Hot as all get out in the Fraser Valley this week. Air quality, reduced due to elevated ground ozone levels, means keeping outdoor activity on the down low or in the water. I got out early to do a 5k walk with the pooch, and then Rob and I spent some quality time at our local farmer markets.
We picked up an excellent late-July haul. Ruby radishes, onions, perfect, round, amethyst baby eggplants which will find their way into an Indian curry, and padron peppers which will be grilled with salt and olive oil then spritzed with lime for a snack. Mushroom guy was back and I chose an array of mixed mushrooms because I cannot resist beautiful fungi, and I scored some gorgeous bright green jalapenos that are gonna be reincarnated into jars as super zesty bread and butter pickles. Found some beautiful, yellow umbrels of dill alongside some young, spiny pickling cukes destined to be spicy dills and bread and butter slices, and picked up some pretty orange squash blossoms that I am going to stuff with local Golden Ears Neufchatel, dip in tempura batter and serve on a tomato relish inspired by 10 Acres Kitchen in Victoria.
Driving through the Valley in air-conditioned comfort seems to be the way to go today. We will be stopping at The Fraser Valley Cidery on the way home for lunch. Chef Adrian Beaty is in the house, and we want to check out the new cider flavour people have been raving about, Black Currant and Cardamom.
The Cidery, located on 16 Ave in Langley Township, can easily be missed, tucked away back behind some buildings, despite being marked by towering road flags. We discovered this gem about three years back, when it first opened. Our foodie meetup checked it out as part of the Circle Farm Tour when it was a very new operation, with 4 flavours of cider, a charcuterie board on offer, a few seats inside and a lawn chair or two outside. Since then the cidery has continued to grow and mature, adding a few new flavours, planting an orchard, building a patio, hosting paint nights and long table events, all the while, maintaining its adorable homemade charm in the shadow of the Cascade mountain range and snow-covered peak of Mount Baker.
New this summer, Chef Adrian, formerly of Seasonal 56 (a mourned farm-to-table closing) hosts a small menu of creative fare from an outdoor kitchen, Chef Shack, on the patio. Far as I can tell the menu is never the same.
We are meeting up with two friends and their pups who are coming in from a low-tide walk at White Rock. The cidery’s patio is probably the best dog-friendly patio in the Vancouver metro area. Easy going staff love ’em, water is provided, and fur babies can lounge comfortably beside their owners as they munch.
Our party today tried about 90 percent of the menu. Serving sizes while not huge are large enough to share. Rob and I decided on the feta and chipotle cornbread with cumin-lime butter, pan-fried potatoes with aioli and chicken quesadillas. Our friends had the same fare but added the shaved ham sammy and the buffalo yogurt pannacotta.
First off though, we all sipped the cidery’s latest, Black Currant Cardamom delivered in buckets on ice with their elegant cider glasses. It has become a favourite with everyone. Our friends have enjoyed it before, but the flavour has become more widely available only now. The cider, delicately sweet, has a light bubble on the tongue, with just a hint of berry and spicy cardamom. Other flavours in their inventory include Rosy (raspberry), Scrummy (A British style cider which we have at home but have not tried yet), Smoked Sage (not available ’til next week and a fave of anyone who has tried it. Excellent with chicken or fowl), Elderflower (a perennial favorite, no pun intended, with most everyone and I believe their best seller), House, and Bone Dry (not my preference but probably deserves a second go).
We sip icy cider in sweating glasses and wait for our food. The chicken quesadillas are small, thin, delicate. They are easy to eat and delicious with fresh, chunky pico de gallo and avocado cream.
Chef’s skin-on pan-fries are so much better than a plate of French fries. Adrian pan fries them first and then oven-roasts them leaving them creamy and nutty on the inside, crispy on the outside and hot enough to start soaking in the cider-mustard aioli dressing.
The cornbread was fresh and tasty, uniquely studded with feta and offered with a side of cumin-lime butter. Good but not a standout for me. I would prefer an oiler cheese like a cheddar and a little more heat in the butter.
Our friends shared the shaved ham sandwich, which looked drool-worthy. The meat was generous and luscious. Not the stuff of your local deli. Look at the pic! Made on a good roll and complemented with an inspiring combo of Jersey blue cheese, apple butter, and micro greens, it looked amazing, and it was reported that it indeed was.
Rob and I did not try the pannacotta either as we needed to head out, but on the way home I received a phone call to report that they had eaten the pannacotta and it was a game changer. Wow. I wanna head back lol.
Chef Adrian serves on weekends, but not always. He has other commitments and it may be weather dependent so always check with the cidery before heading out. Cannot recommend this place highly enough for its relaxing, idyllic atmosphere, wonderful cider, pleasant staff and excellent food experience. Truly a worthy way to celebrate summer in the Fraser Valley.
You can also pick up their delicious cider in their distinctive ceramic-topped bottle at local farmer’s markets, some private liquor stores such as Liberty and if you’re lucky you will find it occasionally on a restaurant menu.