Hop in your vehicles for a lazy, autumn drive through Langley in BC’s Fraser Valley to discover the prettiest pumpkin patches and most amazing mazes – of corn that is. The fall season in all its colourful glory makes for a lovely road trip, so load up the car with the family and make a day of it.
Your first stop, near the Canadian border, is the city of Langley, where you’ll want to pull over to visit Eagle Acres. For the past 29 years this family owned farm has grown to a whopping 20 acres of pumpkin patches growing 15 varieties, and 5 acres of animal displays in the barns and outside in pens – ideal for inquisitive city kids. The Pumpkin patch is open Tuesday – Sunday until October 31, with tractor-pulled hayrides out to the pumpkin patch to find that perfect Halloween jack-o-lantern, and included in your admission is a self-guided tour of the dairy barn complete with themed displays.
Krause Berry Farm is a must-stop as well. Take note that this farm’s fall and winter opening days are Wednesday to Sunday through; so plan your visit around that. Pick your own pumpkins, squash and gourds, plus a visit to the market is essential to pick up freshly baked pies, jams and homemade fudge to take home and enjoy. While you’re visiting the farm, pop into the Estate Winery to sample their award-winning berry wines, and to KB Corral for a pumpkin-spice waffle.
New this year, and not your typical pumpkin patch is Harvest Glow at the Milner Village Garden Centre. Open daily until October 31, Harvest Glow is a fall-themed light celebration and they promise a magical pumpkin patch experience, with one key difference, this one is indoors. This family-friendly event features a range of fun fall activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin carving, singing pumpkins, playgrounds, illuminated sculptures, a Pirate Ship, mini-golf, live entertainment and an artisan market.
Scoop up the kids – it’s time for ice cream! But this time they’ll have to work for it. Burnaby Village Museum invites families to come learn how to make old fashioned ice cream using simple ingredients, classic methods, and a little bit of crank-churning muscle.
It all begins in the kitchen of 1920s home with a few simple ingredients and a resident expert.
The kids learn a little about what family life in the Vancouver area 100 years ago, as well as what goes into one of their favourite desserts.
Ingredients are measured…
Ice is added…
And then it’s time to crank, crank, crank until it’s done!
Whether you’re a fan of winter weather matters not at Glow, an immersive festive display of over 500,000 lights under the protective cover of a massive greenhouse in Langley. Work up an appetite exploring the light gardens and traversing the musical light tunnel, and then have your pick of food from the Christmas market, food trucks, and of course, a bar for the adults.
A must-try for the kids is a festive lightbulb drink will re-charge the kids between a gift scavenger hunt and snowing bubbles, and allow you to explore the marketplace of boutique wears, decorations and locally made goods.
Grab your flashing cranberry drink from Donners’ Bar in a re-usable lightbulb for $8.
The outside food truck courtyard features wood-fired pizza, Greek food, tornado potatoes, kettle corn, mac n’ cheese and baked potatoes including a holiday dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce.
Enjoy your food standing around the fire pit or head inside for a table.
The market features holiday baking and festive confections for sharing or indulging on your own.
This family-friendly holiday event is complete with something for every age and taste for naughty or nice. Just ask Santa.
Glow is fully accessible to strollers, scooters and wheelchairs, once you get from the gravel parking lot. Find out more at glowchristmas.ca
Carousel rides, mulled wine, live trees, hand-crafted ornaments, and one-of-a-kind gifts can all be found at the Vancouver Christmas Market. Modelled after the European “Christkindlmarkts” of the old world, this relatively new-to-Vancouver tradition draws hordes of locals to its home at the Jack Poole Plaza every holiday season. And those who frequent the market come for the biggest attraction: the food.
Housed in huts that recall a true Bavarian experience, here are a few treats to try, from traditional German fare to modern Vancouver flare.
Pretzel from Das Pretzel Hut
No trip to a German Christmas Market (or anything German-themed, that is) is complete without a big, doughy pretzel. Twisted, braided, salted: whatever you choose, this wheat-filled treat goes best with spiced mustard and washes down well with a beer.
Hurricane Potatoes from Das Kartoffelhaus
Known sometimes as “tornado potatoes” or “hurricane fries,” this food originated on the streets of South Korea and may recall more of a summer night market than a European winter fete, but it just wouldn’t be Vancouver without them.
Gluhwein and Kinderpunsch in Collector Boots
Sip on this sweet, warm mulled wine (gluhwein) or the kid-friendly alternative while you browse wares in the marketplace from an ever-so-cute and collectible German boot mug. Prost!
