Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Under the Radar Wine Regions of British Columbia, Canada

It’s more than Ice wine. Canada is emerging as world-class wine region and British Columbia is leading the way.

The first thing that may come to mind when you think wine and Canada may be Ice Wine. But all types of wines are made in Canada, and British Columbia is emerging as one of the most dynamic regions in terms of its natural beauty and quality wine. Here are some tips for exploring a few of the best under the radar wine regions in British Columbia.

Okanagan Valley
Okanagan’s star is on the rise and it’s developing as a premier destination for wine lovers looking for something new and exceptional in a dynamic lake and mountain setting. Just a short flight from Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley is the largest growing region in British Columbia with more than 121 wineries in 11 sub-regions. The multiple micro-climates favor many grapes with Merlot, and Pinot Gris being the most widely planted. A host of outdoor activities including hiking, kayaking and biking around Lake Okanagan make the area a haven for the active oenophile.

Where to taste: 
Tinhorn Creek (Oliver) If you are a Cab Franc fanatic you’re in for a treat at Tinhorn Creek. Grab a glass and take in the valley views as you savor one of the many fine selections in the tasting room including the Oldfield Series Two Bench Red and Syrah.

Upper Bench (Naramata) From Merlot to Zweigelt, Upper Bench is creating wines with finesse that just happen to pair perfectly with cheeses from their on-site micro creamery.

Blue Mountain Winery (Okanagan Falls) Blue Mountain may have the distinction of being the most picturesque vineyard in the area, but the first rate Sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main attractions.

Bottleneck Drive Wine Trail -- This trail showcases 13 wineries clustered on back roads above Lake Okanagan. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of both the lake and vineyards alike as you make your way from Greata Ranch Vineyards in Peachland down Okanagan Highway to Summerland, where you’ll find wineries such as Saxton Winery, Sonoran Estate Winery, Dirty Laundry Vineyards and Okanagan Crush Pad. All of the vineyards welcome visitors, though some have limited hours during the off-season.

Where to dine:
Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove Winery—Located on a ridge above Penticton, Vanilla Pod has a changing menu that highlights the bounty from neighboring farms and ranches. Try the lamb chops with potato gnocchi, or when in season, the Sockeye Salmon with arancini, roasted beets, swiss chard, Okanagan berry & chili pepper coulis; along with a glass of Poplar Grove Pinot Gris.

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek (Oliver) Combine stellar panoramic views across the South Okanagan Valley with Mediterranean fare inspired by local ingredients and you have the secret to Miradoro’s success. Stop in for a casual lunch with a glass of wine and one of the Neapolitan style pizzas. Or indulge in a sumptuous dinner selections like the wild boar bacon carbonara with slow poached egg and parmesan, or choose from the chef’s grand tasting menu and selected wine pairings.

Similkameen Valley—
If it weren’t for the vineyards you might mistake Similkameen Valley for a National Park with the soaring Cathedral Mountains as a backdrop and lush valley dotted with farms and fruit orchards. The Similkameen, located a few hours drive from Vancouver, has an ideal climate for growing grape varieties such as Merlot, Gamay Noir and Chardonnay.

Where to taste:
Orofino (Cawston) Orofino specializes in single vineyard wines and their luscious Rieslings are worth the trip. The tasting room is solar powered and the only strawbale constructed winery in Canada.

Eau Vivre  (Cawston) Small lots that yield big flavor are the focus at Eau Vivre. Try the award winning Pinots and don’t miss the Cinq Blanc; a five grape blend of Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Chardonnay, and Riesling available only at the tasting room.

Clos du Soliel (Kremeos) Featuring Bordeaux style wines, Clos du Soleil Winemaker's Reserve a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a shining example of what the rocky soils, and long sunny days in the Similkameen Valley can yield.

Where to dine:
Rustic and down home dining options include local favorite Benja Thai (Keremeos), and
The Hitching Post Restaurant (Hedley) the original home of the Hedley Mining and Supply store dating back to 1905. Today the rugged exterior belies the comfortable interior where you can enjoy a bottle of Similkameen wine with simple but hearty fare of steaks, burgers, and salads.

Fraser Valley
The proximity of Fraser Valley to downtown Richmond and Vancouver allows for an easy urban wine escape. Many wineries in the area specialize in fruit wines and visitors will be impressed with the range of flavors and styles produced from locally grown fruit. Also of note here are the Germanic whites such as crisp Riesling’s and Gewürztraminers.

