Category Archives: British Columbia

The Boule Melts My Soul at 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters in Powell River, B.C.

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Bright, colourful cafe at 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters in Powell River, B.C.

My formula for a great coffee shop is, like me, pretty simple.

First, surprisingly, is superb coffee, preferably roasted in house, super fresh and expertly pulled or poured.

Second is one or two warm-from-the-oven baked goods. These can be dense fruit muffins, flaky croissants or no-icing cinnamon buns (“rolls” if you’re American). Just don’t wrap them in plastic… unless they’re a day old, in which case why are you selling them?

Third, that’s it. No sense complicating things. All you want is a steaming mug and a tender bite to savour, while not glancing at your screen.

The wonderfully named 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters—opened in 2013 by Margot and Nathan Jantz in Powell River on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast—has these simple, but rarely achieved, details nailed.

The coffee is small-batch roasted and available for purchase as bagged beans. My Americano is full flavoured and strong, the way I like it.

But what catches my eye is a rather unique baked good to go with the java. Yes, they have fresh sourdough croissants and local macarons on offer, plus wild-yeast sourdough waffles on Sundays.

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The coffee is excellent, but the sourdough boule steals the show

I’m instead immediately drawn to a basket of organic sourdough boule (a round, crusty bread), produced in house by talented 21-year-old baker Alexis. The boule is available as a full loaf ($6.50) and also as a bun, which I order for $1.50 (okay, it’s another 50 cents for melted butter, but still a steal). The bun is at once soft, chewy and tangy—one of the better baked goodies I’ve had with a coffee in quite some time.

32 Lakes’ café, on a downtown Powell River street, is full of light, with colourful art on the walls. I grab a window seat and gaze out the window as the coffee and boule slowly melt my soul.

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32 Lakes Coffee Roasters
4707 Marine Avenue, Powell River, B.C.
Daily 7:30 am-3 pm, except 8:30 am opening Sunday
604-414-8363

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Great Belgian-Style Beers in Powell River, B.C.

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A good range of fabulous beers from Townsite Brewing in Powell River, B.C.

If you’re walking into Powell River’s Townsite Brewing intent on tossing back a glass or two, you might want to organize a ride home. Or at least have plans to take some big bottles or a growler back to your motel or campsite before imbibing.

That’s because a few of Townsite’s offerings weigh in around 9% alcohol. These have descriptions like tripel or dubbel, which I’m guessing is Belgian for bloody strong beer.

But unlike some potent ales that knock you over the head with their booze content, Townsite just offers massive flavour. Indeed, one company tasting note—for a 10.5% Belgian quadruple, aged for nine months in whiskey barrels— marvels at how beer maker Cédric Dauchot manages to disguise such strong beers behind amazing, complex profiles. It’s not till you’re tottering towards the door that you suddenly realize this ain’t light beer.

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Townsite’s tasting room is in a restored, historic Powell River building

Many aficionados consider Belgium to be the global pinnacle of beer making. As apparently the only Belgian-born brewmaster west of Montreal, Dauchot brings with him exceptional skills. He’s certainly not afraid to play with Belgian yeasts, European hops, barrel aging and even handmade candi sugar. Consider some of Townsite’s seasonal and special beers: a blackberry wheat sour, a Belgian-style IPA (Shiny Penny) and, maybe my favourite, a Belgian triple (Yogn 82).

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Tasting notes for one of Townsite’s many beers.

It’s unusual to find this quality and innovation in big Canadian cities, let alone in Powell River on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Hey, it’s only a two-ferry ride north of Vancouver to reach Townsite’s tasting room. Better book your ride.

Townsite Brewing
5824 Ash Avenue, Powell River, B.C.
Daily 11 am-9 pm
604-483-2111

Good, cheap Malaysian food at Vancouver’s Hawkers Delight

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The pictures certainly help navigate the Malaysian menu at Vancouver’s Hawkers Delight

I don’t recall ever eating Malaysian food and certainly not Indonesian fare. So when I come across a lauded Vancouver spot, Hawker’s Delight, offering both cuisines, and at unusually low west-coast prices, I jump at the opportunity.

