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

Don’t mind me. I’m just doing my super-happy-that-patio-season-is-here dance'cause yay—patio season is here! Raise a glass of something crisp and delicious and bask in that springtime sunshine 'cause fresh things are finally growing and ready to be devoured.

In this month’s column we’ve got deliciousness from all the seasonal flavours so as ever, grab some napkins, it’s gonna get messy...

 

1. Go to all the awesome things

bc distilledFacebook/BC DistilledThere are still a few tickets left for BC Distilled on Saturday, April 6th at the Croatian Cultural Centre. It is the largest spirits event in Canada for local distilleries and a guaranteed good time.

I’m a big fan of Skipper Otto and the work that they do as a community-supported fishery. They’re celebrating 10 years of seafood-based social and environmental justice with a gala at Waterview on Friday, April 12th. Tickets include a welcome cocktail, two drinks, appies and small plates from four different chef stations cooked up by chefs Ned Bell and Stewart Boyles, plus a delicious dessert. Mingle with fishers, meet Skipper Otto himself and then dance the night away to a DJ in this gorgeous venue overlooking fishing boats at False Creek.

Well, you’re probably doing it, so you may as well learn how to do it properly! On Saturday, April 20th, head to the MakerLabs for Make Cannabis Edibles to learn about proper preparation and dose control from a trained chemist. They make the exciting promise that if you: “learn the fundamentals, you will be able to add cannabis to just about anything!” So, watch a demonstration of cannabis chocolates being made from start to finish. Have fun, stay legal!

 

2. Sounding the brunch news klaxon

fableMarquardt PhotographyOne of the city’s fave brunch spots, Fable is doing good and important work by expanding their brunch hours to weekdays 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Menu items include the Benny of the day; scrambled eggs made with spinach and bacon, served with sourdough toast and topped with Parmesan foam (I freaking adore this); Croque Madame made with smoked local ham, three kinds of cheese, onion jam, Parmesan foam, and topped with a fried egg sunny side up. Lunch choices are available too and include their killer burger, grilled cheese, fresh pasta and more. Nice job, guys—love it when you can brunch and avoid the crowds.

 

3. Take a field trip

oystersFull disclosure: I’ve got a hand in the wine competition part of this, but I always recommend folks come visit Osoyoos for the annual Oyster Festival—and this year is no different, so come get shucked in the South Okanagan!

Events kick off this year with a long table dinner at Miradoro with chef Jeff Van Geest collaborating with Dana Ewart from Joy Road catering on Wednesday, April 24th. They'll serve up a three-course family-style oyster-themed menu with an oyster reception.

On Thursday, April 25th, you can pop your cork for a Sauvignon, sparkling and oyster night at Black Hills Estate winery with wines from the Oliver-Osoyoos Winery Association.

On Friday, April 26th, the Restaurant at Spirit Ridge is hosting a night of Indigenous-inspired cuisine with the Journey of the Four Food Chiefs.

On Saturday, April 27th, Royal Dinette’s chef Amanda Healey will be joining other chefs at the Watermark Beach Resort for a night of seafood, live music and wine (and the announcement of the Best Oyster Paired Wine in the South Okanagan!)

Finally, on on Sunday, April 28th, head to Oliver Eats for an artisan food and oyster market from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m.

As field trips go, this would be a pretty serious commitment, but dang, a trip to chef JC Poirier culinary retreat in Southern Italy sounds too delicious to miss. One of the most respected chefs in Canada (the mastermind behind Ask for Luigi, St, Lawrence, Pizza Farina) is heading off to Puglia from May 6 to 13, 2019 and has a couple of spots left. Get the full details here, but tempt yourself with this lil’ nugget:

“You could be sitting on the patio of a XVI-century farmhouse, surrounded by ancient olive trees. You could be relaxing, savouring a glass of wine or you could join me in the kitchen and expand your knowledge of Italian cuisine.” Droooool...

 

4. Eat all the halibut

halibutHonestly, the first of the season’s halibut is likely one of my favourite signs of spring. At home, all you need is a simple pan-seared fish and you’re good to go. Pick up a portion at the Fish Counter and DIY, or check out these tempting menus…

Boulevard has a butter-poached halibut with charcoal carrot purée, asparagus, spring peas, pickled kombu and seaweed butter sauce (pictured).

Royal Dinette is serving seared halibut with peas, fava beans, sugar snap peas, pea tendrils and bergamot.

