We’re just one week away from the 15th Annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival, the city’s most anticipated food and drink event (and Canada’s largest).
Earlier this week, groups of media were given the chance to visit a few restaurants in one of several neighbourhoods (restaurants/events revealed upon arrival).
This gave me the chance to explore Railtown, a city heritage district that I’ve occasionally visited but don’t often frequent. Railtown was once Vancouver’s industrial heart and home to historic Japantown. Within this growing business core just east of Gastown are various food spots that have quickly become local faves.
We began the evening with an abbreviated culinary tour hosted by Off the Eaten Track’s Bonnie Todd. Bonnie and her team have been creating walking tours focusing on hidden gems going on four years; they now offer five tours in Vancouver, three in Victoria and one in Banff, Alberta. Tours include historical and architectural tidbits en route.
This is also their fourth year participating in Dine Out Vancouver.
Our Discover Railtown Culinary Tour brought us to Railtown Catering, The Uncommon Cafe and The Settlement Building, home to Vancouver Urban Winery, Postmark Brewing and Belgard Kitchen.
Railtown Catering is a lovely little spot for indulging in beautiful sandwiches, salads, soups and homemade ice cream. The popular catering company has expanded to include a Howe Street location; two more openings (Main Street, Granville Street) are in the works.
The Ancient Grain salad shown here was complimented by a hearty carrot/ginger soup. Inside this tasty salad? Red kale, roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed mushrooms, beef brisket (smoked for six hours then transferred to sous-vide for 36 more), crispy onions and reggiano, tossed with an aged sherry dressing.
It may not be located in the most glamorous part of town (directly opposite Oppenheimer Park), however The Uncommon Cafe is an adorable little space with a locally-sourced menu, offering teas, coffee, homemade baked goods and in our case, a pizza-making workshop!
As soon as we were introduced to owners Lisa & Luc Leimanis, we grabbed aprons and went straight to the kitchen in back to get a quick lesson in preparing dough, later making our own individual pizza creations to enjoy in the cafe up front.
The majority of the cafe’s decor and equipment is pre-owned and the duo aim for 90% sustainability across the table. Diners will be lucky to get a taste of French-born Valentine Kitamura’s (of Tartine & Maple) sweet pastries.
I’m no stranger to Vancouver Urban Winery and Postmark Brewing, however it’s always a treat to visit former steel factory The Settlement Building. This gorgeous, high-ceiling building houses a brewery, winery (producing wines on tap) and restaurant. It was our final stop of the tour although the regular tour makes four stops (and lasts two hours).
Adding yet more variety to our night of mystery, our final stop was at PiDGiN, technically in Gastown, but always a treat. Their Asian/Pacific Northwest fusion menu combines with a gorgeous interior and well-known cocktail menu.
PiDGiN decided to buck the norm and offer a bunch of tasting plates rather than three courses. The family-style service is $40 per person with an optional wine pairing ($30). We were treated to an ongoing parade of culinary delights, the highlight for many of us being the lingcod with smoked Berkshire lard, turnips, soy brown butter and sticky seasoned rice.
Other winning dishes include Dan Dan kohlrabi noodle salad with tofu and almonds; beef tenderloin, braised beef creek, broccoli and onions; squash, arugula, cauliflower and hazelnut salad and the divine finishing touch: rose blossom meringue with yuzu lemon curd and berry compote. A vegetarian menu is also available. Menu add-ons range from Northern Divine caviar to black truffle.
I highly recommend PiDGiN for a flavour adventure with an abundance of local ingredients. Dine Out Vancouver runs from January 20 to February 5.