Spanish Paella from Arc Iberco
Keep warm with some spice from below the equator with Vancouver Christmas Market’s newest vendor, Arc Iberco. The Spanish-style meaterie serves up cured meats and paella for palate-pleasing variety!
Salmon Burger from Eat F.I.S.H.
Feed your pretzel-bun craving while getting your omega 3s. Eat F.I.S.H. (fresh ideas start here) is the Christmas Market’s newest burger vendor, serving up sustainable, local, wild salmon on pretzel buns with all the fixings.
Cannoli from Cannoli King Vancouver’s Cannoli King serves up hand-rolled, deep-fried and filled sweet treats for those with an appetite for dessert. The family-owned company Cannoli King makes everything from scratch, from the dough to the fillings.
Gulasch, Schnitzel, Spatzle and Pork Knuckle
If you refuse to miss out on the real culture of the Christkindlmarkts, then you won’t leave without grabbing a bite of the most traditional fare. Fill up on warm, gooey gulash, chow down on breaded schnitzel covered in gravy or savour the tenderness of your slow-roasted pork knuckle. Guten Appetit!
Transylvanian Chimney Cakes
Chimney cakes are a festive sweet hailing from the birthplace of Dracula, but you won’t find him around this haunt. This spiral of sweet, flaky dough is coated with sugar while roasting on a spit and is perfectly pairs with your market stroll.
The heart of local food that brings all the greens, grains, produce, cheese and meats to our plate isn’t often in our urban centres – it’s mainly found in the people and animals who work the fields and farms. There are several places within Metro Vancouver where you can bring the kids to meet the producers and see farm animals, and a scenic place to start is Langley along the Circle Farm Tour.
At Milner Valley, a fifth-generation heritage farm, they specialize in a variety of artisan goat cheese.
There is a whole crew of adorable goats to visit on Milner Valley’s farm, who are milked to create the cheese you can buy in their shop.
All of the ogling, petting, and taking photos of the goats can get exhausting, so cool yourself with hand-made goats milk gelato, served up in the warmer months. For those sensitive to dairy, goats’ milk (and cheese) is generally easier to digest than cows’ milk, since the composition is slightly more similar to human milk. If you have a slight sensitivity with the dairy of cows, it might be worth it to give goats’ milk gelato a try.
At Kensington Prairie Farm, the alpacas roam, and if they’re close to the fence you can reach through and give them some pets right on their floofy hairdos.
Although their focus is mainly alpacas, Kensington Prairie farm also raises chickens for farm-fresh eggs, as well as cows.
All that Alpaca wool gets made into socks scarves, sweaters, and other cozy clothing. Alpaca wool is super soft, and great for retaining heat – think of all those people in the Andes who’ve relied on alpaca to keep warm for centuries. They certainly know what they’re doing.
There’s also plenty of yarn for your own knit projects.
Also on a Circle Farm Tour, Taves Family Farms has plenty of animals for the whole family to encounter, including seasonal pony rides.
If you’re looking for something fun and different to do in historic Downtown New Westminster, then be sure to check out Fridays on Front, a free family-friendly event.
A brand new weekly community experience that launched July 7th, 2017, Fridays on Front runs every Friday from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm until August 27th along Front Street in New Westminster. The event takes place in the 600-block of Front Street, which has recently been transformed into a modern, pedestrian friendly walkway that still retains a sense of industrial character.
Visitors to past Fridays on Front have been treated to Air Canada En Route People’s Choice award winner, Vij’s Railway Express, the mouthwatering authentic recipes of Thai Box on Truck, and the dessert delicacies of Rocky Point Ice Cream. Cheeses Crust was also on hand with their signature Bacon Bomb and Cheese Steak alongside food truck staples Brazilian Roots and Japadog. So, if you’re in the mood for Butter Chicken Schnitzel, Green Curry, a real fruit smoothie, an amazing grilled cheese, or more, come hungry!
Needing a caffeine pick-up after a long day? Be sure to stop by Old Crow Coffee, a well-loved local coffee house, open until 8 pm during Fridays on Front. Or, if you’re in the area early, and love everything wine, New Westminster’s very own award-winning Wine Factory offers a chance to explore over 250 wines from across the globe. Raincity Juicery, open until 6 pm, offers healthy and tasty cold-pressed organic juices perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot summer night. For a complete list of participating Front Street businesses, please click here.
Fridays on Front is conveniently located near the New Westminster and Columbia Street Skytrain stations with entry via McKenzie Street and Columbia Street.
Drink tickets can be purchased from the cashier stations along Front Street with cash or credit card only. Don’t forget your ID!
