Adrian Brijbassi
GET UPDATES FROM Adrian Brijbassi
Adrian Brijbassi appears frequently on CTV News Channel, TSN Radio and CJSF Radio, discussing travel, sports and writing. He is the managing editor of He's also a former editor at the Toronto Star, and has formerly worked at New York Newsday and the Vancouver Sun. Adrian has won six travel writing awards from NATJA, including for best destination article published in a newspaper in both 2010 and 2011. He is a judge for the World's 50 Best Restaurants and spearheaded the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list that debuted in 2012.

Entries by Adrian Brijbassi

Tribute To Michelin Chefs During Dine Out Vancouver

(0) Comments | Posted January 25, 2016 | 4:49 PM

Stefan Hartmann's contribution to his first Dine Out Vancouver experience is an homage to his pedigree as a revered European chef. Hartmann, the executive chef at Bauhaus in Gastown, will be presenting dishes from two culinary greats -- Marco Pierre White and Juan Amador -- during...

Read Post

Where To Dine On Vancouver's Robson Street

(0) Comments | Posted December 14, 2015 | 1:07 PM

Twenty-five years in the restaurant business is no easy task, particularly as the industry becomes more competitive and diners' fascinations tend to lean toward the new and fashionable.

Andrew Richardson calls the silver anniversary of CinCin -- celebrated in September with a marvellous fete that included a cookout...

Read Post

Vancouver Art Show Celebrates Creative Minds of Brain Cancer Patients

(1) Comments | Posted October 8, 2015 | 8:15 AM

Glioblastoma. It's a scary and ugly word that you do not want staring you in the face. It has the power to wreck your life, as it has mine.

Glioblastoma is the name of the worst kind of brain cancer the world knows. Like a horror movie villain, it returns...

Read Post

In Old Las Vegas, a New Culinary Movement Emerges

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2015 | 12:53 PM

The best new restaurant in Las Vegas isn't housed in a gaudy hotel on the Strip. Nor is it adorned with the first name of its celebrity chef or a menu with prices that equate to the cost of one of the city's pricey theatre shows.

It is on East...

Read Post

At This Whistler Golf Course, Nature Is the Champion

(1) Comments | Posted July 27, 2015 | 5:02 PM

Ryan Vit watches the rushing waves of Blackcomb Creek cascading down rocks and cutting through the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club course. He nods with appreciation for what is an increasingly rare and important natural wonder -- nourishing, glacier-fed, drinkable water. The creek flows beneath a bridge on...

Read Post

FIFA Women's World Cup Was a Triumph for Vancouver

(1) Comments | Posted July 6, 2015 | 12:22 PM

Jon Wilson stood on Robson Street staring east to the throng of Americans parading toward the host stadium of the Women's World Cup final and declared the scene was "awesome." Wilson was ecstatic that his last-minute trip from Oregon turned out to be an even better than he...

Read Post

20 Canadian Restaurants You Must Try

(19) Comments | Posted June 14, 2015 | 10:56 PM

On Monday, will announce its fourth annual Top 50 Restaurants in Canada rankings. It's a survey of elite diners, industry experts, and leading travel and food journalists who take the pulse of the nation's dining scene. My experiences during the past 12 months indicate that there is...

Read Post

FIFA Women's World Cup a Winner For Tourism

(8) Comments | Posted June 2, 2015 | 4:16 PM

Last week, FIFA took centre stage in the world media for all the wrong reasons. This week, the beautiful game will rely on its most beautiful players to re-focus attention on the sport itself. That means eyes of the soccer world will be on Canada for the entirety...

Read Post

Michelin Chef Brings Hot New Restaurant to Vancouver

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 12:58 PM

When Stefan Hartmann gets his restaurant working the way he wants, Vancouver will feel a little more elite than it already does. After just two days, Hartmann has achieved the best fine-dining restaurant in the city, surpassing the likes of Hawksworth, Boulevard, Le Crocodile...

Read Post

Tofino's Feast Showcases Flavours of the West Coast

(0) Comments | Posted May 8, 2015 | 11:51 AM

Dylan Tilston plucks the head off of a live prawn, cracks the shell that covers the belly and spine, squeezes the tail to remove the remaining meat and then pitches it into his mouth. "That's the way you eat 'em," says the self-proclaimed foodie. "Try it."

I did. My technique...

Read Post

Meet the Youngest Pilot to Fly Around the World Solo

(0) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 11:33 AM

If you've ever thought a dream was too big to achieve or an idea too ridiculous to pursue, look to Matt Guthmiller to inspire you to your highest ambitions. Guthmiller, a sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent his summer vacation last year flying around the world....

