EAT! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival
By Adrian Joseph, contributing writer
Images Courtesy of Mauricio Rivera Photography
The 2012 EAT! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival’s unparalleled spread served as a momentary taste bud portal to wonderful destinations around the world.
Upon entering BC Place Stadium for this three-day festival, my eyes were flooded with red to induce hunger, though at this event, a healthy appetite seemed to be a prerequisite. Booth after booth illustrated a specific niche within the culinary community. People exclaimed “You gotta try this!” while others were transported via memory and taste joyfully saying “When I eat this I think of…”
I posed a question to some of my fellow attendees as we enjoyed the various delights. “What is your favourite food?” Answers ranged from edamame and pizza to lobster, steak, ceviche and sashimi. A wide variety of appetites, all of which no doubt found something (more likely several things) to satisfy their hunger.
The following list showcases some of my favourite companies among the myriad of booths, and highlights the entire spectrum of colour within each. Most important, each booth featured happy people handing out samples of everything from alkaline water to apple cider.
Rain City Soups
-a very recent local company that is only a few months old
-handmade small batch artisan soups
-crafted with fresh natural ingredients
-no chemicals or preservatives
-four flavours fennel and butternut squash, minestrone, smoked chicken corn chowder and lemon thyme chicken noodle
-in regards to ingredients “we play”
Join the fun at raincitysoups.com.
-pesto booming with flavour
-with vegan and dairy free options that are just as fresh and flavourful
Bernard LeGrand mentioned there is less pesto in the west compared to Quebec. His products are changing that one bite at a time (maisonlegrand.com).
-25 years in business
-organic and grass-fed beef
-ballotine boneless free run chicken
-cornish game hen
Mark Hills is bringing game of all sorts to your kitchen and he was instrumental in bringing kangaroo to Canada(hillsfoods.com).
Serengeti Tea Company
-single serving perforated tea infusers
-doubles as a stir stick, when it stops dripping its ready
-no dust like traditional teabags
-eco friendly sustainable box
-pomegranate white tea made with real fruit, their most antioxidant rich blend
-ruby raspberry with hibiscus and rosehips, caffeine free, smooth and robust flavour
A labour of love that started as a desire to make enjoying tea easier for the owner’s grandmother who had Parkinson’s disease. “Life is too short to drink mediocre tea”
-about 7 years old
-kind and enthusiastic staff
-using the excess of farmers organic fruits to produce liquid heaven
-available at Safeway, Nesters, Blenz and IGA
-sweet and natural flavour that was like an opera for my taste buds
-strawberry paradise was indeed just that
This just may be the best drink I ever had! By far the most refreshing flavourful beverage I was lucky enough to enjoy at the festival. Do yourself a favour and find this immediately – drink it and smile (purityorganic.com).
Wine and Beer Tastings
-popular items included mini Caesars, Nat Bailey Brown Ale and Canadian Absinthe that was set on fire!
Pets Eat Too:
1 – Pronature
-various free samples of healthy treats like duck l’orange for your 4-legged best friends
-no by products, artificial flavour or artificial colour
-fresh meat, organic fruits, vegetables and fine herbs
-carbohydrates that are easier to digest brown rice, pearled barely, and oat groats as opposed to corn wheat or soybeans
Producers of well-balanced dog and cat foods (pronature.ca).
2 – Halo
-only real chicken, turkey, lamb, beef and wild salmon
-no chicken meal, artificial flavour or artificial colour
-turkey, duck and pheasant
For over 20 years, Halo has created holistic pet products (halopets.ca).
Bite Of Vancouver Restaurant Pavilion
This cornucopia of flavour was very busy all three days of the festival showcasing owners, chefs and servers of some of Vancouver’s favourite restaurants.
1 – Salmon n’ Bannock
-First Nations cuisine with a modern flare
-free range game and wild fish
-the restaurant offers dishes like slow roasted deer with red wine gravy or smoke bison carpaccio
-brilliant pickled wild sockeye & delicious smoked candied salmon
2 – New India Buffet and Restaurant
-hearty, spicy channa masala
3 – Ebo
-local seasonal ingredients, fusion of flavours
-potent lamb slider, one of the two items I had to have again
4 – Doña Cata Mexican Foods
-cactus taco “nepalitos”
-fresh, steamed, no oil or preservatives used
When I asked “What can you tell me about your cuisine?” Brenda Cortes, the granddaughter of Doña Cata, answered “I’m just continuing.” She is referring to continuing the tradition of 3rd generation recipes taught to her by her family. Doña Cata, the woman who started it all immortalized on the poster and cards with the quote “Cook with love that’s all I can say.”
