Springtime in Vancouver brings with it the reawakening of our taste buds for all things fresh and delicious. Take a gastronomic stroll through this list of the city’s vernal culinary delights.
Chef Rhys Amber’s Nettle Mezzaluna pasta special at Campagnolo Roma epitomizes springtime on a plate, built on a foundation of locally-sourced ingredients to spotlight fresh foraged greens from Lance Staples of Wildcraft Foraging. Amber handmakes his pasta dough from 100 per cent Canadian spelt flour, courtesy of Vancouver-based Grain. He fills the mezzaluna with a blanched nettle and ricotta mixture, using the cheese to softly balance the nettles without overwhelming them. To keep the focus on clean, verdant flavours, Amber opts for a pared-down sauce: garlic from Milan Djordjevich of Stoney Paradise that’s been cellared since last summer, tossed with olive oil and a splash of wine, then mounted with butter. Foraged spring garlic chives are especially aromatic, and Amber cuts them twice during each evening’s service to ensure peak freshness and fragrance. Hand-picked miner’s lettuce and goarse flowers atop the pasta offer bright, slightly bitter notes.
Tea is the inspiration for Beaucoup Bakery’s spring pastry lineup. Of the three “tea-sweet” treats and two savoury vegetarian options, co-owner Betty Hung’s London Fog Bostock is an elegant standout. She drizzles an airy slice of brioche with vanilla syrup, then covers it in frangipane infused with Earl grey tea from local partner Granville Island Tea Company. Topped with sliced almonds for a dainty crunch, the pastry is sprinkled with powdered sugar and violet dust for a sweet floral note to complement the tea. It’s the perfect delicate indulgence for a sunny spring afternoon.
Just around the corner from Beaucoup, Satoshi Yonemori at Grapes & Soda has crafted a new list of seasonal libations that includes the Junipero. Remarkably light and balanced for a mezcal-forward cocktail, it’s delicately perfumed with Carpano Bianco and Scrappy’s Lavender bitters as a counterpoint to the smoky notes. Poire Williams from B.C. distiller Okanagan Spirits rounds out the flavour profile with the gentle buttery sweetness of Bartlett pears.
The husband-and-wife team of chef Nathan and Akiyo Lowey offers light lunch options for healthy midday dining at Dosanko. Their Onigiri Combo is a popular choice, a pair of stuffed Tamanishiki rice balls served with a half-portion of AKI’s Salad: dandelion greens, chickweed, bittercress, and wild chervil from Wildcraft Foraging along with Red Ace Organics beets, purple haze carrots, purple daikon, and jade radish from North Arm Farm, all tossed together with quinoa and lightly dressed in a koji vinaigrette. Pick two favourites from a list of five handmade onigiri—perhaps the Crispy Cheesy with jalapeño mayo, filled with melted mozzarella cheese and lightly battered, or the Ikura, stuffed with wild B.C. salmon roe from Fresh Ideas Start Here.
There’s a beauty in simplicity, and chef Letitia Wan of new Italian hot spot di Beppe in Gastown embraces the elegant clarity of a centuries-old dish. Cacio e Pepe finds its rustic origins among shepherds in the hills of Lazio, who carried dried pasta, sheep’s milk pecorino Romano cheese, and black peppercorns among their hearty non-perishable provisions. Nothing more than hard cheese, pasta water, and black pepper is used to alchemically create a rich, creamy sauce. Wan also incorporates Grana Padano in her take on this classic Roman pasta dish along with sovrano, an Italian buffalo and cow’s milk cheese, for a touch of acidity. Her black peppercorns are sourced from certified organic family-run farms, and she uses rigatoni and thick-cut spaghetti from Rustichella d’Abruzzo, extruded through bronze dies to create a more porous surface for sauce to cling to. A drizzle of Domenica Fiore Novello olive oil with its grassy, peppery aroma is the soft finishing stroke.
There is plenty to see and plenty to eat here. Toast to spring 2018 with dishes that sing.
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