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I was really glad to be heading to EAT! Vancouver this year. I’ve been wanting to go for a few years now but always happen to be out of town when it happens. I think I first heard about it in 2006 but at the end of May, I was already heading to Europe with some friends for our backpacking/World Cup trip. Actually, I almost missed it again this year but arrived back in Vancouver in time on Friday to make it there on Saturday.
In case you have no idea what I’m on about, EAT! Vancouver is a big, three day food and cooking festival at BC Place in Vancouver. There’s all kinds of restaurants, wineries, food manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and other gastronomically related businesses exhibiting their wares on the show floor. There were butchers and bakers but no, no candlestick makers. There’s over 250 booths, some of which have stuff for you to sample for free and others where there’s a small charge for a snack-sized portion of their specialty.
I was starving by the time I got there on Saturday so I went straight for the restaurant booths. Most of the booths at EAT! require you to buy tickets (probably so they don’t have to deal with giving change and can work more efficiently on serving food to thousands of people) which are $10 for 20. Most of the booths charge between 2 and 8 tickets per dish, which means each is about $1-4.
Of course, my grumbling stomach meant that I forgot to take a picture of the first thing I tried, which was the butter chicken at Maurya Indian Cuisine. Despite my Man vs. Curry speed, I do remember that the sauce was mild, yet you could taste a whole lot of spices in it. The basmati rice smelled fantastic and was cooked just right.
Glowbal Group was serving up these short-ribs, which were fall apart tender and juicy. They were a little under-seasoned for me but came with this great salsa that made the flavors pop.
I love these miniature old-school Chinese take-out boxes from The Noodle Box. I haven’t seen a restaurant use these in years; it’s always the styrofoam. They’re not so mini that I feel like a giant but I imagine this is how Shaq views the world. While the flavors were good (nutty, bit of heat), the noodles were overcooked and quite mushy. I suspect that’s since we’re at a trade show and these things can’t be made to order but still.
Gramercy Grill produced what I thought was the best “entree” I had at EAT! Vancouver, which was this mini burger. The patty is plump and moist, the bits of onion are sweet and the dressing sets it off with a nice tang.
Unfortunately, they also produced this lackluster macaroni and blue cheese. Maybe they were trying to please the majority by toning it down but when I think blue cheese, I think I’m going to be kicked in the face with flavor. Instead, this was rather bland and tasted much more of milk and cream than cheese. The consistency just wasn’t there either. I expect the cheese to be coating that macaroni. They should be inseparable but the sauce was thin and souped at the bottom instead.
I also grabbed a Cane Cola from Boylan, which makes some of my favorite sodas around. You may have seen some of these and guffawed at the higher price compared to a can of Coke but for good reason…Boylan Cane Cola just plain tastes better. The difference is they use cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup, which makes minimal difference in terms of calories or carbs but cane sugar tastes so much better. You know how regular cola tastes better than that chemical diet stuff? Well, that’s how I feel about the difference between cane sugar and corn syrup. Trust me…give a bottle of this stuff a try. I grab as much as I can carry when I see them for 99 cents a bottle.
Of course, if you can’t tell the difference, then seriously, that’s great too. As long as you enjoy something, who cares what it’s made of. Personally, I’m more of a Coke drinker than Pepsi (I find Pepsi too sweet) and I’ve always been able to tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. I haven’t done a Pepsi Taste Challenge in years! I think the last time was back when I was in still in school and we went on a field trip to Splashdown Park.
I correctly chose the Pepsi thinking that I would get a prize or a promo coupon like back in the good ol’ days but no, they just told me I picked the Pepsi! Dammit, I would’ve picked the Coke if I knew! They did, however, give me several bags of chips but not before one of them made me do a Zoolander tweet about him.
After all those mini-entrees, it was time for dessert! I’m not much of a dessert guy, honestly. I only like certain sweet things and a lot of desserts just flat out overdo it. A bunch of the dessert booths piqued my interest but I was getting full and only wanted to sample one. A couple of other ones, though, I made note of so I could try some other time. For example, check out these marshmallows!
