Following her culinary curiosity all the way to Varcaturo, Italy, Tiffany Hudson’s found herself learning dry farming and food preservation. More importantly, she discovered how a dinner can bring a community together. After coming back to the States, Tiffany teamed up with Chef Martin Woods whose resume includes serving as opening sous chef at Bastille as well as executive chef at Re:Public. Together, the two created Cassoulet Café, an eatery that serves seasonal French cuisine amid a communal table.
And the collaboration isn’t running short on admirers. Writer Sally Wolff for the Cascadia Weekly praised Cassoulet as “evok[ing] the atmosphere of a country kitchen in France” complete with “heavy plates of well-made food.” These ever-changing entrees have included bacon cinnamon rolls for brunch, ratatouille for lunch, and goat cheese pansotti pasta for dinner, accompanied by specialty cocktails and ciders. Chef Martin also serves up the restaurant’s signature French bean stew bursting with duck and house-cured pancetta.
Along with promoting conversation amongst diners, Cassoulet Café fosters green living. This includes using fresh ingredients from local farms as well as reducing their carbon footprint by 1,200 pounds of CO2 emission. That accomplishment earned the restaurant a 2012 Sustainable Practice Leader award from General Biodiesel, a company named after the first robot five-star general in U.S. history.
At Hillcrest Bakery & Deli, longtime head baker, David Moyer, and his staff handcraft meaty deli sandwiches on housemade bread, along with tiered wedding cakes, individual pizzas, and fresh vegetarian fare. The bakery makes all its confections from scratch—meaning patrons can customize cakes with a special design or an aesthetically pleasing squiggle. Diners who swing by for a midday soup-and-sandwich special can also treat their four-legged friends, as the bakery keeps a supply of snacks for dogs.
There are two ways to watch Heather White and Lori Joyce bake their preservative-free cupcakes from scratch. Guests can pop into one of their bakeries on the days the duo is in the shop or they can watch from the family room as the ladies craft desserts from basic ingredients on their TV show The Cupcake Girls.
It took time to build up the Cupcakes empire. What started as a teenage dream for the two friends seemed remote after they went their separate ways, one pursuing a degree in animal biology, the other working in the fashion industry. When the two reconnected later in New York City by a simple twist of fate, they realized they still pined for the possibility of owning a company together. They drew up the plans, packed their bags, charted a course back to Vancouver in a cupcake-shaped hot air balloon, and started their first store.
Today, inside their retro-style locations, bakers craft cupcakes made with real butter or design specialty cakes for all manner of noteworthy occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and parties thrown in honour of winning a national cupcake-eating contest.
A bakery outlet for Canada Bread Company Limited, McGavin's offers rows of loaves at wholesale prices. Fill bare cupboards or secret floorboard compartments with discount bread facing a dwindling shelf life, surplus bread from overzealous production lines, and fresh bread from local bakeries. McGavin's white or 100 per cent whole-wheat loaves (five loaves for $10.49) prove eminently slatherable. Other yeasty feasts include Dempster's Bagel six packs (three packs for $8.99), english muffin six packs (three packages for $6.99), and tortillas (three packages for $8.25). The popular discount special section, meanwhile, invites gluten gourmands to mix and match an ever-changing cast of short-dated dough bookends: every product, regardless of size, grain, or resemblance to Winston Churchill costs $1.39, and shoppers can mix and match an assortment of ten loaves for $12. Discount selections change daily and vary by location.
Catering to thirsty lips and empty stomachs, Wired Monk boasts a menu full of caffeinated beverages and delectable light meal options. Beat morning moodiness back into hibernation with hearty breakfast sandwiches and bagels, such as the bountiful breakfast bagel bedecked with egg, cheddar, ham, and tomato ($5.35), or rise like obedient dough to freshly made scones and muffins baked daily in-store. For lunchtime noshes with brawn, choose the chicken-cheddar-chutney panini ($8.95) or the fully stacked mediterranean-veggie sandwich ($7.95).
The warm aroma of freshly baked waffle cones envelops every nook and cranny of Marble Slab Creamery, revving up guests' senses with the promise of impending decadence. As the hand-rolled cones tan in their ovens, the store's staff bustles about the premises whipping up fresh batches of super-premium ice cream in the onsite creamery and helping patrons select a flavour from a list of more than 50 options. This chef-driven dedication to gourmet ice cream began in 1983 with the company's founding in Houston, Texas, when two French chefs were enlisted to create a recipe for Marble Slab Creamery's signature sweet-cream ice cream. Today, staffers utilize the frozen-slab technique of ice-cream architecture, scooping each customer's choice of ice cream and mixins onto a chilled marble slab to mix the separate elements into one customized mélange.
Though specializing in cone-based ice-cream treats, Marble Slab Creamery also offers other scream-worthy confections including cakes, shakes, and ice cream cupcakes. Catering is available at many locations.