Where to taste:
Lulu Island Winery (Richmond) --Lulu Island’s large tasting room offers wine lovers a chance to sample many traditional grape varietals including Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—but the real draw here are the award winning ice wines and line of fruit wines including Passion Fruit, Cranberry, and Blueberry.

Where to dine:
The Blue Canoe in Stevenson Village (Richmond) – Blue Canoe hits the mark with a great wine list and inventive dishes composed of fresh from the sea ingredients served up in a uber relaxed dockside setting. Order the Sablefish with ginger-orange-miso glaze or when available, the seasonal spot prawns with mixed melon slaw relish.


The story above first appeared here on Forbes Travel Guide 
Photos courtesy of BC Wine Institute

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Q & A with Andrea Robinson Delta’s Master Sommelier

This story was first published on Forbes Travel Guide.

While travelers often visit cities in search of good wine, now you can sample many regional selections before your plane has landed in your desired destination. Although the high altitude creates challenges, airlines are getting more creative with their in-flight offerings by working with star chefs to create dishes that pair with wines selected by sommeliers for optimum enjoyment at 30,000 feet.

Delta is one such carrier that’s upping its game. It’s enlisted the help of Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, one of only 18 women in the world to hold that title in addition to three James Beard Awards. I talked to Robinson about her work with Delta’s Winemaker Series and what makes a great in-flight wine program.

What are the challenges that face the wine experience at 30,000 feet?
Your senses are dulled at altitude, making it difficult to appreciate the complex scents and flavors wine has to offer. In addition, the lower atmospheric pressure — versus tasting on land — means all of those flavor molecules are jetting past your sensory receptors so fast, you miss a lot.

Given the conditions, what types of wines do best at high altitude? Are blends favored over single varieties?
That’s the art — choosing wines with enough expression and presence on the palate to overcome those conditions, without seeming out of balance. I find both varietals and blends perform well — the trick is in choosing the right ones. Pinot noir is surprisingly successful; given its subtlety, I might have thought otherwise. Rioja Gran Reserva is another big-hit red. Argentinian Torrontés and sauvignon blanc are well-suited whites. You have to be careful with lots of new oak and lots of tannin.

What trends do you see emerging for in-flight programs?
Featuring specific wines as opposed to making it an after-thought, even in economy, seems to be on the rise. I think in-flight is following on-the-ground trends in that customers are more and more open to trying wines they haven’t heard of, as well as up-and-comer grapes and regions.

You consult for Delta on its wine program. What does that entail?
I work closely with our chefs, Michelle Bernstein and Michael Chiarello, and with the leaders in in-flight service choosing the wines for Business Elite, international economy and our wines for purchase in economy. Delta’s Winemaker Series launched last fall and features ultra-premium California white and red wines from iconic labels, up-and-comers and authentic family wineries with a story. For example, we featured Merry Edwards’ sauvignon blanc and Heidi Barrett’s La Sirena syrah this past spring and over Mother’s Day — two women-made wines from two of California’s most prominent wine women.

What would be your ideal in-flight food-and-wine pairing?
Spanish Manchego cheese and Rioja Gran Reserva, or French champagne and aged Gouda.

Photos Courtesy of Delta Airlines Inc.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Top Five In-Flight Wine Programs

This story was first published on Forbes Travel Guide

There are plenty of perks that come with a business class seat, but one of the trendiest may just be a world-class wine list. Now, you can swirl, sniff and sip fine wines hand selected by sommeliers for maximum enjoyment at 30,000 feet. Sit back and relax with these five carriers that offer top in-flight wine programs featuring exceptional wines from their home country and around the world.

Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson taste tests every wine selected for Delta’s Winemaker Series at altitude to ensure the flavor and experience is as good in-flight as it is on the ground. Wines served in Business Elite include ultra-premium California labels such as Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran and El Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva, which are paired with star chef Michael Chiarello’s seasonal menu of dishes like pancetta-wrapped beef tenderloin.

Air New Zealand
Awarded the 2012 Cellar in the Sky award for Best-Presented Business Class Wine List, Air New Zealand provides an in-flight wine guide to Business Class passengers that details the country’s wine regions and wineries, along with profiles of the airline’s wine consultants. Pairings showcase the unique flavors of New Zealand (local lamb, beef or salmon) paired with wines such as Grasshopper Rock 2010 Pinot Noir and Cloudy Bay 2004 Chardonnay. Post meal, passengers can hit the sweet spot with a glass of Forrest Botrytised 2011 Riesling (each month features a different roster with select wines on each flight).

