This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Eat Vancouver with a media pass for Food Bloggers of Canada. This was an event I was really looking forward to - I'd never attended before but had walked past many times in the past and had been so tempted by the smells coming from within. And after experiencing the Toronto Food and Wine Expo a few years ago on media night, I was curious to see how the two compared.
The expo ran for three days from Friday to Sunday at the newly revamped BC Place Stadium and I attended on the first two days. The floor was packed with vendor booths in the middle and surrounded by seminar and stage areas around the outside. Arriving early on Friday afternoon ensured we were able to see lots without the crowds that were present on the weekend.
First up we checked out the Western Canadian Regional Barista Championships but the action was still slowly getting started and was a little difficult to see as it was at floor level, so we quickly moved on to check out the booths. There was a surprising amount of variety in the vendor booths - everything from McDonalds to the Gourmet Warehouse and Bossa Foods - two establishments that rank highly on most Vancouver cooks shopping trips. We had an opportunity to try a number of interesting new food items that are hitting the market. Some we liked... some, not so much!
We did a quick wander through the Pets EAT! Too area (I'm always on the lookout for tasty treats for my lab, Sammy) and the World Culinary Expo. Bravo to Thailand for bringing in different rice samples and to Peru for putting on fantastic live demos throughout the event - they always had a crowd.
Once we'd covered the floor on a first go round we moved on to the Wine, Beer and Spirits Tasting area (and I wasn't carded, which was a big disappointment!). It was great to see lots of local breweries present as well as the Motts people and some interesting wines. I have to say though this is one area where the Toronto festival really outshone Eat Vancouver, which was a shame with such a thriving wine and craft beer scene happening in BC.
After touring the ring of stages around the perimeter (we missed the Celebrity Chef Showdown, which was disappointing) we decided to fill our stomachs with some food from Bite of Vancouver, an area where a number of Vancouver eateries were invited to supply meals in exchange for prepurchased tickets. We tried the satay and peanut sauce noodles from Noodle Box. The food was alright but the portions were very small - snack sized. The vendors were working with minimal prep area and without a full kitchen so I didn't feel the food was representative of what was served in the restaurants themselves. We had a few tickets left so my companion decided to turn them in for a Society Burger from the Glowbal Group which he pronounced quite tasty!
I'm glad we did the bulk of our touring of the festival on the Friday when crowds were small and lineups were short. I returned on Saturday with our FBC Regional Ambassador, Sean Neild but we found the floor too crowded to see much and instead, we tried some of the absolutely delicious bite sized macarons from Kitchening with Carly. I've been on the fence when it comes to the whole macaron trend but after tasting Carly's - well, she's totally won me over (in fact I'm going to head over to Urban Fare today to pick up a dozen while I'm downtown!). We also stopped by for a sample of gelato from the 2012 Florence Italy Gelato Festival - Vancouver's own Bella Gelateria. Pretty obvious why they won... the gelato was fantastic. I had the salted caramel which was so smooth and the flavour was so oustanding. Sean tried the Espresso and even got to have a tiny taste of the flavour that one the competition!
Next year's event is already scheduled to return to BC Place, in May so be sure to mark your calendars!
Eat Vancouver - A Recap was written by FBC co-founder Melissa Hartfiel, and photographed by FBC Regional Ambassador for BC, Sean Neild. You can follow them both on twitter at @mhchipmunk and @YVRBCbro, respectively