You’ll know Rocco’s is passionate about supporting local as soon as you enter the store. The seating area is dominated by two, long wooden tables, built by a company directly across the street, who salvaged fallen trees from within the area. These tables foster traditional Italian family dining and, if you’ve visited Italy, you will be familiar with this concept – and Rocco’s is definitely about family.
The store is managed by Andy and Jana Mollica (a retired Air Canada employee) and their trusted employee, general manager and chef, Pat Toynbee. Stop by on a weekday afternoon and you could be entertained by their adorable children as they munch on pepperoni sticks from behind the deli glass.
Rocco’s opened in August of 2015 and has quickly become the go-to place for coffee, meats, cheeses and treats. Most of the pastries are made in store; try a café misto and a house-made apple fritter for a lovely afternoon snack. The coffee is out of this world, hand crafted on a classic Victoria Arduino espresso machine, producing the perfect crema.
Andy himself has enjoyed a long history within the BC food industry as a caterer, and most notably as the owner of Anducci’s in Coquitlam. But Andy admits that he has been searching for his niche in the food market and has finally found his passion with Rocco’s. There are so many delicious options in the small store; in-house prepared pasta dishes, pastries, muffins and soups along with dry goods imported from Italy. Their pizza dough is prepared with flour sourced from the Prairies and they are careful to support local bakeries for their breads, rolls and baguettes.
Of course, given the owner’s background, Rocco’s offers catering and if you are looking for a charcuterie option you will not be disappointed with the choice of products, or the quality of the meats and cheeses. The plate he offered us featured the classics such as prosciutto and salami but also included some unique and spicy flavors, complimented with flavorful and colorful olives. (I highly recommend the Port Wine Derby cheese!)
If you are looking for a healthier replacement of the standard deli meats for yours, or your children’s lunches, Rocco’s prepares sliced, roasted, organic chicken and turkey along with an in-house cured roast beef. When these meats are paired with the fresh breads and buns, Rocco’s offers some amazing panini’s available for lunch or take out.
But the most interesting aspect of this deli is the refillable olive oil program. This grew in part from a fond memory for Andy. As a child, he remembers visiting a local store with his uncle, who would take along small, glass containers which they would re-fill with grappa. With a growing trend toward “bring your own container” shopping, Rocco’s is on point with this initiative. Shoppers simply purchase the bottles available in the store (there are two sizes) and the staff will fill it with a neutral, filtered, extra virgin olive oil well suited for dressings and sauces. I took home a small bottle of the oil, paired it with a balsamic vinegar reduction, a ciabatta bun and an olive baguette. My family and I were impressed by the fresh taste and smell of this oil, it was unlike any store bought oil I’ve tried before.
Rocco’s will soon undergo a small reno during which Andy will realize his long term goal of balancing his coolers with 50% Rocco’s in-house cured meats and 50% imported Italian meats. They also plan to begin an “Italian happy hour” offering beer, wine and mixed cocktails between 4-8pm; charcuterie included in the price. This is a great place to stop on your way home from work, celebrating a traditional Italian activity proving their motto “We eat what we sell, we sell what we eat.”
Before you visit, make sure to download Rocco’s Deli app, and begin earning a point for every dollar you spend in their store, redeemable for merchandise.
When it comes to apples, most of us are familiar with the supermarket’s uniform and shiny varieties. Beyond the stores in the Lower Mainland, there’s a range of local apples that are not only celebrated for their flavours but for their historical connection – referred to as heritage apples. For the love of these local apples, the annual Heritage Apple Day (October 1) festivities recently took place at the Derby Reach Regional Park in Langley.
This 12th Apple Day festival was a free event held on the site of the original Fort Langley (1827), which is the current Derby Reach Regional Park. In 1839, a new fort was built 4 km upstream from the original and is the present day historical site of Fort Langley. Today, the 12km Fort-to-Fort bike trail links the two fort sites, including a loop at Brae Island Park and the village of Fort Langley. This trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail and the Canyon to Coast Trail along the Fraser River.
European settlers of the first Fort Langley planted apple orchards and some of these trees are still standing within the Derby Reach Regional Park.
Heritage Apple Day is hosted by the Derby Reach/Brae Island Park Association and Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. The event is generously supported by volunteers, Tourism Langley and Pacific Parklands Foundation.
At the heart of the festival is the sampling table with 17 different varieties of heritage apples, grown by local orchards. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the origins and uses of each apple, plus taste their unique flavour and texture. There are heritage apples with origins from: British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Netherlands, and England.
Originally from British Columbia, the crisp, juicy and sweet Spartan apple is part of the 1926 Macintosh X Newton family of apples. It’s ideal for cooking and eating.
Grimes Golden apple is originally from West Virginia and the parent of the Golden Delicious apple. Flavour profile: spicy, perfumed, coriander-like flavour, crisp.
