As 2011 winds down, I have decided to do my annual “year in review” posts. While it’s tough to select the best moments (that I have blogged) over the last year, this week I’ll profile the following categories: Travel, Food, Music, and Entertainment.
I think the story of the year was the explosion of street food options around downtown Vancouver. Scout Magazine‘s Andrew Morrison has a great “Year in Review” article available from WEVancouver as well where he writes: “But was 2011 better than 2010? I’d like to think so. There were definitely more exciting openings than there were sad closures, with one nearly always following the other at the same address. Evidence that we’re still very much a small town abounded, wherein the regular six-degrees-of-separation rule is whittled down to just one or two. To wit, the end of Corner Suite Bistro (closed Jan. 4) allowed for the launch of Ensemble (opened May 10) because of the death of Lumiere (euthanized on Mar. 13).”
For John and I, we kept most of our dining secrets to ourselves but there were a few blog-worthy gems. 2011 was the year that we became regulars at Wild Garlic on Denman — due mostly to their tapas menu, basil and walnut gnocchi, and post-meal limoncello. We also explored more of Steveston and became more involved with the local brew scene, with Miss604.com sponsoring Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
“The soup was smooth yet textured with tiny bits of pancetta and small potato cubes. John’s fish was tender, crisp, and the eggplant soaked up delicious flavours yet maintained its crispy shell. Our mains were the mushroom and arugula crepes along with the flatiron steak salad. The crepes were rich and creamy, and the steak was succulent and tender. Without leaving any room for dessert, we enjoyed a glass of wine as we looked out the rustic shuttered windows to watch the fishing boats dance in the wind.” – An Afternoon in Steveston
“The soup was fresh, fruity, smooth and creamy, and the crunchy apples garnish with crusted toast added a delightful contrast in textures. Chef Bell created the soup’s stock from the chicken that was our tender and juicy second course and more apples were used in our sweet and salty dessert.” – Hester Creek Winery – Guest Chef Ned Bell
“The family-style breakfast, lunches and dinners were complete with fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, and cheeses. We also enjoyed one of the best traditional Thai meals I’ve had to date.” – Echo Valley Ranch Resort
“Aside from the hillside meadow dotted with sheep, the edible flower gardens, the sculptures, and the unobstructed harbour views, our favourite part of Hastings House was meal time. After a morning hamper was delivered to our suite each day including fresh-baked muffins and coffee, we could then head down for breakfast (included with your stay) which was served with farm-fresh eggs.” – Our Weekend at Hastings House on Salt Spring Island
“It was a gloriously sunny day, and I had heard so many good things, that the 20-30 minute wait breezed by. In the meantime, take-out only patrons lucky enough to already score their lunches were sitting out on the dock, grabbing an Island Farms soft-serve cone, or enjoying the serenade of a nearby busker.” – Red Fish Blue Fish Victoria
“Strawberries (try them in a “Mile High Custard Pie”), raspberries (available soon), blueberries (in August), green beans, and sweet corn. “We’ve got the best sweet corn in the valley, ” said owner Alf Krause who also took us around on a hayride. “Our focus is what we grow”. Pretty much everything that Krause grows can be found in a pie, in a doughnut, in fudge, in lemonade a smoothie or tea, and in their market.” – Langley Circle Farm Tour
“The zucchini flowers are something I could eat every day (crunchy and fresh yet creamy on the inside), the salmon was deliciously smoked, and I have to say the beef cheek fritter was a real surprise. Crunchy on the outside and the slow-cooked pieces of shredded meat on the inside were tender and moist. Chef Walt knows how to combine textures and flavours into the most interesting and unique packages on your plate.” – Araxi Longtable Series
“Wrapped in a quick-fired tortilla, the tacos had lightly battered pieces of ling cod topped with crunchy cabbage and chunky salsa (pico de gallo). The crunch from the cabbage gave the taco shape as the juicy salsa soaked through to the tender fish.” – Tacofino Food Truck
“The culinary creations were reminiscent of the science that went into our meal at The Apron at the Westin in Richmond. You weren’t just served a meal, you were offered custom, hand-crafted courses presented in very unique ways. The dishes tasted as good as they looked, if not better, due to the hidden flavours that leapt out at first bite.” – EBO Restaurant
“The meal arrived very quickly and didn’t disappoint. My vegetables were crisp and fresh, and John said his baked beans were pretty stellar. The brisket and pulled pork were both tender and full of flavour. I dipped my potato wedges in some of the sauce that was on the table (not sure if I was supposed to) but that was pretty darn tasty as well.” – Hog Shack Cook House‘
“The generous tomato topping on my gnocchi was light and fresh, giving a nice contrasts to the soft, tender, and cheesy pasta. John said that he enjoyed his spaghetti (he got it because it’s the signature dish) and that the hint of blue cheese was not overpowering, which can sometimes happen.” – Cento Notti Yaletown
“The temptation of something “bacon-wrapped” got the best of us and we’re glad we went through with it. Along with the black cod, the striploin was my favourite of the night.” – Hidden at the Westin Grand
If I had to select one dining experience that “wowed” us the most in 2011, it would have to be the Araxi Longtable event. It gave us a first-hand lesson in farm-to-table cooking in one of the most beautiful West Coast settings imaginable. All of the gorgeous photos from the event were taken by John as well.
As I see it, 2012 will be the “Year of the Food Tour” as we play tourist and explore some of the culinary treasures in our own backyard.