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

Sorry. Can’t talk.

I'm busy stuffing myself stupid with Okanagan peaches, cherries, raspberries and barbecued bi-coloured corn. Every single day.

Truly, we are the luckiest diners here in B.C. throughout the summer, blessed with an avalanche of deliciousness from the Valley and Lower Mainland. Dive in! It is so damn good!

If you don’t know how to preserve, may I suggest you take a canning class. I learned two years ago and am now completely obsessed. Trust me on this: opening a jar of Okanagan peaches on a grey November morning is one of life’s greatest joys. And don’t let me start on boozy cherries. There’s a class on Wednesday, August 8th at the Uncommon Café; sign up now.

So, from fun field trips and amazing local events to chain restaurants busting out plant-based menus, there’s plenty to get excited about this month.

Enjoy August, and most importantly, grab a handful of napkins… it’s gonna get messy...

 

1. Taste the Okanagan

Cedar Creek KelownaCourtesy of Tourism Kelowna – Destination BC – Andrew StrainSo, thanks to some hella irresponsible reporting, you might think that the whole of the Okanagan is a terrifying blazing inferno right now. Spoiler alert: it is not.

Sure, there have been some fires, but they’re under control and guess what? They’re part of the ecosystem here. There's some smoke in parts of the Valley, but for the most part, the fires are absolutely not affecting the day-to-day business of wineries and restaurants as well as activities like having fun on the beach, swimming in the lake and pedalling the Kettle Valley Railway. That trip you had planned? Take it. Come visit! Show your B.C. love. And if you can’t make it up here, then support those wineries with a purchase or two at your local independent wine store. It’s a win/win.

 

2. Eat this burrata at Wildebeest

burrataThere are few things in the world that make me drool as much as burrata. I just plain love it. How do you make an already awesome thing such as a good milky mozzarella even better? You fill it with cream, goddam it. Thank you, Italy. Head on down to Wildebeest as they’re showcasing the world’s best cheese along with heirloom tomatoes, tomato consommé, local strawberries, elderflower vinegar and basil oil for brunch and dinner. I feel like plate-licking is pretty much mandatory here. Also: ignore any nonsense about sharing. Order one each.

 

3. Make carrots the star at The Gull

carrotsFacebook/The GullI’m hearing nothing but good things about the newly renovated Gull in North Van. The sub-par beer list has been replaced with a terrific cocktail, local wine and craft brew-heavy menu, and if you’re looking to snack on chicken wings, you might want to try the fried chickpeas instead. I’m told that the hero dish is roasted heirloom carrots with fenugreek, labneh and a carrot-top salsa verdeand I have to say the rest of the menu looks pretty damn tasty too. Time for a SeaBus trip? I think so…

 

3. Eat all the apricots

apricotsCourtesy of Tourism KelownaI’ll admit it: I never cared much for apricots, but I made this apricot-lavender preserve recipe last week and am now obsessed with how brilliant they are. Get a flat of fruit and make some for yourself so you can snack on those cute ‘cots wherever you want. Then consider a progressive apricot-based dinner at these three spots:

  1. TUC is doing an apricot chicken from Hallmark Farms with apricot glaze and caramelized fennel.
  2. Bicycle Craft Brewery is doing a Biergarten-Koshlong Apricot Wheat Ale.
  3. Botanist has an apricot sorbet on their dessert menu with a pistachio sponge, cocoa tuile and Esmeralda crémeux.

 

4. Go plant-based at Earls

earls bowlEarlsStaying bang on-trend, Earls is busting out a 100 percent vegan, plant-based menu at select locations across North America starting at the end of July. On the menu are treats such as Spicy Tofu Tacos, Vegan Hunan Kung Pao, Crispy Tofu Zen Bowl and Green Dragon Roll. You’ll be able to try the new menu at Earls in Yaletown, Ambleside Beach, Langley and Bridgepark. My prediction? Smash hit. Finally, vegan millennials will be able to eat something apart from sweet potato fries at parental dinners!

 

5. Go to all the cool events

champagneThis sounds absolutely excellent: a tutored tasting of Grower Champagnes paired with French cheeses. If you don’t know about Grower Champagnes, but love your bubbles, this could be a great opportunity to find out more. Basically, instead of the champagne being a consistent ‘house style,’ Grower Champagnes are made from estate-grown fruit and reflect the difference in each vintage. If you love your wine to show its terroir, this is the event for you! Tickets include four champagnes, cheeses and info sheets.

Save the date for the Culinary Garage Sale on Sunday, September 16th in the parking lot of The Lazy Gourmet catering company (1605 West 5th Avenue). A fab fundraiser for Les Dames d'Escoffier, British Columbia Chapter, selling new, used and chef-donated baking supplies, kitchen equipment and kitchen tools for home and professional kitchens. Gates open at 11 am. FYI:150 people rushed the door last year!

