Thursday, 30 May 2013

Eat! Vancouver 2013

Another year of Eat! Vancouver has ended. 2012 was my first experience at this annual food festival and had such a good time I couldn't wait for the 2013 dates to be announced. Once the dates were out, I immediately marked my calendar and recruited friends to join me in eating Vancouver.

On a grey Saturday morning, Coconut Crumpet, Peanut Crumpet, and a fellow friend (who has given herself the name of Clumsy One) ventured into the city of Vancouver at 9am to arrive at the stadium on time to see Anna Olson's first show of the day. We got there juuuust before the opening time of 10am and there was already a line up of people waiting to get in!. The line up had already created a 'U' shape by the time we got into the building. More on our encounter with celebrity chefs at the end of the post!

Let's talk about food now...


Using Tasting Tickets
Tasting tickets can be bought at a number of festival stands for 50 cents each. They can be bought in bundles of tens or twenties. Since there isn't a price difference when you purchase more, we choose to buy ten at a time, just in case we couldn't use them all. 

Bites of Vancouver is a feature area of the festival where multiple restaurants serve mini portions of their dishes for $4 or less (in tickets). I recognized a few restaurants from last year, such as EBO, Establishment, and Bella Gelateria. To save stomach room, we shared a few items. Like last year, Establishment was selling their African Peanut Soup. I enjoyed it very much last year so I decided to get it again. We all enjoyed the creaminess and bold flavours of this thick soup. My type of soup. This one was relatively cheap as it only cost 4 tickets. However, I remember the portion to be a lot larger last year, in a taller white cup.

One of the (few) amazing, mind-blowing foods we had this year is the Candied Salmon from the BC Salmon Farmers Association. For only 4 tickets, we got a generously filled box of meaty salmon. The portion itself is already worth the money, but the salmon is seriously good. A sweet glaze covers perfectly cooked salmon, not too dry but not raw. I remember wanting to try this near the end of the festival last year, and just as I got in line, all the candied salmon had been sold out. It was a sad moment, so I made sure not to allow it to reoccur this year! Peanut Crumpet was in charge of bringing home this masterpiece to her mom. The two of us decided to do the same. In the end, each of us bought 2 or 3 boxes. For the same price, you can also get a grilled piece of salmon that's even larger! But we all have sweet tooths so candied salmon is more suitable ;)

In front of the Urban Fare stand were chefs cooking up a different dish every hour or so. Lucky me just walked by during the time they were making Coconut Crusted Halibut with Mango Salsa. All three parts of this dish screamed my name. I watched them fry each side of the breaded fish to a golden brown colour. I was slightly disappointed to see them give me a smaller piece of fish. The size differences between their servings was not consistent. Some people got one huge piece (almost restaurant size!), other people got two small pieces, and then others got somewhere in the middle. Good thing I wasn't looking to fill my stomach up anyways, so it didn't bother me as much. The coconut breading was rather hard, and not nearly as fragrant as the coconut crusted shrimp I ate in Hawaii. (Ok, I know, that's a harsh comparison.) I enjoyed that the fish was not overcooked, because overcooking an oily fish like halibut is pure fail (like Boathouse). The temperature difference between the very hot fish and the cool mango salsa was pleasurable as well. It cost 6 tickets, well worth the price if you ask me. 
 
Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Sampling
This... THIS, is by far the best food at the entire festival. I may be biased, but Coconut Bliss is the most amazing ice cream ever. (Right up there with Bella Gelateria's black sesame ice cream). Made with coconut milk instead of regular cow's milk, it's super creamy, rich, and full of flavour. May I mention it's also organic, vegan, and gluten free~ Us three girls are guilty of returning three times for this ice cream. Although the line up was long every time, the little ball of ice cream waiting for us makes the line up worth standing in. It's so good we asked to purchase a larger portion, but they said they're only giving samples. Another friend who visited Eat! Vancouver on a separate day brought up that this was absolutely delicious. 

Coconut Crumpet tried Naked Coconut, Mocha Maca Crunch, and Mint Galactica. When asked for the 'most coconutty one possible', one would be handed Naked Coconut. And lemme tell you, it is my ultimate heaven. Coconut Crumpet's paradise lies in that container of Naked Coconut ice cream. The other flavours don't have that punch of coconut flavour as the added flavours cover it. Which is good if you're not looking for just a mouthful of coconut. The mocha one was delicious as well; my mother would really enjoy it. It's like a frappucchino with tiny bits of crunchy cacao nibs scattered throughout. Peanut Crumpet got the mint flavour on every. single. visit. She finally convinced me to try that one, and I agree, it's soooo gooood! A white mint (not that fake green 'frozen dessert' you find at the supermarket) ice cream with flakes of dark chocolate. 

After snagging a few coupons (and some free stickers of which I have no clue where to use them), I am determined to eat a ton of this during the upcoming summer. I believe all flavours are delicious so you can't go wrong with any product from Coconut Bliss!


 
A Sampling of Eat! Vancouver (no pun intended)
One of the first stops we made early in the morning was at the Oikos Greek Yogurt truck. And thank goodness we went early, because by the time afternoon rolled around, the line up for this truck made a full circle. You got to choose one flavour of yogurt and one topping. For yogurt, the choices were peach-mango, coconut, vanilla, key lime, strawberry, and fig. Toppings were toasted coconut chips, granola, sliced almonds, or dried cranberries. Hmm...I wonder what Coconut Crumpet chose... The coconut yogurt was a big disappointment. Absolutely no coconut flavour. I looked on the ingredients list and the only coconut ingredient was 'coconut water'. No wonder. Oikos' coconut greek yogurt doesn't even come close to Liberte. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the coconut chips they gave out. It's rare to find, and I expected just some regular shredded coconut that hadn't been toasted. So thumbs up for the free topping but thumbs down for the product itself. It wasn't a very thick greek yogurt either. 

