Yesterday, for research purposes, I headed back to Steveston. I needed to pick up something very specific for tomorrow’s post (is your curiosity piqued yet or what?) and figured I might as well stick around for a meal. I settled into cozy Alegria Cafe for lunch, and it was a perfect fit for the damp, chilly day.
Located in the heart of the village, Alegria is colourfully decorated, with plenty of seating and Steveston-inspired paintings on the wall. The comfortable decor and open kitchen give the impression you’re at a friend’s place for lunch, and there are a variety of gifts – like local honey – for sale around the shop. The friendly lady behind the counter was a one woman show, who set down the carrot cake she was making to take my order.
Their menu includes breakfast, salads, soups, wraps, sandwiches, and paninis, and I chose a combo: half a turkey/brie/cranberry panini with a side Mediterranean bulgur salad (about $13 with tax). Their turkey, chicken and eggs are all free-range, and there’s a variety of vegetarian options as well.
I sat near the front window, and pulled out Apples to Oysters, a book my friend Steph recently lent to me. In it, Margaret Webb recounts her cross-country search for Canada’s best farmers and fishers, and it’s an incredibly engaging read. A book like this is even better when read on a cold day, in a warm coffee shop, with a good lunch.
The half-turkey panini was a substantial size, and really tasty. The only thing I would have changed is the amount of cranberry sauce – I wanted more! I always want more of anything sweet.
The salad was lovely, too. I enjoyed the chewy texture of the barley, which was mixed with chopped peppers, zucchini, sundried tomatoes, feta, and a balsamic vinaigrette. It was a hearty, filling, and healthy meal.
While they also offer a number of homemade cookies, muffins, and cakes, I passed on dessert. That’s because as soon as I started reading Apples to Oysters, I knew I wanted to make apple crisp. ‘Tis the season, after all.
“Fruit Crisp with Oat Crumble Crust” is an Anderson favourite, from the classic Canadian series, The Best of Bridge. My mom made it for us all the time when we were kids, and it’s a dessert that gives me the same happy, wrapped-in-a-woolly-blanket feeling I get in places like Alegria Cafe.
While the recipe suggests any assortment of fruit, I went with apples, straight up. There are endless local varieties available at this time of year, and I strongly believe that one of the best things you can do with apples is chop them, put them in a dish, cover them in oats, sugar, and butter, and let them bake. Then serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, wrap yourself in a real woolen blanket, and be happy. It worked for me when I was a kid, and it works for me now.
Fruit Crisp with Oat Crumble Crust (adapted from The Best of Bridge)
6 cups apples, peeled and sliced (or any combination of berries, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears, or apricots)
1/3 cup sugar (instead, I used a generous drizzle of maple syrup)
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I also added in a sprinkle of ground ginger and nutmeg)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
To make crisp: place prepared fruit in a 2 quart (2 litre) baking dish. Combine sugar, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon and spices. Add to fruit and toss to coat.
To make crust: mix crust ingredients with a pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes, or until crisp is golden brown and bubbling. Serves 8.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available