This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now
I got to sit at a bar this past weekend. At an actual bar. I drank delicious cocktails, laughed with friends, and joked with the bartender… and then went and had a little cry in the bathroom because it was so wonderful and overwhelming and just too amazing.
I hope all of you get to experience that joy this week too. It’s really been too long. Keep on supporting small restaurants, keep on tipping like a wealthy lunatic, and keep on being as polite and kind as you can to restaurant and bar folks who probably just want to lie on the floor and bawl at the moment. We’ve got this!
So – in cheerier fashion than I’ve felt in 15 months… grab your napkins, it’s gonna get messy!
1. Gastown’s Patiotown is back
Facebook/ GastownI cannot get enough of the pop-up patios and parklets that have sprung into being since this wretched pandemic began. How I hope that they stay with us as part of our 'new normal’. Encourage this gloriously European behaviour by making a bee-line for Gastown this summer, which will boast some 33 patios with more than 500 seats across an eight-block radius. Live music each Thursday plus all-day happy hours, and special offers from bars, restaurants and other stores.
2. A plea on the use of salt
Unsplash/ Emmy SmithDear Absolutely Every Damn Restaurant in Vancouver, please use a lighter hand with your salt. Few people love finishing salt as much as I do; I even make a variety of my own–but, Good Lord, I was scraping salt off my food everywhere I went last week. Thanks, Someone Who Just Doesn’t Fancy Getting a Side of Hypernatremia with Her Fries.
3. Eat the milk jam cookie at Flourist
Nikki BayleyLife is short. So, eat superb whole grain spelt flour shortbread with a judicious dollop of silky house-made milk jam (a French take on dulce de leche which uses whole milk, sugar and vanilla) finished off with a sprinkle of spangly Maldon salt. They don’t have them all the time at Flourist, but get a couple when they do, 'cos they are amazing!
4. Hats off to Max Curzon Price
Facebook/ Botanist DiningThe members of the bar team at the Fairmont Pacific Rim keep romping home with incredible honours. Last year Botanist’s Max Curzon-Price won the Bacardi Legacy contest for Canada, and—this week—he placed top three in the world for the global final with his 'Plight of the Bumble Bee' cocktail: a drink that’s already been sold more than 9,000 times across bars on each of the seven continents and has raised money to fund five sets of hives and train bartenders to become beekeepers. Go see Max at the bar at the Botanist and raise a glass to his success—and help encourage biodiversity through the bees!
5. Go check out Miantiao
Nikki BayleyI always loved the Shangri La’s summer brunch specials: live music, deliciously fancy chicken and waffles, and lashings of bubbles on their sunny downtown patio. So, I was a little miffed to hear that their long-awaited new replacement to Market by Jean-Georges, Miantiao, had enclosed that space. Turns out I was pouting for no reason. What a stunner of a room! So decadent, opulent and sexy AF. The concept blends Italian and Chinese cuisines together. I adored the tajarin, with some of the absolute best fresh pasta noodles I’ve ever tasted, sitting pretty in a positive bath of butter flecked with quantum beef seasoning. Total plate-licker of a dish! The wine list is terrific featuring bags of Italian beauties and some excellent lesser-known B.C. wines too. Try Ursa Major’s Pinot Noir for a real treat—and the cocktails are on point with plenty of herbaceous elements and light spritzes. They offer an eight-plate family-style tasting menu for $65 per person, which feels like a terrific deal to me. (And I promise you won’t even miss the patio)
6. Stuff yourself silly at Bacaro
Nikki BayleyOh, joy! At last, we can boast a proper Venetian-style Cicchetti bar in Vancouver to enjoy an Italian take on tapas, and—shock of shocks—it’s really reasonably priced, despite being in the old Giovane spot in the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Seriously: a perfectly hard-boiled egg with pickled green garlic, and Meyer lemon topped with a sardine was just $3.50. The best chips I’ve ever eaten, fried with herbs? $6 for a bowl. Splurge and get a side of the absolute best, best, best wafer-thin sliced Italian ham, Culatello, for $17. The cocktails are magnificent. I could have happily dived into a vat of the Coronation (Fino sherry, extra dry vermouth and maraschino) with a straw and never been heard from again. I didn’t get into their beautiful-sounding pasta menu, nor their fish and meat (seriously, Wagyu for $28?) but I can guarantee that I will be attacking all of that on next visit! Loved everything about this; a taste and feel of luxury that’s accessible for all. Yes, please!
7. Castella cheesecake
Nikki BayleyEvery time I walk down Robson, it feels like there are more and more exciting dessert options to check out. I’ve wandered past Castella a dozen times, but I finally succumbed to the lure of their Japanese-style desserts and I am so glad I did. They offer Japanese fluffy soufflé-style cheesecakes, Basque-style cheesecakes and beautiful little cheese tarts for just $4. Perfect for a mid-shopping snack! I loved this... so creamy, so sweet and such wonderfully buttery pastry.