2017 marks “EAT! Vancouver’s” 15th year. A Food + Cooking Festival that has grown and evolved over these years. It is more than just an exhibition hall of vendors, as it once was. Now it is a showcase where industry professionals and foodies alike can come together to enjoy a snack and to share a sip.
This season’s event included seminar talks, cooking courses, and long table dinners; across the week. The theme: culinary collaborations from award-winning chefs, all across Canada and the United States. Local thought-leading professionals coming together to bring event goers delicious meals and tasty treats, all in support of “Project CHEF”.
“Project CHEF is a curriculum-based school program aimed at children from kindergarten to grade seven”. It teaches students about healthy food, starting from the root. Where does food come from? What does healthy food taste like? And how they can prepare and then share such food themselves. The goal is to give children the opportunity to learn how to cook and to contribute to their household at an earlier age. Here, they are learning skills from preparation to clean-up. The hope is that they discover the pleasure and satisfaction in creating meals, and are able to make similar healthy food choices, for themselves, at home.
I was invited to “Eat! Harvest”. A ballroom of tables set up to offer canapé sized appetizers, entree desserts for you to visit systematically, and then return to for all your favourites. On November 10th, 2017 the event ran from 7-10pm, however much of what was offered was given out and chefs retired their tables closer to 9pm. So those planning to attend next year, be sure you come early to try it all.
The event begins with a coat check, a way to free up your hands for all the drinking in one and eating to come, with the other. And before entering the hall, you are handed an empty wine glass. You will continue to pass it across the table towards those representing various vineyards, to try either their white or red.
The food is spread out across tables surrounding the four corners of the room, with additional tables trickling out into the foyer. The following is in the order of how it is listed, on the pamphlet presented at the event; including the chef that made it, and the restaurant they represent.
“Dirt Candy’s” Amanda Cohen brought us “Shanghai shoots with fermented black bean bagna cuada”. It was one of the more abstract looking dishes. A simple start with fresh greens being the vessel for some heavy and salty sauces.
From “Burdock & CO”, Andrea Carlson made a Chanterelle mushrooms with potato cream and smoked shoyu. A shot glass filled with textures that included a nice crunch.
“Cinara’s” Lucais Syme offered up shrimp and salmon sausage. That was flavourful on it own, but best balanced with the sauces and slaw that surrounded it.
Nick Nutting’s “Wolf in the fog” prepared a ling cod cheek with pine mushrooms and wild rice. This was one of the more memorable bites given how refreshing it was and how much you got of it per serving.
“TasteU.S.” brought us their “duck liver pate”. Each pate was so beautifully set in a mould. They looked like little cakes on a cracker, whipped smooth like a savoury mousse.
“Nextjen” was a big hit with a wait to try their “vegan chorizo tacos”. Hamid Salimian and his team were showcasing their line of vegan products in their very spicy and equally tasty tacos with radishes, avocado crema, and pickled onions.
Angus An of “Maenam” had cameras and hosts waiting in line to interview him. The acclaimed chef was presenting a “Mussel and coconut soup” that you took as a shot. Creamy and zingy with lemon grass.
“Canis'” Jeff Jang offered up a “cured tuna tarte”. Chunks of tangy tuna over a light crust, that looked like little pies.
The “Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel” was hosting, so naturally they had to put on a show. Flanking their back drop and row of chefs were two ice sculptures. On their right, the hotels name carved into a block of ice. And to the left, more impressively, was the upper half of a salmon, springing up from the rushing waves; made from a solid chunk of ice. The latter was a nod to Edmund Lee’s “candied spring salmon” served as an easy bite over a puffed chip.
“Richmond Station’s” Carl Heinrich served a pork and rabbit pate. It was such a treat to watch slices of this brick of meat get cut down then topped delicately with tweezers. It was rich as it melted on your tongue.
“AnnaLena’s” Mike Robbins also offered a pate. But his was a “duck liver pate” with apple gel, and pickled mustards seeds on sourdough. Each bite was easier to pop into your mouth. The sweetness of the apple and the zestiness of the mustard helped to balance out the heaviness of the thick pate.
