There are so many restaurants in Vancouver that even if you go to a new restaurant every day in a week you’re only just scraping the surface AND you’ll be wishing you had a second job to cover costs. Wouldn’t it be nice to just sample a bunch of them so you could get a general feel for what they have to offer without breaking the bank?
Enter Tasting Plates put on by VanFoodster. The premise of the event is exactly what the name suggests: to introduce hidden gems, and to offer opportunities for restaurants to gain more exposure. The summer edition of Tasting Plates (the first one was in February 2012) focused on restaurants in East Van from as far south Main and 27th and branching out to Fraser Street, Broadway and Kingsway.
And so the journey begins….
Salt Spring Coffee Company @SS_Coffee
Since registration was right by Saltspring Coffee it only made sense that`s where I would start my Tasting Plates adventure. Many people had the same idea making it a packed house inside the coffee shop with the employees were working hard to pump out coffee after coffee with a smile on their face. We had a choice of four drinks: La Labor, a seasonal coffee from Honduras, a spiced mocha, Metta Espresso, ristretto style, or a dark decaf. It seemed that the spiced mocha was the most popular most likely due to its unique flavours and wonderful presentation.
There was no shortage of spice in this beverage and it took many people by surprise by the almost overwhelming flavour it held. For me it was a great start to the night lending energy from the revitalizing citrus, the slap in the face spices and the strong espresso beans.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co @FlatbreadCo
With handcrafted and organic tomato sauce & mozzarella cheese topped pizza it seems hard to choose something bad at Rocky Mountain Flatbread. This pizza with love and caters to both the carnivore and the vegetarian. Realizing I had a night of pulled pork and meatball sliders ahead of me I opted for the one of the veggie types this time.
The three other choices were: the Farmer`s Market (veggie), the Naturally Meaty with herbs and asiago, and another with ham, mushroom and mango.
Trafiq Café & Bakery @TrafiqCafe
The tasting plate at Trafiq gave the option of either a trio of sweets or savories. This is where it was useful to travel with a partner or an entourage so that you weren’t limited and could try them all. After reading the choices I was glad that I had just met @wongers and @kcclaveria who were willing to share and ended up being my tasting plate buddies for the entire night.
The canape plate was vegetarian and showcased some of Trafiq’s artisan breads & pastries: an artichoke quiche with sundried tomato, baked brie toast points with dulce de leche served on cranberry pecan bread and walnut rosemary bread with roasted red pepper & chevre.
The dessert plate consisted of a salted caramel pecan cookie, a decadent brownie and a lemon raspberry tartlet.
Everything was fantastic on both of the tasting plates at Trafiq, with many people favoring the salted caramel pecan cookie, even over the rich and delicious brownie. Looking at the rows of goodies in the display case I know I’ll be back to sample some more.
Mobius Coffee & Tea @MobiusCoffeeTea
At Mobius they offered us a choice of three different cheesecakes: lemon, NY with strawberry coulis and chocolate with caramel drizzle. With comfy couches to sit on, a variety of flavors to suit everyone’s palate and the choice of whip cream on top, how can you go wrong?
Bob Likes Thai Food @boblikethaifood
I doubt many people were expecting the spice that Bob Likes Thai Food brought to the table. While many ethnic restaurants tone it down to accommodate the Western plate at Bob’s they kicked it up a notch, leaving some guests reaching for multiple water glasses. The main spice was in the papaya salad, and only slightly on the tuna chilli dip as it was atop a cucumber which cooled it down. The Miang Kham was unique in flavour and texture with chaphlu leaves, coconut shavings, peanuts and ginger prevalent in it, as was “Bob’s Chip”, a fried rice ball with black sesame seeds.
The team at Bob likes Thai Food was evidently prepared, as they had all the dishes laid out on a table ready to be eaten and served only cold dishes so that there was no wait time for “hot off the wok” food.