Yay! It’s Tailgate Barbecue season over at the Railtown Cafe. I went a couple of years back and it was epic. Dive into treats such as 35-hour Texas-style beef brisket, beer-brined Maple Hill Farms chicken, D’Original Sausage Haus Brats and Applewood-smoked pork shoulder along with corn on the cob, jalepeño corn bread plus a choice of side. Tickets are $29 and if you buy 'em online, you score a free $6 drink voucher too (try the house-made Lynchburg Lemonade). The BBQ will be at the Railtown location on August 18th and 25th from 4 to 9 p.m.

 

6. Get yo' BBQ on with Argentinian Malbec and Cab Sauv

wines of argentinaArgentinian wines and barbecue are a match made in culinary heaven, so celebrate Wines of Argentina this month and head to the BC Liquor Store at 39th and Cambie where you can taste some velvety Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon along with some yummy empanadas from Panaderia Latina Bakery on Fridays, August 10th and 17th from 2 to 6 p.m. Look out for the sustainably farmed Decero 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, all plums, blackcurrants and baking spicethis wine may be vegan, but it’s begging to be paired with lamb chops straight off the grill.

 

7. Say bye bye to Merchant’s and hello to Ugly Dumpling

merchantsMerchant'sI’ve had some of the most fun and delicious meals I can remember at Merchant’s on Commercial: whether it was a boozy brunch fuelled with oysters and lobster Bennies, brewery dinners or special occasions, the staff was always wonderful and the meals memorable. So, it’s sad to say goodbye to Doug and the team, although you can be sure whether they find to create magic next, it’ll be awesome. They’re hosting some farewell dinners, including: a Taco Fest with Superflux Beer Company August 2nd to 5th; a Coalesce Brewing Mixed Fermentation Tasting Menu night with 10 courses on August 14th; and their final Greatest Hits night on August 16th. The start of September will see new tenants, Ugly Dumpling roll out an Asian street-food concept with industry veterans Van Doren Chan and Darren Gee at the helm. Au revoir, Merchant’s and welcome Ugly Dumpling!

 

8. Food + Spiegeltent = Awesome

SpiegeltentFacebook/Bacio RossoI spent many happy nights dancing, drinking and watching incredible entertainment in the Spiegeltent in London and Brighton, UK, so I was thrilled to hear that one of these beautiful antique bedazzled wood-sided tents is coming to Queen Elizabeth Park this year for Bacio Rosso.

The press release says: “Set within a magnificent red velvet Spiegeltent, Bacio Rosso’s three-hour live performance experience awakens all the senses with a thrilling combination of cirque, comedy and cuisine. Audience members will have the chance to be whisked back in time to revel in the grandeur and romance of old Europe and be spellbound by the talented cast of magicians, jugglers, trapeze artists, clowns, singers and comedians..”

Oh, and while this amazing-ness takes place, you can dive into a special four-course menu from Adam Pegg of La Quercia. This event runs from November to New Year’s Eve and is screaming amazing festive treat to me. Book your tickets now.

 

9. Celebrate Food Day Canada

food day canadaMake plans to eat all-Canadian on Saturday, August 4th for Food Day Canada, which celebrates our farmers, fishers, growers and producers. Plan a feast at home with 100 percent Canadian ingredients, or let the pros do the hard work and check out one of these special Food Day Canada celebrations...

Head to the Okanagan to join talented chef-storyteller Aman Dosanj, aka the Paisley Notebook, for a magical long-table dinner (pictured) at Green Croft Gardens' certified organic farm with a four-course Canadian-inspired menu. Dive into delicious dishes such as Puffed Wild Saskatchewan Rice with Fried Albertan Red Lentils, House-Milled Chickpea Flour Sev, Green Croft Gardens Shallots, Heirloom Tomatoes and Cucumber, Culled Claremont Ranch Organics and Nomad Cider Vinegar Gastrique. Camping is available at the farm too.

The truly amazing Pilgrimme restaurant on Galiano Island pretty much celebrates all-Canadian ingredients year-round. Chef Jesse Mccleery mailed to tell me: “We really won't be doing anything different in terms of sourcing; the only product we use that isn’t Canadian is maybe our kosher salt and onions for certain times of the year, which are from Oregon. We do use Vancouver Island salt for finishing though!”
Nothing is definite for the Food Day menu yet as Pilgrimme works with whatever their farmers and producers give them when it’s ready, but Jesse shared that he's "picking up a heritage breed of rabbit raised on Galiano this week, which is exciting!”

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is hosting a seven-course menu on the Wildflower Patio paired with Roche Wines from the Naramata Bench. They'll be offering up such treats as Cured West Creek Coho Salmon with carrots cooked in beeswax, radish and spruce, and Birch Syrup Glazed Smoked Gindara Sablefish with runner beans, nasturtium and pickled cherry tomatoes.

In Vancouver, make it special with a trip to culinary legend Bishop’s in Kitsilano or the equally awesome Burdock & Co in Mount Pleasant to feast on a super-seasonal all-Canadian Food Day Canada menu.