Read Post

Fresh Takes on Richmond's Tasty Chinese Food Scene

(0) Comments | Posted March 10, 2015 | 2:55 PM

Xin Mao wants a Richmond culinary scene for his generation. Mao is a 30-something millennial who has studied culinary arts in Vancouver and worked in the city's fine-dining establishments. He has witnessed the growth of sustainable practices in the restaurant industry and the emergence of a culinary sensibility that is...

Read Post

Vancouver Wine Fest Pours Plenty of the Good Stuff

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 12:40 AM

Darryl Weinbren has attended the Vancouver International Wine Festival from its inception. During its 37 years, he has witnessed it emerge as one of the leading events of its kind in the world. As the president of Authentic Wine & Spirits Merchants, Weinbren is among the...

Read Post

One Vancouver Restaurant's Fascinating Love Story

(1) Comments | Posted February 13, 2015 | 11:32 AM

It's not unusual for a restaurant owner to name his establishment after the woman he loves. Robbie Kane, though, did it before he even met her.

Kane opened Cafe Medina in 2008 and it instantly attracted Vancouverites who wanted brunch fare. Among the early customers was a woman...

Read Post

Why B.C.'s Cowichan Valley Is a New Tourism Hot Spot

(0) Comments | Posted January 18, 2015 | 5:01 PM

A good argument could be made that Victor Vesely is living life the way it's supposed to be lived. He has set about pursuing his passion while marrying that passion with his wife's own pursuits and inviting anyone who would like to share and learn more to drop in for a cup of tea. Tea served in a small shop in the middle of the forest off of a backroad in the far west coast of Canada, a setting that will send your mind hurtling away from wherever it was when you entered. Here, you will dwell on tranquil thoughts for however long you care to stay.

Vesely's charming Teafarm is not a spa, but it is relaxing thanks to his graciousness and the gentility of the surroundings. The Teafarm serves 100 varieties of tea and soon will begin selling its own product that is made from some of the 600 tea plants on the property just north of Duncan, which is the smallest city by geographic area in Canada.

Travellers have been known to seek out a great restaurant or to search for fabulous desserts. Will anyone really go out of their way for tea?

I think they should because -- like so many other businesses in Vancouver Island's delightful Cowichan Valley -- what you'll find at the Teafarm is an experience. Vesely and his wife, artist Margit Nellemann, have created an impressive little enterprise that cannot be replicated anywhere else because it comes entirely from their heart.

Vesely, who is from Montreal, studied religion in Virginia and travelled extensively in Asia, pursuing knowledge of tea and the cultures that revere it. Nellemann creates exquisite clay teapots that sell for $250 and up. The tea is served in her pots and customers can order small sandwich plates or delicious handmade chocolates to go with it. A tea service is in the works. In warmer weather, Vesely and Nellemann host parties, including an annual Mad Hatter bash that sees patrons arriving dressed as characters from "Alice in Wonderland."

Visitors can also purchase tins of the teas they like or select the one that coincides with their Chinese calendar birth year. Vesely provides a list of each year -- and the animal it represents -- as well as the tea that is most suited to anyone born within the period.

"Invigorating Cowichan with tea culture has really been my goal," Vesely says after serving me masala chai in one of Nellemann's pots. "I think it's something that is working because of the food producers and artists here. A large part of tea culture is the beauty of service. In Asia, along with tea, there is the ceramic that the tea is served in, so we are trying to be true to that part of the experience too."

The Teafarm embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cowichan Valley. It has charm, personality, quality, just the right amount of eccentricity. Those are the hallmarks of a one-of-a-kind enterprise. The kind of place that makes you want to return for a visit and tell your friends to come too. In the Cowichan Valley, there are many places like this one waiting for you to arrive. The region ranks on the 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada for 2015 because the culinary tourism offerings you will find here are true gems. Many of them are hidden away in secluded areas of this expansive area that is about a 45-minute drive north of Victoria.

You'll find numerous boutique wineries, including Venturi-Schulze, which, remarkably, hand picks its grapes. It employs 21 workers to harvest the vineyards on its 21-acre property that is off of the Trans-Canada Highway in the town of Cobble Hill.

The family-owned winery makes only 1,500 bottles of wine a year, as well as 3,000 bottles of fine balsamic vinegar, including one variety that retails for $100 a bottle. Among its products are a wonderful sparkling wine made with Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Gris grapes ($32.10) and a reserve Pinot Noir ($60.10) that demonstrates why winemakers in the area think Vancouver Island is the best place in Canada for growing that variety.

According to Tourism Vancouver Island, Cowichan Valley is home to "Canada's only maritime Mediterranean climatic zone" and boasts the nation's "warmest mean year-round temperatures," with summer averages of 23 Celsius degrees and winter averages of 6 Celsius degrees. The temperature and climate allows the valley to have Canada's longest growing season.

That explains why the quality of the products can be so good. But why entrepreneurs can set up shop and make things work so well that it compels people to visit is less easy to explain.

