10 Farm-To-Table Restaurants In Vancouver, Canada

During a recent visit to Vancouver, Canada, it was apparent many restaurants are trying to create sustainable, farm-to-table menus. It’s a great city if you’re an eco-conscious traveler due to the many options for any price level. To help guide you, here are some top picks for morally conscious cuisine in Vancouver.

Diva at the Met
645 Howe Street

I’m not sure there are any other restaurants in the city that take creative sustainability to the level Diva at the Met does. Chef Hamid Salimian and his team enjoy foraging when they can, even for the organic matters like stones, driftwood and torched bark that make up the snack plates. Chef Salimian visualizes what most can not even fathom, while remaining as organic as possible. For example, a slice of chicken bacon from a biodiverse farm might be brined and smoked for days and come on a stone slab, while a squid ink-infused mussel bread will be topped with roe and made to look like coral. Seafood comes from Ocean Wise-certified providers, while produce comes from farms with high crop biodiversity. In terms of farms, most of their produce comes from North Arm Farm, Sapo Bravo, Glourish Organics and Cherry Lane Farm. Although an upscale restaurant, meals can be affordable, with prices ranging from $19 to $38 for an entree, to the five-course tasting menu at $55 and the seven-course tasting menu at $75.Cibo Trattoria
900 Seymour Street

Like Diva at the Met, Cibo Trattoria immerses you in a relaxed, romantic ambiance. However, while Diva focuses on surreal gastronomy, Cibo Trattoria serves up rustic Italian fare with a modern twist. What’s really interesting at this venue is they change their menu daily, focusing on what’s fresh and in-season. While certain meats and cheeses come from Italy to get authenticity, much of their ingredients are locally sourced from British Columbia farms, with deliveries coming daily. For example, their radishes come from Aldergrove while their watercress is purchased from Hannah Brooks Farm in Langley. Typical dishes may include a handmade paccheri pasta with meatballs, oregano, San Marzano tomatoes and ricotta salada, crispy ox tongue with marinated heirloom peppers or roast bone marrow garlic and parsley bread crumbs and apple salad. They also do seasonally inspired dishes for fresh ingredients, like pumpkin ravioli with chili, garlic, marjoram and amaretti. You can sample local wines from the Okanagan and Fraser valleys. And although they have to reprint their menus daily, all printouts are done on recycled paper, which is also recycled after use. The menu includes affordable small plates as well as pastas for about $15 and entrees for less than $30.

C Restaurant
1600 Howe Street

As the founding restaurant in the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Program, C Restaurant was one of the first in Vancouver to deconstruct seafood supply lines, dealing directly with the fisherman to ensure a product that is of the highest quality and ethical sensitivity. Since the restaurant focuses on seasonal freshness, there really isn’t a signature dish. Instead, its signature is to utilize sustainable seafood and local produce as much as possible. Not only is their food sustainable, but their wine program features vintages from British Columbia’s Okanagan Region, as well as global wines made with an organic and biodynamic philosophy. The restaurant is contemporary, with entrees averaging $30.

Juno Vancouver Sushi Bistro
572 Davie Street

You don’t need to eat at an upscale restaurant to enjoy a sustainable meal. And with Vancouver having myriad sushi establishments, it would be wrong not to include one on this list. Located in Yaletown, Juno Vancouver Sushi Bistro doesn’t simply churn out rolls, they focus on high-quality cuisine and fresh ingredients, employing only serious Japanese chefs. Ingredients include wild seafood, natural beef, free-range chicken and heritage KUROBUTA pork, all locally-sourced from British Columbia farms. If you’re in the mood for a local drink, Juno serves sakes from the Granville Island Artisan Sake Maker and BC “Vintners Quality Alliance” (VQA) wines.

Raincity Grill
1193 Denman Street

This high-end restaurant opened in 1992 with a menu that featured locally-sourced food. Eventually, Raincity Grill also added their signature 100-mile menu, which showcased items with ingredients from within 100-miles of Vancouver.

