3 days. 15 hours. Hundreds of booths, stages, and events. This was our experience at EAT! Vancouver 2014:
If you haven’t been to EAT! Vancouver—you should go!—it is the ultimate consumer food show. Wander the aisles with your fellow foodies grazing on samples, stuffing your bags with bargain priced fine foods, and schmoozing with celebrity chefs. Passes are $17 per day, which includes most events and samples, with a tickets system available for separate purchase of larger portions ($5 for 10 tickets). To give an example of ticket purchasing power, most meal-sized items were priced around 8-12 tickets.
At this year’s EAT! Vancouver you could also refine your whiskey palate, become a cheese connoisseur, learn to make a mean Pad Thai, or be taught some of Vancouver’s top chefs favourite recipes. Those are just a few of the many events that took place over the weekend at EAT! Vancouver. Oh, and if you like to have a drink or two they have a vibrant beer garden-type area plus the Sips Stage for alcohol-related tastings and presentations.
The biggest draw however was EAT! Vancouver’s opening night Celebrity Chef Throwdown. Vikram Vij of Vij’s et al., Ned Bell of YEW at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, and Jackie Ellis of Beaucoup Bakery competed for the title under the watchful eyes of host Ann Luu from CTV News and judge Rob Feenie, Executive Chef for the Cactus Club chain.
They were given a secret ingredient and then had 20 minutes to come out with a dish incorporating it. Jackie Ellis, who’s scrumptious Yuzu Citrus Tart graces our logo above, came out the winner with her Asian stir fry dish. The whole event was very fast-paced and entertaining. Vij was especially animated and crowd-pleasing, cracking jokes and quips as he cooked his halibut curry entry.
We couldn’t resist the guy’s charisma and came back for round 2 the next day, watching him whip up a spicy vegetarian curry with a side of saucy dance moves. Vij is all about the passion, and while I disagreed with about half of what he had to say philosophy-wise, it was an absolute pleasure hearing him say it! Good times.
We also made a second stop with Ned Bell on the last day to learn how to make bacon cauliflower mac and cheese with prawns. Oh and some green garbanzo dip! The colour comes from using beans that are still young and green. Apparently you can pick these up at Costco.
Ned Bell was very endearing to watch and was a true gentleman when meeting with everyone after his EAT! Vancouver set. He is also a vocal proponent of sustainable seafood, and to that end is CYCLING ACROSS CANADA (!!) as part of his Chefs for Oceans effort. He is accepting donations on his site and you can also support Ned by buying cans of his Ocean Wise Wild Pacific Albacore Tuna, available at The Fish Counter on Main.
Several countries had booths set up at EAT! Vancouver as part of their World Culinary Travel Expo, including Thailand. Thailand also did a two-in-one Pad Thai cooking/melon carving demonstration. Melon Man was a master at his craft, as was Chef Nameunpronounceablebutendsinporn who teaches culinary University courses. Oh, and the Royal Thai Consulate General was there to give a wai or two!
On to the best of EAT! Vancouver grocery product-wise. Eat Real Quinoa Chips were packed with natural flavour, but where they really shined was in the texture department. If you’re a vegan who secretly craves pork rinds this chip’s for you! And for everyone else for that matter; seriously satisfying snacks from Eat Real.
Don Joaquin Gourmet‘s fruit infused hot pepper sauces were sweet, spicy, and oh-so-yummy. Especially interesting was the Naranjilla one, made from an Ecuadorian citrus fruit which neither one of us had ever heard of. They were all good though, and all Ecuadorian fair trade. These would be especially delicious drizzled on ice cream, and would work well on meats and fish. They do other products as well, like jams and a mean chimichurri sauce which Wendy scooped up.
This was my special treat for the weekend. I snuck it in when Wendy was busy getting her drank on at the whiskey tasting so I could have it all to myself…my precioussss. Brown Paper Packages artisanal ice cream sandwiches are phenomenal! This fine specimen is the White Turtle: vanilla bean ice cream sandwiched between two double chocolate cookies topped with pecans, caramel, and sea salt…on both sides. I’m already planning a trek down to Pazzo Chow in Chinatown, the only place that sells them for now.
