Whew, six hours spent checking out new food products, tasting samples and attending cooking demos is a damn fine way to spend a Friday afternoon. I headed over to BC Place Stadium for day one of EAT! Vancouver, the annual food and cooking festival, hoping to avoid the usual weekend crowds.
Among the 250 exhibitor booths, there were plenty of interesting items to learn about and nibble on. My favourites of the free samples:
- Oikos key lime yogurt with toasted coconut flakes;
- Maison Orphée white balsamic vinegar;
- Coconut Bliss pineapple coconut frozen non-dairy dessert.
Gluten-free was the big buzzword among the exhibitors. (Yes, gluten-free doesn’t automatically equal healthy.) Gluten-free foccacia, gluten-free red velvet cookies made with beets (?!), even gluten-free dog food. But there’s still a long way to go; one vendor was sampling a gluten-free beef jerky (which can be hard to find due to the prevalent use of wheat-based soy sauce), but couldn’t tell me the ingredients.
“Some gluten-free products have less nutrition than the cardboard box they come in.”
The cooking demos were the real highlights of the festival. I especially enjoying the presentation by Glowbal executive chef Kris Kabush, who shared some great tips on getting a perfect sear on steak and using local ingredients like fiddleheads, ramps and spot prawns. And — because it was early in the day and there weren’t that many people in the audience — we actually got to try the food he prepared! I finally tried my first spot prawn, and sucked the brain juice right out like Kris showed me.
Friday’s frivolities wrapped up with the Celebrity Chef Throwdown — featuring Rob Feenie, Anna Olson and Trevor Bird. I’m a big fan of Chopped and Iron Chef, and this presentation followed a similar format. Three chefs, given 20 minutes to prepare a dish using a secret ingredient — in this case Ginja Ninja beer from Granville Island Brewing. Rob Feenie came out on top, but I was really impressed by Trevor Bird — will need to check out his restaurant Fable soon.
EAT! Vancouver continues on Saturday and Sunday, May 25 and 26, 2013. Tickets are $14 at the door ($12 if purchased online).