Finnair has a long history of earning accolades for their Business Class wine selections. The most recent prize, from the annual Cellars in the Sky awards, went to the airline’s port wine selection, Niepoort Colheita (1998, Douro, Portugal). While Finnair focuses on delivering the finest wine and food parings, they also aim to select wines that can be enjoyed for their own merits. Standouts include Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut Non-Vintage Champagne, San Polo Brunello di Montalcino 2005, and Gerard Bertrand Reserve Especiale Chardonnay from the legendary soils of the Languedoc in the South of France.

Air Canada 
Air Canada believes in supporting the Canadian wine industry and features Canadian wines as part of their onboard wine program. In 2012, more than 70,000 bottles were purchased from Canadian wineries. Fly Air Canada now in its Executive Class and you’ll have the chance to sip a Riesling produced by Henry of Pelham from the Niagara region.

In a special partnership with the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, Canadian airline Westjet’s new regional carrier, Encore, is highlighting wines of the Okanagan Valley. This summer passengers will be offered wines exclusive to the Okanagan region, including Gray Monk Estate, Perseus Winery, and Blasted Church Vineyards on July flights and Road 13 Vineyards, See Ya Later Ranch, and Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Winery, on August flights.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Top Tips for Planning Your Trip to Croatia

1. Download Apps Before You Go
In my opinion the best app for food and wine in Croatia is Taste of Croatia.

You can also follow Taste of Croatia on twitter here: @tasteofcroatia 

The Tourist Board Apps for Istria and Croatia are also useful:


2. Hire a Local Guide
Many people think a tour guide is going to be boring and akin to following someone holding up an umbrella saying walk this way and just spouting out lots of dates and names. But that is not the case when you work one on one with a local guide. The local tourist board can help you locate a qualified guide to suit your needs. 

For foodies and wine enthusiasts looking for a customized experience in Zagreb, Istria, and other parts of Croatia, I recommend Mladen Car of Funky Zagreb. Here is Mladen ’s Trip Advisor page. 

3. Get Lost in the Hinterlands
Rent a car and wander around in the back country and hinterlands of Istria. You’ll discover wonderful places well off the coast-side tourist trail. 

4. Book Winery Appointments in Advance
Some of the best wineries are very small operations and need to know well in advance if you will be visiting in order to welcome you for a wine tasting. Another good reason to work with a local guide is they can facilitate winery appointments that may be difficult to secure on your own.

5. Pack an extra bag for all your wine and cheese and olive oil purchases. It’s well worth the second bag fee for the bounty of flavors you’ll want to take home with you.

6. Tell’em Marcy sent you! –Well, that will only work in a very few places, but give it a try anyway. 

Links to my Forbes Travel Guide posts: 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Roadtrip Final Chapter: Oliver to Penticton, B.C. -- #NWRoadtrip

The road to Penticton and #WBC13 was paved with great times and fine wines. Take a look below at the entire journey from Portland to Penticton -- 7 days, 11 hours, and 42 minutes condensed into one crazy food, fun, and wine infused video!

While we were in Richmond we checked out some of the local wineries that were very close to downtown, including Lulu Island and Sanduz. I’ll be writing about it in separate post, so won’t give details here, but it was my first tasting of fruit wines and it was an eye opener. But even more of an eye opener was when Mattie entertained the tasting room at Sanduz with his soft stylings on the guitar. I almost fell off my chair! {Check out video slideshow above around the 0:56 second mark.}

Our last segment of the trip took us along scenic Highway 3 to Oliver. Along the way we had an epic picnic and even scared away a few startled travelers as we were a sight to behold. More wild than the wildlife.

Mattie AKA Pillsbury Dutch Boy

All that fresh air can make you very hungry. 
We ate our lunch with a magnificent mountain backdrop and then drove on to Oliver, where we stayed the night. 

Tinhorn Creek Winery

The first time I visited the Okanagan region I was very impressed with the Cab Franc I tried there. One of my favorites was from Tinhorn Creek Winery and I was excited to share my findings with Mattie and Miss Kristen. Well, the truth is, I have not been able to shut up about the Tinhorn Creek Cab Franc for over a year now, so it was time for me to step aside and let the wine do the talking. We began our visit with a glass of the Gewurztraminer that was chilled and waiting for us in the guest house.

