Archive for Travel

Staycation: Ladner BC

One of the things I love about living here is how spoiled we are with great travel destinations just at our backdoor. People from all over the world travel with great expense to get to Whistler, for example, and we can be there in 90 minutes. The Okanagan and wine country? A mere 4-hour drive from my door. Tofino, which is magical, is a little further, but still accessible within a day.

There are other cool travel destinations that are even closer, and because I sadly cannot afford to go to Europe every summer (which, let’s face it, just seems wrong), I’m going to explore a bunch of those backyard destinations instead.

I’m starting with Ladner BC (not to be confused with Langley, which I am going to get to a bit later in the summer), which is just about a 30 minute drive my downtown door. It’s just on the other side of the Massey Tunnel, and on the banks of the Fraser River.

I have a few friends that have now chosen to call this place home, and I get it. It has a real, small-town cozy feeling.

Where to stay

Ladner BC

The view from the balcony of the B&B

There are no actual hotels in Ladner Village, per se, but lots of B&B’s. There’s a cool-looking place right on the water called The Duck Inn, but we stayed in a float home with our own balcony looking over the river. The hosts were lovely and the breakfast was great.

What to do

Try to go or be there on one of these dates: July 8/22, Aug 12/26 or Sept 9. These are the dates for the Ladner Village Market. This is one of the biggest Farmer’s Markets in BC. It takes over nearly all of the downtown core, and features artisan-made goods, not just produce. I was super impressed with this market, and I couldn’t believe that I’d never made the drive to check it out.

Where to caffeinate

I love Stir Coffee House. It’s a must-stop for me every time I’m in Ladner BC. The beans come from Parallel 49, and they brew good java.

Where to eat

I haven’t had a chance to eat here yet, but the newly-opened Il Posto comes highly recommended by my friend Lindsay (who, as the food editor at Vancouver Is Awesome knows a thing or two…). Chef Terry Pichor has opened a casual neighbourhood Italian joint that is doing it up right: simple, fresh ingredients, attention to detail… I’m going back soon to try the pizzas.

Where to shop

There’s a fantastic kitchen supply store called Vinca’s that is a foodie’s dream. Right beside her, you’ll find Hygge, which is an adorable little place stuffed with bath products, candles, and more.

If you are more of a fashionsita, you can check out South Coast Casuals (owned by one of my former students).

Finally, check out Dragonfly Antique and Salvage, a hidden gem in Ladner BC. I could spend hours here browsing through all the cool junk they have.

Get out and explore your backyard this summer! We’ll be on the Island, in the Okanagan, and I’m hoping to get up to Squamish as well. I’ll report back! Where are you planning on travelling this summer?

Portugese Tarts In Vancouver

Last summer, when I was in the UK, I was staying with my friend Jeremy about an hour outside of London in Brighton.

I set aside one day to take the train in and explore my favourite places in London; I had lunch at Nopi (an Ottolenghi dream come true), I shopped on Oxford Street, I hit the Tate Modern. You can watch my vlog from that day here.

Later in the day, I had dinner with my friend Shae, who was from Vancouver, but had been living in London for about a year at that point. Shae and her friend had just arrived back in London from a quick trip to Portugal, and they brought back with them a sleeve of Portugese tarts. She gave me two; one for me, one for Jeremy.

Portugese Tarts Vancouver

I ate them both on the train on the way home.

I have no regrets.

(I did buy Jeremy a makeup tart the next day, though).

What is it about Pastel De Nata? If you’ve never had one, a Portugese Tart is ostensibly quite simple: a flaky tart pastry shell, filled with an egg-based custard. But in this case, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. They’re sweet, and flaky and creamy. They’re served traditionally with a sprinkle of cinnamon, which brings additional warmth to a pastry that is already incredibly comforting.

So, of course as soon as I came home, I made it my business to suss out the best Portugese Tarts in Vancouver. Turns out, they’re hard to find. It’s more likely you’ll find their Asian cousin, the Egg Tart at one of our many Asian bakeries around town. I know I have personally enjoyed the tarts at T&T, and pretty much whenever I go out for dim sum.

As it turns out, the Chinese Dan Tat is really more of a descendant of the Pastel De Nata. By all reports, Europeans introduced the egg-based tart to Hong Kong in the early 1900’s.

Portugese Tart vs Egg Tart

Portugese vs Egg Tarts

So, what’s the difference? First off, the crust of a Portugese Tart is more akin to a croissant than a pie crust. The Chinese version has two varieties of crust: one more like a pie crust, and the other more like a shortbread cookie. In addition, the Portugese version is sweeter, more vanilla-y, and the Chinese version tastes eggier. The Portugese version is also puffier, and will have dark caramelized spots on the top, which you would never see on the Chinese Egg tart. That’s the best way to tell the two apart.

Okay! Let’s get to the good stuff. If you want to partake in one of these goodies for yourself, where can you get your mitts on Portugese Tarts in Vancouver?

Michele Cake Shop, 6033 West Blvd

Michele Bakery Portugese Tart

This one is kinda two-for-one, because they sell Pastel De Nata and egg tarts side-by-side, so this is really the best place to try them both and compare.

Fortuna Bakery Ltd, 4240 Hastings St

Fortuna Bakery Portugese Tart

Tucked away way up in Burnaby Heights, Fortuna is an old-school Italian/Portugese bakery. They have deli, bread, the whole works. The tarts here will set you back a mere $1.50, but they were my least favourite of all the ones I’ve tried so far.

The Union Market, 810 Union St

The Union Portugese Tart

Look, if you haven’t ever been the Union Market, well, you haven’t lived, my friend. The Union is the gem of Strathcona, part grocery store, part bodega/deli. They sell killer coffee, lots of tasty soups and sandwiches, and yes, some of the best Portugese Tarts in town. Be prepared to make friendly with the neighbourhood cats and dogs which will no doubt be hanging out there.

Natas Canada (seasonally, weekends outside 562 Granville St)

For my money, these guys are making the most authentic Portugese Tart in town. However, they can be a bit hard to track down, as they are an online business most of the time. In the summer, you can find them on weekends peddling tarts outside Urban Grill Sushi. Follow them on Instagram for info.

Nandos (various locations)

Nando's Portugese Tart

As a non-meat-eater, I don’t go to Nando’s very much, as the menu is very chicken-heavy, and there’s not much there for me to eat. My son, however, loves it there, so sometimes we do go. They serve Portugese chicken, so it seems like a no-brainer that they’d also have Portugese Tarts. Let me just say I was surprised by how good they did them. I think I had pretty low expectations, but they certainly exceeded them.

T&T Portugese TartT&T Supermarket (various locations)

As it turns out, T&T sells both egg tarts and Portugese Tarts, and their Portugese Tarts are pretty fine! They don’t make as many as they do of the egg tarts, though, so be sure to get there early, as they sell out pretty quick.

First Avenue Bakery Portugese TartFirst Avenue Bakery, 2800 E 1st Ave

This place is oooooold school. It looks like it hasn’t changed at all since the ’80’s. It’s not fancy, and in fact, it didn’t seem all that clean, either. It’s in the plaza with a T&T and lots of other small businesses, like ramen shops and the like. They sell both egg tarts and Portugese Tarts. The quality was not amazing. St Germain Porugese Tart

St Germain (various locations)

Samesame. Egg tarts and Portugese Tarts, both.

For me, the clear winners were The Union Market and T&T, simply because they are the best quality, with the easiest access. Natas is the most authentic, if you can get them.

Have I missed any? I know there were a couple of other places that served them, but they seem to have shut down. Let me know in the comments below so I can add them to my list!



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