Category Archives: British Columbia

Best of Vancouver, August 2017

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Sharing plates at Vij’s Rangoli

 

The biggest emphasis, of course, is on the food and drinks, but still a great place to hang out for a week

Best of Vancouver: A pictorial guide

Vancouver summer 2017 104

Street Legal IPA, from Twin Sails Brewing, Port Moody, B.C. Fabulous, not-too-hoppy IPA.

Vancouver summer 2017 101

 

Siegel’s Bagels: Montreal-style chewy, boiled then baked in a wood-fired oven, open 24 hours, $13 for a baker’s dozen

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Jericho Beach

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Best outdoor pool in the world

Vancouver summer 2017 53

Hawker’s Delight: deep-fried vegetable fritters, two for $1.20

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Mr. Red: deep-fried rice cakes with ground prawns and pork, Northern Vietnamese cuisine

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Go Fish: fish and chips, tacones, hanging out in the harbour

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Vij’s Rangoli: Puffy short-rib samosas

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Fireworks over English Bay: Photo Helen Corbett

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Peaceful Restaurant: Dan-Dan hand-cut noodles

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Chip’s simple garden: sunflowers and coleus

Worst of Vancouver

Garibaldi Provincial Park 57

Red sun at night… and in morning, obliterating all those million-dollar views

Vancouver summer 2017 100

Vancouver gas prices; they were under $1 in Calgary at the same time

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Platform 7: Cool atmosphere but thinnest pour-over coffee I’ve ever had. You could see further through this brew than the forest-fire haze.

When it rains, time for a pour

Fishing north of Courtenay

Salmon fishing in the Pacific, north of Courtenay, B.C.

“Periods of rain.”

Perhaps the three most devastating words ahead of an impending backpack. Other than the single, four-letter epithet: “Rain.”

What to do? You can forge blithely ahead, hoping the forecast is wrong or exaggerated. But extensive experience has shown me that simply “rubbing one’s nose in it” leads more often to misery than delighted surprise. A misery exacerbated when the trip involves a long drive or an expensive flight to get there.

Thus the importance of having a Plan B, especially if you’ve already arrived on the trip’s doorstep. Rather than simply return home, take the opportunity to explore a new area. It might even buy you enough time, if you’ve got some flexibility, to wait out the bad weather, perhaps camped out on a forgiving friend’s or relative’s floor.

This strategy paid off beautifully recently on a backpack along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Where waiting three days resulted in a lovely, largely dry hike, with the bonus of some fine day trips around the north-central part of the island near Courtenay. Of course, there was also the chance to investigate some great places to eat and drink.

More about that in subsequent posts. In the meantime, here are some photos of lovely diversions.

Fishing north of Courtenay (1)

I’d rather be fishing

Nootka Trail 85

Beachcombing on Hornby Island

Nootka Trail 79

Ocean front hiking in Helliwell Provincial Park, Hornby Island

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Tucking into pizza at Hornby Island’s funky Ringside Market

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Great Hornby Island Roasting coffee at Lix in Ringside Market

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From the suspension bridge at Elk Falls Provincial Park, Campbell River

 

Nootka Trail 112

A great rainy day diversion: Campbell River Museum

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Fabulous, fresh fare at Dick’s Fish & Chips in Campbell River

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Spring hiking at Mount Washington ski hill near Courtenay. Okay, the boardwalk is a little buried in snow here

Fresh, Local Fare in Creston, B.C.

Local. Fresh. Healthy. It doesn’t get much better than that, especially when you’re surrounded by verdant fields of veggies and fruits, ready to be plucked and plated.

To keep things simple, just call it what it is: Real Food Cafe. This one’s in Creston, B.C., just north of the Idaho border. Though why these type of wholesome eateries aren’t more common in agricultural small towns is a mystery to me. It isn’t to the Creston locals, who have the cafe happily abuzz on a Friday evening.

There’s so much local stuff on Real Food’s menu, let’s just look, for simplicity’s sake, at what’s traveled a tiny distance for tonight’s specials. There’s the acorn and butternut squash for my earthy cup of soup. There’s watermelon in the salad, pear in the cake. Of course, I have to spoil things by ordering a quinoa and black bean burger, which is topped by local greens and a killer, house-made corn relish.

But perhaps the most impressive local thing about Real Food is the service. I seem to have two or three courteous, friendly waitresses attending to me—keeping my water glass topped up, asking if I’d like something to read while I wait all of five minutes for my meal, discreetly bringing an extra napkin when some leakage stains my face (that could be a full-time job).