I`ve gone by this place many times but have never had the opportunity to check it out so I was glad to finally do so during Tasting Plates. They too were well prepared and had tea egg sandwiches with smokey tea sauce and miniature earl grey shortbread cookies layered on three tier trays ready to be dished out.
Tea tasting was from a selection of five different teas: Sikkim Temi Estate, French Earl Grey, Oriental Nights Green Tea, Organic Coconut Cream Chai, and Mount Pleasant Sunset Rooibos.
Triple O’s on the Go @TripleOsOntheGo
While I admit I scoffed at the idea of a chain restaurant hopping on the Tasting Plates train I was pleasantly surprised at what they served. Richard told me that they made the Orange Creamsicle Milkshake specifically for the event and that it was his favorite of the two. I’ve never been a creamsicle lover so I opted for the butterfinger milkshake which tasted pretty much just like drinking a butterfinger without that itchy feeling in your throat afterwards.
They also gave us the option of either the meatball slider or the crispy mac n’ cheese slider. The carnivore in me chose the meatball slider. I was impressed with the combination of pesto, provolone, marinara and meat all complimenting each other nicely.
Colleen, went for the deep fried mac n’ cheese slider and loved it…until she discovered that there was bacon in the ketchup as she was “vegetarian for the day.”
Sal y Limon @Salylimonvan
The men serving at Sal Y Limon were cheery and efficient as they offered a taste of what their restaurant had to offer. I was torn between the taco pollo pibil (chicken) and the pulled pork as they both looked juicy and delicious but in the end opted for the pulled pork. I loaded the toppings on (onions, cilantro and a highly recommended jalapeno sauce) and chowed down in my typical messy manner.
It wasn’t the best pulled pork I’ve ever had, as the jalapeno sauce trumped the bbq sauce that was on the pork. According to some others I spoke with, the chicken was the best option, but there was also a vegetarian friendly choice of zucchini with corn.
Pop Up Pizza @PopUpPizzaCA
We were warned by other Tasting Plate diners that the wait at this restaurant was a bit ridiculous and a major time-suck so we weren’t entirely surprised when it was true for us too. Due to meeting capacity we were politely asked to wait outside, once inside we were seated and should’ve been told to get comfy as it was a long wait for even the first pizza to arrive. I say it like that because they came out staggered so half of our table was done eating while the other had yet to begin. The Misfit, with wild boar salami and the hotel california with wine-poached pears were a hit with our group but the unique seafood pizza, Sublime, had an odd bitter taste that didn’t lend to the flavour of the lobster and prawn.
My favorite things about PopUpPizza? Every pizza had a wine influence, the cooks let me take photos of them with the hot pizzas, and the restaurant had a memorable bathroom.
It happened to be trivia night at Fray which meant that not only did we get a tasting plate but we got a little entertainment and brain-ticklers at the same time. Served at Fray was a portobello fry, rosemary-infused potato and taro chips, polenta salad, and a mini pork belly sandwich. I wasn’t super impressed by most of the items but the portobello fry (for which I hear they’re quite famous for) was delicious.
mygoodness! gluten & wheat free kitchen @mygoodnessgf
Unfortunately this was the last place that we made it to and they had already ran out of their goodie bags and were closing down for the evening. Because of this we missed out on crackers/cheese and queijos (Brazilian cheese bread) with salsa, & instead were given a mini carrot cake a gluten-free butter tart and a quiche.
You never would guess that these crusts were gluten-free as they were both crisp, flaky and were more-or-less overwhelmed by the strong flavours of the insides.
I started the evening thinking I would have no problem making it to all of the different restaurants but found myself hustling at the end to make it to the last two. Lesson learned: take your time to enjoy yourself but be realistic on travel time and potential waits at restaurants.
Tasting Plates was a great way to try new restaurants in Vancouver without committing to a full meal. For $30 it was a steal of a deal and left most with a fully satiated appetite and a slight feeling of glutton.
For more high-resolution photos check out my gallery on Flickr.