Tag Archives: #Canada

Blue Water Cafe: An iconic seafood restaurant in Vancouver, BC’s Yaletown

When visiting a new city for the first time, any foodie’s first question is, “Where do I eat?” I rely on cross-referencing friends’ recommendations with Trip Advisor and Yelp so I ensure I go to places locals would eat and not the easy, middle of the road places that happen to be popular. My first meal stop proved to a tough decision, but I ultimately chose Blue Water Cafe in the city’s Yaletown neighborhood. It was a great introduction to Vancouver’s Pacific Rim fusion cuisine and British Columbia’s burgeoning wine industry.

Vancouver, like many cities along the Pacific Rim, has an immense seaport and is a great source of fresh seafood. Coupled with its heavy Asian cultural influence, it’s a destination for sushi lovers. 

Blue Water Cafe is one of Vancouver’s elegant sushi bars, and like famed sushi spot Miku, it features the unique Aburi style – the fish partly torch-seared or grilled rather than fully raw. Yet Blue Water Cafe is well known also for its raw bar with a seemingly endless selection of oysters, as well as its cooked dishes. Its menu is one designed to have something for everyone. As such, it was no surprise to see an array of business dinners, locals, and travelers alike. What appealed to me was the relative lack of tourists, since Yaletown is a bit off the beaten path from the downtown waterfront area housing the cruise ship terminal and most large hotels. Yet Yaletown is an easy and fairly safe 15-20 minute walk from those areas.

I dined on a Tuesday night, and the restaurant was packed indoors and out. I recommend securing a reservation if you are able. Flying solo, I preferred to wait for a seat to open up at the bar (I hate sitting at a table by myself and enjoy watching chefs and bartenders work, as well as the communal nature of bars. Yet even bar seating required a wait at 7:45 pm! I sat between U.K. and Australian accents during my wait, and the accommodating, friendly hostesses set us each up with a beverage from the extensive wine and spirits menu.

I am a huge proponent of going local, so I ended my British Columbia wine virginity with a Spotted Owl Sauvignon Blanc from the Okanagan Valley. I later learned that this winery is well-known and well-established in that region. I was not terribly impressed, however. It was dry, with an almost Old World minerality but lacking the complexity of a flinty Sancerre or the crisp citrus notes of a New World Marlborough that compliment spicy food so well. I’d pass on that in the future – at least without food.

To my delight, a seat opened up at the sushi bar, giving me a view of culinary art in progressed. The sushi chef, one of four working the counter, appeared mildly amused as I watched and photographed his handiwork while waiting for my food.

To start, I needed some healthy greens, and I opted for the server’s recommendation of the special summer salad and not the seasonal salad I originally craved. The special was comprised of mixed lettuces, celeriac, savory summer melon, blueberry, and cubes of barrel aged feta (the latter of which doesn’t have any perceptible difference from “regular” feta). I would have liked the melon to be a bit more ripe and sweet to provide more complexity and contrast of notes, but it was quite tasty with interesting textures.
I paired the salad with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut, a sparkling rosé of Pinot noir from the Okanagan Valley. I found this wine to be pleasing, but again lacking a bit of complexity and balance, but not all that far off from a solid Cremant de Loire or Bourgogne.

For my main course, I chose a yellowfin tuna seared rare with flecks of sea salt with baby Dino kale, a bean trio of edamame, white and black beans. It was served over a wonderfully Unami sweet onion purée and a tangy soy-balsamic reduction that somewhat resembled Worcestershire sauce with notes of tamarind. It was. A. Ma. Zing. It was the best seared tuna i’ve had since Waterbar. The accompaniments were harmonious and nicely balanced.

Ready for a red, I chose an Okanagan, single vineyard Desperation Hill Pinot noir, from La Frenz in the Naramata Bench. I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity of this wine, as its 50 degree latitude is on the northern end of wine-growing regions – and red varietals are notably inconsistent at extreme latitudes. This delicate fruitiness paired well with the tuna and its accompaniments. It was a course to remember.

In terms of other main courses, the Sablefish is the most popular and is great for summer poached in a light dashi-miso broth. The scallops with wild rice cakes smelled so amazing, I wanted some for myself. My sushi bar neighbors recommended both of these entrees.

I willed myself to skip dessert, but the restaurant makes the check a bit sweeter with a tiny cake duo. Tonight’s consisted of a poppyseed blueberry financier and “the world’s smallest carrot cake” with a dollop of berry buttercream. Both had lovely essences of orange and lemon zest. They were the perfect ending to a wonderful culinary welcome to Vancouver, BC.

