The Best Things Our Editors Ate This Year
From grilled cactus to the "Beyoncé of pies," here are the dishes that surprised and delighted our taste buds—and kept us coming back for more—in 2018.
December 26, 2018
Nutella Banana Pie at Half Baked Cookie Company
A friend put me onto this pie early this year and I’ve since been telling everyone I know about how damn delicious it is. In fact, the only times I’m not talking about this celestial creation—which layers Nutella pastry cream with banana slices so fresh and perfectly ripe that I’m convinced the Half Baked bakers have concocted some sort of banana incubator that keeps them at optimum never-too-sweet readiness—is when I’m stuffing my face with slices of it, which, according to my count, has to be nearing two dozen instances. I’d like to think I’m doing a public service, though: everyone I’ve introduced the pie to—from colleagues to family members of colleagues to strangers on Twitter—has become just as obsessed with it as I am. One friend even aptly declared it the “Beyoncé of pies:” an absolute crowd-pleaser and, when enjoyed during a special occasion—say, a birthday party or Coachella—close to a religious experience.—Lucy Lau, style editor
Nick’s-Style Meat Ravioli with Meat Sauce at Pepino’s Spaghetti House
There are a few ways to catch my attention on a menu, and having the word “meat” twice on a single item has a 100 percent success rate. For someone that spent most of university gobbling down all the various kinds of ravioli Safeway had on offer, I was pretty sure I was beyond being impressed by the stuffed pasta. Hoo boy, was I ever wrong. This thing is thick, it’s heavy and I can still taste it three months later. There are no bad choices anywhere on the menu at Pepino’s, but if you go another direction, make sure someone at your table gets this and then sneak a few bites. You’ll remember them—the bites, that is.—Nathan Caddell, associate editor
Tasting Menu with Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar’s Chef Alex Chen
As the food editor, I get invited by PR companies to restaurants quite a bit and, for the most part, I politely decline the invites. Not because I don’t want to go, but because going at the invite (and on the dime of) the restaurant gives you a very skewed perception of what the restaurant is like if you’re the average person who just walks in off the street. I was going to write “There’s nothing wrong with that,” but to be truthful, if you’re purporting to give an honest review of a place, there’s something majorly wrong with both letting them know in advance that you’re coming and in letting them pick up the tab.
But when a friend told me he was going to have a meal at Boulevard at the invite of chef Alex Chen a few weeks back, and was looking for a +1, I decided to make an exception. I rationalized it on the basis that I was only going as a nameless +1 so there’d be no issue, and also that, given that I wasn’t going as the food editor, there’d be no expectation that I’d have to “sing for my supper” as they say. Also, I really wanted to go. I had been a judge last year at BC Gold Medal Plates and chef Chen had literally blown away his competitors with a seafood aspic that was one of the most creative and well-executed dishes I had had in ages. One of the other competing chefs came up to me after the competition and asked what he could have done to win and I told him that there was literally nothing any other chef could have done to top chef Chen’s dish—it was that good.
So please believe me when I say that I’m under no moral or ethical obligation to tell you that I think chef Alex Chen is the best chef cooking in Vancouver. I won’t go into the details of the multi-course feast we had as only one of the dishes is currently on the Boulevard menu (the BC honey mussels with miso butter gratinée and a mussel verjus emulsion—flipping amazing), but suffice to say it was so on point that several of the dishes were in contention with one another for the best thing I ate all year. In the end, a gigantic celeriac roasted in a brioche crust and served with truffle and a foamy veal just lost out to the dish you see chef Chen cooking above: charcoal-grilled pine mushrooms, cooked en vessie (that means in a pig’s stomach, btw) with dashi, white soy and butter, and then served with shiitake mushrooms cooked down with Asian seasoning and wrapped in a sous vide sliced watermelon radish, garnished porcini crisp and some umami dashi to finish it off.
Grilled Cactus and Halloumi at Fayuca
As a proud taco enthusiast, I assumed I knew everything about what Vancouver’s Mexican food scene had to offer…until I stepped in to Fayuca. Specializing in Northern Mexican flavours, the menu is a departure from the Mexi-Cali fare typical to this city, and they rocked. My. World. The only problem with the grilled cactus dish I ordered (served up with halloumi cheese, avodcado and charred salsa verde) was that I had foolishly agreed to share with my dinner date. The whole thing is served up with house-made tortilla, and though it looks like a bit of a hot mess, the flavours were equal parts rich and bright, and a world away from anything else I put in my mouth this year. —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor
Candy Cap Ice Cream at Hawksworth Restaurant
Candy cap sounds like a dessert, and of course it is in the case of this ice cream. But its name actually comes from the candy-cap mushroom, a local fungi that tastes like maple syrup. In this dessert, it’s still got that lovely mushroomy flavour in the cream, with textured pieces that come from the whole mushroom. It’s unlike any other ice cream I’ve had in the city—that kind of inexplicable pairing of flavours that I kept spooning back in to discern. Served atop sponge toffee, toasted white chocolate and walnuts, it’s a tasty little wrap up to the restaurant’s excellent prix-fixe brunch. Plus, Hawksworth is offering Dom by the glass for the holiday season—another tasty memory of my brunch there this December.—Anicka Quin, editorial director