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

It’s feeling increasingly tough to find reasons to be cheerful, so thank goodness for the always reliable superpowers of food and drink. Fall is here, people, the perfect time to comfort-eat and comfort-drink your ever-widening ass off! In fact, as a one-time-only thing, I promise not to mock team #PSLatte this year, as long as you get it from an independent coffee shop rather than a massive corporation, of course. Take your culinary comforts any way you can. Even if it’s via a sickly-sweet pumpkin-spiced god-awful glooped-up drink. (Damnit, I meant to be nice.)

Grab napkins, your mask, and don’t forget your manners 'cause things are messy as hell...

 

1. Listen to Christina: Keep restaurants alive

Christina CottellRestaurants and bars have been hit hard over the past months. Not everyone is going to make it. I wondered, what can we, as food- and drink-loving folks, do to help? So, I asked Christina Cottell, proprietor, Gringo Gastown and Dixie's BBQ and Commissary and vice-president of Mind The Bar foundation, to give us some pointers.

“Our industry has taken hit after hit since March 16th: lockdown resulting in closures, capacity limits slicing our seating to less than half, and now forcing all licensees to cease liquor service at 10 p.m. There is only so much more we can bear; indeed, this last health order has already closed numerous bars in the Lower Mainland, with many more closures imminent. We get asked what our guests can do on a daily basis, and the answer, while in part is simple, means a public commitment to our larger goalsurvival.

"Support us financially. This can take many formscome early, come hungry, order some extra takeout for lunch tomorrow. Have dessert. Order another round (responsibly, of course). It all counts. But to support the big picture, go to restaurants that are following protocols and keeping you safe.

"This includes servers wearing masks, sanitizing all surfaces between customers, maintaining distancing and/or barriers between tables, and, perhaps most importantly, collecting information for contact tracing. Encourage your friends to do the same. Use social media to praise venues that are doing it right, show us off to your followers as a safe place to eat out.

"By all means, write your MLAs to support a return to midnight service instead of 10 p.m., but in the meantime, avoiding the perpetrators that got us all slapped with this curfew in the first place is the most powerful statement you can make.”

 

2. Eat absolutely everything at Sashimiya

SashimiyaOne of my all-time favourite sushi chefs in Vancouver (and incredibly sweet human being) has opened up Sashimiya, a grab-and-go sushi and sashimi store with a Japanese grocery at 1348 Hornby Street and I urge you all to go there right now. The dazzlingly talented chef Taka Omi was the genius responsible for the super-sustainable and always beautiful and delicious sushi at RawBar at the Lobby Lounge at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. I’m excited that he’s made what feels like a very logical leap, offering superb quality seafood at affordable prices. I’m hoping the lack of dine-in means overheads are manageable and that y’all support him. Currently open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, check out their deeply desirable Insta and send him my love.

 

3. Head to Osoyoos to honour the Four Food Chiefs

halibutI was recently in Osoyoos and stopped by the gorgeous patio at The Bear, the Fish, The Root and the Berry (named after the Okanagan Nations’ legend of the Four Food Chiefs) for dinner and oh man—if you were looking for an excuse for an Okanagan getaway, I think you just found one.

Everything was superb. Their COVID protocols are absolutely spot-on: masks are required once you enter the building until you are seated, the staff is fully masked-up, menus are single-use recyclable paper, and the seating is comfortably distanced.

Then you come to the food (take a moment while I gurgle with pleasure, please). We shared some hay-smoked carrots (even better than they sound) and some of the crisp-and-sweet on the outside and fluffy-salt-spangled and soft-on-the-inside bannock and then dove into our own portions of halibutso, so good. It was like a masterclass in how fish should be cooked and presented: flaky, juicy, perfectly crisp on the outside… oh! It came with a luscious chestnut pappardelle pasta, fresh peas, salty cubes of chorizo and a plate-lickingly wonderful white onion velouté.

Service was killer-good, we had a bottle of Liber’s buttery 2017 Reserve Chardonnay and reeled out feeling awfully good about the world. It’s at Spirit Ridge Resort, so you could stay for the night too.

 

4. Gelato 101

gelatoUno GelatoLet’s be honest: most of us are eating industry-supporting amounts of ice-cream treats these days (I refuse to believe it’s just me), so perhaps learning to make your own gelato might be classed as a pretty decent survival skill. Fortunately, Uno Gelato is ramping up their class schedule again with numerous safety protocols in place so that students can safely learn to make their own artisan sorbetto or gelato.

Here’s the, ahem, scoop. Uno Gelato’s classes will run from October 1, 2020 to February 25, 2021 on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. for approximately 1.5 hours. Led by maestro Andrés Bermudez, sessions are limited to only six people and will be held at the Kitsilano location, 2579 West Broadway in Vancouver. Priced $59 per person (plus taxes) it includes: an entertaining, hands-on learning experience; a pint of the gelato or sorbetto made that evening to take home; a cone or cup of choice during the visit; along with an extensive sampling of Uno Gelato’s current flavours. Private group classes are also available for booking.  Reservations can be made online.  