Ahh... the pause that refreshes.

We would have been happy to sit right there contemplating the view for the rest of the evening, but dinner at Miradoro was waiting just a few steps away, along with Mattie and Kristen's first taste of the fabled Oldfield Cab Franc.

The views at Tinhorn Creek (see them in video at top of post) are best enjoyed from Miradoro where we dined with the Tinhorn Creek gang: Andrew, Lindsay, and Sandra.

The evening was a winning combination of interesting personalities, fine wine and big views. Or maybe it was fine personalities, interesting views, and big wines--it all works out any way you stack it. It’s great when you can hang out with people and find things to talk about that have nothing to do with their profession or business. We all seemed to have a common bond and affection for film, travel, and great food. Well, no surprise about shared interest in food, but Sandra, Lindsey, and Andrew are all interesting in ways well beyond the world of wine.

Upper Bench Winery and Creamery

Gavin and Shana Miller
The next day prior to the start of WBC13 in Penticton we stopped in at Upper Bench Winery and Creamy to meet with Gavin and Shana Miller and sample their cheese and wine. The Upper Bench wines have true finesse and naturally the house made cheese make for delicious pairings. Shana is the engine behind the on-site micro creamery and Gavin is the man of the vines. What a powerhouse team they make, and the products of their labor are exceptional examples of what one can create when passion meets know-how.

Upper Bench Cheeses (L to R) King Cole, Gold, U & Brie

I thought the King Cole, a semi soft blue cheese was the ideal with Merlot. I’d tried the Gold, a handmade semi-soft cheese, on a previous visit to the Okanagan Valley and it was as good as I remembered it. The U & Brie was also a delight, rich and creamy with a fresh tang, that was firm and not over ripe. I liked it with the Rose as well as the Riesling. Give yourself plenty of time to stop at Upper Bench when you are in Penticton.  It’s just the kind of place where you could settle in for a while, a long while.

End of an Era

It was a memorable road trip, but sadly, my crazy glasses were lost somewhere after our visit to Upper Bench. So off to the universe they go. It’s especially sad as I had the round ones for 18 years!! Those glasses have been all over the world with me. They were even featured on the cover of my book. But sometimes you just have to let go and move on. I’m looking for something new to use in future trips, but if you happen to see anyone in Penticton wearing some crazy glasses, you know where they came from!

Note: Overnight accommodations in Oliver were graciously provided by Tinhorn Creek. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Croatia, I Can’t Quit You!

Next week, on July 1st, Croatia will join the EU, and while I wish Croatia the very best for the future, I also feel rather protective of a country I’ve come to love.

To paraphrase a quote from Brokeback Mountain : "I can't make it on a couple a visits once or twice a year. You're too much for me, Croatia, I wish I knew how to quit you.” 

This year, I’ve received more emails from readers looking for food and wine recommendations in Croatia than any other destination. Here are a few excerpts from people who wrote to me asking about BIBICh. {Click to enlarge images}

As I continue to write about wine, food, and wine tourism, and assist readers in pursuit of their own discovery of Croatia and other destinations; I dearly hope it's not spoiling my favorite places in the process. I hope it's helping places to carry on.

The first time I visited Croatia was in 2003, it was summer and the coastal villages of Istria were packed and bustling with sun seekers from neighboring European countries, especially Germany.

Ten years later, Croatia is now on the radar of most Americans, and in the last several years Croatia has been touted as the hot new "undiscovered" destination in magazines and featured on many travel guide top ten lists. I worry about Croatia and the possibility that it will be ruined by rapid growth to accommodate the surge in tourism.  I worry that I may be contributing to the problem.

Once emerging destinations become mature, the magazines lose interest and the crowds are off to another trendy hot spot, until the cycle comes back around and it's deemed the newly “rediscovered” destination. But Croatia is so much more than a spot on a list. Croatia is more than a trend. Croatia is in it for the long term.

Even though I worry about being part of the problem, I think blogging about little known wines and wine regions around the world is a service to wine lovers. Without the word of mouth you might never hear of some wines. And some under the radar wine regions need to be discovered solely so that they can continue to exist.

