This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now
Let’s hear a hearty yay for March... for dragging us out of winter and for giving us just the teeniest sneak peek of spring. The first fresh veggies arrive this month, so look out for nettles and sunchokes on menus around town.
This month, there are some great opportunities to do good whilst eating and drinking all the delish things. I’m also recommending some late-night cake-based shenanigans, a Vancouver Island world-class gin, a brilliant sounding evening of Mexican food and immigrant stories and also making a polite request to any chefs out there who happen to be men.
As always—grab a few napkins, it’s gonna get messy...
1. Raise a glass to Mind the Bar
I don’t have the space here to wax lyrical about the excellent intentions and important work that Mind the Bar—a hospitality industry foundation set up last year in Vancouver to act as a resource to provide information and support tackling depression, anxiety, addiction and workplace harassment—is doing, but believe me if I did, I’d write an essay.
Addressing these issues (which often fester horribly in shame and in the dark) by shining a light on them and creating a space where people can open up and seek help is a wonderful, wonderful thing... but this kind of help requires funding.
Fortunately, there’s an easy (and tasty) way for you to help. Russell Brewing and Mind the Bar have come together to create a low-alcohol Belgian table beer that's, "brewed with spelt and a healthy amount of flaked wheat, hopped with Saaz, and fermented with Belgian Trappist yeast.” Partial proceeds from each four-pack and keg sold will be donated to Mind the Bar Canada.
It's presently listed in almost 150 locations across B.C. and Alberta including B.C. and private liquor stores. All funds raised in Alberta towards MTB are being donated back to Alberta to the CMHA there.
2. Go to all the fun events
I really love the sound of this cooking event at Chinatown House on Friday, March 1st: “Chef Angeles, a talented newcomer from Guadalajara, Mexico will teach us how to make traditional tortilla soup while sharing the history, culture and story of this Mexican dish... Through cooking and dialogue, Angeles will share her migration story and the healing power of food in helping her to connect with Canadians and integrate into the community. We will explore how food can break down barriers and bring people together around a table.” She’ll also be making pineapple chili salsa and agua fresca. Everyone eats together and gets a take-home jar of salsa! It’s just $40 and sounds brilliant.
It’s the 25th anniversary of Dining Out for Life on Thursday, March 14th, so join thousands of good-hearted folks across the Lower Mainland by making a reservation with friends now to help raise funds in support of individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS and co-existing illnesses.
I recently had lunch at Royal Dinette and chef Amanda Healey and her team are simply knocking it out of the park with full-blown deliciousness. Go check ‘em out at this Four Winds Brewing collaboration on Monday, March 18th with a four-course meal celebrating the first flavours of spring (think foraged greens, asparagus, sunchokes) plus a nod to Amanda’s years in Australia with kangaroo and her unmissable ‘hung’ cheesecake.
3. Sound the happy hour super-deal klaxon
Como TaperiaComo Taperia has just launched what may well be one of the city’s most bad-ass happy hours by offering a free tapa at the bar every day with each drink purchase. There will be specials on the rest of the menu too, such as everything-on-tap for just $5 (which includes their terrific vermut and Fino sherry!), plus happy-hour-only bites, such as Pan Con Boquerones $5 (Spanish tomato toast with white anchovy) and a daily tortilla for $7 (cooked-to-order Spanish omelette).
4. Head off on a field trip
Facebook/BC Bacon & Cider FestivalWell, nothing about this doesn’t fill me with giddy delight: a bacon and cider festival in Kelowna where you can sip on craft cider and savour bacon-inspired dishes prepared and served by Okanagan College Culinary Arts students. It’s happening on Friday, May 3rd and tickets are selling out fast.
Victoria Beer Week is coming! It's nine days of celebrating B.C. craft breweries with a focus on beer education and a diverse craft selection with more than 40 B.C. craft breweries pouring at venues throughout the city. There are some killer events! My pick would be: All About the Wood, which looks at the effect wood-aging makes to a variety of beer styles, including sours, Brett-conditioned beers, wild ales and more. Check out the schedule here and bag some tickets!