I had no idea marshmallows came in anything but a bag at the supermarket. Seriously, who knew there were artisan marshmallows!? These large, flavored blocks of fluffiness were made by Magpie’s Marshmallows. At $1.50 each, they’re certainly more expensive than your standard issue s’more maker but don’t tell me those flavor combos don’t have your attention. Mango creamsicle? Sign me up!
Then there were these tiny cakes on sticks called “Lollicakes” by Binh’s Lollicakes. Look at that attention to detail on such a small scale. They make them to order and price depends on design (and a minimum order of 2 dozen) but the standard ones are $2.50 a piece. They make standard-sized cupcakes but only with the Lollicakes will you be able to take a bite out of Pikachu’s face. Check out their gallery. I LOL’ed at the Star Trek-inspired ones.
I don’t always eat dessert but when I do, I prefer gelato. I’m not the only one either, as a ton kids like the ones above clamored at the Canadian Maple Delights booth. I had a cup of the mango pineapple sorbet, which was flippin’ awesome. It’s light and airy but with plenty of fruit flavor. Not kidding when I say I’m driving down to their Gastown location this weekend to grab a tub of this stuff.
There are, of course, a bunch of things at EAT! Vancouver that you can sample for free as well. For example, this is cheese that isn’t really cheese. This is…dairy-free cheese from Daiya Foods, which looks like they make an entire line of vegetarian and vegan alternatives to dairy and meat products. I’m neither a vegetarian nor a vegan…in fact, I’m probably as far away from those things as humanly possible but I was willing to give the cheese-less cheese a try. I have to say it totally tastes like their respective cheeses, right down to the aftertaste but the texture is more like a cross between a spongecake and pudding. However, this is the first time I’ve eaten a non-dairy cheese product and said “That is totally havarti.” rather than “Ewwwwwwwwwwww….”.
I also had one of these ciders from Lonetree, made from apples grown in the Okanagan Valley. It’s crisp and fresh tasting with a very slight alcohol note even though there’s so little alcohol in the soft cider that it can be found at most supermarkets.
You’ll meet all sorts of people and come across all kinds of food-related products at EAT! Vancouver. For example, you might happen across the Johnston’s table, where this man will challenge you to a game of “Who likes bacon more?”.
Or you could check out this collection of “wine holders” that look like little steampunk Benders from Cellar Momento. I would move them ever so slightly each time guests leave the room and feign ignorance when they ask “…wasn’t that over there?”
Alcohol? We’ve got plenty of that too at EAT! Vancouver! Unfortunately, the lineups for many of those booths, including this one distributing some Clamato Caesars, were long and I had a lot of booths to get through.
If clam juice and vodka isn’t your thing and you’d much rather bury your nose in a pinot noir, there were wine tasting and appreciating seminars going on as well.
Or if don’t want to end up like those poor saps on Hell’s Kitchen and actually learn how to cook, you can get some instruction from instructors at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts at the pop-up cooking school.
Unfortunately, since I missed Friday, I also missed the throw down between Bob Blumer, David Rocco and Rob Feenie but there were still a lot of demos going on at the stages around the floor.
I had a great time at EAT! Vancouver and met a lot of interesting people in the industry but I thought the costs added up quite quickly. If you take transit, great but otherwise, parking in the area is expensive unless you sneakily park at one of the nearby free lots that are for other buildings. $16 at the door is only a bit more than going to the movies but once you add the cost of food, you could probably pay for actual dinner at a nice restaurant. That being said, there is a lot to see at EAT! Vancouver. I just can’t talk about them all without writing a novel but if you enjoy food, give it a look next year. A restaurant certainly isn’t going to teach you to cook and you’ll probably only be able to sample one type of cuisine. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon downtown and if I’m in town next year, I look forward to going again…and hopefully I’ll be able to give away some tickets again next year as well!