This past March I was in Croatia again. I came home longing for Teran. {Which as of July, won’t be called Teran-- see here for more about that}

I craved Posip with botocnie salad or some other morsel plucked fresh from the sea.

I dreamed of little hand-rolled fuzi pasta with a drizzle of fine Istrian olive oil.

No, I can’t quit Croatia. And you won’t be able to either after you read my new multi-part series on the wine and food of Istria coming up next on my blog.

In the meantime I offer you-- Top Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Trip to Croatia:

1. Download Apps Before You Go
In my opinion the best app for food and wine in Croatia is Taste of Croatia.

You can also follow Taste of Croatia on twitter here: @tasteofcroatia

The Tourist Board of Istria app is also useful:

2. Hire a Local Guide
Many people think a tour guide is going to be boring and akin to following someone holding up an umbrella saying walk this way and just spouting out lots of dates and names. But that is not the case when you work one on one with a local guide. The local tourist board can help you locate a qualified guide to suit your needs. 

For foodies and wine enthusiasts looking for a customized experience in Zagreb, Istria, and other parts of Croatia, I recommend Mladen Car of Funky Zagreb. Here is Mladen ’s Trip Advisor page.

3. Get Lost in the Hinterlands
Rent a car and wander around in the back country. Follow the food and wine trails of the hinterlands of Istria. You’ll discover wonderful places well off the coast-side tourist trail.

4. Book Winery Appointments in Advance
Some of the best wineries are very small operations and need to know well in advance if you will be visiting in order to welcome you for a wine tasting. Another good reason to work with a local guide is they can facilitate winery appointments that may be difficult to secure on your own.

5. Pack an extra bag for all your wine and cheese and olive oil purchases. It’s well worth the second bag fee for the bounty of flavors you’ll want to take home with you.

6. Tell’em Marcy sent you! –Well, that will only work in a very few places, but give it a try anyway.

Links to Forbes Travel Guide and my other posts on Croatia:

Spending Two Perfect Days in Zagreb
Best Places to Eat, Drink and Stay in Istria

Croatia Series:
Croatia Series Preview: Zivili!
Croatia Part 1: Bibich Dégustation
Croatia Part 2: The Splendors of Split
Croatia Part 3: Šibenik Caressed by the Sea
Croatia Part 4: Zadar, The Perfect Date
Croatia Part 5: Pilgrimage to Pag: Land of Paški Sir
Croatia Part 6: Istria--Truffles, Olive Oil, Prosciutto & Wine!
Croatia Part 7: A Taste of Zagreb

The Wines of Croatia: A Preview Tasting
Croatian Wines Making Waves
Country of Good Vines: Countdown to Wines of Croatia
I Can Almost Taste It! Croatian Wine is Near
Wines of Croatia Tasting: The Recap
Ajvar Smackdown
Croatia: Memories Lost and Found
Eli's Caffé in Zagreb--Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Maraschino - Wrapped in Tradition

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spot Prawns at Blue Canoe in Steveston Village -- #NWRoadtrip Part 2

The many views at Blue Canoe in Steveston, B.C.

I love the random synchronicity quality of twitter-- Earlier in the day I’d seen a series of tweets from Lindsay Anderson about her early morning adventure fishing for spot prawns in a secret location. Little did I know we would be eating those very prawns that same evening at Blue Canoe in Steveston Village.

{You can read Lindsay's account of the spot prawn voyage with Chef Danilo Ibarra on board to assist in the catch here.}

While Steveston Village is only 15 minutes away by car from downtown Richmond, it’s a world away in terms of culture. Originally established in the 1800’s, Steveston, located at the mouth of the Fraser River and the Pacific, became one of the largest fishing and cannery facilities in the British Commonwealth. Today the area is still the place to find the best catch of the day, but shopping, dining, and whale-watching are the economic mainstays in the waterfront village.

In my last post I wrote about our dining experience in Richmond at Vivacity. And while our host was very friendly and cordial, we were indeed the strangers in a strange land that evening. But the minute we walked into Blue Canoe, it was like stepping into a family reunion-- welcoming, relaxed, and fun.

Set on a pier above the Fraser River, Blue Canoe offers great views from the dockside tables and they even provide blankets draped over the chairs in case you get a chill.  We didn't need the blankets, the glass panels on the deck kept the wind at bay, but it was a nice touch. 

