It starts with the celebrities. The organizers have a great relationship with the Food Network and the local restaurant scene, so they’re able to pull in big names like Anna Olson and Rob Feenie, both of whom you can see in the photo above. They participated in the Celebrity Chef Throwdown on Friday, along with Trevor Bird from Fable Kitchen.
Borrowing a page out of so many cooking shows, the three chefs were provided with a secret ingredient that they had to incorporate in a dish. And they had 20 minutes to do it. The secret ingredient was the recently added Ginja Ninja Ginger Beer from Granville Island Brewing.
Other celebs gracing the stage over the weekend included “Spice Goddess” Bal Arneson, “BBQ” Naz Cavallaro, and Chuck Hughes from Food Network’s “Chuck’s Day Off.”
Workshops, Seminars and Hands-On Experiences
Normally, when you come to festivals and exhibitions like this or the Vancouver Home + Design Show, you are exposed to a number of different products and vendors. You take in some samples and you watch some demonstrations, but it’s mostly a hands-off affair. This wasn’t really the case this year with Eat Vancouver, as attendees were given more opportunity to learn and participate.
For instance, I took in the cheese tasting seminar put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. We walked through some of the different characteristics of different cheeses, what we can look for in terms of texture and smell, and how we should treat the cheese if we wanted to host a little wine and cheese event in our own homes. The samples ranged from a mild gouda to a sharp five-year cheddar, from a creamy brie to slightly bitter edam.
Walking around the festival, we discovered cooking classes (that’s a cake decorating and stacking workshop above) and even educational programs on making the perfect Caesar. And all of these educational, hands-on opportunities were included with the price of admission.
The Technology and Gadgetry
Yes, Vancouverites love to eat out and that’s why we have events like Dine Out Vancouver each year, but there is something to be said about bringing that fine dining experience into the comfort of your own home. For instance, doing a sous vide at home can sound out of reach for most people, but you can do it with this $499 appliance. It’s not cheap, but it’s not outrageously expensive either.
Don’t have a lot of space, but you want to do it all? The Thermomix is designed to offer “fast & fun easy cooking,” because it’s designed to do it all: it whips, it kneads, it chops, it steams and it cooks. You can use it to make everything from pasta dough to soup, steamed fish to melty chocolate for baking. It also happens to be a home-based business opportunity, because they only sell it privately. I found the $1600+ price tag to be a little steep for something that used so much plastic though, even if it’s being sold as the “world’s smallest & smartest kitchen.”
There are all sorts of kitchen contraptions, but this almost open oven-like design was something unique. Melting just that top layer of cheese and spreading it onto toast… it’s a shame I couldn’t capture the amazing smell for you.
The Food and Drink
Of course, a “food” festival wouldn’t be complete without food. There were samples being offered of all sorts of good stuff, including candied salmon, coconut-based ice cream and a wide-range of gluten-free options. The organic chocolate from Green and Black’s was great too, especially the 85% dark and the mint.
Don’t have time to gather up all the right ingredients and measure them out? The Soup Factory has these pre-made and pre-measured dry soup mixes that last up to two years on the shelf and make enough soup for 8-10 people.
We’ve all seen little pickles or other garnishes for drinks like a Caesar, but several vendors — like Blaze’s Beans shown here — were showing off their pickled green beans instead. These were definitely more mild, but just as tasty.
Regular honey is fine, but raw honey is just so much better. Western Sage were sampling and selling several varieties, including those infused with lemon, cinnamon, cool mint or even cappuccino.
If you like soft drinks but don’t want high fructose corn syrup, Boylan Bottling Company has been a solid bet for a number of years with their cane sugar-sweetened beverages. Their birch beer is among my personal favorites, but they’ve also expanded their line considerably to include other brands like Mash fizzy juice, Cabana lemonade and GoodDrink iced tea.
Even though I didn’t partake in the Bites of Vancouver section (where local restaurants offer up sample sized plates for around $2-5) or the beer and wine tasting area, I had a great time at EAT! Vancouver and look forward to attending again next year. And so should you.