Five You Can Drive: Langley, one of BC's best kept secrets

Lee Carney, Food Editor for Vancouver Observer, says, "There's a joke that Vancouverites often make about needing a passport to cross the Port Mann Bridge. The urban dwelling snobs are wrong, of course, and are missing out on an eye-opening road trip. You will be amazed at the interesting things going on in the communities to our east." This is the second of VO's "Five You Can Drive" series: amazing vacation destinations you can reach within a day from Vancouver, BC, sponsored by Ford Escape.

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Before you leave the village of Fort Langley, grab a cup of coffee (and a snack for the road) at the Lelam Arts and Cultural Café. Owned and operated by the Kwantlen First Nation, this beautifully designed restaurant is perfectly located beside the Fraser River and offers a surprisingly ambitious menu that changes with the seasons. Be sure to examine the art that adorns the walls and admire the intriguing use of First Nations iconography incorporated in to the architecture.

The recently opened Lelam Arts and Cultural Café.

From the village of Fort Langley, make your way south past Highway 1 and turn right on Smith Road to visit Milner Valley Cheese. The 50 acre farm has been in the Smith family for 5 generations and is currently operated by Marianne and Nick Smith. Marianne runs the farmgate shop adjacent to their house where you can sample the different varieties of goat cheeses they make on the premises. Be sure to take home some of the goat milk gelato.

The Milner Valley Cheese tasting room. 

The Krause Berry Farm and Estate Winery is an institution in Langley. Employing upwards of 200 people during the summer and a popular destination for tourist and local alike, the Krause Farm has something for everyone. Berries take centre stage here, appearing in most of the 100 house-made food items (their strawberry rhubarb pie is a best-seller) and available for sale fresh, frozen or pick them yourself in the fields.

The "You Pick" flower garden, opening this summer, where you can pick your own flower bouquet.

Krause Berry Farms recently opened their Estate Winery and have won a surprising number of medals for such a young winery. Fruit wines have a bad reputation and many serious food and wine connoisseurs turn up their noses at them. Don't make that mistake here. Ted, the winery manager, will guide you through their wines and let you sample some extremely drinkable vintages.

Ted, the winery manager behind the tasting bar at Krause Estate Winery

Speaking of wineries, no visit to Langley would be complete without dropping by a few of the vineyards that are clustered near the US border. With only 1/3rd the annual rainfall of Vancouver and the same latitude as the Loire Valley in France, Southern Langley is home to some excellent vineyards.

Township 7 grows chardonnay and pinot noir grapes outside their tasting room that hosts numerous community events throughout the year. Be sure to taste their excellent Sauvignon Blanc (made with a touch of muscat) and a Chardonnay that many non-Chardonnay drinkers will find appealing with it's coconut and pineapple notes.

Chardonnay grapes in the Township 7 vineyard.

The Chaberton Estate Winery operates a 55 acre vineyard that produces 45,00 cases a year, making them the largest producer in the Fraser Valley and one of the BC's largest wineries overall. They grow a hybrid of the riesling grape called Bacchus and, unusually, do not blend it with other varietals. The result is an intriguing white that pairs well with curries and baked fish.

The Chaberton Estate Winery.

Located on the ground of the Chaberton Estate Winery and overlooking the vineyard is the Bacchus Bistro. Open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday and dinner Friday and Saturday nights, Bacchus Bistro offers French bistro cuisine prepared and presented with a deft touch. Menu highlights include lamb shank prepared in a curried broth and pan-seared Lois Lake steelhead in a silky smooth carrot ginger sauce.

During the week, excellent choices for dinner include The Fat Cow & Oyster Bar or Seasonal 56 which features a menu devoted to fresh, locally grown ingredients served in a casual, unpretentious environment.

While a visit to Langley can easily be enjoyed on a day trip, there is so much to do that staying overnight might be your best option. One excellent choice is the LA Acres B&B, located in South Langley and a few minutes' drive from 3 vineyards. LA Acres isn't your typical lace-doiliy-and-rocking-chair B&B. Karen will make you feel welcome in her thoroughly modern home and you'll have full use of the pool, billiard table and home theatre. Her breakfast is excellent, too.

LA Acres Bed & Breakfast.

Only a short drive away from Vancouver, Langley is literally in our backyard and is chock full of interesting sites to see and places to visit. Be sure to plan your trip to Langley soon and discover one of BC's best kept secrets.

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