They’re around so much, I can hardly take furtive pictures of my food. In fact, other than one blurry shot in a dimly lit room, I’m forced to solely focus on all the fresh flavours.

Real Food Cafe
223 10 Avenue, Creston, B.C.
Monday to Friday lunch 11 am-2 pm, dinner 4:30 pm-8 pm, Saturday 4:30 pm-8 pm. Sunday closed
250-428-8882

Not Going Slow as We Can in B.C.’s Slocan Valley

Lovely garden patio at Mama Sita's Cafe in Winlaw, B.C.

Lovely garden patio at Mama Sita’s Cafe in Winlaw, B.C.

Things are decidedly laid-back in southeast B.C.’s Slocan Valley, labeled Slow As You Can by locals.

So we’re quite prepared for leisurely service at Mama Sitas Cafe, a colourful, highway-side spot in tiny Winlaw. We use the time, after ordering, to soak in the culture, such as folks in dreadlocks wandering in and out of the attached natural foods co-op.

Still, we’ve just completed a punishing, six-day backpack in nearby Valhalla Provincial Park and are rather famished. Thus, we’re pleasantly surprised when our server promptly delivers teeming, affordable plates of taco salads and burgers fashioned from local, organic beef.

Working up an appetite boulder hopping in Valhalla Provincial Park. Photo: Marg Saul

Working up an appetite boulder hopping in Valhalla Provincial Park. Photo: Marg Saul

It’s all good stuff, wolfed down in record time. No way I’m going slow as I can.

This burger disappeared in about five seconds

This burger disappeared in about five seconds

Mama Sita’s Cafe
5709 Highway 6, Winlaw, B.C.
250-226-7070

A Perfect Road Trip Meal

At Big Bang Bagels, in Fernie B.C., all the action, including the cooking, takes place behind the counter

At Big Bang Bagels, in Fernie B.C., all the action, including the cooking, takes place behind the counter

When driving considerable miles on a road trip, you generally don’t want to sit down to a lengthy meal. What you want is quick, delicious and affordable. Character helps, too, which eliminates all those fast-food chains that just specialize in fast.

Big Bang Bagels, in the southeast B.C. mountain town of Fernie, ticks all those boxes, as I was pleasantly reminded on a recent drive along the Crowsnest Highway (3). It’s the perfect stop for a fabulous bite. Why? Because it keeps things simple, efficient and high quality.

As the name suggests, everything revolves around bagels. I’m not normally a fan of bagels, which are typically thick, dry, throat catching. But when, at Big Bang, they’re hand-rolled, boiled, baked and fresh as can be, I happily make an exception.

There are three-dozen bagel choices, ranging from standard poppy and sesame to pesto spinach and jalapeno cheese. But the rest of the menu is pared down to just 10 breakfast and lunch bagelwiches, featuring fillings like roast chicken, Montreal smoked meat or smoked salmon.

Now, THIS is a breakfast sandwich

Now, THIS is a breakfast sandwich

Now, many cafes equate efficient with pre-made. Not so Big Bang. Every bagelwich is built to order. A cook manning a little grill, in the open kitchen, is perfectly frying an egg for my Mr. Fernie, which also boasts melted, aged white cheddar, ham, avocado and grilled onion, all squeezed inside a toasted multigrain bagel.

It’s a first-rate, considerable breakfast (for about $8) delivered piping hot in all of five minutes. Throw in the best Americano I had on a week-long road trip (using San Francisco espresso blend beans from Lethbridge’s excellent roaster Cupper’s), and I’d say it doesn’t get any better than this.

Big Bang Bagels
502 2 Avenue, Fernie, B.C.
Daily 7 am-5 pm
250-423-7778

Favourite Road-Trip Dining Spots: The CBC Listeners Weigh In

Listeners to CBC Radio's Alberta noon program weighed in on their favourite road-trip food picks

Listeners to CBC Radio’s Alberta noon program weighed in on their favourite road-trip food picks

I was on CBC Radio’s Alberta at Noon show the other day, talking about my new Marathon Mouth ebook on great road-trip eats in the western U.S./Canada.

But the real stars were the province-wide listeners who called in or tweeted to champion their favourite food stops near or far from their homes. And despite my extensive research trips, many of their picks were places I’d never heard of. So this post is dedicated to their suggestions (I hope my spelling guesses of their names is reasonably accurate).

Bernie won a free download of the book for suggesting The Last Straw in Libby, Montana. How often do you find hand-pressed, fresh burgers made from your choice of Angus or longhorn beef or bison? Or, at breakfast, corn beef hash for under $7? It’s apparently great stuff, especially for a small town off the beaten path on Highway 2, between Bonners Ferry and Kalispell.

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