This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now
Happy 2023! Welcome back to everything you should be eating and drinking this month—Dine Out is still happening until February 5th; the ever-awesome Hot Chocolate Festival rages on till Valentine’s Day; there are winter wine festivals in the Okanagan; and, of course, our beloved Vancouver International Wine Festival is back in April (but tickets are on sale now). Head on out and support local, y’all—there are so many tasty things to try!
As ever, don’t forget those napkins, 'cause it’s gonna get messy....
1. Sign up for wine schoolJeremy Wong
Oh, I love this! There's a brand new wine school aptly named This is Wine School from a trio of the city’s best and brightest sommeliers, Jenna Briscoe, Kelcie Jones and Maude Renauld-Brisson. They’re teaching WSET if you want a formal qualification, but for those who want to further their wine education in a fun way, they’re also teaching two-hour beginner classes designed to "expand your wine repertoire and hone your palate". Topics so far include natural wine and wine pairing ABCs. I can’t recommend these excellent folks enough, so if you love wine and want to learn a little more, sign up now.
2. Order up Indigenous-inspired charcuterie boxesTawnshi
Looking for a new way to support Indigenous-owned and -operated businesses? Put in an order right now for Tawnshi’s beautifully handcrafted charcuterie boxes featuring Indigenous flavours and ingredients. Boxes include: smoked and cured meats, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, bannock, assorted jellies, dulce (sea bacon), cheese, pickled preserves, nuts and berries. Tawnshi will deliver across Vancouver, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby.
3. Treat yourself to birthday cake trufflesMilk Bar
Forget the Milk Bar Pie (which you may remember as the unfortunately named Crack Pie). For me, it’s all about Milk Bar's Birthday Cake Truffle, the high-carb love child of cake batter and cookie dough rolled in shreds of chocolate and sprinkles. It’s fortunate these only come in packs of three because they are instantly addictive and absolutely freaking wonderful. Slip into Nordstrom and bag a few packs of these babies to sustain you for when you next need a Raincouver-busting sugar hit.
4. Plan a friend date at Elephant Garden Creamery
Ice cream in winter is the absolute best, and the mango coconut sticky rice flavour at Elephant Garden Creamery may be the peak of perfection. Think of the creamiest rice pudding, but with a Thai twist (and no lumps!). fragrant with pandan, rippled with a sweet mango sauce and spoon-lickingly wonderful. This is the most popular flavour at this small blink-and-you’ll-miss 'em artisinal ice cream store on Commercial, but the rest are incredibly tempting too—Matcha Honeycomb Nugget or Crema Catalana, anyone? I wish they did samples, but maybe head there with a few equally greedy friends and try several scoops between you. Heads up to sugar fans, their weekend brunch features a salted cheese boba tea on shokupan with whipped cream, black tea butter cookie crumbles and condensed milk.
5. Dare to eat the sleepy bear at L&J Patisserie
Not gonna lie—I had to eat this with my eyes closed because this is probably the cutest thing I have ever seen—but oh, it was worth it. The attention to detail on this adorable fluffy, light mochi mousse ‘sleepy bear’ cake from L&J Patisserie is stunning and makes the trip to the far, almost YVR, end of Granville Street 100 percent worth it. I tried the Earl Grey bear with a chunk of silky nama chocolate buried inside. Appropriately enough, it’s a Goldilocks of a cake: not too sweet, not too big, not too small, just right.
6. Devour fritto misto at Fiorino
If there is fritto misto on the menu, then that’s what I’m ordering, and the version at Fiorino’s is perfect—light, crunchy semolina batter, not at all greasy or over-fried, with sweet juicy shrimp and pitch-perfect squid paired with a punchy Calabrian chilli mayonnaise. The portion size is easily generous enough for two, and when genuine sticker shock comes as part of the dining experience almost everywhere these days, it’s kind of amazing to get something this good for $24. No wonder Fiorino scored a Michelin Bib Gourmand (the award for brilliant budget eats).
7. Order up a wine flight at La Fabrique St-Georges
I don’t know how I’ve missed the existence of a ‘new’ urban winery in Vancouver on East 7th (they opened up just before the pandemic), but I remedied that this week and popped by La Fabrique St-Georges for a visit and I absolutely adore it. The dining concept is a joyfully simple one: there are well-stocked chillers piled high with tempting cheese and charcuterie options to choose from, and plenty of cutlery, cutting boards and so on to make prep a cinch. But what about the wine? It’s made right there; fermented, and aged in beautiful clay qvevri from grapes from the Similkameen and Okanagan. Try a flight! I adored the skin contact Amber No. 3 and the Rouge No.14, and it’s a fun room to hang with your friends over a bottle or two pairing cheeses. There’s also a full program of DJs, live music, jazz and even opera to enjoy too.
8. Immediately race to eat this amazing cabbage dish
Yeah, I know. I didn’t have ‘raving about cabbage’ on my life bingo card, but here we are. My new most favourite thing ever: the grilled butter-braised cabbage with a green goddess cashew cream and ‘nduja vinaigrette at Mount Pleasant Vintage and Provisions. It’s going to be the best $14 you ever spent. The grilled cabbage is crisp yet buttery, the cashew cream is the perfect silky-smooth foil, and the vinaigrette is exactly the right amount of punchy. My friend and I tore this apart and then seriously pondered ordering another one. I’ve thought about this dish way too much over the past few days and am probably heading back there soon to get it again. It's life-changingly wonderful.