I have it on good word that Pazzo Chow and Brown Paper Packages are part of a secret government initiative to wean Downtown Eastside addicts off the heroin and crack with a less harmful (yet much more addictive) alternative.
Nova Scotia’s PURE Infused Maple Syrup was another fave on the sweet side of the spectrum. My favourite was the TexMexThai kick of the Chipotle & Lemongrass (great for the BBQ), whereas Wendy opted for the more girl-friendly Lavender & Chai, which would make a nice sweetener for caffeinated drinks. Other interesting flavours include Vanilla Cinnamon, & Star Anise, Cinnamon Nutmeg & Cloves, and Ginger & Apple Cider Vinegar.
Peanut Butter & Co. are another company adding new twists to classic foods with their quirky peanut butter line. I chose (you guessed it) a jar of very spicy The Heat is On to take home. They also make a Dark Chocolate Dreams flavour that makes a wonderful compliment to The Heat is On. Wendy loved the Mighty Maple flavour, but really you can’t go wrong with any of their ten varieties.
We got a recommendation to try OMG’s Cajeta (pronounced ka-heh-tah, be sure to hoark loudly when pronouncing the first “h”) from BC Foodie Blogger, and he didn’t steer us wrong. This goat’s milk caramel spread has a rich history in Mexico that goes back centuries, and with good reason. The addition of goat’s milk and the various natural flavours Original Mexican Gourmet adds to their cajeta really make this “Mexican answer to maple syrup” stand out from the crowd.
The Cajeta was part of HWKRS MRKT‘s area (as was BPP’s ice cream), but Mexico actually had its own stall. Theirs was the most interesting and exotic of the fest, with goodies like (clockwise from top left):
- an artfully plated bread pudding with edible flowers
- mezcal with a real scorpion in every bottle (retails for around $50 at select liquor stores if you dare)
- fried crickets with garlic and chili (we both tried these, not too shabby)
- Sal de Gusano—salt made with ground up worms
The latter I haven’t had the occasion (or the balls) to try yet. Not sure what to do with salt made out of worms, so if you have any cooking tips please post them in the comments!
I like the recent trend of naturally flavoured “essence”-type waters. I don’t buy bottled water often, but if you’re out and about on a hot day you could do worse for refreshment than, say, a bottle of cucumber-infused water. So I was happy to see one of my favourite fruits, the blood orange, incorporated into hint‘s naturally flavoured unsweetened water. Hint water doesn’t contain any diet sweeteners either, and it’s one of those waters where you don’t taste the flavour except for a pleasant aftertaste post-sip. They also have a carbonated line.
Many vendors at EAT! Vancouver 2014 were selling small meals at reasonable prices. I had several of these and basil pasta bar‘s Mediterranean Penne was one of my top picks. Your choice of regular or whole wheat pasta tossed in a pesto sauce with artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, and spinach then topped with goat cheese and fresh parsley. I added chicken to mine for a healthy and satisfying meal. I’m looking forward to writing more about basil pasta bar in the future.
I don’t know which spice of their gluten-free no-MSG line Fire in the Kitchen used in their BBQ Chicken Gourmet Grilled Cheese, but man was it a good sandwich. I’m not sure how much of that goodness was from their spice and how much was from the addition of caramelized onion and fresh garlic aioli, but whatever. It was good.
A $2600 bottle of water. I don’t know what to say about this, conspicuous consumption at its peak I guess. What is the market for $2600 water? Even if you’re part of the rich upper echelons of society wouldn’t your fellow socialites still laugh at you for buying this? I bet P Diddy or Poop Doody or whatever he calls himself these days buys these by the truckload. bling h2o‘s one and only customer. I should start selling bags of air for thousands of dollars. Oh wait…LV beat me to it.
We’d also like to mention the cheese tasting seminar, where the treasured and rare Smoked Boerenkass from Natural Pastures in my hometown of Courtenay, BC stole our hearts. If you see this cheese in stores, DO NOT HESITATE! Snatch it up before we beat you to it!!
Until next time, when we look forward to meeting more of our readers and fellow bloggers and foodies at EAT! Vancouver 2015. Tell us what your EAT! Vancouver highlights were in the comments section 🙂
Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary passes for this event as well as some free products from certain vendors, however this did not influence us in any way and our opinions remain solely our own.