As I mentioned at the top of the post, the spot prawns were on our minds and our host and server Bonnie suggested we start out with them. It was... dare I say it...a spot on suggestion.

Spot Prawns all start out life as males and then become Liberace...well not really, but they sure have the star quality one might associate with Liberace. In the prawn world they reign supreme and are only available during a short six week season. They looked to me like mini lobsters and they had a very sweet and rich flavor that was enhanced by a mixed melon slaw and grilled lemon.

Sable fish with orange-ginger-miso glaze

For entrees we each tried one of the fresh fish offerings of the day--Halibut, Trout and Sablefish. I chose the Sablefish, which is also known as black cod.  It was so perfectly cooked the flesh flaked right off like petals from a rose, and its rich flavor, was as Barbra Streisand might say..."like buttha”. The ginger-orange-miso glaze was an ideal support and accent to the dish. I was tempted to run off with my plate and hide so I did not have to share with my table mates. But their dishes were equally delectable. Honestly, I didn’t even take notes about their plates as I was so entranced by my own, but Mattie covers it well here.

I loved the wine Bonnie recommend, a Pentage Pinot Gris from the Okanagan Valley. It had a delicate peach fuzz hue with lychee and citrus flavors, and great minerality that paired well with the entrees we ordered. The wine seemed expensive, but apparently the taxes on alcohol are very high in Canada.  

For dessert, Chef Ibarra drew upon his Nicaraguan heritage and presented a tres leches cake that had all my favotite elements--chocolate, coconut, whipped cream, and caramel--with a plump gooseberry on top. I have no picture to show because my fork won out over my camera in a contest of willpower. 

Bonnie, Chef Ibarra and Kristen aka #PowerStrip
I felt very at home with everyone at Blue Canoe and I started to brainstorm ideas. Yes friends, while most people have a few drinks and relax, I get all markety in my head and conjure up new business ventures. Ask anyone who has traveled with me, and they will testify-- as the hour draws late, or if I am lulled into in a place of contentment from fabulous food and wine-- I start riffing marketing ideas like a monkey on crack.

Chef Ibarra was great fun and a good sport for agreeing to pose in our signature road trip glasses. He was so laid back and charming, I was thinking he would make a terrific TV personality and should have his own cooking show. Blue Canoe could dock a nice tricked out house boat next to the restaurant where guests could hang out and kick back as he prepared a fresh catch of the day for the cameras and audience at home. I think the show should be called Houseboat Chef!  Remember, you heard it here first.

The NWRoadtrip Travel posse with Chef Ibarra in the center
Have no idea who these people are. 
The beauty of visiting Richmond or Vancouver, B.C is the East meets West aspect. If you are hankering for the flavors of the far east you can find it in Richmond. When you desire some excellent seafood in a casual setting, head west to Steveston Village. And remember, if you do go to Blue Canoe, keep an eye peeled for a houseboat docked nearby. Tell Danilo I say hello.

** DISCLOSURE: See here for previous sponsorship verbiage on this trip, but I’d like to add to the disclosure that while our meal at Blue Canoe was sponsored by Richmond Tourism, the camaraderie and rapport we established with Chef Danilo Ibarra, and our server Bonnie, was completely spontaneous and generated entirely on our own. **

Blue Canoe
3866 Bayview Street #140

Follow Chef Danilo Ibarra on Twitter

Monday, June 17, 2013

Finding Foodie Heaven in Richmond, B.C -- Part 1 #NWRoadtrip

The #NWRoadTrip Posse --RAAWWRR!

Here is the first installment on my road trip to WBC13 in Penticton that I embarked on with fellow travel writers and wine bloggers, Kristen Kearns and Mattie Bamman shown above.

Upon arrival we answered a few questions from the border patrol about the nature of our trip:
“What brings you to Canada?”
"We're wine bloggers!"
"What's that?"
"Um, you know we write, on blogs."
"That's a job?"
"Well actually, we are also travel journalists on assignment. Our first stop is in Richmond."
"Okay, that’s good. Welcome to Canada. Drive on.”
( And no, we were not wearing our #NWroadtrip glasses at the time, we are not complete fools.)


My first impression of Richmond was it appeared very clean and compact and everyone drove a BMW or Mercedes. I really did not know what to expect aside from the fact it’s one of the largest Chinatowns in North America and it’s population is 65% Asian. But, I'm a big fan of Lindsay Anderson and her blog, 365 Days of Dining, about the Richmond food scene so I knew there were culinary delights in Richmond to be discovered. Ironically we arrived just two days before her amazing year of blogging came to a close.

