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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Get The Drift

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday August 20, 06:09 pm
An ingenious idea becomes reality in Saskatoon


339 Avenue A South


Every once in a while, someone has a brilliant, unique vision. And when they execute it, all the rest of us say something like, “I didn’t know this was possible, but now that it’s here I can’t believe we didn’t have it before!”

That, my friends, is Drift Café and Vista Lounge.

We didn’t know we were missing a café that would serve fresh paninis and crêpes, beautiful freshly brewed coffees, daily desserts and snacks (think vegan chia puddings) artfully prepared in mason jars, and artisan ice pops. But now that it’s here, how did we live without it?

Drift started building brand recognition with those very same ice pops last year, entering the food truck realm with a “Dickie-Dee”-style ice pop bicycle cart. Except they were selling homemade ice pops with some pretty fab flavours, like peaches and cream, using coconut milk for the cream, and avocado lime. (You can still find their Drift Cycle at events around the city.)

When they opened their café on the corner of 19th Street and Avenue A — with an opening into Escape Sports — last February, the spot was instantly popular, a bright space full of tropical plants and tropical-inspired clay tile and wicker furnishings.

Then, they set up their sidewalk café in March, for anyone comfortable enough with the elements to enjoy a coffee outside. Inside, they also went above and beyond, offering a few coveted hammock chairs for people to swing in while they enjoyed their beverages.

They’re serving some delicious fresh crêpes and paninis along with daily vegan soups and several tasty things to put on bread, from honey and ricotta on toast to hummous or vegetable antipasto alongside grilled bread.

I love savoury crêpes, and the chef’s selection has had enough interesting options that I haven’t yet ventured into the build-your-own section. I’ve sampled the Morongo (figs, prosciutto and brie with a red wine reduction sauce), the Bollywood (spiced chickpeas, pickled onion, feta and mint raita) and the Sayulita (scrambled egg, pico de gallo, charred jalapeno and avocado crème fraiche).

For the sweet crêpe lovers there’s a Kerrobert crêpe, filled with stewed strawberry-rhubarb and candied ginger, or a Chikita, with cinnamon-grilled pineapple, banana, coconut whip and caramel sauce.

These crêpes are tender, hot and fresh, and the fillings are well-seasoned and wonderfully balanced.

The sandwich fillings are just as intriguing. Anything that uses figs and/or basil is welcome in my book, and they have a Margarita Panini (mozza, tomato and basil) and a “French Giving” Panini, with chicken, figs, Dijon and brie. Yum. Norm Hann, a stand-up paddleboard expeditionist, is an inspiration to the owners of Drift/Escape Sports, and they have named a smoked salmon Panini after him: the NormHannwich.

Oh, and the coffee? Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. My husband, who finds excuses to visit Drift weekly, introduced me to their Flat White. We drank flat whites when we traveled to Australia and New Zealand, but not many places offer them here. It was a fantastic coffee experience. And refills are only $1.50!

But in case offering fresh crêpes like nowhere else in Saskatoon and fantastic coffee isn’t enough for you, Drift also just opened Vista Lounge upstairs, which is open from 4 pm-10 pm on weekdays and 4 pm to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.( Brunches are coming soon as well.)

We headed there on a Friday night to see what the space was like, and I was instantly delighted. There are garage doors on two sides of the space that open onto a narrow, wrought-iron deck shaded by trees. Saskatoon hasn’t had that “treetop” experience that you get from La Bodega in Regina, until now. And the fresh-air dining, even when you’re inside, is delightful.

The vibe is pretty casual but the clientele is trendy, and the food options include tapas-style small plates and shareable larger plates. There was lots I wanted to try, and we quickly agreed on a series of small plates, including an antipasto on bread, a spicy feta dip, “tacos of Gibraltar” including crispy fish and squid, and serrano pepper poppers. We rounded that off with a shared “grilled cheese greens” with halloumi (delicious and grillable cheese) and figs.

The cocktail list also revealed several that I wanted to try. They had all my favourite classics (Manhattan, old fashioned, bourbon sour and negroni… erm, is that too many favourites?) as well as a whole list of house-invented cocktails. I settled on the Lilith and Luther — partly for the name, but also partly for the combination of tequila, a bird’s eye chili tincture (!!), citrus and a cassis float. I love heat, I love citrus and I love cassis. I’d say it was a match made in heaven, but… Lilith and Luther don’t live in heaven.

Our snacks were thoroughly enjoyable. The antipasto had some anchovy funk which made me sit up and take notice. (I lurve anchovies!!) The spicy feta dip was warm, melty and spicy just like it should be, and it was topped with the cutest little sweety drop pickled peppers that I had just discovered earlier this summer during my travels. These things are the most delightful marriage of sweetness, heat and vinegar tang from the pickling. I’m so glad that Vista has introduced them to Saskatoon. They could just serve me a bowl of them and I’d be happy.

We were forewarned that the serrano poppers are inconsistent in their heat scale: Sometimes they’re not too spicy, and sometimes they’re off the hook. They did vary, but they weren’t too spicy not to enjoy them. I’d order them again and again.

My only complaint about our meal was the salad was a bit unbalanced. I will certainly enjoy anything with figs and halloumi, and I did enjoy it, but the figs were a bit too sweet and needed some vinegar to balance things out. That’s a pretty minor criticism, though.

I have my eye on some of the large plates for next time, and hope to find someone who wants to share them with me. Who wants to share the chorizo a la vino (uh, sausage in wine, anyone?), Cata Cata chicken with roasted cauliflower and leek and whipped blue cheese, or the delicatessen platter with olives, nuts, cheese, meat and preserves? Get in line, folks. We’re going to be spending a lot of time at Vista Lounge.

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