This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now
Bring on this brilliant, beautiful blue-sky weather! It’s the season for hanging out on patios while watching the sun slowly set, and for drinking happy hour wine and beer. It’s time to eat fistfuls of Okanagan cherries, Fraser Valley blueberries and enjoy that sweet wait for those first peerless peaches. It’s the season for staying out late and getting up early—heck—we can sleep when it’s raining, right? Stay hydrated! Keep fuelled up.
As ever, grab a stack of napkins, 'cause you know it is gonna get messy...
1. Head out to the 'burbs and get your U-Pick on
BC Blueberry CouncilGrab a few friends and make a mini road trip to pick some of B.C.'s beautiful harvest! Check out this feature, which gives details of U-Picks in Greater Vancouver and start browsing some recipes for making fruit cocktails and pies, canning cherries and peaches (trust me: nothing is better in the dead of winter than a jar of summer fruit!), or even just stuffing yourself with fruit, fruit, fruit!
2. Congrats to Botanist & Kaitlyn Stewart
Big news from Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards nominations this year with the team at Botanist (pictured) at the Fairmont Pacific Rim bagging a nomination for ‘Best New International Bar’ and Royal Dinette’s Kaitlyn Stewart, (continuing her epic year after being crowned World Class Bartender of the Year) is up for International Bartender of the Year. This helps cement Vancouver’s place as Canada’s most exciting cocktail capital. Go drink at these awesome bars and raise a glass to the talent! The awards will be announced at a ceremony on July 21 in New Orleans. Best of luck!
3. Buy Tickets for EAT!
I’ve slammed the EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival in the past for being a total sausage fest (and not the good kind), but this year looks genuinely unmissable and I’m delighted by the lineup. It seemed like it could never happen... but, incredibly, there are guest chef dinner pairings at this year’s EAT festival that are not either all-male or all-female. Hurrah! The dinner series for this year looks thrilling with visiting chefs from Canada and the USA cooking up a storm in November. Add to that a program of classes, special pastry and tasting events, and EAT! looks like making November in Vancouver the coolest foodie month in the calendar. Get your tickets now!
Pictured: EAT Harvest features 24 top chefs, including Burdock & Co.'s Andrea Carlson
4. Drink all the radlers
I have a not-so-secret shame. I do not like the taste of hops. And trust me, in a city like Vancouver which excels in craft brewing, it’s been heartbreaking to dislike so much of what seems both awesome and abundant. But, for one or two months a year, I get to have six-packs in the fridge just like everyone else 'cause it’s radler season. Yay! A radler is a delicious grapefruit juice and light beer mix that’s perfect for this hot weather. I got totally turned onto radlers by Parallel 49’s Tricycle—just the most refreshing thing around. I asked a few hop heads what other radlers to check out and here are their recommendations.
- The Strathcona Beer Company has a Lemon Mandarin Radler, "a precise blend of lemon peel, fresh mandarin juice and beer...with a tart, clean finish."
- Tree Brewing in Kelowna has both a regular grapefruit and a limited edition lemon-raspberry radler.
- One of my favourite local companies, Central City Brewers + Distillers in Surrey has their Red Racer Radler and a Hopping Mad Cider Radler, Canada’s first Cider Radler: "the first-ever Cider Radler released in Canada, using an off-dry premium apple cider and grapefruit juice to give a balance of tart and sweet notes, and a gluten-free twist."
5. Applaud Pino Posteraro
I only just wrote about Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill chef-owner Pino Posteraro being named a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy, the first chef in Canada to be given such an honour. But once again, Yaletown’s finest has been recognized with the Italian equivalent of a Michelin star: Three Forks from Gambero Rosso. Here’s a little explanation: “Symbolized by a spoon and fork, the icon is awarded on a scale of one-to-three. In order to earn a star, a restaurant must represent the utmost of culinary expertise in authenticity, product traceability, service, and depth of the wine list. Inherently, earning a single Fork is an incredible accomplishment, Cioppino's is the first restaurant in Canada to secure three.” Pino, sincerely, huge congratulations!! This is amazing.
6. Check out all the cool events!
Nothing tastes better than philanthropy (and delicious food), so book a ticket to the second annual Schoolyard Harvest Dinner on Thursday, July 5th at David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver in support of the Good Food at School Program. On offer, "a multi-course meal and open bar created by longtime Vancouver Chef Karima Chellouf creator of Glory and Guts Nutrition and most recently of Wildebeest and Chef Kym Nguyen, recent transplant via Toronto from the UK and Chef de Partie at Burdock & Co." Paired with wine from the Hatch and brews from 33 Acres, this looks like an unmissable summer long-table event.
