Well that’s a wrap! I can honestly say that this year’s EAT Vancouver was much better than previous years. It felt more like a food festival for real “foodies”. There were several events, possibly a bit too many because many flew under the radar, but nonetheless, almost every special dinner, culinary workshop and class was sold out. So maybe that’s not too many? Part of me is probably bitter though because a few of the epic chef collaborations landed on the same day which made picking difficult.
The chef collaboration dinner series was the most exciting new component of the festival for me. Being a restaurant girl, it’s somewhat expected. A celebrated chef from the East was paired with one of our top chefs in Vancouver, and because the chefs picked their cooking partners, the dynamic was promising.
Susur Lee and Hidekazu Tojo’s Chef Collaboration Dinner at Tojo’s
One of the most anticipated chef collaboration dinners was the Susur Lee and Tojo dinner at Tojo’s. The highlight of the evening was having both well known names in the kitchen, but I don’t think producing a 5 course menu to 100+ guests is how either of their food is meant to be enjoyed. I haven’t been to Chef Lee’s restaurants yet and Tojo’s food I’ve had on a few occasions in event contexts, so I can’t draw parallels or compare this to what they do on a normal basis.
Susur Lee and Tojo-san’s Chef Collaboration Menu
Golden roll with crab, scallop and Pacific salmon, and sweet shrimp rolled in egg crepe with fish roe
Tuna Tataki nigiri
Assorted pressed sushi box
Assorted Tempura by Tojo-san –
Zucchini blossom, morel and asparagus tempura by Tojo-san
Char Siu Squab (2 ways) with Beijing Duck Garnish by Chef Susur Lee – served with cucumber, cilantro, scallion, crispy fried tofu puffs, duck liver parfait, blueberry compote, pickled ginger, black sesame sauce and hoisin sauce
Rack of Lamb by Chef Susur Lee –
Thailandaise with pineapple ravioli and 3 chuntnies – cardamom herb chutney, spicy yellow chutney, and spicy red Thai chutney… and chia seeds.
Valrhona Chocolate and azuki (red bean) yokan by Tojo-san
Mark McEwan and Pino Posteraro’s Chef Collaboration Dinner at Cioppino’s
This was the other hot ticket – another legendary duo. Chef Mark McEwan from Toronto and Chef Pino Posteraro from Vancouver have been long time friends, but this was the first time they’ve cooked together in Vancouver at Cioppino’s.
I have yet to try chef McEwan’s food, but I don’t think either of their styles and food showcase best in this context either. It was definitely about the experience, just like the Susur Lee and Tojo dinner, but given the circumstances the food came out hot which is a challenge with over 100 people to serve.
I recently dined at Cioppino’s and I recognized a couple dishes from his restaurant menu. The food came across more Posteraro than it did McEwan and I don’t think McEwan would deny that. In one of his speeches that evening he made reference to Pino cooking at his restaurant with him in Toronto next time, and not having to get his apron dirty since he didn’t have to get his dirty for this dinner either. It was quite humorous and it said it all.
As the host chef, responsibility goes on you since it’s your kitchen, so taking control of the menu and knowing what can and can’t be done is a good thing… or we eat the consequences.
This dinner was better executed of the two chef colloboration dinners I tried during EAT! Vancouver, but next year I’m keen to try the other dinners featuring chefs that are perhaps lesser known internationally in mainstream media. It’s not to say one is better than the other, since all dinners are one-off special event dinners and anything could happen, but I don’t want to overlook the several chef collab dinners I missed.
Mark McEwan & Pino Posteraro’s Chef Collaboration Menu
peperonata, arugula, preserved chili vinaigrette paired with Blue Mountain Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Pappardelle with braised short ribs –
tomato, basil and chili paired with Painted Rock Winery Rose 2013
Grilled Orata (Seabream/Dorade) –
with garlic focaccia croutons, capers, torn mint and lemon with fresh sweet green peas paired with Blue Mountain Winery Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Nicola Valley venison with coffee and chocolate rub –
preserved cherry sauce paired with Painted Rock Wine Syrah 2012
Chocolate trio –
(mousse with crunchy pearls folded in, compressed cocoa with chocolate crisp, orange cone filled with chocolate ganache, chocolate ganache filled raspberries, kalamansi) paired with Painted Rock Winery Red Icon 2012
EAT! Vancouver Food Vendor Pavilion
What the festival was originally most known for, the vendors and exhibitors, almost got overlooked with all the other EAT! events implemented this year. Nonetheless, every dinner series ticket purchased came with a complimentary ticket to EAT!.
Photo from GrandMothersFigs.com
The Hawaii Papaya booth was one of my favourites and I could sit there all day eating the incredibly sweet and ripe papaya they were sampling. It’s funny because I used to hate papaya growing up, but my rule of thumb is “try it until you like it”… and it worked! Not all papayas are created equal and depending on where they are from or when they are picked, it can really affect the flavour. These Hawaiian papayas were fantastic and it could convince a papaya-hater to give it another chance.
These “papaya boats” are something I’ve been doing at home, and I got the idea from the blog above. From savoury fillings like avocado, nuts, sprouts and even albacore tuna (think mango and tuna tartare), to sweet fillings like dried and fresh fruit, granola, coconut, and yogurt, the ideas are endless and needless to say, delicious… and pretty!
And last but not least, of course I had to say hi to my friends at Pure Leaf! There were a few tea booths, but this was the only tea booth featuring ready to drink iced tea made from fresh tea leaves.
The crowd favourite was the Green Tea with Honey which is my second favourite after the unsweetened. None of them are overly sweet though, which is great. To be fair I shouldn’t really pick a favourite because it really depends on what I’m doing with it. Yup, it’s not just for drinking, but I use it to cook and bake with. See my recipe for Citrus Thyme Tea with Candied Sumo Orange and there are more Pure Leaf recipes from me to come!
The recipe above from Pure Leaf is really simple and bourbon and tea just go so well together, but I’ve also been experimenting with beer and tea. Who doesn’t love “cold tea”? Beers with orange or citrus notes work really well mixed with the Lemon flavour Pure Leaf, and it’s nice on a hot summer day.
Rather than using regular ice, I also made some Pure Leaf lemon ice cubes, so it wasn’t watering down my cocktail, but just adding a bit more tea flavour as it slowly melted. There’s nothing complicated about Pure Leaf, so it’s easy to play around with in recipes.
Feel free to leave me some ideas in the comment section below and I’d be happy to feature some of your recipes!