 

5. Drink all the vermouth

Imperative Dry VermouthYeah, I know, I know. Regular readers will be aware of my tireless cheerleading of excellent vermouth. Well, stand by 'cause I’ve found another that I love and yup, I think you need to be drinking it right now!

It’s Imperative Dry Vermouth and it’s a collaboration from Ampersand Distilling Co. and Rathjen Cellars on Vancouver Island. I’ve been enjoying it in briny olive-juice-spiked dirty martinis and also tall on ice with a splash of soda and a pink grapefruit garnish. It’s bright and citrus-y but balanced beautifully with complex woody herbaceous notes and I freaking adore it. It’s made from organic Ortega and Auxerrois grapes from the Saanich Peninsula (so Island!) and fortified with Ampersand’s Per Se Vodka, made from organic B.C.-grown wheat. Get some!

 

6. (Safely) check out a fun winemaker dinner

Martin's LaneSo, this is a cool COVID-conscious twist. Usually Provence Marinaside down in Yaletown has a full season of winemaker dinners, whichobviouslyall got cancelled. Their wine director, Joshua Carlson has come up with a neat idea to bring B.C. wines which are typically difficult to find by the glass (e.g. small production, back vintages, out-of-stock items, or priced out of range) to a wider audience.

Meet the Monthly Wine Menu, special paired dinners featuring cool B.C. wineries. October features one of my all-time favourites, Martin’s Lane and the superb wines made by Shane Munn. December it’s all about the heavenly Chardonnay and Merlot from winemaker Phil McGahan over at Oliver’s Checkmate Winery. Each menu features a QR code so you can find out more info about the winery and the wines, and, of course, delicious dishes inspired by the wines and especially created by owner/chef Jean Francis Quaglia and chef de cuisine Sheldon Maloff that won’t appear on the regular menu.
 

7. Passions still run strong

Passions GalaPaul Duchart/BCBusinessNathan Fong, Passions committee chair and founder; and Sophie Lui, Global TV news anchor and Passions emcee in 2013.

This year’s Passions gala is cancelled. It was always going to be a tough year for Passions after their most passionate champion, organizer Nathan Fong, a deeply missed friend and inspirational Vancouver food media personality tragically died this year. Under Fong’s leadership Passions raised over $1.5 million for the Dr. Peter Centre and united the city’s culinary community.

This year, the Dr. Peter Centre is flipping the script and instead focussing on a gratitude campaign and hoping to give back to those restaurants who have played such a key role in fundraising since 2004. So, on October 1st, the Dr. Peter Centre is encouraging donors and past attendees to take an active role in supporting the local culinary community by dining in, dining out, or purchasing gift cards at one or more of these restaurant partners in honour of Passions.

“We’re so grateful for the continued support of local restaurants since Passions began in 2004,” said Scott Elliott. “Their incredible generosity has been instrumental in ensuring residents and participants at the Dr. Peter Centre have access to quality food.”

The restaurant industry has experienced significant disruptions to their businesses as a result of the pandemic. According to a recent Restaurants Canada survey, restaurants have experienced more than 90 percent lower sales compared to 2019. 

 “This year, Passions is honouring the local culinary community,” said Scott Elliott. “Now, more than ever, Vancouver restaurants need our support during this challenging time.”

So, go show your passions for our culinary community and help out restaurants such as Ancora, Botanist, Cioppinos, Joe Fortes, Forage, Hawksworth, Maenam, and Tojos. Visit the Passions website for more information and a full list of restaurants to support.

 

8. Drink for a cause

BotanistFacebook/BotanistThere’s nothing I don’t love about this new venture from one of Canada’s most talented bartenders, Max Curzon-Price. He’s launching a new series of fundraising events under the banner "Pine & Palm" to raise money for good causes and also to support bartenders who are feeling the pinch from fewer shifts and tips.

I’ll let Max explain: “‘Pine & Palm’ is a series of fundraising events with rotating guest bartenders who have complete creative freedom over the drinks menu. Our aim is to grow community support through social activities and craft cocktails. We will pair up with local organizations in Vancouver and pledge $1 from every item sold at our events to generate support for humanitarian and environmental organizations within our city."

The first event will be held at The Diamond on Monday, October 5th and will feature Vancouver bartender Robin Cleaver to support the DTES Women’s Centre. The drinks and food offerings promise to be eclectic, vibrant and playful. The event will begin with a seminar for hospitality workers on how to cultivate safe spaces for women within bars, restaurants and our community. Other opportunities to donate and raise funds for the cause will be available through silent auction. For more information, dates, menu listings and guest bartenders visit the Instagram page.