This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now
Call me crazy, but doesn’t this feel (whisper it) almost back to normal? In the column this month, delicious seasonal treats, events(!), free wine education programs, no-meat BBQ and much more. I’m feeling quietly optimistic for the season ahead—are we finally going to have that hot girl summer? Gosh, I hope so!
In preparation, rediscover your hedonistic side and get ready to devour all the good things. Grab napkins 'cause it’s gonna get messy!
1. Take a free British Columbia wine ambassador course
Wine BCIt’s B.C. wine month throughout April, and to celebrate, the Wine Growers of British Columbia have created a series of online courses with interactive learning modules, topographic maps, historical timelines and more. Learn about everything from the nine different grape-growing areas which make up the B.C. wine region to how to pair food and wine, and what different wine terms mean (what does ‘bottle shock’ mean—finally, you can find out!)
If you’re a wannabe cork-dork, this is an excellent short course (try it with a friend, it should take around the time it takes to drink a bottle of—of course—B.C. wine), which will elevate your wine-tasting experience this season when you hit the tasting rooms. The BC Wine Ambassador Level One certificate is an entry-level multimedia platform perfect for newbies to dive into to develop more knowledge, and it’s offered free this month (value $75) when you use promo code: BCWINEMONTH over at WineBC.com and you even get a certificate if you pass!
2. Invest in Similkameen organic fruits and veggies this season
Facebook/Klippers Organic AcresI may be horribly biased, but I do believe that the superb fruit and vegetables which come from the Similkameen region are the absolute best that you can eat—and guess what? Now you can get a regular supply of organically grown produce from the Valley every week through CSA (community supported agriculture) programs. In short: you pay upfront for your produce, directly supporting the farmers through the growing season, and in return you get a weekly supply of super-fresh produce throughout the season. Honest Food Farm is offering a CSA pick-up in Vancouver this year each Sunday at the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, and Klippers Organics has a Wednesday CSA pick up near Main and 20th, or in North Vancouver at United Strangers, a Saturday pick-up at Trout Lake and the West End Farmers’ Market, and Sundays at the Kits Farmers’ Market.
3. Make it non-alcoholic with Edna’s
Facebook/Edna's CocktailsHuh. It smells like a cocktail, it tastes like a cocktail—but wait—what, it’s a mocktail!? Excellent news that veteran Vancouver bartender, Nick Devine has turned his skills to creating a range of perfectly balanced, canned, non-alcoholic beverages under the Edna's Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Company banner. Made with all-natural juices, shrubs, oils and spirit extracts, I’m super impressed with both the flavours I tried: a bright, tart pink grapefruit Paloma and a minty Mojito with a whoosh of lime. Perfect for those who are cutting down or eliminating alcohol from their lives—also excellent for those of us who want to add our own spirits to make something balanced and boozy at home, or out in the park or on the beach (this has camping/picnic joy written all over it!). In stores now with two new varieties coming later this year.
4. Celebrate Filipino flavours
JollibeeJollibee mania may have finally calmed down to a dull roar, so you can head on over to their Granville Street location without a multi-hour queue to see what all the fuss is about. The beloved Filipino fast-food chain opened at the end of February, and I was truly astounded to see queues wrapped around the block for days on end. What’s at the front of the line? Filipino fan favourites such as fried Chickenjoy, palabok noodles and spaghetti in a sweet-savoury sauce spiked with chunks of ground meat, hot dog and ham. It’s also Canada’s first-ever Filipino Restaurant Month throughout April, and Max’s Restaurant on Kingsway as well as Pampanga’s Cuisine are both participating by offering prix-fixe menus. Dig in!
5. Quick! Eat nettles while they’re still in season
BacaroHow absolutely beautiful is this? Chef Scott Korzack’s nettle Sbocciare pasta, stuffed with caciocavallo (a stretched curd cheese from southern Italy) and seasonal vegetables, available now at Bacaro. Almost too pretty to eat—almost—but not quite.
6. BC Distilled is back
Photo Credit: Nora HamadeWhat joyful news! BC Distilled is back with its excellent tasting sessions and legendary spirits-paired dinner at Forage with chef Welbert Choi. Tickets are selling out fast, so grab yours now for one of the tasting sessions on Saturday, April 9th at the Croatian Cultural Centre. I’ll leave the final word to festival founder, and all-round excellent chap, Alex Hamer: “We are overjoyed to be returning after two years off. The event will be a little smaller, a little quieter, with several new distilleries and lots of new spirits for people to try. BC Distilled brings together our province’s great community of distillers and spirit fans, and I know we’re all looking forward to getting together after this long break.”
7. Calling all vegans! Check out no meat BBQ at Slims on Main
SlimsThis is very cool—plant-based BBQ options, so now everyone (including vegans and vegetarians) can get around the table and enjoy one of my favourite cooking styles. Slim’s is launching a new menu at the start of this month which will showcase plant-based Southern-style dishes, including vegan Nashville ‘chick’n’ sandwiches, vegan ‘pulled pork’ and cauliflower ‘wings’. Meats on the menu come from farmers such as 63 Acres Beef, which humanely and transparently raises their cattle in B.C.’s Southern Interior and Abbotford’s Rossdown Farms, a fourth-generation Fraser Valley family operation certified humane in all its operations.
8. Cheers to Marquis and malbec
I always like to raise a glass to World Malbec Day, as I love pairing this juicy jammy wine full of plummy, black fruit flavours with a truly great barbecued steak. This year, you can join me and ‘bec heads around the world in the celebrations on Sunday, April 17th. The place to pick up a few bottles of Argentina’s flagship red grape is Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street, which is generously donating $1 from every bottle of Argentine wine purchased at their store throughout April to the BC Hospitality Foundation (BCHF), our province’s hospitality charity. Hats off to the folks at Marquis for doing this. What better reason could you have to stock up!?
9. Dive into new-season halibut
The LiftOne of my all-time favourite Vancouver chefs, Keev Mah is now over at The Lift on Menchion Mews, down on the seawall in the West End. This is an exciting development! All too often spots with jaw-clanging sea and mountain views tend to rest on their laurels, relying on the scenery to provide a reason to come back. But that certainly won’t be the only reason to visit now that Mah is at the helm. Check out this gorgeous halibut dish with couscous pearls, a tomato beurre blanc and roasted vegetables. Just one request: please can you revive the insanely wonderful chicken skin snacks zingy with salt, pepper and lime, that you had on the menu at the much-missed Bambudda?!
10. Get the Han Sang lunch special at Zoomak
Instagram: ZoomakPrepare to get in line to enjoy one of the city’s most exciting meal deals over at Zoomak on Alexander Street. Only around 12 to 15 of the $20 tasting-tray lunches are made each day, featuring 12 delicacies, including soup and rice, and you can add on a choice of mackerel, pork toro or flat-iron steak for an additional $5. Picture-perfect, Instagram is drooling over these beautiful wooden trays of gorgeousness and so am I.