LGBT Vancouver, Canada

by Lawrence Ferber

"I’ve rarely encountered a population where, almost consistently, so many locals can not only converse about restaurants with such gusto and knowledge, but have solid taste to boot."

Opened in May 2015, Bauhaus (1 W. Cordova St. Tel: 604-974-1147. www.bauhaus-restaurant.com) is the brainchild of Vancouver-based, German filmmaker Uwe Boll, blending nouveau German cuisine, street art, flawless service, and fine dining aesthetics. While Boll’s merits as a director have been a point of contention among critics, his maiden venture as restaurateur is nothing short of supreme. In fact, Boll, a passionate foodie, visited the venue during my dinner, toting freshly picked herbs from his own garden.

Michelin-starred Chef Stefan Hartmann (of Berlin’s Vau and oft-lauded Hartmanns) heads up Bauhaus’ kitchen, and the menu is innovative and delicious. Order anything with hollandaise sauce, which I’d laud as the world’s best, and, of course, there’s a flawless wiener schnitzel.

I was also blown away by under-the-radar Blacktail (332 Water St. Tel: 604- 699-0249. www.blacktail.ca), whose locavore concept sees all ingredients sourced within an eight-hour-drive radius and transformed into miraculous, inventive delights.

Brekkie lovers will swoon over Café Medina (780 Richards St. Tel: 604-879-3114. www.medinacafe.com) with its retro-slick interiors by a set designer for shows like Battlestar Galactica. The Liege-style waffles with choice toppings, like lavender milk chocolate and raspberry caramel, are addictive.

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House-made and organic rules at Catch 122 (122 W. Hastings St. Tel: 604- 731-3474. www.catch122.ca), with specialties like the Dirty Breakfast: duck-fat toast, duck confit, sunny-side up eggs, and house-made maple beans.

For one dinner, I joined in-the-know gay TV personality/producer/writer Sean Horlor at Nomad (3950 Main St. Tel: 604-708-8525. www.nomad-vancouver.ca), which opened in November 2014 within a cavernous, loft-like space on the über-hipster Main Street. The menu is Pacific Northwest fare with a global flair (braised lamb with fenugreek ricotta gnocchi, legumes, and masala jus gras) and plenty of B.C. area wines and beer.

In fact, the B.C. craft beer and distillery scene is booming, so I tried a three-hour Vancouver Brewery Tour (vancouverbrewery-tours.com), which at $57 per person includes three tasting stops from a rotating roster of 14 venues. All good stuff! Later, on Granville Island, I visited Liberty Distillery (1494 Old Bridge St. Tel: 604-558-1998. www.thelibertydistillery.com), whose gin I spotted on numerous bar and restaurant shelves. Opened in 2013, this tasting room and distillery converts exclusively B.C.-sourced grains and fruit into vodka and gin, including an 18-botanical pink variety. Determined to try even more B.C. distillery products, I stopped by Olympic Village’s Legacy Liquor Store (1633 Manitoba St. Tel: 604- 331-7900. www.legacyliquorstore.com), which stocks a comprehensive range of regional craft booze, from gin to mead, with some available for tasting.

Located about two hours from Vancouver in the Coast Mountains, the beautifully developed resort town of Whistler (www.whistler.com) was a site for the 2010 Winter Olympics’ Alpine, Nordic, and sliding events. These days, summers are proving just as popular (especially with Australians, many of whom work here) thanks to activities like ziplining, rock climbing, hiking, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking.

That said, a major draw during winter is WinterPRIDE (www.gaywhistler.com), an annual LGBT ski event that will next take place from January 21-31, 2016. The Finnish-style Scandinave Spa (8010 Mons Rd. Tel: 604-935-2424. www.scandinave.com/en/whistler) is especially busy during this period, its 20,000 square feet of outdoor thermal pools and baths, steam rooms, and saunas bustling with LGBTs. Bear in mind low volume is the rule and no children are allowed (19+ only). Also be sure to make reservations at the romantic, upscale Araxi (4222 Village Square. Tel: 604-932-4540. www.araxi.com), Whistler’s deservedly top-rated restaurant. Farm to table is given a flavor-driven, technique-heavy spin here with such treats as Canadian steaks heated via infrared grill and an impressive Pacific Northwest oyster selection that is connoisseur-worthy.

Whistler Village is designed and planned out so its cobblestone paths resemble a river in how they weave and bend, and, of course, the village’s Olympic rings make for a perfect photo backdrop.

Soon enough, it’s off to another craft beer tasting and tour at Whistler Brewing Company (1045 Millar Creek Rd. Tel: 604-962-8889. www.whistlerbeer.com), which keeps about seven seasonal varieties on tap. Highlights, depending on time of year, can include a chai beer, honey lager, profoundly crisp and refresh- ing grapefruit ale, and, so good I bubble- wrapped a couple of bottles, semi-sweet Pineapple Express wheat ale.

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During my jaunts around Whistler, and watching the mountain bikers come careening down the lift-accessed mountain trail, I came across plenty of queer folks, from circuit boys to bears. I even spotted a literal bear at one point from my window at the lodge-style Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside (4320 Sundial Crescent. Tel: 604-905 2999. www.pan-pacific.com, which boasts a perfect vantage view of the mountain.

Come my final evening in Whistler, I kicked things off with a serious craft cocktail at the pine-needle wood bar at Alta Bistro (4319 Main St. Tel: 604-932- 2582. www.altabistro.com), specifically the Truth 75 with vodka, lavender, lemon, pepper, local bubbles, and micro-herbs. Then more cocktails plus dinner at Bearfoot Bistro (4121 Village Green. Tel: 604- 932-3433. www.bearfootbistro.com), a favorite with local gays. I ordered The Broadside, with house-made spiced rum, apricot, and ginger liquors, apple and mint, which proved quite tasty. There’s an extensive 2,100 label, 20,000-plus wine cellar, and, for added fun and drama, one can try their hand at popping a bottle of Champagne with a sabre. I gave it a go, and although it required several attempts, I succeeded and got to take home the bottle’s lobbed-off top in a jewel box. Vodka also receives a pedestal at Bearfoot, or more accurately, a -25oF Ketel One Ice Room for sampling vodkas from across the globe ($37 per person). You won’t leave here sober in all likelihood, but all the better to blend in with the streets full of boozy, rowdy, happy visitors outside.

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