It’s the ninth annual RibFest on Canada Day at Mamie Taylor’s starting at 2 p.m. on July 1st, an awesome East Van tradition where chefs compete for bragging rights and the RibFest Cup (a trophy that is ‘improved’ upon each year by the winning restaurant). Competing alongside Mamie’s chef Jeff Koop, Karl Greg from the Colony Bar Main Street, Jesse Jobin from Peckinpah BBQ, and returning champ Doug Stevens from Merchant’s Workshop. There are 100 judging tickets available for $10, which get released on the day at 2 p.m.. Get there early as your tenner buys you a voting token and rib from each of the competitors (check social media to see the final lineup). Expect the usual Mamie’s mayhem, plus a $15 rib special all day and night.
Latincouver, the Latin American Plaza of B.C., is back with Carnaval del Sol, on Saturday, July 7th and and Sunday, July 8th at Concord Pacific Place, featuring events such as Flamenco, Tango, and Wine, and the Food Plaza, with 10 new vendors this year, a 600-seat Beer Plaza, and chef demos.
7. Eat all the tasty, tasty hot chicken
If you’ve ever been to Merchant's on Commercial Drive on a Sunday, you’ll definitely have eaten their kick-ass ‘Hot Chicken’ special—essentially the crack cocaine of the deep-fried chicken world for its instantly addictive properties. Damn that bird is tasty! Good news*! Seeing a surefire hit, the Merchant's team have opened the Downlow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial, serving up that hot chicken from Tuesday till Sunday, along with chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, corn bread and other delights. Open from noon to 9:00 p.m. or until chicken runs out, prices start from $9 for a quarter bird. Go get it!
*Probably not for your waistline or wallet.
8. Show support for Nova Scotia sparkling
I know I usually wave the flag for all things B.C., but this month I’m giving a shout-out to Nova Scotia’s wineries too, who recently suffered a severe late season frost which has caused serious damage to their vines. Bruce Ewert from L’Acadie told me: “This was a serious frost event, a first-time occurrence this late in the season. It reminds us that there are countering risks to the quality rewards of growing sparkling wine in Nova Scotia.” Bruce is hopeful that secondary growth will help, and tells me that their aged sparkling inventory will lessen the potentially disastrous financial implications, but let’s lend a hand and buy a bottle of Nova Scotia sparkling today. You can pick up L’Acadie and Benjamin Bridge in the BC Liquor Store, and also in excellent independent stores such as Kits Wine Cellar.
9. Long table like a boss
There’s something incredibly joyful about a long-table dinner experience. Food and drink always tastes just that little bit more delicious outdoors and it’s hard to beat the happy feeling of a great dinner, wonderful wine and good company in nature…
Quails’ Gate (pictured) has a regular Wednesday evening four-course farm-to-vineyard long table dinner paired with their delicious wines.
Head to Vancouver Island for a Winemaker Long Table Dinner at Oak Bay Beach Hotel. July 19th the awesome Clos du Soleil in Keremeos will be pouring at a multi-course dinner created by chef Kreg Graham.
Home Farm Gardens on Bowen Island is hosting chefs Robert Bartley and Alex Chen on Saturday July 21st for an organic Long Table Wood Fire Dinner, with produce from the farm.
Outstanding in the Field comes to North Arm Farm in Pemberton, a 60-acre organic working farm, on Sunday, July 15th with guest chef Stephanie Noel, from Hawksworth in Vancouver for a multi-course feast surrounded by the mountains.
10. Drink this crazy sparkling Viognier from B.C.
I tried a totally new-to-me wine this year at the Naramata Bench Spring release party, Plot Twist sparkling Viognier from Serendipity. You don’t usually get sparkling Viognier, and certainly not made in a traditional Méthode Champenoise. It was absolutely delicious, so I asked winemaker and part-owner Katie O’Kell to tell me more.
“The Plot Twist started because our normal Chardonnay grower for our Sparkling Truth had a problem, and had to cut off his fruit two days before I wanted to pick the grapes. In a panic, I decided that it could be fun to do a Champenoise method using Viognier grapes as an experiment. I convinced my mom (co-owner Judy Kingston) that this could be a good idea!
"Making a sparkling Viognier definitely comes with challenges. I had to be really careful not to press too hard, as the oily skin could negatively impact bubble quality. I also had to be very careful about maintaining a high acidity, as Viognier can fall flat during ferment. Definitely something you don’t want in a sparkling.
"I wanted to Plot Twist to be distinctly different. For the dosage, instead of using simple syrup or dissolving sugar in wine, I chose another ballsy move; I took raw Viognier juice during harvest and froze it in my freezer at home for nine months; my roommates loved me... on a side note, Viognier juice is lovely in Earl Grey tea in the winter.
"I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our 2016 table wine Viognier ended up getting 97 points, double gold and best in class in San Francisco last year—picking half the crop for sparkling wine allowed the remaining crop to get more concentrated in flavour. Due to the niche target audience of this wine, it’s currently only available in our wine shop. I would definitely be open to stores carrying it though. If people are interested in buying it, they can always send me an email (email@example.com) and I will ship directly to their door."