Already indulged in a festive holiday season? Save some room for Dine Out! The 2015 Dine Out Vancouver Festival’s about to kick off its 13th edition with culinary events, prix-fixe menus at three price levels at over 270 restaurants, and special Dine and Stay Packages for both locals and tourists alike.
The festival promotes local and regional ingredients, BC wines, and our city’s exceptional culinary talent. From January 16 to February 1, discover some new faves and old haunts; Vancouver’s food-forward scene is definitely alive and well as I experienced last night during a festival media preview.
Our dinner tour was themed Date Night for Lovers: Old-World Romance. After a wine and nibbles gathering at Chambar’s gorgeous new space, we were divided into groups and whisked off to various eateries around town — each destination remained a secret until we arrived, keeping our group guessing as to what “old-world romantic” restaurants we’d encounter on our tour.
First stop? Glowbal Group’s Black+Blue (think Old World and classic hearty dining), where a large table – including table-side drink service – was soon filled with samples from the restaurant’s $38 three-course dinner with optional Mission Hill wine paring ($25). I enjoyed a Vodka apricot sour mixed right beside our table!
Appetizers feature a choice between beer, bacon & cheddar chowder and Stilton wedge salad, entrée choices include Black+Blue jerk chicken, braised lamb shank, and peppercorn-crusted AAA tenderloin, and to top off the meal, chestnut almond cake for dessert.
There’s also the option to add either 1/4 lb. King crab, lobster tail, scallops, or lemon butter prawns to any entrée. I much enjoyed the hearty cheddar chowder and tenderloin; Black+Blue knows their steak!
A quick walk over to our biggest surprise of the evening, The Urban Tea Merchant. This is a spot I’ve come to really enjoy for high tea, and the salon’s impeccable attention to detail, service, and presentation did not disappoint. Urban Tea is offering an eight-course Tea Gastronomy during Dine Out, all their dishes infused with the luxury Singapore tea brand’s finest loose leaf teas.
Executive Chef Nathan Wright has a mighty fine array of teas at his disposal, to infuse into his dishes.
Cups of various teas were poured from the brand’s signature white tea pots as we sampled everything from Egg in a Nest (caviar, Tokyo-Singapore Tea smoked salmon custard, speck bacon, truffle aioli) to Camelot Tea & Sweet Potato Soup (one of our group’s favourite courses), with a colourful Pickled Carrot Salad paired with Jade of Africa Rooibos cocktail. Not only was each dish artfully presented but also paired with a distinct tea.
A slightly smoky-tasting Russian Black Tea-scented ling cod is served alongside parsnip, pickled Beach mushrooms and Porcini.
A sinfully delicious Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bar capped off our tea adventure, containing New York Breakfast Tea chocolate ganache, toasted peanuts, dulce de leche, and raspberries for a sweet finish, paired with a remarkably delicate cup of Milk Oolong tea.
This is a treat and worth seeking out during Dine Out; on January 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, and 31 there will be two seating times per evening, 5 and 7 pm. The Gastronomy is priced at $125 and includes a gorgeous boxed tea set to take home. A similar five-course menu is available for $85 (not including tea gift; both prices exclude gratuity and ticket fee).
Our final destination was Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar at the Sutton Place Hotel. Chef Alex Chen has prepared a well-varied seasonal three course $38 menu including sunchoke velouté, winter green salad, or Albacore tuna tartare to start, Pacific provider salmon, squash risotto, or braised pork cheek as main options, and pavlova or chocolate torte to finish the meal.
I was very impressed with both the sunchoke velouté and the Pacific provider salmon, simmering in a beautiful paella sauce, topped with a split pea and sprigs of greens. The squash risotto is just so gorgeous, with added buttery flavour courtesy of crème fraîche and naturally sweetened by the seasonal squash.
Boulevard’s Dine Out wine pairing prices vary per course ($11 to $15/glass) and selection.
Visit the Dine Out Vancouver Festival website for menus and reservations. A word of warning: book early as many popular time slots fill up!