This is your indispensable companion to all that is hot, fresh and freaking delicious in Vancouver right now
Eyes on the prize, people. Spring is within grasp now, which means we are so, so close to patio season! The first greens should make their appearance soon, so look out for nettles, early asparagus, and all those kiwi fruit (so good for your vitamin C levels!).
Just a reminder that our superb Asian restaurants are taking a hit right now as it turns out that ignorance is a worse threat than any virus, so please go and support your friendly neighbourhood food court and Chinese restaurant! Oh—and it’s King Crab season too, so there’s one more excellent reason to make plans for Chinese tonight.
Get inspired and head out for a #FoodAdventure and as ever, grab some napkins 'cause it’s gonna get messy...
1. Go to all the fun events
The Pie HoleObviously this is awesome, The Pie Hole will be celebrating Pi Day on Saturday, March 14 with $3.14 off all 9-inch pies (ordered online from March 5 to March 15 with code PIDAY2020), and also offering $3.14 4-inch pies in the shop on March 14 at all three locations until supplies last... Mine’s the Bacon Cheeseburger pie followed by a sour cherry, thanks.
It’s been three years since The Holy Crab opened up on Robson Street and to celebrate, they’ll take 30 percent off their entire menu from March 1 to 8. Seems like an excellent excuse to treat yo’ self to their All-Canadian seafood bucket with a whole Dungeness crab, lobster, mussels, corn and potatoes to split with a friend.
Get an early bird ticket now to the ever-popular BC Distilled festival, which is back for its seventh year at the Croatian Cultural Centre to sniff, swirl, sip and (sometimes) spit your way through the amazing depth and breadth of artisan distilling talent from the province. It's always an excellent event, so don’t miss out as it usually sells out.
2. Drink all the vermut!
LustauMy adoration of Spanish vermut goes back more than a decade to when I first tried a glass of this bittersweet, nutty, aromatic and herbaceous marvel in a tiny bodega in Barcelona. Served tall over ice with a spritz of soda water, garnished with an olive and a curve of orange peel, one sip and I was hooked. This was unlike anything else I’d ever tried—so delicious and complex, and the perfect foil to endless tapas of salt-spangled jamon and crunchy two-bite deep-fried fish. It’s been tough finding anything which comes close.
Vermut from that part of Spain is typically made with the same grapes as cava (macabeo, parellada and xare-lo) and it’s not easy to find the real deal here in B.C., but I’m falling for renowned sherry house Lustau’s vermut which comes from further south in Cadiz. Lustau uses different blends across its trio of Rojo, Blanco and Rosé vermuts, but that same complex bittersweet herbaceousness shines through—and I gotta say, the rosé is amazing: all crushed strawberries, grapefruit, vanilla and then a tasty nutty finish. So, so good. Try a glass at Cómo Taperia and then go straight to Liberty Wine Merchants on the Drive or the store at the St. Regis and score a bottle to start your new pre-summer obsession.
3. Take a field trip
Row FourteenSimilkameen: Make a note in your diary for March 13 when the much-fêted organic ultra-farm-to-table restaurant, Row Fourteen reopens for the season in Cawston. This gorgeous room is based on the Klippers Organic Family Farm and wowed The Globe and Mail food critic Alexandra Gill so much that she made it one of her top 10 new restaurants in 2019.
Whistler: Combine a day on the slopes with an elevated dining experience thanks to chef David Hawksworth who’ll be taking over Steep’s Grill on Whistler Mountain on March 14. For more information and to make a reservation, call 604-905-2379.
Shushwap: For those missing ex-Forage culinary genius chef Chris Whittaker’s cooking, plan a trip up to his new home at the Quaaout Lodge & Spa in the Shushwap. On March 14, he’s hosting a guest chef dinner with acclaimed Algonquin chef Cezin Nottaway with a five-course feast focusing on game and "wild things," featuring chef Cezin’s traditional fire-cooking techniques.
Victoria: Head to Vessel Liquor in Victoria on March 19 to join Joe Wiebe, aka the Thirsty Writer to dive into the world of sour beers. Enjoy a guided tasting through eight beers for just $20 and soak up Joe’s hopped-up knowledge.
4. Eat the fresh cannoli at Café Calabria
Whenever I’m driving out of town to the Okanagan, I’ll always pull over on Commercial to pop into Café Calabria to fill my to-go cup with the city’s best Italian latte and grab a freshly made, sweetened ricotta creamy-and-crunchy cannoli to savour along the way. In a city that can too often feel like it’s losing its soul to corporate cookie-cutter chains, it’s a joy to visit Vancouver’s oldest coffee shop and revel in its exuberant unique personality. From the reproduction classical Roman statues to the Sistine Chapel mural and the boxes of pannetone dangling from the ceiling, everything about this glorious cash-only spot is a delight. Come for the coffee and cakes and stay for the piled-high paninis and easy conversation—and to remind yourself that this city still has soul.
5. Track down Transylvanian wine
I’m writing this still on a high from another excellent Vancouver International Wine Festival. I got especially excited tasting wines from France and had a happy few hours sipping and spitting some amazing Rhône blends. I loved Paul Jaboulet Aîne’s Parallele 45 wines, most of which are organic and clock in around the mid-$20 range. This producer also make Hermitage La Chapelle, acknowledged as one of the world’s best red wines (usually around $500 a bottle!).
France was, of course, pure heaven, but my fun festival pick came from Transylvania’s Liliac Winery and its Feteasca Regala, a super-sippable fresh aromatic white. It’s not listed at the BC Liquor Store but you should be able to hunt it down at a good independent wine shop, perfect for a blind tasting night 'cause who else is gonna rock up with a Transylvanian wine that’s a) inexpensive b) delicious and c) has a bat on the label?
6. Stop by for lunch (or dinner) at Suika
It’s been a few weeks of checking in with old favourites for me. I know that we love everything new and shiny here in Vancouver, but there’s something pretty brilliant about showing some love for old friends too. I drooled over lunch at Suika on Broadway, a buzzy Izakaya with zingingly fresh fish, attentive staff and plenty of daily specials. Their sushi is table-bangingly terrific and anything which comes deep-fried has the most delicate batter. Oh, and their fried taro garnishes are so good, I only wish they did them as an actual side dish (hey, guys, can you do that, please!?).
7. Eat this special tasting menu at Boulevard
Leila KwokA while back, when chef Alex Chen scored top place at the prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition, I begged Boulevard to serve up his winning dish—I was desperate to taste it. Alas, that never happened, but it turns out that lightning can indeed strike twice as Boulevard has romped home with the top spot again, but this time it was executive chef Roger Ma who won at the renamed Canadian Culinary Championships. I was lucky enough to try this menu last week (and if you were in the downtown core, you probably heard my moans of delight when I got to the dish called ‘B.C. Coastal Terroir’ with uni custard and a honey mussel “gratinée’), and you can give it a whirl too until the end of March as it’s on a special $75 four-course tasting menu featuring all of Ma’s award-winning dishes.