Warm weather, stuffy apartments, and long days filled with light: the perfect excuse for a picnic. And it only makes sense to pair Vancouver’s natural beauty with equally stimulating food. Here, four local chefs share their top picnic spots and what they would bring in their wicker baskets.
Among the Boats
At Main Street’s Torafuku, executive chef Clement Chan puts a fun spin on Asian food while embracing homegrown and sustainable produce. “I want to support local farmers and keep things funky. That’s what Torafuku is all about,” says Chan, who sources many of his ingredients from Sole Food Street Farms, farmers’ markets, and UBC Farm.
Chan’s favourite picnic spot is Habitat Island, a man-made isle along False Creek that is home to more than 200 native shrubs and plants. For food, he recommends something like Torafuku dishes 24 Carrot Gold (fingerling potatoes with spinach, mushrooms, radishes, kale-bud flowers, toasted hazelnuts, and, of course, carrots) and Higher Steaks (delicate, melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef with a Filipino-style adobo sauce; local asparagus; orange and butter-braised turnip; radish; delicate seared potato pave; kabocha squash puree). Get these plates delivered right to the island with Foodora and enjoy an al fresco feast that is bright and adventurous.
Among the Dudes
Veganism is a growing lifestyle choice in Vancouver, and there is no better example than Mount Pleasant’s dairy-free cheese shop Blue Heron Creamery. Owner Karen McAthy thinks even meat-eaters will enjoy a plant-based cheeseboard full of complex flavours. “I love eating this way: snacking with beautiful food,” she says. Her picnic ground of choice? Nearby Dude Chilling Park.
“I love the community here,” says McAthy. “There are people from all avenues of life, and well, dudes chilling.” She suggests her Philly-style cream cheese with fresh strawberries and a strawberry amaretto jam, which is also a beautiful fit for her light and airy Fig Cumulus that resembles a melty chevre. The shop’s Mostarda Cheddar and Galaxias serve as harder, further aged options to add; the sharpness and texture match well with sweet apricot slices and crisp apple, or alternatively, spicy pickled beans and bold arugula. After all, eating vegan no longer means eating bland.
Among the Blooms
Kitsilano’s whimsical Neverland Tea Salon is cherished for its high tea that caters to a wide variety of dietary restrictions—without omitting high-class excellence. Sous chef Bella Linhares recommends taking the tea party to the beautiful floral gardens of Queen Elizabeth Park.
“We are known for our scones, which are served with house-made strawberry jam and Devonshire cream. They are a must-have,” says Linhares. She also mentions the Thai curry egg salad finger sandwich; there is even a vegan option that features chickpeas in a creamy blanket of subtle and warm Thai spices. “Take Me to Neverland is our most favourable tea,” Linhares continues, referencing the divine chocolate peppermint blend. “We go through so much of it.” At the park, enjoy Neverland’s freshly dipped and beautifully decorated chocolate strawberries or its chocolate walnut brownie—the latter of which is conveniently available on a stick, perfect for munching on during walks through the rose bushes.
Among the Sand Castles
Steps from the ocean sits the Spanish food gem of Espana, where chef Mark Egger assembles dishes as the sun dips over the horizon. “Generally, when you think of Spanish food, you think of tapas—which is great, but there are many things outside of tapas that are really excellent,” he says. At his perfect picnic, Egger puts mackerel escabeche on top of crusty artisan bread with capers, fennel, spicy pickled guindilla peppers, and fresh parsley. “The best thing about this dish is the mackerel won’t spoil because escabeche is essentially a cured Spanish fish,” he explains. Egger also places paper-thin serrano ham onto organic potato salad with perfectly tender asparagus, radish, and a cool yogurt dressing. “There is a nice contrast between these two dishes because the mackerel is bold, with coriander, fennel, and the guindilla peppers, and the potato salad is fresh, with the dressing and radish,” he explains. Try these dishes at the restaurant and then make inspired versions to eat at Egger’s chosen picnic spot: the sandy logs of English Bay.
Vancouver is bursting with delicious food options and gorgeous outdoor spaces—and when it comes to taking advantage of them, there’s no time like the present.