Hawker’s certainly exudes a street-food vibe, occupying a tiny space with a dozen small tables and a handful of window and wall stools. It’s a no-nonsense place, where you order at a little window while watching three cooks, in behind, churning out the dishes.

As usual, I’m first in line for the lunch hour… without a clue what to order. Mee rebus, fried kuey teow, bak kut teh? I’m clearly out of my element here. Mee goreng ($7.25) rings a faint bell from an online review, so I go for the spicy version of that.

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A heaping plate of mee goreng

Good choice. It’s a heaping plastic plate of thin, fried wheat noodles mixed with egg, bean sprouts, bits of tofu and diced potato. The sauce is what makes the dish work—flavourful with some kick, but no tears.

The one disadvantage to being first in line is not seeing what other people have ordered. Which here is an appetizer of deep-fried vegetable fritters, for the ridiculous price of two for $1.20. Might be the best bargain in Vancouver.

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A busy little kitchen. The vegetable fritters are a ridiculous bargain

Hawker’s Delight
4127 Main Street, Vancouver
Monday to Saturday noon to 9 pm. Closed Sunday
Cash only
604-709-8188

Meat & Bread: Simply Superb Sandwiches

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Succulent meatball sandwich at Calgary’s Meat & Bread

As a longtime Calgarian, it pains me to promote any import from Vancouver, even though I briefly lived there many years ago. But when said import considerably elevates Cowtown’s sandwich game, who am I to protest?

The sandwich shop in question is Meat & Bread, which I enthusiastically reviewed shortly after it opened in Vancouver’s Gastown district in 2010. It delivered everything I look for: delicious, innovative sandwiches, made to order yet produced so efficiently that the lunchtime line moves swiftly.

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The lunch-hour line moves quickly

Such a sandwich shop was sorely lacking in Calgary, at least until a Meat & Bread location opened in June in the historic Grain Exchange Building, along downtown’s busy 9th Avenue. While it’s a franchise (there are currently two other locations, in Vancouver and Seattle), it’s in the capable hands of Eric Hudson and wife Bao Nahn. Most importantly, the experience and quality is essentially the same as at the flagship restaurant in Vancouver.

The keys to success are deceptively simple. First, there’s a very short menu of sandwiches—on fresh ciabatta buns—including a few standards, such as the outstanding signature porchetta, with its crunchy cracklings, and a barbecue beef. On a recent Friday, I opted for the special: three substantial, moist pork and beef meatballs topped with parmesan aioli, a chopped herb condiment and kale ($9.50).

Second, everything is freshly made each day by skilled “chefs, not sandwich artists,” featuring quality ingredients. Indeed, there’s no freezer on the premises.

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A friendly, efficient crew

Finally, and crucially at lunch hour, there’s a highly efficient crew assembling these four or five sandwiches. Such that our counter order is delivered to a high table in scant minutes.

The sides are similarly limited—a daily soup and a salad and a handcrafted chocolate bar for dessert. Nice to see a small selection of beers from Calgary microbrewers.

“It’s simple,” the company’s mantra goes, “we make sandwiches.” What more do you need?

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An innovative way of labelling dry provisions

Meat & Bread
821 1 Street SW, Calgary, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday

Revelstoke’s La Baguette the Perfect Road Food Stop

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The quick-serve counter at Revelstoke’s fabulous La Baguette

The drive from Calgary to Vancouver is a 975-kilometre, 10-hour-plus push that I endure a couple of times a year. To relieve the tedium and replenish the batteries, it’s nice to have a few go-to places along the way for good coffee and a quick, wonderful bite to eat.

One such place that I nearly always stop at is La Baguette, in Revelstoke, B.C. It ticks all my boxes for what constitutes great road-food dining on a long-distance drive.

First is its location. Revelstoke is about a 4.5-hour drive from Calgary, an ideal distance for a break, coffee refill and snack or meal. Second, La Baguette is just a couple of minutes off the Trans-Canada Highway, with on-street parking.