At the site of the oldest orchards in British Columbia, where the original Fort Langley was located, a new orchard with young heritage apple trees have been planted near the Houston House (1909).
BC Fruit Testers Association also participated in the festival with a large display of apple varieties from around the world.
Eating apples at the festival was made more fun with a handheld spiralizer that sliced, cored and peeled apples.
The festival was filled with family-friendly activities and displays; but the ‘hay’ play area was the biggest hit with all the kids.
The Langley Community School Fiddlers entertained the crowd.
There were historical re-enactments during the festival, including the importance of the voyageur canoers that transported goods up and down the Fraser River for the Hudson’s Bay Company. These voyageurs typically wore red toques on their head and colourful wool sashes around their waist.
Goodbye summer heat, hello crisp morning air, vibrant sunsets, giant sweaters, hot apple ciders, and pumpkin spiced everything. Leave the long city shadows for a day and to head where the waning sun lights up expansive golden corn fields.
Many of the kind farmers in the Fraser Valley will let you and your family run gleefully through their crop labyrinths – and they also have hot drinks (or cold craft beer depending on where you go), giant trampolines, and many things to climb, drive, and ride. If you are so inclined, they’ll even let you and/or your kids shoot produce out of cannons (yes, there are pumpkin cannons).
(A full list of Fraser Valley corn mazes after the photo essay.)
Maan Farms Open: August – October Activities: Daytime corn maze, flashlight corn maze (select October dates), haunted corn maze (select October dates), giant jumping pillow, zip line, and carts.
790 McKenzie Road
Chilliwack Corn Maze Open: August – October Activities: A 12-acre corn maze, indoor hay maze, duck races, giant jumping pillow, and carts.
41905 Yale Road West
604-819-6203 or 604-845-7771 chilliwackcornmaze.com
Roadside Corn Maze Open: September 30 – October 23 Fri- Sun Activities: A beer tasting (19+) corn maze, a kid’s corn maze, and food trucks.
36737 North Parallel Rd.
As long as Steve Easterbrook can remember, he’s been fascinated by birds and, in particular, chickens.
“It’s been a lifelong passion for me,” he says, remembering that when he was a young boy, he and a friend would visit a neighbor who raised chickens and game birds. “My friend and I became enchanted with poultry.”
It’s not surprising, then, that Easterbrook became an egg farmer. Perhaps the only surprising thing is it took him until he was in his 30s to do so. That’s when he founded Rabbit River Farms, an organic egg producer in Richmond BC. (The company name is a play on his surname: Easter = rabbit; brook = river.)
When Easterbrook started the farm in 1993, Rabbit River was the first certified organic egg producer in Canada – in fact, he had to write the country’s original guidelines for organic poultry production. He was later instrumental in convincing the BCSPCA to adopt the RSPCA’s UK guidelines for humane treatment of farm animals, and in 2001, Rabbit River became Canada’s first SPCA-certified farm.
“My motivation is that organics implies proper animal welfare, and I wanted to make it clear to consumers that animal welfare was a real priority,” he says.
Consumers, he notes, are poorly informed about labeling, certification and the differences between conventional farms and the kind of place he runs, so he’s made it something of a mission to get the word out.
Currently, some 90 per cent of Canada’s egg production comes from conventional industrial farms, where laying hens spend their entire lives crammed in small battery cages where they do nothing but pop out eggs until they die. And this in spite of the fact that chickens are smart, social creatures.
“They’re very gregarious,” Easterbrook says. “They’re clever and extremely social. If you elect to make a pet of a chicken, you’ll have a really great pet.”
In February 2016, the Egg Farmers of Canada announced that the entire Canadian egg industry would transition away from traditional battery cages. The goal is to have half the industry move to “enriched” or cage-free housing in eight years, and 100 per cent in 20 years.
At Rabbit River, they’re well ahead of the game.
On the Richmond property, a bright, airy 16,000-square-foot barn houses Easterbrook’s 6,700 hens. (There are no roosters.) The hens – fluffy, golden-brown Hy-Line chickens, known as prolific layers of high-quality brown eggs – roam freely, chirruping happily as they hop from feeding trough to nesting box to the scratch area on the floor.
By 11 a.m. each day, the hens finish laying their eggs. Then dozens of pop holes open in the barn and the hens head out to the six-acre pasture where they’ll root for bugs and peck among the grass until nightfall, when they return to the barn to sleep.
“In summertime, as soon as you open the pop holes, they come out in a mass exodus like the subway in Japan at rush hour,” Easterbrook says.
