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

I’m writing this a few days after that unexpected snowstorm last week. Blizzards and powder snow in downtown Vancouver? Just no. Hopefully such seasonal insults are behind us now and it’s full steam ahead to patio season before you know it.

In the meanwhile, let’s be thankful for all the great things that March brings: new spring wine releases from B.C., the first green nettles of the season and a whole heap of fun events to dive into.

As ever, grab napkins 'cause it’s gonna get messy...

 

1. Do all the fun things

Charlotte LangleyFacebook/Charlotte LangleyThis month’s Greasy Spoon Dinner Series on Monday, March 19th features one of my favourite chefs, Charlotte Langley from Scout Canning in Toronto. As always, it’s in association with the Better Life Foundation, so while you enjoy a four-course cocktail-, beer- and wine-paired feast with "cheffy" takes on diner food, your bucks go towards helping those who are less fortunate.

Because who can resist the lure of Beverages and Beavers? Celebrate World Water Day on March 22nd with the Stanley Park Ecology Society and a brew from Stanley Park Brewing Co. before heading out for a guided evening stroll by torchlight to discover the habitat and behaviour of our semiaquatic friends.

Gotham is kicking off National Absinthe Day on March 5th, offering a week of absinthe-based cocktails and pure pours on a special fresh sheet. Pop by and try an absinthe fountain with friends!

 

2. Salute Pino

PinoHuge and well-deserved honours for chef Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s in Yaletown this month as he was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy (designated by Italian president Sergio Mattarella) by Italian General Consul Massimiliano Iacchini. Quoted in a press release, chef Pino said:

“I never thought I’d receive this award for doing what I do every day. At the end of the day, we are cooks, but if we promote Italian technique and traditions in Canada, it’s an accomplishment. For more than 30 years, my motivation has been to promote Italian culture to the local community, introducing Italian gastronomy to a new generation of Canadians.”

Pino is the first chef in Canada to receive this incredible honour, so go watch the show at Cioppino’s open kitchen and prepare for a superb culinary treat.

 

3. Check out the news

BC DistilledTickets are on sale for the annual BC Distilled event which now has some 40 distilleries from across British Columbia pouring at the excellent grand tasting event on April 14th. Try to bag a ticket for the Distillers Dinner at Forage restaurant on Friday, April 6th; I went last year and it was superb! Chef Chris Whittaker cooking up a six-course terroir-based dinner paired with cocktail and spirit samples from B.C. distilleries? Yes, please!

Sandbar on Granville Island is launching happy hour for the first time! Available from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday in the bar/lounge, snap up $5 beer, wine and highballs, plus food items under $10, including a Bay Shrimp and Avocado Stack with Tortilla Chips or Panko-breaded Avocado Chips (pictured at top of article).

Congrats to Beaucoup Bakery’s Betty Hung who will be releasing a French Baking 101 cookbook in the fall. You can get an idea of Betty’s style at her Yummy Workshop blogI’m obsessed with how delicious the citrus Earl Grey tart sounds!

 

4. Eat this fish burger

coquille fish burgercoquille fish burgerNew from the team at L’Abattoir (in the space on the corner of Water and Carrall street where Secret Location’s restaurant used to be), welcome Coquille Fine Seafood to Gastown’s scene. I love what they’ve done with the room: fish-scale designs rule the day along the bar, and the main dining area has beautiful coral-orange booths reminiscent of scallop shells running the length of the dining room. What to eat? Well, dive in and enjoy the excellent seafood on offer, but make sure you try the spectacular fish burger: crunchy batter, firm flakes of cod, bright crushed peas and crisp shredded iceberg lettuce with a judicious dollop of tartar sauce. Wrapped in a soft white roll, this is straight up the Platonic ideal of a fish-in-a-bun and a steal for $16 with fries or a salad (have the fries, they are also spot on).

 

5. Drink margaritas

margaritaOh damn. Prohibition (beneath the Rosewood Hotel Georgia) is launching a Margarita Thursday in honour of the drink’s 80th anniversary. Three innovative takes are on offer of the classic cocktail, including the Tommy’s Margarita, featuring Cazadores Blanco Tequila, fresh lime juice, and agave syrup; the Spicy Margarita with jalapeño and orange syrup, pink peppercorn and a Maldon salt rim (pictured); and a Tequila Sour with egg whites and Angostura bitters, served in a champagne coupe.