“Our menu is a tribute to the local farmers, fisherman and producers of British Columbia,” it states on their homepage. “The Chef sources out the best organic, sustainable products available … ‘Farm-to-table’ has become a recent catchphrase but at Raincity Grill it has been a philosophy for twenty years.”

Some specific sustainable menu items include “Brioche French Toast” with Fraser Valley compote and house-made huckleberry syrup, a “Spinach And Berry” salad with North Arm Farm spinach, local berries and Okanagan goat’s cheese and “Fraser Valley Duck Breast” with wild coastal huckleberries. If you’re on a budget, check out their $10 fish and chips window. Libations are also in line with their ‘go local’ philosophy, as the restaurant serves wines from the Pacific West Coast.

Edible Canada Bistro
1596 Johnston Street

Located on Granville Island, Edible Canada‘s bistro does an excellent job of supporting the farm-to-feast philosophy. While their food is fresh and locally grown, even using onsite plant boxes of herbs and produce and making use of the adjacent public market, their efforts extend beyond eating. In fact, the venue features tabletops made of recycled fir tree, hostess stands created with discarded beach cedar and two complimentary charging stations for electric vehicles. As for drinks, they’re spearheading the revolution of offering wine on tap, an environmentally-friendly way to serve vino as it eliminates the packaging and, because 27% of glass is recovered for recycling, stops millions of bottles from going to the landfill. Menu items range from $11 to $28, while their bacon window also offers inexpensive eats.

The Templeton
1087 Granville Street

Located in Vancouver’s lively entertainment district, The Templeton is an old-fashioned retro diner serving comfort food in a sustainable way. Most ingredients are organic and locally sourced, and there are an array of vegetarian and vegan options, like lentil loaf, tofu omelets, Portobello mushroom burgers and veggie bacon. If you’re a carnivore, The Templeton features organic, free-range and non-medicated meats. Best of all, this venue is cheap to moderately priced with $10 burgers, $10 fish and chips and $16 steaks. Finish it off with a $5 deep-fried Mars bar.

Trafalgar’s Bistro
2603 West 16th Avenue

Trafalgars Bistro and adjacent Sweet Obsession bakery in Kitsilano are pioneers when it comes to sustainability. In the summer of 2011, the venues launched a recycling and composting initiative that was the first of its kind by installing a Green Good composting system. By doing this, they were able to eliminate all organic waste going to landfill, with 99% of the remaining trash being recycled. Additionally, their strong association with Inner City Farms means they can make use of their compost in Vancouver’s urban gardens. In terms of food, their seafood is certified Ocean Wise, all meats are unmedicated and free-range and produce is almost always locally sourced. While the ambiance suggests fine dining, it’s actually a casual and affordable place to eat, with entrees ranging from $17 to $30 and a three-course menu for $30.

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton Street

Located in Yaletown, the casual yet elegant Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar has always focused on farm-to-table and ocean-to-table. All seafood is delivered to their kitchen daily and only the absolute freshest, exceptional quality fish and shellfish are selected. Most of them are line caught, trap caught or sustainably farmed in British Columbia. During the month of February, they even feature an annual Unsung Heroes Festival, which introduces diners to new experiences and flavors using abundant fish species, showcasing to people options other than over-fished varieties. It’s no surprise the establishment is Ocean Wise, with swimming scallops from the Gulf Islands, Kusshi oysters and Reed oysters from B.C. and sustainably-farmed sturgeon from Sechelt. A typical entree is about $34.

La Pentola
322 Davie Street

Recently opened in September 2012, La Pentola serves up gourmet Italian dishes while also incorporating the Italian philosophy to source locally. In Italy, the regions are diverse because specific ingredients are important to different areas. Additionally, there are a vast amount of quality, artisanal products and farms around Vancouver, which La Pentola makes use of by working with them to create their dishes. For example, the restaurant uses squab from local livestock farms. Their dish has a sauce made from grapes, and a walla walla onion puree where both ingredients come from local Stoney Paradise Farm. To La Pentola, being cutting edge also means holding yourself accountable to the environment and the community. Expect to pay about $6 to $17 for a starter, $12/$13 for a pasta and $30 for an entree.

