This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now
Did you watch Community? I’m having a rewatch moment with the whole series right now and have found such resonance with the idea of the Darkest Timeline. As the seasons shift and life starts to truly feel OK again, I feel like we’ve clicked back into a better timeline (Oh God, I hope so!), and it’s with that joy and positivity that I present all the delicious things that you need to dive into this month. The blossoms are out! The sun is (often) shining! New season wines from B.C. are on release! And fresh halibut and asparagus are finally on menus. How I love April—and this April more than most—doesn’t it just feel good?
As always, grab a stack of napkins, get out there, and get hella messy...
1. Save the dates
The Spot Prawn Festival at False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf is back on May 28th, and tickets go live on April 1st. Don’t miss out! This year there will be two brunch services (11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.), as well as tickets for a spot prawn bisque.
The annual Heart of Wine Country Spring Release tasting takes place on Wednesday, April 5 at the Vancouver Club. More than a dozen wineries will be pouring their new releases and there will also be tasty bites available.
2. Road trip #1: Victoria
It’s not so long ago that we were confined to our homes, so I can’t think of a better time to head out and explore B.C. than right now. I was in Victoria for the excellent inaugural Barnyard Wine Festival recently and tagged on a quick visit to Unsworth in Mill Bay on my way home. ZOMYGOD! New chef = freaking delicious times. The wines over at Unsworth have always been superb—I’ve been a cheerleader of their gloriously dark cherry pinot noirs and fresh chardonnays for a while—but it’s my first time eating at the winery and now I’m mad that I left that so long. I can’t say enough good things about the scallop crudo bathed in buttermilk leche de tigre, topped with an oversized rice crisp, and the crunchy pork belly with the best creamed corn I’ve ever tasted. In short: yum. Just 50 minutes from downtown Victoria, it’s destination dining at its best.
3. Celebrate the wines of Argentina
It’s that time again: April 15th is Malbec World Day! I don’t ever really need much encouragement to pop open a jammy, silky malbec to pair with BBQed steak, but if you need a push, there’s a fun Malbec World Day event at Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street on Saturday, April 15th from 2 to 5 p.m. Eight malbec/malbec blends will be open for tasting, paired perfectly with empanadas from Panaderia Latina Bakery and live music. It’s a free event, so please make donations to the BC Hospitality Foundation while you’re there.
4. First art, then brunch
I was invited to see the new Paying Attention exhibition by Equinox Gallery up at the Pacific Gallery (upstairs in the Fairmont Pacific Rim next to the Botanist) which has some stellar Fred Herzog prints and some truly terrific Berenice Abbot photographs that I’d not seen before. First art, then brunch... and whoa! Two absolute must-haves are on the menu at Botanist: croissants, and a punchy fermented chili steelhead dish. I’m endlessly disappointed in croissants in North America—they are so often doughy, flaccid nightmares with barely a crumb to their name. The butter croissant at Botanist is a wholly different creature and barely discernible from its Parisian counterpart: crumbs everywhere! Flaky as F. It was heaven and so, so buttery. Yes, please. Do not skip the fermented chili steelhead dish. I don’t know what they did to the potatoes, but they were crunchy as hell, hosed in a mojo de ajo sauce, and I could not get enough of 'em. Delicate juicy flakes of steelhead, too. So good.
5. Two bits of bad news
Ubuntu Canteen is closing on April 16th. I have no clue why, but I do know that chef Dave Gunawan and team’s thoughtfully created sanctuary of deliciousness will be sorely missed. That bone broth! Those breakfast sandwiches! The pastas! Just all of it. I hope that we see Dave back again somewhere soon—he’s really too talented to not cook anymore.
Tragedy has hit the fine folks at Top Rope Birria, along with Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck, Melt City Grilled Cheese, Modern Perogie, Shorba Bone Broth, and Green Coast Coffee, after a fire ripped through their shared commissary and put them all out of business. If you can afford to help them out, there’s a GoFundMe account.
6. Drink this Verdejo
Whilst in Victoria, I went to the Hanai pop-up at the ever-excellent Fol Epi and tried what may be my new favourite wine: it’s Ecce Vinum’s 2016 Verdejo, from a small organic low-intervention producer in La Mancha. It’s the most gorgeous glowing golden colour—don’t over-chill it—get ready for heady aromas of honeysuckle, white peach, and mandarin pith, and just the most delish nutty almond-y finish. It’s honestly amazing, and you can try it at Dachi and Hanai, or pick up a bottle at Kits Wine Cellar (Angry Otter).
7. Road trip #2: Poplar Grove
It’s always a good idea to visit the Okanagan, but it’s an even better one now that the combined culinary forces of partners-in-life-and-the-kitchen, Stacy Johnston as executive chef and Minette Lotz as chef de cuisine, have found a home at Poplar Grove to showcase their considerable talents. I went to a hello-goodbye dinner (I mean, how civilized—and unheard of!—is that) to say farewell to chef Rob Ratcliffe who’s off to Toronto, and welcome the two new chefs to the restaurant. This was a packed night of course after course of table-bangingly terrific food from the whole team. So excited to have these stellar talents in lead roles at one of the Okanagan’s best dining spots—book your trip to visit soon!
8. Fly with the wine geese
I’d never heard the story of the wine geese before, Irish families who left Ireland and set up wineries across the globe. Turns out one of these ‘geese’ settled on Okanagan Lake in 1908 and his family founded Quails Gate. What’s the connection? Well, Irish Distillers, who make Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, have collaborated with Chateau Montelena in Napa, and Château Leoville Barton in Bordeaux to age their whiskey in wine barrels, and the latest to join this exclusive set is Canada’s very own Quails Gate in West Kelowna. Green Spot Quails Gate is a very limited-edition whiskey finished in Pinot Noir casks, and it’s likely the perfect gift for that wine-loving whiskey collector in your life. It’s a beautiful whiskey, light fragrant raspberry notes, apple and sweet pear, spicy nutmeg, and beautiful toasty oak. Very limited amounts are available, so bag a bottle soon!