We checked into the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel which is well located in the Golden Village city center. Great parks and public transport are all within a few minutes walking distance, so it’s a good place to base your visit and explore by foot.

Our concierge at the Sheraton was helpful with directions, but we still got lost walking to Vivacity Restaurant, and ended up in an alley between an auto parts store, a martial arts studio and the back entrance of a big crazy discount store, called Big Crazy Discount Store of course.

But getting lost is part of the charm of discovering any new area. Incidentally, I must say I felt 100% safe walking around, perhaps there are some dodgy areas of Richmond, but I never came across them.

When we found Viviacity, tucked into one of the countless strip malls of the area, I was relieved to see the Richmond 365 sticker on the door that designated the restaurant as one Lindsay had given high marks. Frankly, I don’t eat Chinese food very often. Pretty much never. I was slightly worried as I am highly sensitive to MSG. So, yes, I wanted to have an authentic dining experience, but not at the cost of an authentic migraine. We ordered the King Crab as it was in season and came highly recommend. Prior to our order being placed, the Crab was brought out to meet us. It was enourmous.

Right before our host carted Mr. King Crab away I eked out--“Um, No MSG? Okay?” and he looked a bit surprised and then replied "Okay, we prepare without.” I later found out they don't generally use MSG anyway, so that may be why he looked surprised by my request.

I felt kind of bad about seeing the crab alive and thinking it was begging us not to eat it, but you know, once it arrived and I tasted it’s tender flesh, I forgot all about it staring at me.

The crab was prepared three ways. Steamed, with garlic and scallions. The scent was heavenly.

Curried, with rice served in the crab shell that appeared to be the size of a football helmet.

And deep fried, with salt and pepper and thinly sliced jalapeno.

All crab photos courtesy of Mattie Bamman

I loved the salt and pepper style. It was crisp and crunchy on the outside, with succulent hunks of rich and flaky-white meat on the inside. It was so perfectly flash fried without a trace of oil or grease whatsoever and delicately seasoned. The fried slices of garlic snapped like tiny potato chips. I rated it Two Yums Up.

I noticed that everyone else in the restaurant had boxes stacked on their table and it was obvious that part of the dining experience was the sizable take home portion of the meal. Our host’s face dropped when we declined to have him wrap up the remains and then we realized we had refrigerators back in our rooms, so we asked to take it with us it and it made him so happy. Plus, I figured, if we got lost walking back, at least we would have food.

That said, we were about the only people on foot in the area, but it allowed us to discover places like this--Super Bored -- which despite our expressions, we were not bored to be there in the least.

Photo credit: Mattie Bamman

It was super weird in parts of Richmond, yes, but I guarantee you, if you visit, you will not be Super Bored. Quite the contrary. It’s like landing on another planet. A planet where all the good stuff to eat is hidden in plain-sight. So wander about, poke around, follow your nose, do NOT judge a restaurant by it’s location, and you will have a great time in this curiously delicious place called Richmond, B.C.

My recommendation to foodies visiting Richmond is consult the Richmond 365 Blog website to determine what style of food you are seeking and follow Lindsay’s suggestions.

Note: You can find Matties perspective on the same meal here.

NEXT UP: Spot Prawns at Blue Canoe with Chef Ibarra in Steveston Village, Richmond,B.C.

Richmond 365 Days of Dining

Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel
7551 Wsestminster Highway
Richmond, B.C.

8351 Alexandra Road
Richmond, B.C.

DISCLOSURE: I sought assistance from Richmond Tourism with some details of the trip described above including lodging and two meals at dining establishments that I specifically requested. I rode in a car owned by Kristen Kearns and paid for one tank of gas with my own money because that’s what you do on a road trip-- you share expenses with your travel companions. I drove approximately one-third of the way from Richmond, B.C. to Oliver, B.C. and was glad to do so because frankly, Mattie Bamman drives way the hell too fast, and like most men would rather drive in circles forever than ask for directions. {Just kidding Mattie, ya know I love you.} All opinions, reviews, and remarks--favorable or otherwise, are my own and the content above has not been vetted or approved by any tourism entity or other person that might in some way benefit from my account of the events. Okay? Okay!


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