[Images via Diva at the Met, C Restaurant, Raincity Grill, The Templeton, Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar]

10 Best Underground Bars In New York

New York
offers many experiences for the traveler looking for a quality libation. As the weather gets colder and the streets get more crowded, try warming up away from the masses at one of these cozy, underground spaces.

The Vault At Pfaff’s
643 Broadway

Located underground at Broadway and Bleecker in NoHo, The Vault at Pfaff’s is a neighborhood bar and lounge inspired by Charles Pfaff’s original beer cellar. The space played host to numerous actors and literary legends in the 1850s, such as Walt Whitman and Mark Twain. The bar pays homage to its history with refined touches like menus on newsprint, while also keeping the space modern with stylish interiors. On the menu, expect handcrafted cocktails, world-class wines, Champagne, beer and upscale bar bites like mahi mahi ceviche, filet mignon medallions and truffle mac and cheese.Village Vanguard
178 7th Avenue South

Located in Greenwich Village, Village Vanguard is a small underground bar and jazz club with much history. Since its birth in 1935, big name musicians have come here to play – and still do – and you’ll see their photos adorning the walls of the small but cozy venue. Village Vanguard was also the recording space for many important live jazz albums, like Bill Evans’ “Sunday at The Village Vanguard,” John Coltrane’s experimental Vanguard recordings from the late 1960s and Jason Moran’s “The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard.”

201 Park Avenue South

Previously called Underbar, Lilium is located underneath the W Hotel-Union Square. Inspired by the detailed appearance of a cave of wild lilies, the 1,600-square-foot space features a twisted metal ceiling that descends down the wall and complements the myriad black steel lilies. Along with an interesting decor that plays on nature, guests can enjoy craft beers, classic cocktails and small-batch spirits like Kings County, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Woodford Reserve and Elijah Craig.

281 Lafayette Street

Pravda is an underground Russian bistro caviar bar serving handcrafted cocktails and martinis. It’s one of the larger and more pristine underground spaces in the city, with classy, modern decor. From the food menu, items like caviar with blini, potato pancakes with smoked salmon and chicken kiev add to the Russian experience. In terms of drinks, they serve beer, wine, cocktails and feature over 70 different vodkas including 10 that are house-infused flavors.

The Bar Downstairs
485 5th Avenue

Located in the cellar level of the Andaz Fifth Avenue hotel, The Bar Downstairs is a dimly lit space serving up pre-Prohibition style libations and upscale tapas. The space takes on a cozy yet social ambiance, with two Claro Walnut bars, an open kitchen, communal tables and over-sized banquettes.

124 Old Rabbit Club
124 MacDougal Street

This secret underground bar is a beer-lover’s haven. With more than 70 brews on the menu, 124 Old Rabbit Club is frequented by more locals than tourists. Immersing drinkers in a speakeasy-like atmosphere, the space is like a dimly lit cave with quality service, rare beers and a small wine selection. To enter, walk down the metal stairs until you find the black door with a white stenciled “124” and spray-painted bunny. If the door is closed, you can ring the buzzer to be let in.

The Tippler
West 15th Street

Tucked beneath Chelsea Market you’ll find The Tippler, a historical space featuring locally salvaged artifacts like reclaimed water tower wood and train rails from the High Line park. The venue has a speakeasy-feel, with bartenders serving made-to-perfection cocktails that often take on an international twist. Try “The Crippler,” made with WhistlePig rye, J.M overproof rhum, Stroh Jagertee, Fidencio mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse and bbq bitters, “Diego’s Donkey,” a blend of Barsol pisco, lime, ginger and Peruvian bitters or the “Caipisutra,” made with Mãe de Ouro cachaça, pineapple, grapefruit peel, lime and garam masala.

