Cookbook author Shira Blustein’s guide to Vancouver
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“One of the loveliest things about Vancouver is that you can be standing on a beach while staring at the mountains,” says Shira Blustein, owner of the Acorn, acclaimed for its refined and adventurous plant-based menu since opening in 2012. “People here really love the outdoors and the environment — they respect nature.”
Her award-winning restaurant has become a Vancouver institution for vegan and vegetarian fine dining, known for championing locally sourced, seasonal and organic ingredients. Those outside the city can get a taste of this philosophy through the new cookbook “Acorn: Vegetables Re-Imagined: Seasonal Recipes from Root to Stem” (out Nov. 9), which Blustein co-authored with chef Brian Luptak. The chapters cover everything from essential techniques (say, pickling and preserving) to beautiful dishes organized by the season.
When Blustein isn’t running around the restaurant, she loves wandering in and around its home base in the city’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Here, she shares some of her favourite places to eat, shop and get away.
For a year-round escape: Bloedel Conservatory (4600 Cambie St., Vancouver)
More than 100 exotic birds (including green-winged macaws and an array of cockatoos) and 500 exotic plants (Australian fan palms, flamingo lilies) await at the Bloedel Conservatory. Housed in a temperature-controlled dome within Queen Elizabeth Park (the city’s highest point), it’s a lush oasis even on the bleakest days. “It’s my favourite place in Vancouver,” says Blustein. “The winters are long and dreary, but walking in gives you a sense of calm. The air is cleansing.”
For giftable lifestyle goods: Welk’s General Store (3511 Main St., Vancouver)
“Welk’s has a devout following, and it’s where you can find basically anything,” the restaurateur says of the retro-style shop that’s been in business since 2005. Blustein loves the store’s carefully curated selection of candles, skin care, stationery, snacks and anything else you could possibly need. “It feels welcoming and cool — it’s kind of un-vibey, and that’s why it’s great. It’s a happy place for me.”
For laid-back drinks: The Lido (518 E. Broadway, Vancouver)
Blustein struggled to find a cool bar in her neighbourhood — until the Lido opened and became the go-to local watering hole. Aside from serving up drinks, it often held fun community events pre-pandemic, like poetry readings, album-release parties and concerts, which Blustein can’t wait to see pick up again. “It’s a wonderful, unpretentious bar,” she says.
For well-edited fashion: Eugene Choo (3683 Main St., Vancouver)
“Eugene Choo is one of the best little stores on Main Street,” Blustein says of the local boutique, a neighbourhood staple for more than 20 years. Shop owner Kildare Curtis previously worked as a dealer in vintage clothing and shows off a keen eye for the stylish; new items range from utilitarian jumpsuits to trendy boots, with brands like A.P.C., Pendleton and local makers. Blustein especially loves the jewelry section, with a beautiful pair of beaded earrings from Eye of Needle among her recent finds.
For all-day eats: Ubuntu Canteen (4194 Fraser St., Vancouver)
A short walk away from Blustein’s own restaurant is Ubuntu Canteen, which she favours because it has the same locally and seasonally focused mindset the Acorn does. The menu is always changing, but you can visit for breakfast pastries, quick lunches or a satiating dinner of, say, roasted chicken tacos. “They have incredible bread, and you can basically go there three times a day,” she says. “We actually wrote a lot of our book there, which was awesome.”
Travellers are reminded to check on public health restrictions that could affect their plans.