Peanut Crumpet suggested us to try Green & Black's chocolate. I enjoyed the chocolate, especially the dark and the mint filled one. The lady working there said it's available at local supermarkets. But this is where I encountered the rudest person at the festival. Just because you're my senior in age doesn't justify the rude remarks you make. I asked politely if this was the end of the line up and you insult me? Be glad I'm not like you; I have the ability of holding my mouth shut. Seriously, people these days.


At the Bites of Vancouver area, Secret Location had 2 free samples. I took this one 'gluten free brioche with something and caviar' since the caviar part of it caught my attention. But maybe it wasn't such a good idea; the caviar was suuuuper fishy and the texture of the bread was so strange. Had to rinse my mouth out with a big glup of water afterwards.

Tea Sparrow is a monthly tea subscription where you can sign up and be sent a sampling of tea to your doorstep every month. They brewed up hot pots of tea as they explained how their company works. We were not interested in signing up but the dry tea leaves were laid out for people to sniff at. And oh. my. goodness. The Coconut Milky Oolong tea smells heavenly. If my bedroom could smell like that, I'd have sweet dreams every night. Small portions of tea were sold at the festival for $5 each. I was tempted to purchase one, but I don't have such great luck with flavoured teas. The smell is often a lot better than the taste. I mean, how much coconut flavour will get from the dried coconut shreds to your water? I guess I'm just not a tea snob, I wish I was though!

New this year is Urban Fare. It's a grocery store that has multiple locations in the Downtown Vancouver area. They sell more...trendy foods, I guess you could say. For example, you can buy To Die For Banana Bread or Kitchening & Co.'s macarons. At the Eat! Vancouver, they had a fresh fruit stand, various samplings of products, along with a small selection of goods they'd usually carry in their store. Both Peanut Crumpet and the Clumsy One bought a basket of cherries for $4. The employee tending the fruit stand in the morning was so nice; he gave everyone samples of cherries and purposely filled the basket Peanut Crumpet was buying to the brim. The cherries were so sweet as I think they are the first of this year's crop.

Another grocery store present was Bosa Foods. They mainly sold cheese, pasta, and pasta sauces. I really enjoyed their brie cheese with red pepper jelly on crackers. And the photo in the bottom left corner is of their truffle pesto, it was so good! My first encounter with truffle; I'm not exactly sure what pure truffle tastes like, but I know it adds a earthy, mushroom-y flavour to the pesto, making it even more rich. 

Not pictured is Saman Bakery. They were giving out samples of their cookies and crackers. Clumsy One purchased a box of their thin sheets of crackers for $5 a box. I really enjoyed eating their marzipan macaroon and walnut cookie. Their coconut macaroons are great too! All are super soft and chewy, just how I like my cookies. I was just hesitant to purchase a box because it was rather expensive; $6 for a small box of small cookies... I do, however, appreciate how natural and simple their ingredients are. It inspires me to re-create something in my own kitchen! 
 
Celebrity Chefs Anna Olson & Chuck Hughes
Finally, to close this massively long (diary-like) post about my second experience at Eat! Vancouver, I wanted to write about my experience meeting these two celebrity chefs. Briefly after arriving at the stadium at 10am, the three of us rushed to the Food Network stage to snag a good seat to see Anna Olson, the baking goddess. Although we sat in the second row, there was luckily no one directly in front of us, yay! While waiting for her session to officially start, we were 'hyperventilating' from excitement. She did three demonstrations, first being her fat-free 'sauce of 2013' made from avocado, greek yogurt, and herbs, which she put on a beet and watercress salad. Then, a rhubarb buckle to celebrate the first spring crop. And finally a meringue bird's nest filled with whipped cream and fresh berries. I actually picked up quite a few tips and tricks during her 1.5 hour presentation. I'm sure we weren't the only ones slightly disappointed none of her food was given out. Since it was still early in the morning, there were not too many people yet so the line up for meeting her wasn't too long. She is beautiful in person; how does one keep so fit? And was kind enough to answer some troubleshooting questions about baking. 

Later in the afternoon was Chuck Hughes appearance. One of our main goals of coming to Eat! Vancouver is to meet him. -insert fangirl moment here- The afternoon is the busiest time at the festival as everyone seems to come during that period of time. So, there was not a single open seat to watch Chuck on stage. We ended up coming back near the end of the 1.5 hours scheduled for him and watched from outside the fence. Conveniently being at the front of the line up for his meet and greet after the show. Even only watching a few minutes of his show, he is very entertaining and humourous. We took a funny photo together, then a proper one (as seen above). KYAAA~

It's unfortunate I didn't snap as many photos as compared to last year. That's probably due to the fact that this year, there wasn't as much to see or eat. Here is what I think of this year's festival in a nutshell.

Cons: There was at least 4 different booths selling hummus, drinks that were not exciting (no coconut water?), and even empty areas that no business occupied. I would say last year's selection of businesses was much better than this years.

Pros: Celebrity chefs worth seeing, coconut ice cream, candied salmon, free single-serving box of almond milk in grab bag, Urban Fare

Even though this year didn't match up to last year, I will still be paying another visit in 2014! It's a fun day event to go with friends; we spent 8 hours walking around eating samples, keeping our metabolism at a steady rate, haha!

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