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February is here, and while the weather may be gloomy, there's plenty to cheer about in BC, from dining specials to wine festivals and new cocktail glassware, so grab your napkins and get ready for a messy but delightful month ahead!
It’s good to be back after the column’s traditional January off, can I still say ‘Happy New Year’? It may be gloomy AF outside, but there’s plenty to feel chipper about on the menu: there’s a few more days left of Dine Out in Vancouver, pretty much everywhere else in the province has Dine Around dinner specials until Feb 11th, the International Wine Festival is back at the end of the month, and my seasonal favourite blood oranges are back in stores and on menus across the province, so all’s right with the world. Don’t forget that now is a great time to slurp shellfish, so hit up your local oyster bar and devour a half-dozen or more of B.C.’s best!
I posted on Facebook recently about the alarming rise in tasting menu and omakase prices around town, but wanted to remind folks that you can still enjoy a taste of Michelin-starred delights for non-ruinous prices. I will bang on all day long about Hawksworth’s superb Cocktail Hour deal of a burger (one of the all-time best) and cocktail for $25; at their aperitivo hour, Bacaro offer a free cicchetti with a drink (have the butter and anchovy!), and I know it probably falls more into the ‘treat’ rather than ‘affordable’ category, but both Pidgin and the Mackenzie Room tasting menus are under $90 pp and continue to be absolutely excellent.
Whatever you’re thinking about for a gift for Galentines (or Valentine’s), immediately cancel it and get this instead: Riedel has created some new cocktail-specific glassware that’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve always been a fan of the classic Nick & Nora glass, but this updated version is a little larger (thank you), a little more durable (no, really, thank you!) and brings more than a little class to whatever you’re drinking (seriously, thank you!). I’ve abandoned my usual martini glass for this and it’s great for sour cocktails with foamy heads too. Just gorgeous!
The welcome trend for delicious low/no alcohol continues and finds a natural home in Kelowna in the heart of B.C’s wine country—because, balance!—with SoBar
I love that you can book a one-on-one tasting with one of their sommeliers and sip your way through their impressive selection of no/low alcohol wines and beers to find ones that you enjoy. Staying with sobriety, I’ve been loving the Olé line of mocktails (I picked up a pack in London Drugs!) especially the Paloma as it’s not at all sweet, has a tasty hit of salt and just the right carbonation. Delish.
I finally visited Bar Haifa and, like everyone else I know who’s gone there, fell immediately in love. The cocktails are terrific, the service superb, and most importantly, the Nazareth hot fried chicken is so good I seriously contemplated putting in a second order after my first bite. If the Jerusalem artichokes are on the menu, make sure you get them too; crispy on the outside and on the inside,hot puffs of deep-fried creamy sunchokes, mmmm!
Love whisky? Then head to Whistler, because the Four Seasons is hosting a pop-up bar, The Library by Macallan, until the end of March with an impressively large collection of rare bottles to try. Try a flight of the Double Cask ($100) or Sherry Oak ($500 yikes!) range or, for the full ‘It’s OK, I’m Loaded’ (or the ‘Someone Else Is Paying’) experience, try 1 oz of the ultra-rare Macallan ‘M’ 2022 release ($2162); there are only 1750 bottles of this in the world and it’s famously one of the world’s finest whiskies. For those of us with smaller budgets, you can still try a shot of the delicious 12-year Macallan Double Cask ($20) to enjoy a taste of this luxe experience for less.
Make for the capital for the Strath’s Island Craft Festival on February 18th 2024, where the Sticky Wicket will host breweries, cideries, and distilleries from across Vancouver Island. Last year there were around 60 craft makers to sample at this super-fun event, and advance tickets are now on sale and include a food token too. As ever, when in Victoria, pop into Clive’s Classic Lounge for the city’s best cocktails and find out why Whisky Magazine voted them Whisky Hotel Bar of the year in 2023!
Yo! PoCo, CoQu and PoMo! The Taste of the Tri-Cities Festival is back between February 16 to March 10 shining the spotlight on all the tasty restaurants, breweries, distilleries and cafés in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. The full participating list is yet to be announced, but last year saw dozens of spots including favourites Tinhouse Brewing, Pajo’s Fish and Chips and the Good Wolf Cafe take part. Follow the Tri-Local insta account for the chance to win gift cards from participating outlets!
Have you had a KAPOW Burger yet? No? Well, go fix that at once. They’re permanently located in the ever-excellent Electric Bicycle Brewing (and tell me they have plans to open other locations this year) and offer up one of the most delightfully messy and freaking delicious smash burgers I’ve had in a while. Have the Kapow, which comes with fried onions and gooily melted cheese. Do not skip the ‘tater tots which are generously hosed in a punchy sauce and, yes, plenty of cheese too. Can I hear a HELLS YES? Oh my goodness, yes.