The annual Eat! Vancouver 2015 event at BC Place was well hyped on their website, and certainly caused a buzz for Vancouver’s foodie collective. The event boasted Sip tasting classes, celebrity chef masterclasses, and VIP experiences that would bring attendees into the heart of Vancouver’s culinary scene. 604 Now had an opportunity to check out the event on it’s final day, Sunday May 3 with local artisan baker and creator of FIFE Bakery, Felix Yau. Despite our city’s rich culinary landscape, the event didn’t quite deliver what we expected from a local food expo.
While there were many neat local brands and businesses featured at the event, expectations were high for artisan products, breakthroughs in sustainable local products, and delicious tasting samples. Unfortunately, the layout of the expo was confusing and extremely hard to navigate, which made it easy to get lost in the packed stadium. We found ourselves continuously asking if we had already walked down this aisle before, and desperately searching for some sort of guidance that would maximize our viewing ability.
There was an amazing Canadian Cheese Counter, and a strong voice for gluten free products. However, the real stars of the show were interesting local brands such as Sons of Vancouver’s Distillery, who are producing small batch spirits such as their amazing Amaretto liqueur. As well, the BC Buzz Honey Corporation is promoting natural unpasteurized local honey, and is selling jarred little powdery pollen buds that are incredibly nutritious. There were also plenty of B.C. Wines to taste, unique desserts, and information about year round organic farming using Aquafarms.
The Celebrity Chef Stage was another great draw, with heavyweights such as Susur Lee making appearances and doing live demonstrations. On Sunday, Indian cuisine guru Vikram Vij took the stage with an incredibly entertaining live session featuring his authentic Chicken Marsala. The self-described ‘unappointed Indian ambassador’ spoke to the colourful culture of Indian cuisine as the polar opposite of an exact science. “A little bit of this, a little bit of that,” is all it takes to replicate the mosaic of flavours in Indian dishes, says Vij. Four lucky audience members got to sample his dish, with hardly any criticisms.
There were many formidable dinner partners involved with the event such as The Dirty Apron, Cioppino’s, Fable, Maenam and Ask For Luigi, which unfortunately were hardly present in the actual event, and could have surely added a richness of Vancouver’s culinary talent to the setup. Further, the majority of tents set up seemed to be representative of sponsors, which slightly muddled the vibe of Eat! Vancouver.
Aside from the labrynth-esque layout and shortage of true Vancouver based companies (big names were present such as Delissio, which was confusing), the biggest disappointment of the day was the fact that the ‘Sip’ portion of the event -where people could trade purchased tickets for samples of unique alcoholic beverages- closed down almost half an hour before the event itself ended at 5pm, causing many guests to be turned away at the entrance.
Upon entrance to Eat! Vancouver, people were prompted to purchase tickets in sets of 20 to taste food and drink, for about one dollar per ticket. Unfortunately, once finished navigating through the winding food tents, spending 40 minutes watching a celebrity demonstration, or simply milling about, it left many guests with a surplus of tickets scrambling about trying to use them up on whatever they could as the event was ending. Wasted money doesn’t make for happy guests after an event that advertised an afternoon of tasting food and drink. The ‘Sip’ portion was also heavily crowded throughout the day, which prompted guests to come back later, only to find perhaps the most enticing aspect of the event (craft beer!) shut down.
Perhaps if Eat! Vancouver can sort out these discrepancies for next year -which are important for any local food and beverage expo – Eat! Vancouver will once again be a notable blip on 604’s culinary radar.
Review by: Alycia Sundar