Eat! Vancouver's food and cooking show this weekend June 2-3 at B.C. Place offers many exotic treats – both local and international -- for enthusiasts from around the Lower Mainland.
The best features of the show are the samples of food and drink that foodies may not otherwise have an opportunity to try plus talking with experts who produce, prepare and distribute them.
Celebrity chefs, like David Rocco from the Food Network or Vancouver's Dale MacKay of Top Chef Canada fame, are demonstrating their talents live on one of two large cooking stages. At smaller booths, like the Peru Mucho Gusto booth, chefs prepare traditional classics like seafood cebiche and chicken causa.
Other experts are presenting seminars to educate people about food and alcoholic beverages as well as how to cook, bake and further serve them up. The Dairy Farmers of Canada are offering a superb 25-minute free workshop to taste cheeses from across the country and learn about their individual characteristics. Get there early to find a seat.
Many food and drink samples are free, with a noticeable increase in offerings since the show two years ago. Other food items are served up for tickets, which cost 50 cents each and can be bought in sheets for $5 or $10. Values range from 2 tickets ($1) for a scoop of Island Farms new ice cream flavours, like Sea Salt Caramel, to 8 tickets ($4) for a shot of the finest Scotch whisky, like Tullibardine single Highland malt.
Aside from the big names of the food scene, there's also lots of opportunity to chat with small B.C. producers and distributors. For example, Wylie Bystedt of Coyote Acres Ranch and Laura Entzminger of Sweet Tree Ventures, both from the northern Cariboo region, are in town to showcase their exclusive products. Bystedt's family ranch produces llama, a fine-grain soft red meat, which they can deliver direct to your door (as well as beef, pork, lamb, chicken). The Entzmingers offer up birch syrup -- an alternative to maple and a trendy foodie item -- that they tap from 2,000 trees on their family ranch and sell in finer shops throughout the province.
Wylie Bystedt, from Coyote Acres Ranch, is one of many small business owners exhibiting their products.
On the last day of the show, the finals for the 2012 Western Canadian regional barista championships will take place as will a grand culinary salon competition put on by the B.C. Chef's Association.
There's lots to do and taste at this year's extensive food and cooking festival so prime all your senses and Eat! Vancouver.
Top 5 food samples
African peanut soup
Chef Victor Bongo's soup is the best sample at the show. Peanuts, chicken, coconut, vegetables and exotic spices puréed into a velvety texture with a mildly piquant taste. Visit him at the Establishment restaurant in Kitsilano to try a full range of multicultural tapas.
Patisserie LeBeau's Belgian pastries are moist and rich in texture – surprisingly so, since they are a frozen product yet taste like they just came from the bakery. Get a box to take home!
Ebo restaurant's mini-burger combines unique flavours with ground lamb, harissa (Tunisian hot chili sauce), onion jam and cucumber pickle. A contemporary twist on a old favourite.
Spot prawn and lobster roll
Spot prawn season is in full swing and Coast restaurant gives you a chance to try them in a lovely seafood salad on a brioche roll.
A wee dish of Bella Gelateria's handmade non-dairy dessert will clear the palate and keep it tuned for the flavours of the remaining food booths.
Top three spirit samples
- Japanese sake
Learn about the different grades of this brewed rice beverage and how its made at theD Way Beverage distributor's booth. Then taste samples, like the top-shelf Gold Junmai Daiginjo, which is soon to be available on local liquor store shelves.
Sake adviser Tom Tsuchiya teaches the finer aspects of the imported rice brew.
- B.C. absinthe
The traditional spirit, infused with plants and herbs, has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years and Okanagan Spirits offers up it's own unique blend based on traditional European recipes. Canadian-made Taboo absinthe, delightful licorice-flavoured drink, is worth a sampling by both aficionados and the curious.
Tyler Johnson demonstrates the ritual preparation of absinthe.
- Indian whisky and rum
Purple Valley Imports offer some lesser-known yet equally-fine scotches and rum made in Bangalore, India. A good chance to samples spirits from off the beaten track.
Eat! Vancouver runs Saturday and Sunday, June 2-3, at BC Place. Tickets are $14 purchased online beforehand, otherwise it's $16 dollars at the door. Everyone receives a free goodie bag with samples of Van Houtte coffee, Four O'Clock organic tea, Frank's RedHot sauce, Old Dutch spicy tortilla chips and a mail-in coupon for one free issue of Canadian Living.