Head on up to Whistler for a day of carving that sweet powder, then break for a superb lunch thanks to chef David Hawksworth who’ll be taking over Steep’s Grill on Whistler Mountain for the day on Saturday, March 16th. Separate lift tickets are required. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information and to make a reservation, call 604-905-2379.
5. Summer concert plans alert
Instagram/Mission HillMichael McDonald, David Foster and a Beatles tribute show are on the bill for this year’s Mission Hill concert series in June and July in West Kelowna. If you’ve never been to one of the live shows at their amphitheatre, then treat yo’ self this summer. It’s a magical experience and tickets go on sale Thursday, March 14th at 10 a.m. Reminder: they sell out every time.
6. Get super excited about being delayed at YVR
Heritage Asian EateryOh dang—this is all kinds of groovy! The Vancouver International Airport has announced a program of over 30 new food and beverage outlets over the next couple of years, including some of Vancouver’s culinary superstars. Highlights include the Hawksworth Kitchen, offering, "farm-fresh dishes, including organic salads, oven-fired pizzas, house pastas and cured meats." The ever-brilliant Dirty Apron will have a deli serving, "freshly baked breads, locally sourced seasonal produce and meats sourced from regional producers." And, one of my all-time faves, Heritage Asian Eatery will get their first airport outlet too. Add to that a Steamworks Bar & Restaurant, Whistler Brewing Lodge and Red Truck Beer Stop for all your craft beer needs. I love, love, love this approach to supporting local businesses rather than cookie-cutter global fast food blandfests. Hats off, YVR—thanks for this!
7. Eat tamago bacon in Victoria
NuboCan absolutely everyone please start making this insanely bad-ass egg-and-bacon tempura beast that I gobbled down at Nubo in Victoria to save me the trouble of a trip to the capital to sate my desire for this amazing $3 snack? No? Alright, head on over to Victoria then and check out this wildly creative Izakaya joint downtown on Pandora to check this baby out: whisper-thin tempura, crisp pancetta-like bacon and what tasted like a perfectly cooked 64-degree egg.
8. Drink Sheringham gin
Sheringham DistilleryHigh-fives all around to local superstars, Sheringham Distillery. The Vancouver Island distillery just won the Best Contemporary Gin award at the 2019 World Gin Awards hosted by Gin Magazine in London, England with their Seaside gin. This is an incredible win: hundreds of distilleries from all around the world compete and the contemporary category is always very hotly contested. This shines a wonderful spotlight on Canada’s gin-making in general and B.C. in particular.
Made with: "B.C. white wheat, B.C. malted barley, natural botanicals and sustainable hand-harvested local winged kelp," bag a bottle now (I bet sales will rocket) and go whoop excitedly at them and all the other spirited B.C. superstars at the sixth annual B.C. Distilled festival on Saturday, April 6th at the Croatian Cultural Centre.
9. Eat the caramel crunch cake at BC Kitchen
I’ll be honest, I am a not a casino-going person—not in Vegas, and not here in B.C. either. But I might make an exception for the wonder that is the caramel crunch cake currently on the menu at the BC Kitchen in the Parq casino.
It’s a huge wedge of warm brown butter cake—not too sweet—just perfectly airy and fluffy that comes served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and crunchy honeycomb pieces. BC Kitchen is open late, and I can very easily imagine stopping by for this $8 carbtastic hangover-stopper after an evening of bar-hopping—and, unlike the rest of the casino, you've absolutely nothing to lose here!
10. A friendly word to any chefs reading who just happen to be male
It’s International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8th, so I wonder: should I point out yet again that there's another 100 percent male chef lineup at an upcoming charity fundraiser this month too? Sigh. Seriously? How hard is it to make the extra phone call to get a more representative lineup. There are so many amazing talented chefs in Vancouver... who also just happen to be women.
So, to the chefs who just happen to be men: wanna do something super easy to support your sisters? Look at the lineups you're taking part in. Are they all male? Then suggest a few of your favourite women chefs and say you won't take part till it's more representative. It's that easy. When you help make the change, we all benefit.