SIDE DISH: Chantal Ireland

A Valentine’s Day that takes the cake

Falafel dish at Part and Parcel.

February is for love. Or snow, or Mexico, or longing for summer berries – whichever you prefer. I’m one of those people now, declaring my love and staring blissfully (most of the time) across the table at him. But once I threw an anti-Valentine party, guests had to bring chocolate, or red food, or booze. We were single, 20-something and had a good laugh. Now in my ripe old mid-30s, and madly in love, that old party sounds like a great menu challenge.

So skip it (we pretty much do), or go all out, there’s plenty of options for the 14th. If you’re staying in, use a local cookbook and make a new dish. Try The Deerholme Vegetable Cookbook by Bill Jones or The Dirty Apron Cookbook by David Robertson.

If you’re heading out, The Bengal Lounge at The Empress Hotel closes April 30 for a massive renovation at the hotel. Grab a cocktail and toast the end of an era. I recently went to Bodega for the first time, a tapas and wine bar at 1210 Broad, little sister to Tapa Bar in Trounce Alley. Go for happy hour and try almost any of their extensive sherry offerings for $5, get a pincho (bite sized taster) too.

Part and Parcel at 2656 Quadra has a rotating menu in a small room that’s bright, cozy and seemingly filled with local chefs. An emphasis on whole beast means you’ll find dishes like duck neck ragu, and they do have a great selection of fresh salads and vegetarian dishes too. I had the falafel dish and a side of Moroccan fries, both were great. The falafel was served on a beautiful ceramic plate made by an employee and local ceramic artist Amanda Marie. Her pieces are available online and at a few retailers around town.

If you’re looking for sweets, Ruth & Dean at 1310 Douglas have gorgeous cakes and pies to order, or stop in late in the week to get cake by the slice. The three tier Earl Grey lavender buttercream was divine. Pure Vanilla Bakery has a great selection of cakes and cookies, Fry’s Bread has wood oven baked pastries, and Sirene Artisan Chocolate Makers are a local bean to bar company who sell their bars online, in cafés, and at specialty retailers. Embracing Valentine’s Day or shunning it by eating the cake by yourself, send me a tweet and tell me if you found a new favourite.

Try it, you’ll like it:

• Oatmeal Spice stuffed cookie at Ruth & Dean, $3.15

Liquidity Wines, a great winery in Okanagan falls, White Blend, available at Spinnakers Spirit Merchants. This Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris blend does well with food (I loved it in and with a gravy I made with sage, rosemary, and garlic with wine, chicken stock and cream, over pork tenderloin), or alone. About $22.

Blood oranges. I’ve turned them into a cake, an ice cream, juice for adding to sparkling water or cocktails. Beautifully fragrant and brilliant in colour.

 

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