The Cabin Down Below
110 Avenue A

The Cabin Down Below is not only located underground, but was once one of the East Village’s best kept secrets, although over the years it has become a local favorite. Decorated to look like a friend’s basement, the laid-back space draws a crowd of elite hipsters, one-hit-wonders and rock ‘n’ roll band members. To access the bar, which is located underneath Niagara and Black Market, enter through the Seventh Street alleyway. You’ll see a black door and metal staircase that will lead you down the backside of the restaurant to the bar.

Jimmy’s No. 43
43 East 7th Street

Jimmy’s No. 43 is an underground beer bar and restaurant in the East Village. Renowned for its thoughtful selection of tap, bottled and canned beers, you can order interesting brews like Butternuts Beaver Pond, Evil Twin Before, During & After and Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale. Additionally, the relaxed, community atmosphere and welcoming staff, including the notoriously friendly owner, Jimmy Carbone, make this a local favorite.

Sake Bar Hagi
152 W. 49th Street

An izakaya, or Japanese pub, Sake Bar Hagi offers unusual tapas as well as a wide selection of, you guessed it, sake. Though the service can be a bit slow, be patient, izakayas are focused around socializing and the food and libations are worth the wait. Also, you may pass the venue a few times before you find it due to the fact you’ll only see a small sign with steep steps leading down into a vibrant, friendly space hidden from view.

What’s your favorite underground bar in New York?

[Images via The Vault at Pfaff’s, Lilium, The Bar Downstairs, The Tippler, Jimmy’s No 43]

3 Stand-Out Sushi Restaurants In Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada, is filled with restaurants serving Asian cuisine, especially sushi. With hundreds of these types of venues sprawled across the city, it can be difficult to choose where to go. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, try one of these stand-out sushi restaurants in Vancouver.

Let’s Roll
104-1184 Denman Street

Located in Vancouver’s West End, Let’s Roll allows sushi lovers to make their own rolls. The process takes five steps. First, choose whether you want traditional seaweed or modern soy as your wrap. Next, decide between white, green or mixed grain rice. Once this is done, you’re on to the best part: stuffing your roll. You can choose two vegetables and two meats from a colorful showcase of items like salmon, tuna, avocado, prawn tempura, crab, beef, cucumber, spinach and more. Then, it’s time to select two toppings from conventional choices like fake crab and tempura flakes or unusual items like potato chips. When you’re finished, pick your sauces and you’re good to go. Remember, this isn’t traditional Japanese style, and the rolls you’ll make are huge. That being said, all ingredients are fresh, it’s fun and you’ll get exactly what you want.The Eatery
3431 West Broadway

The Eatery is unofficially Vancouver’s funkiest sushi restaurant. Located in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver, it’s been serving quirky Japanese fare since 1983. Signs reading “Funky Sushi” and an Astro Boy logo adorn the facade, while inside electronic music fills the air. The main attraction on the quirky cartoon-covered menu is the innovative rolls, although there are traditional-style options for those who want them. Some interesting fare includes the “Miss Piggy Roll,” which has bacon, scallops, asparagus, roe and unagi sauce, the “Found Nemo” roll, with crab tempura, asparagus and avocado wrapped with seared salmon or the “Volcano” roll, which has salmon, tuna, scallops and avocado on a bed of spicy crab meat. Expect fun roll names like “Erotica Roll,” “Italian Stallion” and the “S&S Roll,” as this is one of the sexiest sushi venues in Vancouver. You can also go here for a fun night out, as it’s more of an eclectic restaurant and bar then a quick sushi stop.

Juno Vancouver Sushi Bistro
572 Davie Street

Although you’ll find a plethora of sushi restaurants in Vancouver, most of them are quickly churning out rolls without thinking about quality or fresh ingredients. That’s where Yaletown’s Juno Vancouver Sushi Bistro differs. I’m a big sushi fan, and I found this place by asking numerous chefs, managers and wait staff at local restaurants where I could get the best sushi in the city. It was almost unanimous that Juno was the best. This place employs serious Japanese chefs who are committed to making the highest quality sushi rolls possible. My main reason for recommending Juno is they’re also sustainable. Ingredients include wild seafood, natural beef, free range chicken and heritage KUROBUTA pork, all locally-sourced from British Columbia farms. This is also a good place to try local libations, as Juno serves sakes from the Granville Island Artisan Sake Maker and BC “Vintners Quality Alliance” (VQA) wines.