Another popular table was that of “Fable Kitchen” and their highly recognized chef, Trevor Bird; thanks to his time on “Top Chef Canada”. He gave the people some freshness with his “charred beet and soy truffle with creme fraiche”. A plate that looked like a painting with the deep purple from the beets bleeding in to a pool of green creme.
“Loka’s” Dave Mottershall had chunks of “nduja sausage” ground up into a paste, along with some oil and cream, to be scooped up with squares of bread. This went wonderfully with my red wine.
“Kin’s Farm Market” served you savoury and sweet from their corner table. “Roasted Californian fuyu persimmons with local crimi mushrooms, organicgirl baby kale, and baby spinach”. I am not a fan of leafy greens, but the mix of sweet fruit and earthy mushrooms was an interesting pairing that I went back for. For dessert they gave up little shot glasses of spiced persimmon ice cream topped with dried persimmon chips and crunchy prosciutto sprinkles. Another great collaboration between salty and sweet for a memorable treat.
“Mallard Cottage’s” Todd Perrin prepared “cod creek escabeche”. The fish was hearty, served in thick chunks. I could have done without the chew stem of seaweed that curled over it though.
The “Campagnolo” table was an interactive one. Diners stood in awe watching Robert Belcham slice beautifully fatty cuts of prosciutto from pork hoc. You were able to enjoy them as is or with some green tomato chutney over a crostini.
Nicole Gomes of “Nicole Gourmet” catering prepared “Thai prawn cakes” complimented by a tangy julienne vegetable slaw. This was the one I went back for.
“Chicha’s” Shelome Bouvette offered up a wonderful “coconut scallop ceviche served on a dried plantain chip. It was bright in colour with plenty of flavour and textures to give you variation in each bite. I could have eaten a bag of the sweet and starchy plantain chips on their own.
The charming Makoto Ono of “Mak N Ming” served his “chicken liver mousse” as a cupcake. A savoury “frosting” over a savoury carrot cake base, with slices of root vegetables for sprinkles. This was definitely one of the more eye catching dishes.
“Deer + Almond’s” Mandel Hitzer’s “big trouble in little Winnipeg” was all gone before I had a chance to try any. I was foolish to prioritize taking photos over actually tasting, thinking that each table would have enough food to last the duration of the event (from 6-10pm). In actuality the food was mostly gone by 8pm and many of the chefs were already wrapping up having given out all of their wares.
“Valrhona Chocolates” supplied dessert with their “Orelys pecan pot de creme”. A shot of chocolate taken in with a spoon. Creamy mousse with crunchy nuts, and a dollop of apple gel for additional sweetness. They also had glass bowls of chocolate balls and coins, should you want a little extra chocolate in your pot of chocolate. They are known for their chocolates after all.
Nadege Nourian of “Nagege Patisserie” prepared their “chocolate impulse” cake. A chewy sponge under velvety chocolate and crispy brittle. We made the mistake of biting into the signature card, confusing it for something edible.
And last but not least, local company “Recipe Box” was on site, offering attendees and foodies a great keepsake for $65. This was a cook box, as a posed to a cook book. 100 recipes from 50 of the best restaurants in Vancouver. Your favourite Lower Mainland establishments offering you their recipes for you to cook like a chef at home. Beautifully taken photos on one side and how to duplicate the dish on the other. A great gift for a foodie or a souvenir for those visiting Vancouver and relishing in our diverse food scene. And for those attending the event (and for you reading this post) you got 10% off your “Recipe Box” purchase using the promo code: EATVANCOUVER. To get one now, visit their site at https://www.recipeboxyvr.com/shop/
Overall a fantastic event and a great way to learn more about our fair city’s food scene, coupled with the ability to rub shoulders with some sought after chefs. I strongly recommend signing up early and attending this event for yourself next year. To keep an eye out for ticket sales, check out their link below and be sure to bookmark it. Don’t deny your cravings. http://eat-vancouver.com/