Michelle Schulze, the vineyard manager at Venturi-Schulze, says the valley has benefitted from the experience of its community and from a cooperative spirit.

"Everyone here has come from something else. They've pursued second careers that matched their passions and interests. And they've come here because they appreciate it. It's romantic, it's bucolic and beautiful. It's rural but it's also not that far away," she says.

Vesely believes that proximity to Victoria and its international airport is a reason why Cowichan Valley has begun to flourish.

"There is a level of affluence that can allow this to happen," he says of the successful artistic-driven boutique businesses. "There are people here who live in New York and San Francisco and other places, and they still return to those spots, but they choose to support here. They can have art from the region and wines from up the road and a unique experience like the tea here and then a fine-dining experience at Hudson's that is as good as anywhere."

Vesely isn't being hyperbolic. Hudson's on First is a brilliant restaurant in a heritage building. It is owned and operated by Daniel Hudson, a British immigrant and former "Top Chef Canada" contestant. His dishes are beautifully created and the service is outstanding, with staff who have worked at Rouge in Calgary (also in a heritage building) and the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, about three hours away on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. Located in a heritage building in downtown Duncan, Hudson's is regarded as the best restaurant in the region.

While the restaurant's menu includes local products and wine, another establishment focuses on cider. Merridale Cidery has been operating for a quarter century and is an expansive property with more than 13 acres of apples in its orchard in Cobble Hill. The cidery -- yet another family-owned and -operated business -- creates a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders using imported apples from Europe that are ideal for the beverage. Creating an atmosphere with kids in mind, the cidery has a fun trail to explore and features a popular Sunday pizza night in its comfortable bistro.

You also have bakeries and meaderies and breweries, along with cute cafes and farms that offer field-to-table dining. Seaside towns like Cowichan Bay have the feel of the Maritimes, except with more upscale accommodations and houses. Oceanfront Suites at Cowichan Bay is a pleasant surprise, featuring immaculate rooms with kitchens, luxury fittings and views overlooking the water.

When I arrived in Cowichan Valley, my expectations were high. In 2009, the region became the first Cittaslow community in North America. Originating in Italy, Cittaslow recognizes places whose citizens "take time to build community relationships, celebrate the community's unique history and traditions, promote craftsmanship and environmental stewardship, maintain the community's distinct character, and engage residents and visitors by sharing in high-quality living."

Several people had also recommended visiting, including Andrew Shepherd, owner of the Vancouver Island Salt Co. and winner of the 2014 Globe & Mail Small Business Challenge. While speaking to him in Victoria, he described the valley as a place "with crazy artisans everywhere. There's been a real meeting of the minds. A lot of really talented people have gotten together close to the city and are making a pretty amazing scene up there."

I came prepared to be impressed. I left convinced Cowichan Valley is one of the most interesting places to visit in Canada, a spot to which I am eager to return -- for a pot of tea and a lot of exploring.

Click Here to See Videos of All 20 of the 2015 Best Places to...

Read Post

Why Victoria's Public Market Is a Find for Foodies

(0) Comments | Posted January 8, 2015 | 8:12 AM

Olimpia Cisneros is one of those entrepreneurs who you root for -- and she makes it easy to do so because her product is exceptionally good. Cisneros is the chef and owner of La Cocina de Mama Oli, a small, modest eatery inside the year-old Victoria...

Read Post

Best of Canadian Food in 2014

(1) Comments | Posted December 31, 2014 | 8:05 AM

Fred Morin looked out at the gravel driveway and asphalt lane behind Joe Beef and said to me, "This restaurant wouldn't happen in most places. Not in California or New York. That's one of the things I'm most proud of. We try to keep things real and true...

Read Post

Goats On a Roof and More Curiosities on Vancouver Island

(0) Comments | Posted December 8, 2014 | 3:51 PM

Ken Nicholson calls it "The most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. People come from all over the world to see the goats on the roof."

Nicholson is a self-professed hippie, one of many on Vancouver Island. He's also a business owner and like many business owners around the central part...

Read Post

Why the Grey Cup Is More Than Just a Game

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 12:02 PM

Rob Bridges was among the many visitors to Vancouver this week that reminded me why the Grey Cup matters. A proud Hamiltonian, Bridges travelled more than 4,300 kilometres to cheer on his hometown team, despite the fact they were overwhelming underdogs.

Bridges arrived at BC Place decked in...

Read Post

Vancouver Ready to Rock During Grey Cup Festival

(0) Comments | Posted November 27, 2014 | 4:01 PM

Even though the absence of the home team in the 102nd Grey Cup may disappoint fans in Vancouver, the city's mayor is still upbeat about the CFL championship game that takes place this weekend. It's an event that will entertain residents and visitors alike, mayor Gregor Robertson promised...

Read Post