This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now
February brings my absolute favourite event to Vancouver: Wine Fest. It’s an exciting time for cork dorks such as myself, with nine days of wine education, tastings, dinners and minglers with some of the key players in the world of wine.
Wine aside, there are 29 days in February this year, each bringing at least three opportunities to get out there and try something new and delicious for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Challenge yourself to break your culinary routines this month and hit up somewhere new!
Get inspired and head out for a #FoodAdventure and as ever, grab some napkins 'cause it’s gonna get messy...
1. Go to all the fun events
Ocean WiseOn Thursday, February 20th, the Chowder Chowdown returns to the Vancouver Aquarium to declare the city’s official Chowder Champ, including restaurants like Timber, Wildflower and even Fukasaku, from Prince George (the very first 100 percent Ocean Wise sushi restaurant). This super-fun and very tasty night raises funds for Ocean Wise and allows you to sample plenty of chowder, beer, wine and spirits.
Marquis Wine Cellars has a Tour de France night as part of their Savvy Series of super-accessible wine education. “In this class, we’ll highlight six wines from regions around the country that helped put French wines on the map. Join resident sommelier, Pam Cohen to explore and demystify these Old World wines."
Make breakfast and brunch awesome forever after you learn the skills needed to make conchas and churros at the Commissary Connect Kitchen on Saturday, February 29th. Tickets are $45 and include recipes, equipment and ingredients. Just bring an apron and containers to take your creations home! Registration opens on February 14th.
2. Take a road trip
Victoria is celebrating its annual Island Beer and Spirits Festival on Sunday, February 16th, featuring everyone who’s everyone in the Island’s thriving beer, cider and spirits scene (there are around 20 different companies pouring including Howl, Driftwood, Shelter Point, Sea Cider and Bad Dog). Tickets are $25 and include two beer tasters, a spirits taster and a food item.
Head up to the Okanagan for the annual Vernon Winter Carnival (February 7th to 16th) for a blizzard of good times, including the Beercan Beiner, a cross-country ski mission at Soverign Lake on February 7th where you stop at three rustic venues under the night sky sampling craft beers and ending with hot chocolate at the lodge; and the Predator Ridge Parka Party on the 8th which promises a: "winter wonderland of food and drink… Dress up in your parka and enjoy the seafood display as well as a pig roast on the Commonage Ballroom Patio. Warm up with a hot toddy from the S'mores station fireside and sip on local wines and spirits."
3. Read Great Northern Cocktails
Part cocktail recipe book, part 'handy pan-Canadian guide to pretty much every single bartender worth knowing across the country,' Great Northern Cocktails, the latest book from Shawn Soole, makes for engaging reading. Some of the recipes require patience (how much do you want to immediately drink anything with brown butter-washed cold brew coffee and honey syrup?) as the prep work may take a day or two, but there’s plenty here you can dive straight into to up your at-home cocktail game and helpfully, drinks are divided into three categories from simple to complex.
4. Thank Yew
Just a super quick line to say that I shall miss YEW at the Four Seasons very much. It was the first place I tasted a spot prawn at a terrific dinner with chef Ned Bell, my go-to for cognac-spiked eggnog in moose mugs over the holidays by the fire, and—for a brief and wonderful time—my regular Sunday brunch hang when they did a 50 percent off all sparkling wines, yes, even champagne. The service was always terrific, the food delicious, so thanks for the wonderful memories.
5. Start drinking Fino sherry
Hi, my name is Nikki and I am a sherry drinker.
I took a sherry class a few years back and promptly fell madly in love with Fino sherry. Forget all those preconceptions you have about that sickly sweet gunk that comes out at Christmas. Drunk chilled from the fridge, Fino’s dry, nutty, salty taste pairs perfectly with cheese, olives, charcuterie, nuts… so many things. However, mine is not a selfish love—oh no—I want everyone to share. Here’s where you can enjoy a glass or two and discover the wallet-friendly foodie gem that is Fino sherry.
Over at Cómo Taperia, Fino comes on tap for $9 along with eight other sherries by the glass. Pair with a plate of Mahon cheese from Menorca for a moment of pure happiness.
You can get a flight of three different sherries for just $15 at Salt Tasting Room where they have one of my favourites from Alvear.
And over at Boulevard, you’ll find fellow sherry nut and wine director, J.P. Potters tight list of three sherries. He recommends the Gitana Manzanilla En Rama ($8), explaining "Manzanilla is a Fino from the seaside town of San Lucar di Barameda."
6. Wine Fest PSA
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is galloping towards us! This year its focus is France, so that means there will be hella très bien events to enjoy—from seminars and tastings to wine-paired dinners with soft-accented French winemakers in attendance. Save yourself the frustration of looking at the full list of tempting events, gnashing your teeth when you discover that awesome winery dinner you just lost your goddam mind over is sold out, and hop instead to this handy site which tells you exactly which tickets are left and which events are selling out fast!
7. Half-price wine deals
VershininNeed to save some money, but still want to go out? Hit up these spots and take advantage of their half-off wine deals throughout the week!
The Butcher & Bullock has 50 percent off on Mondays, so I’d be putting in an order for Tantalus’s delicious Pinot Noir, and Lock & Worth’s dream Sauvignon Blanc-Semillion blend.
Tuesdays mean it’s half off at Earls too, so savour a bottle of cut-price Painted Rock Icon from Okanagan Falls or taste the Loire with Hubert Brochard’s Sancerre.
Finally, support beautiful B.C. wine and swing on over to Fable where their regular Wine Wednesday deal knocks a tasty 50 percent off all bottles of wine from B.C., such as delights from Seastar, Synchromesh and Summerhill. Heads up: if you’ve never tried Le Vieux Pin’s superb Cuvée Violette syrah (usually $78), then go grab one of the best deals in town.
8. Valentine’s Day Dinner reservation reminder
If you love your significant other, then skip the dubious pink foods, the tedious gender assumption menus, the spiralling prices and inevitable arguments from your fellow diners, and go out for dinner on the 13th or 15th instead. Instead, stay home, cook something light, bang your brains out. You’re welcome.
9. Have the prixe-fixe at Ubuntu
Ubuntu CanteenDave Gunawan, one of Vancouver’s most fêted chefs, left the award-winning Farmer’s Apprentice last year to open Ubuntu Canteen, a "community-focused restaurant and bakery" on Fraser between East 26th and King Edward.
Ubuntu offers a lunch and dinner menu, as well as coffee (I was vastly entertained to read on their website that they don’t offer decaf) and baked goods. They also offer a frankly delicious sounding bread subscription service so you can enjoy two loaves of organic heirloom grain goodness each week for $60 per month...
But... the bargain here is their evening deal of two small and one large plates per person for $45. Drool over the daily-changing menu which could include delights such as 30-day dry aged Tamworth pork with king cabbage and a brown butter jus, or hay-baked celeriac with caramelized whey, enoki mushrooms and black truffle. I adored Gunawan’s innovative, ultra-locavore cooking from my first bite when he was opening chef at Wildebeest. Go see what he’s up to now!
10. Drink like a Boss Lady at the Keefer
Hats off to The Keefer Bar who are doing outstanding work raising funds for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre by donating $1 for every Boss Lady cocktail sold for the entire run of their winter menu. They’ve already raised more than $400 so let’s see if us thirsty boss-bitches can’t get that to $1000. Designed by Amber Bruce for the Keefer’s 40th menu launch as part of their 10-year anniversary celebration, it’s a powerful blend of Cazadores Reposado tequila, Aperol, lemon juice and mandarin-mustard seed shrub.