Flying out somewhere? The Globe@YVR at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport has pan-seared Haida Gwaii halibut with gnudi, local veggies and a sauce vierge (olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and chopped basil).

Stem Japanese Eatery in Burnaby is serving up B.C. halibut cheeks, with B.C. octopus, spring bamboo shoots, asparagus, ginger-yuzu butter, mitsuba, Japanese Koshihikari rice from Niigata and dashi broth.

 

5. Celebrate the taste of sakura season

sakuraI can vividly recall my first spring in Vancouver and my absolute delight with the beauty of the cherry blossoms in the West End. Tell me: is there anything more breathtaking than that riot of delicate pink-and-white pompom flowers bursting into bloom? Salute that all-too-brief beauty with a special culinary sakura celebration.

Yuwa Japanese Cuisine (pictured) has an à la carte sakura menu available from April 4th to 28th which includes a Sakura Denbu sushi rice topped with kelp-cured snapper, cherry leaves and ikura salmon roe; and a Spring Cheerful Roll with prawn tempura, Dungeness crab, wrapped with soy bean sheet, topped with avocado, mango, house-made creamy mayo with grated cherry blossom pickles.

pavlovaThe Teahouse in Stanley Park will be offering a special dessert feature to celebrate the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival this year. The Cherry Blossom Pavlova (pictured) has charred grapefruit curd, condensed milk mousse, rose sugar, pistachios, fresh mint and blueberries.

Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio’s pastry chef Rebecca Chen has created a Sakura and Lychee Verrine with feuilletine white chocolate, sakura lychee jelly, sake kasu ice cream and rhubarb mousse.

Railtown Cafe is going all-out with a trio of Sakura treats: a cherry-blossom sparkler made with cherry-blossom green tea; hanami dango with matcha; and wagashi with cherry blossom green tea jelly.

 

6. Say cheers to the wines of Argentina

wines of argentinaI had such a fun night tasting Argentinian wines recently, and you can get into the gaucho spirit too by celebrating World Malbec Day on April 17th. There are free wine and food tastings at BC Liquor Stores across the city.

Park Royal Signature Store Tasting Bar is pairing traditional empanadas from Panaderia Latina Bakery with Argentinian wines on Friday, April 12th from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.

Marquis Wine Cellars is also serving up Panaderia empanadas with eight different wines on Saturday, April 13th from 2 to 5 p.m., with live music from Stephanie Pedraza (donations accepted for the BC Hospitality Foundation).

All five Everything Wine stores will be pouring five different wines on World Malbec Day itself (April 17th), and nine of the JAK’s group will be pouring three wines on Thursday, April 18th from 3 to 7 p.m.

My tips when you go to buy? I pretty much adored everything I tried from Renacer. Their concrete tank-made Malbec was a super smooth and juicy crowd-pleaser and a total bargain for just $14.99. Splurge on their $36.99 Milamore 2016 for a wild ride through an Argentinian take on an Amarone-style wine made with Malbec, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Bonarda that everyone swooned over (suggestion for the winery, this should be renamed ‘Treat Yo Self’.)

Props also go to Masi Tupungato’s organic Passo Doble Malbec which made a perfect pairing with crackers, Swiss cheese and pickles. Only one question, your BBQ or mine?

 

7. Say yes to eating nettles

nettlesI love 'em—more nutritious than spinach, Popeye didn’t know what he was missing...

Wildebeest has a stinging nettle ravioli with Vacche Rosse cheese, local mushrooms, garlic purée, mushroom consommé, spruce tip and Swiss chard (pictured).

Royal Dinette is rocking a rainbow carrot, nettle chimichurri, RD Buffalo Milk feta (made in-house), with puffed sorghum and foraged greens.

Burdock and Co has a luscious-sounding ricotta gnudi with nettle and almond pesto.

Get a double spring bonus at Forage with halibut and nettles! On their menu: pan-seared Haida Gwaii halibut, nettle nage, crispy nettles, smoked onion, bull kelp and wild greens.

 

8. Launch patio season at Joe Fortes

joe fortesNo matter how many patios I enjoy throughout the season (and trust me, I like to get around patio-wise!), I have to make a trip to Joe Fortes to feel spring (and summer!) are really on the way. Bang in the middle of town, boasting an excellent happy hour (love that calamari, and can never turn down the mini cheese burgers!), brilliant people-watching opportunities on their huge sun-trap roof patio, a great wine list and totally reasonable prices, I have loved this spot since my first visit in 2012. They open on Saturday, April 6th. See you there!