A Café for All Seasons (Nelson, British Columbia)
Tucked away in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia is the cutest little town you ever did see. With a heartbreaking landscape Nelson also boasts a growing arty-farty community, an operational streetcar, year-round lake and mountain access and heritage buildings from old, the type erected when people first rushed in to find their fortune in silver. Really, Nelson is so unabashedly quaint and quirky it has even stolen a piece of my heart. A slice big enough that causes me to question my former ideas of putting down another set of roots in Beirut, Berlin or Paris and consider–with great seriousness–to return North and make the interior of B.C. my second home.
Now along with the geography, friendliness of the residents, countless winter and summer sport options, and the fact that there’s one yoga studio on every block (note: Nelson only takes up 4.6 sq miles so even ten studios in that space is quite remarkable) there is also great food to be had in this sleepy Canadian town of 10,230 people. There are supermarkets and groceries stocking large amounts of local and organic goods. There are funky coffee shops with fair trade beans and dive bars with health-conscious pub fare. In the mix are vegetarian-inspired eats and vegan-inspired desserts and restaurants so cosmopolitan your mind actually believes you’ve stopped off in the West Village and not the lower atrium of the Kootenays.
The All Seasons Café is such an urban space; so convincing it was that Mr. Intolerant and I walked in, looked at each other and had a non-verbal conversation that went something like this:
“This is totally not what I expected,” his mouth agape as he scanned the room.
“You’re telling me,” I nodded as I craned my neck to peek at the dining room.
“Check out the food,” Mr. Intolerant pointed at the specials board.
“Yeah, and look at their whiskey selection,” I gestured with my eyes.
“Nice, quite nice,” his reply encased in a low whistle.
After we rolled our tongues back into our mouths we were escorted to the terrace by a bubbly and charming server who guided us towards some local wine she thought we might fancy. We then perused the menu and settled on options that would cater to the flexible-vegan (Mr. Intolerant) and the dairy-scorning vegetarian (that would be me). On order was the appetizer of olives and a mixed green salad before transitioning to the portobello mushroom stack and the spring pea and mint risotto.
The nice thing about their menu is that there is a little bit of everything so whether you’re paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, raw, low carb or kosher it’s likely you will find something to eat. Additionally, ingredients are locally sourced and/or sustainable, two factors I like to insist on for any dining experience I have these days.
In all, it was an enjoyable meal. The vegetables were fresh and varied, and liked how the chef incorporated orange and rosemary into the olive and sun dried tomato platter. When the mains arrived I quickly tucked into the stuffed portobello mushroom, which did not disappoint. This is partially because mushrooms and I have become fast friends of late (I have learned that you can pack a whole bunch of goodness into the void where a mushroom stem used to reside) and also due to the fact: it was simply that good.
The only critique was the amount of cheese heaped onto the risotto. While Mr. Intolerant is vegan he’s not militant about it (especially when eating out) but even he found the helping of parmesan and goat to be a bit much. He picked off the rubbery layer to eat everything underneath, and at the end of it all said, “Cheese aside, this was quite good. That said, if I weren’t vegan I’d have been all over that duck.” He pointed two tables down where a beautiful smelling filet was placed in front of another patron.
The end of the night involved whiskey, ice wine (when in Canada, no?) and a thorough interrogation of the staff at All Seasons. We wanted their feedback on what it’s like to live in Nelson. We wanted to know about weather and festivals and average property prices. Now, while I like a place that serves good food, I love one where the ambiance is seductive and cozy. Even better is a place where the people are, in one word, kind. In that respect, All Seasons Café ticks all the right boxes.
It’s a place to try, any and all times of the year.