Kitsilano Hidden Gem
Viva Fine Foods and Bakery is a hidden gem tucked between several restaurants on Yew Street near Kitsilano Beach. It’s the kind of bakery that feels like it belongs by a beach, where the dog you tied up outside is as loved and welcomed as you are, and the owner, Dawn Son-Hing, acts as barista, manager and greeter. Dawn opened Viva in 2002 and I don’t know if she’s ever taken time away from the cafe. She’s there every time I go, and “go” I do, semi-regularly.
I discovered Viva Fine Foods several years ago when I was doing knee surgery rehabilitation at a gym nearby. Viva was my treat after a hard work-out. There’s a wonderful patio out front and Dawn is a magician with the espresso machine. It all felt so civilized to kick back with a great coffee and perhaps a pressed Panini sandwich or one of their weekend pizza slices, and watch the world pass by on their way to the beach. The truth is; I felt like I was on vacation in my own town.
It occurred to me a few visits back that I had yet to try the Viva brunch. There’s a new Chef at Viva and he’s filled the weekend brunch menu with mouth-watering goodness. Chef Michael makes everything from scratch. There isn’t anything in the Bakery case or on the menu that isn’t crafted from fresh ingredients with a deft touch. There are breakfast pastries and a wonderful pizza option every weekend. This weekend, the pastry choices were sausage and cheese or spinach, tomato and cheese. There’s always a pizza on the menu, and I must admit, I’ve always loved their pizzas. Viva never skimps on toppings or cheese. This week’s temptation was a vegetarian option that included kale and grapes and it was hard to say no.
I came to Viva on this visit to order from the made-to-order brunch menu. There are omelettes and benny options, plus a traditional breakfast. I went straight to the benny list. I’m sure by now you know my apprehension with hollandaise sauce, (that too many restaurants make it heavy and thick) but Viva squashed my concerns in one bite.
I ordered the pulled pork benny with a fresh squeezed organic orange juice. Be warned, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, rave about orange juice. It was unbelievable, as if I’d squeezed it in my kitchen that very instant. It was the perfect drink on a sunny summer’s morning, and I had to hold back from drinking it all in one go. The benny? Oh, my, so much about it that was so good. The pork was moist and peppery and the serving was generous. The eggs were forced to sit a little higher due to the amount of pork. The hollandaise sauce was gorgeous; smooth and silky, not stiff or thick at all. It had a hint of lemon and wasn’t too acidic, which suited me well. When I pierced the softly poached egg, everything oozed over the pork and made for an even more perfect sauce.
By now you know the Brunch Blog Boss has a thing for potatoes. When my plate arrived I felt a pang of sadness that she wasn’t joining me. Roasted not deep fried, and with a buttery centre, I almost wanted to say a prayer in thanks for the bounty of the local farms this season. It’s been a great crop and Chef Michael clearly respects that.
Some of the great options at Viva Fine Foods and Bakery include Raspberry Bread Pudding, twice-baked chocolate almond croissants, granola bars, and even a gluten free vegan cookie that is decadently made with almonds, quinoa flakes, flax seeds, agave syrup and everyone’s favourite, chocolate. The smoothies are all house made and are another great vegan option. The choices include Mango Tango, Green Goddess, and the Sunrise. There’s something for everyone, regardless of your dietary considerations or degree of sweet tooth.
If you’re on your way back from the beach and brunch is no longer on the docket, may I suggest one of their many Panini options, or even the quesadilla, something I’ve enjoyed many a time.
Viva Fine Foods and Bakery is the kind of place we at Brunchcouver love to discover and support; a local owner committed to great local ingredients providing scratch made food that the community can’t get enough of. If you’re going to Kits beach this long hot summer, go check Viva out. And don’t forget to say hi to Dawn, she’s the chatty lady making you a great cup of coffee.
Movie Recommendation: Blue Hawaii (1961). Yes, I’m recommending an Elvis Presley film. What else besides a great brunch could make you want to walk down to the beach, pull out your guitar and break into a song?
Viva Fine Foods and Bakery
Michelle Muldoon is a writer, filmmaker, and avid foodie. You can find her on twitter @chat2michelle.