While the chickens are outside, Blue the border collie keeps a wary eye on them and a warier one out for the predatory eagles that nest in the trees across from the property. As Easterbrook notes, “This is KFC for eagles.”
All of Easterbrook’s chickens are raised organically, which means everything from the soil to the feed has no synthetic chemicals, pesticides or antibiotics. The feed is a carefully balanced GMO-free organic grain mix; after all, each hen works hard laying 330 to 340 eggs a year. As Easterbrook says, “We have to manage their diet meticulously because they’re like a Olympic athlete.”
In addition to Easterbrook’s organic eggs, Rabbit River also sells free-run and free-range eggs from partner farms in the Lower Mainland.
The standards for free-run and free-range are looser in Canada than they are for organics, but in general, free-run chickens are cage-free but spend their lives in a barn, while free-range ones have access to outdoors. Neither is held to organic certification standards for chemicals, antibiotics or feed.
Rabbit River eggs are sold at supermarkets throughout B.C. as well as at a small farmgate stand at the farm’s River Road entrance. Customers can also pick up organic produce grown on the farm – and pay for it by an honour system, leaving cash in a box.
“It’s kind of fun for people to pull over and say, ‘Hey, somebody trusts us,’ ” Easterbrook says.
For him, Rabbit River is a return to his family roots. He’d already had a successful business career and was looking to start a hobby farm when someone suggested raising organic eggs and rekindled his love for chickens. Now his daughter’s joined him in the business, making this the fifth generation of the family to farm in Richmond.
“Our primary goal is to have a good quality of life for our laying hens and produce a truly organic egg,” Easterbrook says, adding, “It’s one thing to make a living, but it’s another when you feel good about what you’re doing.”
Rabbit River Farms is located at 17740 River Road, Richmond, BC. The farmgate store is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily in summer, and Friday through Sunday year round. Farm tours are available by appointment only. For more info, visit rabbitriverfarms.com.
Somehow, amidst the never ending tsunami of trends and the revolving door of openings and closings, the buffet endures. An array of tastes and flavours offered at a reasonable price is tempting to the eclectic diner and to parents of choosy children, but to really be a hit, a good buffet needs to not only offer variety but also be well tended, with dishes kept warm and replenished as needed. Perhaps because it remains a bastion of family dining, frequently served only on weekends, the buffet is the one holdover from times past that we not only tolerate but celebrate. In Burnaby, which neighbours Vancouver with a thriving community of families and multiculturalism, there are many to choose from, with a strong focus on international cuisine.
In Burnaby, Indian buffets rule. Four blocks west of Metrotown, contemporary toned Saffron Indian Cuisine yields both lunch and dinner extravaganzas. A wealth of vegetarian and non-vegetarian tastes ranges from daal and paneer to butter or tandoori chicken, with plenty of rice and naan staples. Salads and desserts abound and spicing is moderate. Lunch buffet is offered daily while the dinner buffet runs Wednesday through Sunday evenings.
Arguably the most unusual, definitely affordable, and one of Burnaby’s best-kept-secrets, Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet is served only between 12:30 and 2:30 pm. This tranquil little escape operated by ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is adjacent to the Hare Krishna Temple on Marine Way. Healthy, all-vegetarian dishes are offered, with dishes changing daily and dining by donation (suggested $5 for adults).
At Agra Tandoori the weekday buffet (11:30am – 2:30pm, $9.95) reflects the restaurant’s creative, modern approach, with options roaming from tandoori chicken to goat and vegetable curry and more – with plentiful supplies of naan bread, salad and dessert. The setting is comfortable, and the service efficient but friendly.
An all-day Sunday buffet (12:00pm- 8:00pm) is a big draw for ex-pat Eastern Europeans at The Balkan House, which serves an array of southeastern Mediterranean fare, as well as sausages, meats and kebabs in a cozy, traditional hunting lodge setting. ($17.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids.)
For a more westernized take, EBO Restaurant at The Delta Burnaby Hotel offers an impressive Sunday brunch on some days and on holidays (such as Mother’s Day). This sumptuous smorgasbord spans a wealth of worldwide influences, ranging from typical North American breakfast items such as bacon and eggs to local seafood served both warm and chilled, as well as rotisseried meats and Asian specialties.
Next door at Grand Villa Casino, the buffet is on every day for dinner, lunch on weekdays, and brunch on weekends. Italy rules with an Italian spread offered every Tuesday from 4:00pm to 9:00pm, while on Thursdays the theme shifts to sunny Mexico—complete with $5 Margaritas.
If you are looking for a place to appeal to all your friends, your whole family, or just can’t decide exactly what you want, a buffet can be the way to go to sample your way through a meal until you’re satiated… or until you’re bursting full!