This winter, try nature’s cure-alls: Sea Buckthorn and Chaga from our northern neighbors

What do the fruit of a shrub that grows in frozen desert (tundra) and a hard, ugly black fungus that thrives on birch trees have in common?

Aside from growing in northern latitudes, altitude, and their cold climates, both sea buckthorn and chaga are natural, homeopathic remedies well known throughout Russia and eastern Europe, and, increasingly, in Canada but are little known in the U.S. Read just a bit about the purported health benefits and symptoms these two plants are used to treat, and you will be as intrigued as I was when I discovered them.

Sea buckthorn in your dessert keeps the doctor away

During my trip to the Baltics, my group and I frequently noticed sea buckthorn was an ingredient in dishes, particularly desserts.  We finally Googled in our curiosity and were instantly hooked. The Interwebs are full of sites touting the amazing medicinal uses of sea buckthorn.  Sea buckthorn even has its own WebMD page.  Sea buckthorn grows in high-altitude, arid and cold climates, such as Russia, central Asia, and eastern Europe, historically, but in the past century, it was successfully transplanted to Saskatchewan, Canada. The woody plants have been planted to help control soil erosion, but it is the uses of bright yellow-orange fruit and seeds of the sea buckthorn fruit that excited me.  I found that it resembled somewhat persimmons or kumquats, but its skin is comparable to that of a tomato.  It is exceedingly tart – not the sort of fruit easily eaten without the addition of sugar or other complementary flavors.

Why the hype?

Sea buckthorn has a high concentration of flavonoids, vitamins (such as C and E), minerals and other nutrients.  It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.  Its fruit pulp, oils, and seed oils have been used to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal issues, ulcers, and acid reflux, as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol, countering the side effects of chemotherapy, and various skin rashes and disorders (ingested or applied topically as an ointment).  While in Estonia, one of my fellow travelers had a chronic case of acid reflux for six months; he had tried a number of medications and doctors’ visits in the U.S., but nothing seemed to work. He began taking a supplement of sea buckthorn daily, and within a week, he had a noticeable reduction in his symptoms.  Was it the placebo effect, or the sea buckthorn?  Long-term studies of the impact of sea buckthorn are scant, but short-term studies showed positive results.  Read a few summaries to get you started here.

Chaga – the fungus among us that cures

Chaga-rose hip cough syrup from The Farmer's Daughter in central Maine

Chaga-rose hip cough syrup from The Farmer’s Daughter in central Maine

During a trip to central Maine, I recently had my first encounter with chaga, a tough, dense, charcoal-colored fungus found on birch trees, throughout Russia, eastern Europe, Canada, and New England. After an unexpected coughing fit (hey, it was 0 degrees Fahrenheit/-18 Celsius – apparently entirely too cold for my already cold blood!),  a good friend suggested I try a locally made chaga cough syrup that also is used to boost immunity during the harsh winter months.  Within 30 minutes, I had stopped coughing.  I was so impressed I had to order it from The Farmer’s Daughter, the local business responsible for this great concoction – even better because it is homemade from whole ingredients, rather than manufactured commercially.  When I returned home, I did a little chaga research.  Like sea buckthorn, chaga is considered to possess anti-inflammatory properties has been a homeopathic remedy for a number of ailments, such as psoriasis; it allegedly inhibits cancer cell growth, and it can be used to treat allergies.  This article is an easy read that summarizes the immune-boosting properties of chaga.  Watch out; you may be hooked.

Where to buy them

If you live in Europe (yes, you probably wouldn’t need to read this post), then you can find sea buckthorn oil as a supplement at a standard pharmacy or Bio (natural/organic products store) or even as a featured ingredient on a restaurant menu.  If you’re in the USA, check out your local natural foods store, vitamin shop, or online supplier.  Chaga is a bit of an easier find than sea buckthorn, as several teas and supplement pills contain chaga or extractives of chaga, or Betulin, a key active ingredient in chaga.

Various  forms of chaga as an immune-boosting supplement in a standard American natural foods grocery.

Various forms of chaga as an immune-boosting supplement in a standard American natural foods grocery.


*Disclaimer: please consult with your qualified health professional before introducing these or any other supplement into your health regimen. Learn about potential side effects, including sea buckthorn’s anti-clotting properties (not unlike aspirin).