When I compiled the last holiday round up, it was not lost on me that I was leaving out a lot of places - many small towns where most of my colleagues, family and friends reside.
It felt unfair to leave out some of these little gems, so I reached out to my network for their favourite spots to frequent.
Here are the most highly recommended mentions.
What: A hyper focus on the local, slow food movement. Winemaker Brent Rowland of Averill creek shares, "it's likely one of the best restaurants in Canada."
Where: 1831 Maple Ave South, Sooke
Social/Web: @wildmountaindinners / https://www.wildmountaindinners.com/
What: Described by some as the dark horse on the island. While the demographic is somewhat challenging for the food Ian Blom is creating, he continues to impress with a progressive approach.
Where: 161 Kenneth Street, Duncan
Social/Web: @theainslie / https://www.theainslie.ca/our-team
What: A tiny, 40 seat restaurant doing "all the right things" with a focus on sourcing local ingredients.
Where: 1714 Peninsula Road, Ucluelet
Social/Web: @pluvio_restaurant_and_rooms / https://www.pluvio.ca/
What: Pre COVID, Aman Dosanj made a name for herself via her effortlessly chic and rustic popups hosted throughout the Okanagan Valley. Until events are permitted again, Aman has pivoted to selling spices online, "The idea is to make Indian flavours more fun - there are no rules as long as it's delicious."
Where: Kelowna - future events TBA
Social/Web: @paisleynotebook / https://paisleynotebook.com/delicious-af/
What: Wine director Emily Walker shares, "This Christmas, you can drink the Naramata Inn’s “by the glass” list. The 12 bottle case includes a thoughtfully curated selection of Okanagan and Similkameen gems, a mix of bubbles, rose, orange, white and red." Where: 3625 1st Street, Naramata
Social/Web: @naramatinn / https://naramatainn.com/
Front Street Brasserie
What: Husband and wife team John and Lisa Burke are making some of the most exciting food to come out of the Okanagan in years - be sure to try their Caesar salad with the most decadent croutons you'll probably ever taste.
Where: 66 Front Street, Penticton
Social/Web: @frontstreetbrasserie / https://frontstreetbrasserie.com/
Ryan Clark 326
What: Winemaker Galen Bernhardt of Monte Creek Ranch shared that Ryan's comfort food is a must try - watch out for the occasional pop up dinner, and order meals to go.
Social/Web: @clarks_catering / https://ryanclark326.com/
What: Winemaker Lee Baker of Redtail Vineyards describes the cuisine of Idle Wild as "tops" - expect Asian influenced take out.
Where: 305 Main Street, Wellington
What: Stella's is offering killer food coupled with a bottle shop focused on low intervention wine.
Where: 172 Main Street, Picton
Social/Web: @stellaseatery / https://www.stellaseatery.com/
Ma Chinese Cuisine
What: The peking duck and pinot will change your life.
Where: 123 Geneva Street, St. Catharines
Social/Web:@ma_chinesecuisine / http://machinesecuisine.com/
What: While Ruffino's is famously known for their pizza, recently, they began a Chinese pop up every Wednesday to showcase two of their chef's native cuisines.
Where: 242 Mary Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Social/Web: @ruffinosnotl.ca / https://ruffinosnotl.ca/shop/cowhide-apron
Niagara Oast House Brewers
What: Described by local Erika Neudorf as having "the most ridiculous BBQ - the brisket is to die for." Plus they make their own beer, all in a refurbished barn.
Where: 2017 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-lake
Social/Web: @oasthousebrewers / https://oasthousebrewers.com/at-oast/
What: A leading private alcohol retailer in Nova Scotia with a curated selection of quality wine, beer and spirits. They offer in store tastings, educational seminars (on pause due to COVID) and delivery Nova Scotia wide.
Where: 1477 Lower Water Street, Halifax
Social/Web: @bishopscellar / https://bishopscellar.com/
What: A wine bar carrying numerous private order wines not found anywhere else, with super knowledgeable staff and take out options perfect for date night.
Where: 1475 Lower Water St, Halifax
Social/Web: @littleoak_bar / http://littleoakbar.ca/