Third is the flexibility. La Baguette is both a bakery and café/restaurant. That allows me to quickly pick up an Americano, a fresh croissant or a hearty turkey-yam wrap from the counter (my only complaint is sometimes the line moves a little slowly). La Baguette has recently expanded, adding a little sit-down restaurant with largely the same menu, if you want a longer break.

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The bar in the new, sit-down restaurant

None of this would matter if the food wasn’t memorable. As I’ve stated in previous posts, La Baguette is one of my favourite bakeries/cafes in western Canada. The food is exceptional, the prices are reasonable (that turkey-yam wrap is about $7 and satisfies two reasonable appetites) and, most difficultly, the high standards are consistently met.

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The “healthy bread” might be the best toast I’ve ever had

And despite a relatively short menu, there’s always something interesting and unusual to try. Like the exquisite healthy toast (featuring spelt flour, coconut and dates), poached eggs over crispy potatoes, pulled siracha chicken on a brioche bun or a Montreal-style bagel topped with pork rillette.

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Montreal-style bagels loaded with interesting goodies

Did I mention the new restaurant has a little bar, featuring well-curated craft beers on tap, like the exceptional Twin Sails offerings from Vancouver suburb Port Moody?

That’s the only problem I have with this new sit-down café. It’s creating havoc with my driving schedule.

 La Baguette
607 Victoria Road, Revelstoke, B.C.
Daily 6:30 am-7 pm (8 pm in summer)
250-837-3755

It’s Well Worth the Drive to Mile One in Pemberton, B.C.

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Mile One Eating House co-owner and chef Randy Jones runs a professional kitchen in Pemberton, B.C.

I’m sure there are some fine, inexpensive places to eat in Whistler, B.C. Indeed, I often head to purebread, which produces perhaps the best bread and baked goodies on the west coast. Mind you, I always stop at their little Function Junction location, a little ways south of the madness that is central Whistler.

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purebred’s fabulous hazelnut fig bread

Whistler is certainly not organized for the road tripper looking for a quick bite or beverage. Between the tourist hordes, all the side streets off the highway, the confusion about where to park and the baffling naming of pedestrian retail spaces—Village Square, Village Stroll, Village Lane, Village Green, Village Idiot—I usually just give up and get the hell out.

Instead, I often head 30 km north on Highway 99 to Pemberton, where I can easily locate, and find nearby parking at, my favourite restaurant in the region, Mile One Eating House.

Yes, there’s a growing lineup on a weekday night in late September (Tip: get there early). But it’s well worth the short wait at this family-run, chef-driven spot that produces fabulous, locally sourced burgers (they recently even bought their own, historic cattle ranch), upscale poutine and the best, gourmet mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever tasted.

I normally go for the divine Southern Comfort mac ‘n cheese—B.C. chicken breast, smoked bacon and brocolini in a creamy aged cheddar/mozza sauce. But there’s a Wednesday night special: a burger and craft beer for about $12. How can I resist?

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Best mac ‘n cheese I’ve ever eaten

My Mile One burger features a five-ounce Cache Creek natural beef patty, smothered in smoked bacon, aged white cheddar and beer-braised caramelized onions, all stuffed inside a house-baked buttermilk bun. It’s so thick I have to cut it in half to funnel it into my gaping mouth. Still, it’s a messy, two-napkin job, washed down with a fine bottle of Russell Brewing’s Punch Bowl IPA.

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The delicious, jaw-stretching Mile One burger

Mile One’s got everything I’m looking for: high standards, excellent ingredients and hard-working cooks, in an open kitchen. And despite the crowd, there’s enough of a personal touch to keep things casual and friendly.

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Lots of regional craft beer available

Right across the street, with parking right in front, is another road tripper’s delight: Mount Currie Coffee. Yes, they also have a Whistler location. But when it might take me 10 minutes just to find it, is there any comparison?

Mile One Eating House
7330 Arbutus Street, Pemberton, B.C.
Wednesday to Sunday 11 am-9 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
604-384-3842

Mount Currie Coffee
7331 Arbutus Street, Pemberton
Monday to Saturday 6:30 am-6 pm, Sunday 7 am-6 pm
604-894-3388