and black garlic vinaigrette on their fun Poisson d'Avril menu.

 

2. Plan a field trip to eat all the oysters in Osoyoos

oyster festivalI know. Landlocked Osoyoos and an oyster festival seems like a crazy ideabut trust meit’s exactly the right kind of crazy. I went in 2016 and had a blast. It’s back for its seventh edition through April 18 to 22nd, and features all kinds of fun and delicious dining and drinking experiences in the sunny South Okanagan.

Destination Osoyoos throws three main parties with five other partner events across the week for good measure. You can score a ticket bundle to all three signature events for just $198, and Spirit Ridge, Walnut Beach Resort and Watermark Beach Resort offer deals throughout the festival, plus there’s a free shuttle bus so you can drink and not worry about driving! Plan a break from rainy Vancouver, here’s the trio of main events:

Friday, April 20th: Beach BBQ & Brews at Walnut Beach Resort, 6 p.m.
Tuck into a BBQ buffet with oysters, craft beers and ciders, and Canadian whisky, featuring BBQ from Miradoro Restaurant, Walnut Beach Resort's Pointe 49 Kitchen & Bar and Greenside Grill.

Saturday, April 21: Deep Sea Garden Party at Watermark Beach Resort, 1 p.m.
Enjoy an afternoon of fresh-shucked oysters, yummy roasted pork, craft brews, B.C. wines and special guest, “Shucker Paddy” AKA Patrick McMurray, a former world champion oyster shucker. Check out the Garden Market with local vendors offering samples, as well as products for sale.

Saturday, April 21: Art of the Pearl Gala at Spirit Ridge Resort, 6 p.m.
Dress in nautical-themed costumes to win the ‘Best Dressed’ trophy at this social grazing gala with an oceanic theme. The Okanagan’s best restaurants and wineries will be on hand serving up oyster-inspired creations, fresh-shucked oysters, charcuterie and wine samples.

 

3. Dive face first into Sakura season

sakuraOh man, the West End at this time of year is probably as close to heaven as I’ll ever get. It’s my sixth season here in Vancouver and the thrill is just as fresh as the first time. Strolling on a carpet of blossoms never gets old, and when the wind blows, I love walking in a cloud of pink flowers.

Splurge and eat this amazing feeling at Miku where they're celebrating the season with a special Sakura Aburi Prime Kaiskei set dinner ($88 per person), available April 2 to 15. This includes Aburi nigiri featuring monkfish liver and shiso flower; seared Brome Lake foie gras, Sakura Shio Cured Japanese Hirame, and A5 Japanese Wagyu with uni, sakura denbu and micro dianthus. Dessert is a handmade Sakura Mochi with azuki beans, cherry purée and cherry yogurt sorbet.

 

4. Check out all the cool events

cool eventsPSA: Applications for the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship 2018 competition (pictured) are open until April 2, 2018.

This sounds awesome: a Wakanda Forever long weekend party at Calabash Bistro to "celebrate African pride and beauty through food, drinks, comedy and music" on Sunday, April 1st at 8 p.m. Tickets are just $10 and 50 percent of the profits go to charities which focus on war refugee camps in Africa. FYI: the invite says, "attire: ladies and gents come correct, for the culture" so look sharp!

There’s a fundraiser on Friday, April 13th at Arc at the Fairmont Waterfront, that inner city kids of Britannia Elementary School are doing to raise funds for their exchange trip to Wabasca Hamlet, an Indigenous community in northern Alberta. The team at the Fairmont Waterfront has donated their time and resources for the kids- most of whom have never been out of the city let alone on a plane- soget down there to show your support. It’s a four-course dinner and 100% of ticket sales will be going to the kids’ trip. The 27 students have been on a field trip to the hotel where the banquet team taught them how to fold napkins, arrange place settings, and serve tables and they met with the chef to discuss menus and see the kitchen.  On the big day, they will return to assist with prep and have dinner at the hotel before the event begins.
Tickets are $75 per person, and tickets can be reserved by emailing Justin Borsato.

Mission Kitsilano is hosting a TV chef collaboration dinner on Monday, April 16th between Barrie McConachie, third place finalist from MasterChef Canada season 4, and Top Chef Canada season 2, and All Stars competitor Curtis Luk. Lucky guests to this unique dining occasion will enjoy a five-course dinner.  Each course will be introduced by its creator in a one-seating, intimate event.Tickets are $125, optional wine pairings by sommelier Chase MacLeod will be available. Contact eat@missionkits.ca to secure tickets.

 

5. Make time for lunch at Chambar

liege waffles ChambarI'm as guilty as the next person of desk-lunching when I’m busybut face itlunch is brilliant and we should all be totally making time to do it properly. Hats off then to Chambar, who is on a mission to bring back lunch. Throughout the week, they’ll be offering three courses for $30 between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Choices include a beetroot carpaccio, miso Ocean Wise tuna, and their rightly famous Liège waffles (pictured) for dessert (yes, please). Use PREFIX18 when you make a reservation.

 

6. Say "oui" to croque-madame

croque madameIn 2012, I lived in Paris for a while, and the recent story of Guillaume Reythe French server at Milestones who was fired for rudeness and who has now filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal claiming cultural discriminationis one that has intrigued me. I’ve always declared that French waiters are not rude, just efficient, so I’m totally on Guillaume’s side on this one.

That typically brusque manner is why Au Comptoir is a perfect facsimile of a Parisian bistro in every single way except one: the serving staff are all extremely polite and friendly. Apparently that’s as close to an authentic Parisian experience that Vancouver can handle, so go take a seat outside and watch the West 4th world go by and munch on a perfectly crisp croque-madame, sip a beer and enjoy a very Vancouver-style French bistro.

 

7. Five reasons to grab a ticket for Wine for Waves

wine for wavesOne of my absolute favourite events is back on April 13th, the launch of the Naramata Bench spring wines in support of Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program at the Four Seasons hotel.

Twenty-five Naramata Bench wineries will be pouring their new releases alongside a baker’s dozen of B.C.’s best sustainable seafood restaurants who’ll be serving up delicious Ocean Wise bites. I got to taste a sneak preview of a few of the wines, here are five you absolutely have to try:

  1. Lang Vineyards's Sparkling Rosé, made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, is perfect if you love your rosés dry as a bone and raspberry-ish.
  2. Poplar Grove’s 2014 velvety Syrah which, FYI, makes the world’s best pairing with salt and vinegar Kettle chips.
  3. Perseus’s 2017 rosé made with100% Gamay and totally delicious with a long strawberry-rhubarb finish.
  4. Bench 1775‘s Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah, which instant summons up swoony blackcurrents and fireside bliss.
  5. La Frenz’s Rieslings... I was super excited to try these, one from their vineyard in Oliver and the other from the Naramata Bench. You can taste the difference in terroir, from the off-dry crispness from Naramata to the juicy ripe fruit of the Oliver grapes. Try them side by side and prepare to have your mind blown!