 

6. Win a trip to NZ

New ZealandEco-friendly New Zealand winery Yealands has a contest on until May 31st to win a trip to visit the winery! The grand prize is worth $8,000 and includes return flights for two to NZ, 10 nights, four-star accommodation across the country and $1,000 NZD spending money. The winery has a super cool story: it’s the first purpose-built carbon-zero winery with the largest solar panel space in the southern hemisphere! Check out their Sauvignon Blanc and enter the contest here.

 

7. Reconcile and feast

Sk'elep ReconciliationSk'elep Reconciliation and Indigenize It are running a transformative workshop and learning experience at Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro on March 8th. Over a delicious three-course feast, they will, "explore the residual effects of residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and bear witness to personal stories of strength and resilience. The feast honors Indigenous knowledges and our continued history of preparing traditional foods as medicine to nourish your mind, body, emotions and spirit."

 

8. Eat all the nettles

nettlesI always get super excited about the appearance of nettles on menus across the city; it’s the first sign that spring is on its way! Imagine a more earthy spinach-y flavour and you’re there. They're packed with iron and vitamin C, so if you’ve never tried them before give ‘em a whirl!

Botanist has a duck dish on its menu with a nettle purée, fermented jalapeños, and garnished with black shallots.

Wildebeest is rocking a stinging nettle purée on a roasted lingcod dish served with smoked manila clams, Wagyu beef lardo and long pepper.

Salmon n’ Bannock has an Ojibway wild rice and nettle pilaf on the menu, and they also have a house-made nettle soda.

Timber has nettle-stuffed porchetta on their Monday menu throughout the season.

 

9. Make a reservation for Dine Out for Life

Dining Out for LifeI love the amazing work that the team at Dining Out For Life (DOFL) does each year, so here, in their own words is why you should support the cause this March 22nd:

“The 24th annual Dining Out For Life fundraiser will take place from Whistler to White Rock and across the Lower Mainland with participating restaurants donating 25 percent of their food sales in support of individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS and co-existing illnesses. By patronizing a partner restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner on Thursday, March 22ed, you’ll be supporting people in need right here at home.

Over the past 24 years, DOFL has raised over $3.5 million, with all proceeds directly benefiting the programs and services provided free-of-charge by registered not-for-profit A Loving Spoonful. These include an average of 100,000 meals per year delivered to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Metro Vancouver, and A Loving Spoonful Wellness Program, which includes nutritional counselling and meal planning.”

An up-to-date list of participating restaurants is available online.

 

10. Admire the hella "cheffy" detail of this asparagus dish at Pidgin

Pidgin asparagusI tried a delicious asparagus dish at Pidgin last week. Deceivingly simple but when I found out how many crazy little steps went into this, I had to include it as a must-eat for March. Here is chef Wes Young to explain:

“Grilled green asparagus was the starting point for the dish. It’s prepped by snapping off the woody ends of the stalks and peeling off the 'thorns' on the stalks.  The asparagus is lightly salted and drizzled with olive oil (too much oil will cause flames to flare up and the excess oil on the asparagus will taste of 'burnt oil.')

"The asparagus is then lightly dressed with a vinaigrette. We use kalamansi juice, but lemon juice is also perfect for the job. We found the white asparagus to be bitter when grilled so we used a technique I learned from a German chef I worked for at the London Four Seasons. The thicker stalks are peeled down, once again the woody tips are snapped off.  We proceed to poach the white asparagus in a hot salted 'lemonade': sugar, salt, lemon juice and water. The asparagus is cooled down, and also stored in the liquid.

"We were playing around with a few sauces. A gribiche? Oyster mayonnaise? Oyster gribiche? We settled on a smoked mayonnaise to keep the dish more vegetarian. This is very simply accomplished by smoking egg yolks and building a mayonnaise.

"For finishing touches, we were thinking about texture and flavour highlights. Toasted rice is blitzed into a powder and a gremolata (bread crumb, lemon zest, parsley) is amped up with grated cured egg yolk (the yolks are cured in shiro miso and then dehydrated).

"The dish will take on more raw elements as the weather warms up and we will use different herbs like miner's lettuce as they become available.”

See?! How amazing is that!? Just for a simple asparagus dish. Go and have it right now!