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On one of the hottest days this summer, with the low hum of an espresso machine in the background, a tanned Italian man named Mario spoke animatedly. This was the setting that transported us to a cafe in Milan as we sipped espresso and discussed Italian style coffee at the Umbria Coffee Roasters’ warehouse in South Vancouver.

With passion and flair, Mario impressed upon us the Italian coffee culture that Umbria represents: an unpretentious experience that simply allows one to enjoy a cup of good quality coffee. He and his colleague Ricardo explained the importance of consistency and balance in the beans, and the science and art behind making a great cup of espresso — the correct ground, the perfect water temperature, the well-timed brew. In addition, the amount of effort their master roaster puts in to blend different beans from across the globe is shockingly similar to what a winemaker does to achieve consistent quality of wine year after year. Mr. and I tasted a variety of their coffee, learned about the philosophy of roasting Italian style coffee, and even had a chance to play barista with their commercial espresso machine.

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Mr. and I got a taste of our post-pandemic world while exploring Vancouver’s North Shore Ale Trail for three days in early July. That’s 16 long months after the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020! We checked out a total of 17 spots in North Vancouver, including 9 craft breweries.

On our trip, we made a stop at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, kayaked for 3 hours in Deep Cove, explored the Shipyards District, went for a waterfront stroll, and were basically in a constant food and beer coma.

I wrote a guest post on BC Ale Trail’s website detailing my 3-day trip. Here are some of the beer highlights for us:

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There are so many options in Greater Vancouver for craft beer lovers to find amazing food and beer pairings. You are probably familiar with gastropubs and bars such as Alibi Room, St. Augustine’s and O’Hare’s. If you are looking for a date night idea, or to try something different while still being able to enjoy a pint or two, I’ve put together a list of 8 restaurants ranging from Lebanese to pan-Asian cuisine, to Italian favourites and hidden gem fine-dining.

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Goat curry, fiddlehead Chinese sausage stir-fry, sea asparagus & broccoli microgreens salad, and goat milk yogurt with mint, dried date, pistachio and honey…how’s that for a dinner menu?!

This menu was made possible with an interesting selection of products available at directfood.store, an online grocery platform that provides a digital marketplace for local farms. I recently ordered a delivery, complimentary of the company, and I was intrigued by what they offer. We found unique ingredients such as goat meat, sea asparagus, fiddleheads (no longer available), broccoli microgreens, goat milk yogurt and dried chanterelle. These are not something I see at grocery stores everyday. My shopping list came to be about $50 and they were gathered for our delivery directly from local farms/food producers. There’s no fancy packaging – product(s) from each company was packed separately so we received an assortment of bags and boxes in one delivery.

What We Made

With the ingredients we purchased, here is what we made.

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I am excited to be a part of the NBRHD Restaurant Development Program, initiated by REEF Technology, to help Vancouver restaurants launch a delivery business. The restaurant industry has been hit hard this past year due to COVID, and many have turned to delivery and other innovative ways to keep their business afloat. This private grant money will provide some relief to a few restaurants, and perhaps help expand, preserve, or resurrect some beloved culinary concepts from going under and be lost forever.

The following is the official press release issued by REEF Technology:

REEF Launches Local Restaurant Development Program in Vancouver, Pledging $125K to Help Area Businesses Expand as Part of $1.25M Program

REEF, the largest operator of neighbourhood kitchens and urban logistics hubs in the United States and Canada, announces today the expansion to Vancouver of the recently launched NBRHD Restaurant Development Program, designed to help local restaurants scale their delivery business and provide marketing support through REEF’s Kitchens platform.

In total, REEF Technology has earmarked $1.25M CAD in grant money to support qualifying local restaurants across North America over the course of the next few weeks and months. Restaurants with fewer than three locations qualify to apply for the program, and REEF encourages applications from local women, minority and Indigenous-owned restaurants.

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