B Love chef Heather Cunliffe lunches at Cosmo Meens' Hot and Cold Café in Cook Street Village.

M CHEF: Salad heaven

Tapping into Cook Street Village's comfort food at Hot and Cold Café with Heather Cunliffe

Cook Street Village doesn’t suffer from a shortage of food options.

Tucked in one of the many storefronts near Beacon Hill Park is Hot and Cold Café, a favourite haunt for Be Love chef Heather Cunliffe.

“This is the best place in my opinion,” she says in the small shop at 313 Cook.

Cunliffe and Hot and Cold owner/operator Cosmo Meens share a sensibility about food – “good food, locally sourced.”

“It’s just really unique,” she adds. “I can come here and get inspired. That means a lot, it gives me food for thought.”

She expects – and gets – original flavours and unexpected combinations.

Even as the server rattles off the salad special I can see the chef is sold, but peruses the menu, coming back to the original special. It is Divinity.

Add a creamy almond sandwich and the soup special – cajun split pea – and we’re set, taking a place at the community table for a brief moment before a small table opens nearby.

“I do tend to prefer vegan options. I find that’s where chefs have to be creative,” says the minimal meat eater as we wait. “I feel like I could eat anything on the menu here.”

The Divinity Salad is as promised: pea shoots burst from atop the artisan greens, an orange shot of carrots down one side, the purple of diced beets as backdrop for goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts. Another couple of hues come from the house-made “pink kraut,” avocado and cucumbers.

The slightly creamy pesto/maple/balsalmic dressing is “awesome,” Cunliffe says, shifting a second forkful of Divinity.

The salad she fell in love with upon ordering fulfills her wishes.

“It’s just so satisfying,” she says. “I love all of those things.”

I agree.

It should be too warm for hearty soup this time of year. The thick, organic cajun yellow split pea soup is warming, but not overly; a slight surprise on a classic Victoria day, featuring hot sun alternating with cool breezes as each cloud passes.

The soup comes with hunks of the sourdough focaccia Meens is known for.

The soup pairs perfectly with the sandwich, also on the famed focaccia, layered with creamy almond mayo, sprouts, avocado, tomato and cucumber with the same pea shoots on the much anticipated bread.

“They do nice combos here, which is really nice,” Cuniliffe says dipping her spoon back into the soup.

A cuppa soup and half a sandwich isn’t the source of the hot and cold name though, she points out a freezer to the side. You can snag a frozen container of the homemade soups to take home

 

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