You’ve Gotta Try This in February

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

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

There’s a lot of bad news right now, but the good news? We all have to eat—and we have an abundance of deliciousness to choose from here in B.C. where we’re fortunate that our restaurants are still allowed to be open. We all know that our hospitality community is hanging on by a thread, so if you can support your favourite local restaurants over the next weeks and months, please do. If we don’t use ’em, we’ll lose ’em. By the way, Van Mag recently published a post from one of my all-time favourite people, Margot Baloro from Forage, which lays down some excellent advice for diners on how to support the restaurant industry right now. Take a read. Do what she says.

As always, it’s gonna get messy, so grab all the napkins you need, my friends and dig in…


1. Eat breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner with Dine Out

Things are the worst… Enter everyone’s favourite off-season culinary festival, Dine Out Vancouver to bring some much-needed fun and deliciousness from February 5th to March 7th. This year, of course, things are differentno more crowded social eventsbut instead there are several online tastings and workshops you can sign up for (the menu for In My Kitchen’s cooking class sounds spectacular—they had me at Blueberry Rosewater Mimosa) and a handful of in-person events too. Add to that, there are over 330 restaurants taking part offering dine in and takeout menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. It should go without saying, but if you do make a reservation to dine in, it’s incredibly important you show up or cancel well in advancecurrent restrictions mean fewer seats, so, you know, don’t be that person. Make it a staycation and book a hotel, you get a $50 gift card when you do!


2. Eat Chocolate Buddhas from East Van Roasters

Oh my goshhow gorgeous is this chocolate collection from East Van Roasters? Raspberry rose hearts, lemon mocha Buddha, single-origin truffles, Mayan spiced truffles, chocolate caramels, hazelnut caramels, mendiantall in a beautiful heart-shaped box. Bag a 17-piece or a 38-piece collection for the one you love (and yes, that can absolutely be yourself) and know that each one will be helping one of the city’s most essential social enterprises which employs women who have experienced challenges living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. All proceeds from sales of their delicious coffee and chocolates go back to supporting the social enterprise and the work they do to remove barriers for women in the community.


3. Take out for Valentines

I think I’ve been pretty clear over the years about my hatred for Valentine’s Day dinners at restaurants. For me, it’s the worst day of the year to sit in a shared space, eating pink-themed food whilst marinading in endless snipey arguments and bad vibes. Until now.

Enter COVID… and amazing restaurants pivoting to takeout. At last, you can get a superb meal to-go from any of the very best spots in town to split with your honey (or sololone COVID times are cruelly punishing so yeaheat for two if that helps). Get crazy-fancy with Hawksworth’s six-course Valentine’s Day to-go dinner, have fun making Boulevard’s whole sea bream in salt crust from their drool-worthy provisions menu, or give in to decadence and take home St Lawrence’s Cabane à Sucre menu (pictured at top) and eat it as God intended in stretchy pants.  


4. Buy beer and spirits from independent wine stores

Holy moly! It only took 30 years, but finally independent stores such as Marquis wine cellars are allowed to sell beer and spiritsyes, even if they are within a kilometre of another liquor store! I always recommend people head to an independent wine store as staff know their product and are usually more than happy to help you find exactly what you need. Indie stores also carry the most interesting stock and I’ve found so many new favourites thanks to staff recommendations.

John from Marquis tells me: “The goal is to support local and change [products] around every three months. If things are popular, we will keep them. In the summertime, we may carry some of the more popular brands, but we will wait and see. Plus, cool imports!” Best of all: Marquis will even deliver. You know what to do…


5. Make better than OK poke

I love this from the folks at Organic Ocean! I bagged a poke (it’s pronounced po-kay, but you knew that, right?) pack and marinade from Codfathers the other day in Kelowna, and I’m excited to see Vancouver can ‘poke at home’ too with these vac-sealed wild Albacore tuna poke packs and a bottle of Chef Select Poke Marinade. There are approximately 16 servings per pack (each pack contains four bags of hook-and-line caught Ocean Wise Haidacore™ tuna). I flipped over the marinade; it is absolutely delicious. I’ve started to use it in salads too, just gorgeous. Best of all, when you order this pack, Organic Ocean donates food for two nutritious meals to people in our community who need help right now. Nice job, guys.


6. Don’t miss the Hot Chocolate festival

Since 2011, Vancouver’s Hot Chocolate festival has been a sweet, comforting beacon at the coldest, darkest time of the year. Running until February 14th, this year’s festival is takeout only, which seems like the best way to break up a walk to me. There are 39 outlets offering 87 different flavours this year and wow—it seems like everyone’s imagination has run riot!

I’m obsessed with this cute number from Mon Paris Pâtisserie: Ruby hot chocolate infused with lavender served with a chocolate Eiffel Tower on top and a lavender financier on the side. Soirette’s Tik Choc is a cereal hot chocolate featuring Valrhona’s Ivoire 35 percent and maple whipped cream with a stack of mini pancakes on the side. But trust Beta5 to up the ante with their Won’t Ube Mine, a collaboration with Mark Singson featuring white hot chocolate with ube (purple yam) and corn, served with a Cheesie-dusted, corn and ube, white chocolate wafer. 


7. Try bitters and soda water

A friend asked me recently for tips on what to drink at home that wasn’t alcoholic, but that wasn’t a sugary soda either. I’m a huge fan of bitters and soda water. Served in a tall glass over ice, a few drops of bitters can transform boring water into something that should satisfy that itch for an adult-tasting beverage without the booze. Chatting with bartenders online, they recommended the three classic brands for everyone to have in their cupboard: Angostura, Regan’s orange bitters and Peychauds. Looking for a local touch, I asked Cole from Vancouver’s Apothecary Bitters Company what he recommended for folks to try: “While all of our bitters are good in soda water, our Latin Lime, Botanical Citrus or Cherry Cedar are all an easy gateway into bitters and soda.”


8. Watch the game at the Rio

I can’t imagine how crushingly hard this pandemic is for cinemas, but my heart is full of love and admiration for the folks at the Rio who have pivoted hard to become a sports bar. Playing games and matches on the big screen (with volume at the legally permitted ‘conversational volume’) every day from 3:30 to 10 p.m., they’re now open with no cover charge. Obviously you need to spend and tip like a tipsy lottery winner at the concessions stand, and while I have you, maybe sign the Rio’s petition to get Dr Henry and Adrian Dix to reclassify cinemas so that they can safely operate again.