We decided to leave our little “Downtown Bubble”, and go explore a new neighborhood. Granville Island is more often than not on Vancouver’s tourist bucket lists, and we can understand why!
Sadly, even though it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Canada and only a few minutes from home, we don’t find ourselves there often enough.
From our previous visit, we knew that if we wanted to make the most of our experience and avoid the crowd, we needed to wake up early. Surprisingly, we managed to pull ourselves out of bed and get over to The Island just as the shops were opening.
When we arrived, we had The Island to ourselves. Market stalls were receiving their orders, shop owners setting their displays, and the ferries beginning to set sail. It was a peaceful way to start the morning, and worth the extra effort of setting an early alarm.
We started the day with a massive cup of coffee (obviously!) and a delicious breakfast at Off the Tracks Espresso Bar and Bistro. A quant and inviting cafe, with a small menu of fresh and healthy food options, and properly pulled espresso drinks.
We opted for a Latté and a Cappuccino, and a “breakfast bowl” which consisted of kale and spinach, avocado, tomato relish, and an egg. We added chorizo for an extra little surprise. It was a light and nourishing way to start the morning. The extra shot of espresso always helps too.
With a belly full of food and a brain buzzing with caffeine, we headed towards our main objective: The Market. It’s filled with produce vendors, butchers, fish mongers, tea and specialty spice vendors, local artisans, etc. Little shops fill every corner with a few feet of aisle in between. Even without the normal crowds, its easy to get lost. It’s an incredible experience for any passionate food-lover.
After browsing through the market, it was decided that cheese and charcuterie would be the perfect lunch. We headed over to Oyama Sausage Co. where we were greeted with incredible service. The host was clearly passionate about his product, as he took the time to explain in great detail each piece of charcuterie. He even helped us with pairings to ensure we had an appropriate selection.
The “Faux Gras” and Truffle Paté with Pistachios was incredibly smooth and buttery, with a subtle hint of truffle, and crunch from the pistachios. They call it “Faux Gras” because it is not fattened by force-feeding. The ducks naturally gorge themselves on food they enjoy, and when it comes to slaughter, they have naturally fattened their livers by enjoying a happy life.
- The Venison Paté was slightly softer than the foie, but made it beautiful to spread on crackers. It had a very slight gaminess to it, that was offset by the tart sweetness of the cranberries. It was delicate and delicious.
- Our host recommended we try the Schinkenspeck, and even sliced a piece of their multiple varieties, announcing his thoughts on which would pair best with our other choices. We opted for the classic, which is cured with juniper and lightly smoked. It was slightly salty, rich and fatty, with a subtle smoke that pulled every flavour together. Sliced thin, it melts on your tongue.
- For our salami, we chose an lamb salami. It had a subtle gaminess in the back notes that was nicely balanced by the rich meatiness of the lean lamb. Our host warned us that it was definitely an acquired taste, and we could see why. We loved it, and it’s definitely worth trying.
- Our last selection was a Local Wild Boar saucisson sec. They offer a spicy and a regular version. We tasted both and were extremely impressed. We opted for the regular option, as it had a slightly sweeter and subtler note to it that allowed the boar to shine through, while also not overpowering the rest of our choices. The spicy was incredibly delicious and complex, and we will definitely be back for more.
Up next – cheese! There are many options for various cheeses at the market (Oyama carries a fantastic selection), as well as a few other stalls who offer various italian cheeses and specialties.
With so many options to choose from, we knew that we could find our favourites by visiting Benton Brothers Cheese. They offer a beautifully curated selection of local and international cheeses. On our board is Crottin, Grey Owl, and Tiger Blue.
- The small round of Crottin is a french goat’s milk cheese that ranges from soft-firm depending on age. This one was in the middle, with a slightly firmer and crumbly texture, but a buttery smooth centre, and a very subtle sharpness.
- The Grey Owl, produced by Fromagerie le Detour in Quebec is one of Canada’s most iconic cheeses, and we can understand why! It’s visually stunning, with a bowl contrast between the ash ripened surface and its bright white interior. It’s flavour is mild, but bright. With a slightly cakey interior, and a creamy rind.
- “Tiger Blue“, produced by Poplar Grove Cheese in BC is a luscious blue veined cheese. Aged for at least 2 months. It is intense and rich, with a subtle piquant flavour, and a light, lingering sweetness. For anyone weary of trying a blue cheese, is worth a taste.
No trip to Granville Island would be compete without a stop at Lee’s Donuts. A local staple, even before donuts were “cool”. They have a wide range of classic flavours, done right. Some favourites are the Cinnamon, Dutch or Chocolate Crumb, or their many flavours of stuffed donuts.
Even though lunch was right around the corner, we can never control ourselves. We see donuts. We eat donuts. It’s just the way we roll.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of Granville Island. There are so many other stores to explore! From local produce and meats, specialty teas, spices and soaps, to locally made brooms and aprons. You can find it all on Granville Island, if you’re willing to adventure. We’ll definitely be back soon!