These folks were very kind and generous, when I was about to pay, Brenda said “Just come to the restaurant.”
5 – The Noodle Box
-Southeast Asian cuisine
-spicy peanut noodles which once I ate made me realize why their booth had a 10-15 person line every time I saw it
-charming mini takeout boxes
-their menu includes kung pao, Malay style roti, various stir frys, soups and curries
-spice ranging from very mild to suicide hot “only for the brave”
6 – Frankies Italian Kitchen and Bar
-Chef Patrick Dore and his staff constantly serving up hearty meatballs to a steady line of attendees
-a delicious basil pesto rigatoni
-rustic, rich, authentic
-recipes from the owner’s grandmother
7 – Establishment
-African peanut soup that was smoky and savoury
-world fusion: Morrocco, Egyptian, Mexican,Caribbean, Thai, Malaysian
-exciting, different and very innovative menu
One staff member expressed a deep respect for Chef Victor Bongo, who hasn’t forgotten his roots. She informed me that proceeds from his book sales go to a Congocharity.
When I mentioned coming to the restaurant, Chef Bongo cheerfully said “Come by, I’ll make you something special.”
8 – Organic Lives
-elixirs, tonics, juice bar
-very varied menu
-raw food movement
-aloo tikki patty with peas, spinach, mango, mint, tomato, lime and tamarind
-vegetable pizza – the other item I ate twice at the festival, the freshest slice I’ve ever ate, no cheese, crunchy and a yam, cabbage, celery, carrot crust – topped with pineapple olive mushroom and a pine nut sauce
Other Eat! Vancouver Mentions
1 – Dairy Farmers of Canada Cheese Seminary Stage
The cheese seminar showcased seven types of Canadian cheese was informative and all the more enjoyable because of a lovely, warm, charming Serbian couple whose love of food was clear. They were happy to delight me with descriptions of their favourite traditional dishes like filo cheese pastry, sausage and cabbage rolls.
2 – The World Culinary Travel Expo
Shined a light on several of the great cuisines our world has to offer. Places likeLouisianawhere the unique mix of Spanish, Haitian and French cultures provide a wide expanse of tastes and techniques that make that great state stand out. Foods such as crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, catfish, boudin and andouille make me want to visitLouisiana(louisianatravel.com) and head there sooner than later.
Amazingly beautiful roses carved into watermelon and carrot illuminated a spectacular tradition inThailand.
There was a special gravity toPeru. I felt drawn to it like a teenager to a cell phone. The home of the planet’s greatest food festival “Misturà,” created by Gaston Acurio. A fairly recent addition toPeru’s fascinating culture.
The use of Nazca lines in the logo of thePerubooth was a superbly creative visual.
A beautiful Peruvian woman gave me a detailed account of the country she was clearly very proud of. The various regions and their techniques like the use of banana leaf in the Amazon or how all of their food is based on history. No wonder it is amongst the top culinary countries in the world. Some of the unique ingredients like alpaca, quinoa, alligator and cassava. Even the flyers had a tidbit of history about the recipes/ingredients or fun facts for example:Peruproduces more varieties of potato than any other country in the world. They also boast the largest buffet in the world offering over 600 dishes, which makes sense since the country is home to over a thousand cooking schools.
Chef Pedro Guillen, the owner of Mochikas, explained that food is “what binds Peruvians” and “is our maximum culture expression.” The two most important words regarding cuisine seem to be community and passion. These chefs were very, very jovial and friendly, as I walk by they call out to me cheerfully “Come and enjoy some food.’
So I did. A spicy creamy chicken reminiscent of a pot pie.
Chef Guillen demonstrated how to cook a popular Peruvian dish: Ceviche, specifically a halibut, octopus ceviche with a yellow pepper sauce. Fresh, tangy, and sweet with perfectly tender octopus and halibut. His fellow chef stated “Pedro is a magician in the kitchen.” Fall under his spell at Mochikas (mochikas.ca).