[Image via Shutterstock]

6 Boston Bars That Transport You To Other Places

There are myriad bars you can go to if you just want a decent atmosphere and drinks. On a recent trip to Boston, however, I learned there are many bars that are more than they appear on the outside. On your next trip to the city, make sure to check out some of these bars and restaurants that transport you to other places.

The Hawthorne
500A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

The Hotel Commonwealth is a great home base for bar hopping, as it houses three of the best classic cocktail bars in the city. However, its newest venue, The Hawthorne, takes this one step further by creating an ambiance of sophisticated comfort. As you walk in, you’ll immediately be transported to an upscale urban apartment. Oversized couches, wingback chairs, highly curated art and photography and jam-packed bookshelves transform this cocktail lounge into feeling like a classy cocktail party. Look closer at one of the bookcases, and you’ll notice it’s not just books in there, but some of Bar Manager Jackson Cannon’s favorite things, like his favorite spirits line and personal glassware. You can tell they pay attention to detail at The Hawthorne, and this continues to the bar, where Head Bartender Nicole Lebedevitch and staff craft classic cocktails with the precision of a scientist. Expect international and hard-to-find spirits and ingredients.

What To Drink: A “Phil Collins,” which has cucumber vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, yellow chartreuse and dash of cranberry bitters, or a “Dutch Oven,” made with Barrel Aged Bols Genever, 2 sugar cubes, 3 dashes regans orange bitters and soda water.

Island Creek Oyster Bar
500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

Also located at the Hotel Commwealth is Island Creek Oyster Bar (ICOB), which is a “collaboration joining farmer, chef, and diner in one space.” The restaurant brings elements of the Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury to restaurant guests, without any mess. In fact, ICOB is designed in a pristine white, with Gabion cages filled with tens of thousands of oyster shells making the three-dimensional walls. Additionally, reclaimed Wyoming snow fence is used to create the shutters, and wood from a restored Vermont farmhouse has been refurbished to build the wainscoting. When ordering from the menu, you’ll notice the names of small farms, each specializing in aquaculture, carefully listed next to each dish. This bar also takes a classic cocktail way of thinking, but with a local and seasonally inspired twist.

What To Drink: A “Snug Harbor Mash,” featuring crushed lime, Rich Demerara and ICOB’s house 4 Rum Blend, or an “ICOB Pilsner,” an exclusive pilsner brewed with jasmine and orange peel, and designed to be the ideal accompaniment to fried fare and shellfish.

The Back Deck
2 West Street, Boston

At the Back Deck, guests are transported to a backyard barbeque, although with more polish than sitting at a splintered picnic table. The design of the venue brings the outdoors inside, featuring three distinct backyard-inspired deck spaces bordered by walls of sliding floor-to-ceiling windows. Chefs employ the use of three high quality grills, The Woodshow Broiler, the restaurant’s biggest grill, The Montague Charcoal Broiler, used for “low and slow” cooked items and Mt. St. Helens Shallow-Box Charbroiler, the professional version of the charcoal grill. Only Hardwood charcoal is used, as it gives the cuisine a rich, smoky flavor and also allows food to sear better and stick less. At the bar, refreshing punches and coolers will transport you to summer, no matter what season it is.

What To Drink: A “West St. Cooler,” which contains watermelon, Ragged Mountain Rum, a hint of Aperol and a splash of soda, or a “Ginger Arnold Palmer,” made with lemonade and iced tea spiked with Berkshire Bourbon and a touch of Canton ginger.

