Three food and drink festivals you won't want to miss

And a guided tour of Puglia with former CBC-Radio-Canada personality and emcee Monique Polloni

Sandra Thomas Travel

Festival season is almost upon us and I promise that, even with most events taking place outdoors, it will stop raining eventually — really. And remember, no matter what you’re in to, there’s a festival for that. So now’s the time to start mapping out your spring — including that next epic road trip.

B.C. Distilled: April 8

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Canada’s premier craft and micro-distillery festival is back, this time with 34 distilleries from across the province on hand to help you get your drink on. Or perhaps, elevate the drink you’ve been getting on to something slightly more impressive than what currently inhabits that top shelf in your kitchen. The annual festival offers enthusiasts an opportunity to taste top B.C. spirits, discuss their qualities with the actual makers, and enjoy a fun evening with friends.

Highlights include:

An on-site Legacy Liquor pop-up shop that will allow participants to purchase bottles selected from the widest selection of B.C. spirits available anywhere, with more than 100 products for sale.

Puppies! A charity auction in support of the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), which breeds, raises, trains and supports certified assistance dogs for people living with disabilities and for community care professionals. A portion of the festival’s proceeds will also support PADS.

In keeping with a best-of-the-best theme, the food offerings at the festival’s public tasting event April 8, from 6 to 9 p.m., are impressive enough that even the designated driver in your group is guaranteed a good time. Check out bites from the Cascade Room, Homer St Café, Juniper, Koko Monk, Lucky’s Doughnuts, Timber and Two Rivers.

A trade show takes place April 8, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. All events takes place at the Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Dr.

Visit for more information.

Osoyoos Oyster Festival: April 19 to 23


Oyster Festival
The Osoyoos Oyster Festival runs April 19 to 23.


Oysters in the desert — who knew? Though when you consider the amount of high-quality wine produced in the area, pairing a gorgeous white with fresh oysters only makes sense. That’s why Osoyoos restaurants, bars and special event organizers have joined forces to showcase sustainably-produced oysters from the West Coast paired with local wines and craft beers. Visit for more information.

B.C. Shellfish & Seafood Festival: June 9 to 18

Comox Valley


BC shellfish festival
Chef Nathan Fong taking part in a cooking demonstration at a past B.C. Shellfish & Seafood Festival.


What initially began as a one‐day event 11 years ago, has expanded to become the largest seafood festival in Western Canada, featuring popular local and international culinary celebrities and outstanding seafood. The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association originally established the festival to bring awareness to the industry and it’s since grown significantly with the support of Comox Valley Economic Development and Tourism and a wide array of tourism and industry partners. Comox Valley, the largest oyster producer in Canada, was an obvious location for the 10-day festival, which includes seafood tastings, aquaculture producer tours, signature dinner events, competitions and more.

Highlights for 2017 include the B.C. Seafood on Your Plate Restaurant Campaign, the B.C. Seafood Expo, keynote speaker Terry O’Reilly from the CBC, a completely new Fresh Fest, June 10th, and the Fanny Bay Oyster Shucking Competition and OceanWise Chowder Challenge at the signature festival event, the Comox by the Sea Celebration, June 18th. For more information and tickets, visit and

My prediction: With a recent $250,000 investment from the provincial government to support tourism in the area, Comox is going to be one to watch this year.

Travel to Southern Italy with Monique Polloni: June 11 to 21


Vancouver Tripster
Visit Italy's Puglia on a guided culinary tour with former CBC-Radio-Canada personality Monique Polloni and Journeys with a Heart.

Former CBC-Radio-Canada personality and emcee Monique Polloni knows the art of tasting, breathing and touching Italy, thanks to her roots, family history and many journeys there. This tour is all about letting go and enjoying what Polloni calls the “real” Italy, its people, places, traditions, delicious food and exquisite wines. 

Discover Puglia, the region in the heel of Italy’s “boot” known for its beautiful whitewashed hill towns, century-old farms with magnificent buildings and grounds, Mediterranean coastline, stunning baroque architecture and unique trulli (stone) huts with their distinctive conical roofs. Participants will indulge in “slow” hearty meals lovingly prepared and made from local ingredients and, included as one of the many highlights of this tour, spending time with acclaimed Chef Peppe Zullo. 

The trip is a fundraising tour for Vancouver-based Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre and Slow Food International. Visit for more information.


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