Tim Pawsey likes to say that he’s been writing about food and wine for 25 kilos. That badge of honour wasn’t achieved overnight: he has worked as a wine, food and travel writer for 25 years to get there. A longtime resident of Vancouver’s West End, he specializes in B.C. cuisine, but has been known to dip into other areas of Canada and—in terms of wine, especially—around the globe.
Tim’s food-and-wine-writing career started with a bang: a three-month race around the world with Charles Heidsieck Champagne. Today, Tim frequently judges wine competitions (such as the Okanagan Wine Festival) and is a frequent contributor to Where Vancouver magazine.
Next up on his agenda of culinary adventures? Visits to wine hot spots Chile and Argentina this fall.
For those of us who like to travel specifically to eat, what are some of the most exciting food and wine towns outside of Victoria and Vancouver to visit now in southern B.C.?
The Okanagan is really coming into its own. There’s excellent, locally focused dining to be had from north to south, at the wineries and beyond. Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro (in Oliver, run by Manuel Ferreira of Vancouver’s Le Gavroche) and Quails Gate’s Old Vines (Westbank) are two musts but so too is Waterfront Wine Bar (Kelowna) and several others. Wine country has no shortage of good tasting rooms and dining, from Nk’Mip in the south to Gray Monk up north.
Where do you like to take visitors to Vancouver for something quintessentially West Coast?
Go Fish, on False Creek. Dim sum at Sun Sui Wah or Fisherman’s Terrace (Richmond).
Are there any underrated places in Vancouver that deserve more attention?
Yes, a ton of them! Cibo Trattoria, some of the best Italian food in the city; Provence Marinaside for fresh seafood (great breakfasts, too!); also Mistral for a tucked-away lunch; Hamilton Street Grill for steak; Flying Pig for a fun, casual in Yaletown; La Brasserie and Le Parisien, two excellent little West End bistros; and many more!
What do you think are some of the most exciting things happening in the Vancouver restaurant scene now?
I love the East Side revival that’s happening, with the arrival of places like The Union, Red Dragon, Two Chefs and a Table and Au Petit Chavignol. Gastown now competes with Yaletown for good eats, which wasn’t the case a few years back.
I know it’s hard to choose favourites, but where in Vancouver would you most highly recommend for:
…a waterfront meal?
Raincity Grill, home of the 100 Mile Diet and still the definitive West Coast experience, right on English Bay.
…a great wine list?
It’s now more about food and wine matching than how big your cellar is. Boneta’s Neil Ingram always has interesting finds; Chambar’s Robert Stelmachuk offers flights; and Hawksworth has an impressive wine program with a Cruvinet nitrogen wine preserving system for premium drops by the glass. (If don’t have strong wines by the glass in Vancouver, you’re not going to cut it.)
…a quick, inexpensive lunch?
Meat & Bread: two locations, communal table, über sandwich bar with four types on offer but the porchetta rules!
…a dinner worth its outrageous price?
Cioppino’s. Expensive rather than outrageous. Go next door to more casual Enotecca if you’re worried about the cost.
What new trends are you seeing with B.C. wineries?
Pushing boundaries in so many ways. We now have people trialling Spanish varieties like Tempranillo and Albariño, while the small but growing number of wineries establishing outside the Okanagan (Lillooet, Kamloops, Creston, Comox) suggests there’s lots of potential—and affordable land.
For a visitor with just one day to spend in the Okanagan, which wineries would you recommend touring and why?
Naramata Bench (15 minutes from Penticton Airport) has an appealing cross section of wineries, almost all of which have incredible lake views. My “don’t miss tasting list” would include Laughing Stock, Nichol, La Frenz, Poplar Grove, Elephant Island (for remarkable fruit wines), plus a quick hop a few kilometres south to Skaha Bluffs where you’ll find Painted Rock and Pentage.
What are the must-try wine varieties in the Okanagan?
Too many to mention, but Syrah, from the south valley, definitely, plus Cabernet Franc. Riesling (Tantalus, Intrigue, Quails Gate, Cedar Creek, Wild Goose). BC makes great cool climate Germanics (Gewurz, for example) that work beautifully with Asian-influenced cuisine. And in many cases the vines date from the ’70s, as it was those varieties, pioneered by folks like Gray Monk, that helped put B.C. on the map in the first place.
What are some food or drink items visitors won’t find elsewhere that they should take home from a southern B.C. trip?
Well, B.C. wine, definitely! And salmon, smoked or fresh whole. I love Hardy Buoys hot smoked salmon candy, which is widely available throughout the Lower Mainland. Several places on Granville Island will pack whole fish for air and Edible Canada at the Market has a formidable lineup of everything from smoked Albacore to hard-to-find Venturi Schulze balsamic vinegar. I’d take live Dungeness crab home too. But they can be tricky to pack…