Uni Sashimi Bar
370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

While most sushi restaurants can help give you a quick Japanese experience, Uni Sashimi Bar will immerse you in all the country has to offer and more. In an intimate space, guests can enjoy innovative sashimi, a range of traditional Asian street food items and late-night Ramen. In fact, their fresh seafood is shipped overnight from Tokyo’s Tskuji market. Diners can sample famous street food items like pork belly steam buns and vegetable tempura. While you can order typical Japanese dishes and chefs incorporate traditional sushi practices, they also put an avant-garde twist on many of the selections, like combining salmon with fermented black beans and ginger, or Japanese Striped Bass with chestnut ash, roasted Brussel sprout leaves and pickled kumquats. At the bar, expect an extensive Sake menu, with headings like “traditional,” “seasonal,” “rich” and “fragrant.” Sake cocktails, Asian-inspired drinks and fusion libations are also on the menu.

What To Drink: “Sun Rising,” a mixture of Yamazaki 12 whiskey, plum sake, pear sake, Cherry Heering, orange juice and lemon juice, or “Young’s Sangria,” made with plum sake, pear sake, Churchill white port, lime juice and orange juice.

Union Oyster House
41 Union Street, Boston

While you’ll still be in a restaurant, Union Oyster House leaves guests overwhelmed with nostalgia as they dine in America’s oldest restaurant in continuous service. Established in 1826 as a restaurant, the building itself has stood as an iconic Boston landmark for over 250 years. Diners can still enjoy Union Oyster House‘s heritage, and take a peek back in time with old-fashioned tavern decor, dim lighting, weathered wood, old newspaper clippings and photographs, timeless portraits and antique furnishings. You’ll get cornbread with every meal, lobsters right from the tank, heaping bowls of chowder and fresh seafood cooked just as it was years ago, without any fancy fusion or modern spinning. At the bar, they have an impressive selection of beers, which you can sip in a laid-back atmosphere while slurping back some oysters. This is where you’ll get the best service, and where you can watch shuckers in action while hearing their stories about life in Boston and the history of the restaurant.

What To Drink: The “Sam Adams Colonial Ale.” This American Amber beer has a malty flavor, notes of caramel and pairs well with seafood.

PARK Restaurant & Bar
59 JFK Street, Cambridge

Located in the Greater Boston Area, PARK Restaurant & Bar will make you believe you’re in an antique parlor. With vintage curios like antique typewriters, artwork and photography from the ’60s and ’70s, first edition books and local maps from the turn of the century, their cocktail den retains the atmosphere of your eccentric uncle’s sophisticated parlor room. The menu is comprised of “spirited interpretations of New American classics” like the “Meat Pie of the Day” and the “PARK Patty Melt.” To compliment the theme, the bar operates under a classic cocktail philosophy, using homemade syrups, infusions, tonics and bitters to make new and old favorites.

What To Drink: “The Fireside Poet,” which is a blend of Bulleit Bourbon, Creole Shrubb, Santa Maria del Monte and Marasche Syrup or the “Old Cuban,” which has Barbancourt 5 Star Rum, Lime, Simple, Angostura Bitters, Mint and Cava.

Do you have a favorite bar in Boston that transports you to another place?

Restaurant Offers Diners Discount For Conversing

It’s not uncommon to be at a restaurant where patrons are texting on their phones, tweeting on their iPads and Skyping on their laptops. Well, one Los Angeles restaurant has had enough of people going out together, only to not even converse with each other. In fact, Eva Restaurant Los Angeles is offering a 5 percent discount to diners who leave their cellphones with staff while seated.

On Tuesday, owner Mark Gold told KPCC Radio he hopes the policy will create an environment where diners can interact without the interference of technology. Gold also added the initiative was not implemented to satisfy patrons who get annoyed by the noise and light of smartphones.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the discount is offered to guests when they are seated by staff. So far, nearly half have taken advantage of the offer, many even expressing gratitude at the opportunity to disconnect from their cellphones.

While technology can be helpful for travelers, we’re hoping establishments continue to encourage socializing in real life and not just online.

What’s your opinion on restaurants encouraging diners to put away their cellphones?

[Image via Dan Zen]