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Vancouver’s gorgeous scenery is appreciated by locals and visitors alike. Dining outdoors amongst these unparalleled vistas is an amazing experience, even considering the smoky conditions this past month. Peeking through the haze, a glowing orange sunset is an ethereal sight upon the water.

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With the twinkling lights of the Lion’s Gate Bridge and the looming trees of Stanley Park as a backdrop, two spectacular culinary competitions unfolded at West Vancouver’s Ambleside Pier this past week. As part of the 10-day Harmony Arts Festival, tickets to the Best of the West and Mixology Night events are becoming some of the most coveted in town.

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Best of the West 2017

Returning for its seventh year, Best of the West featured a lucky baker’s dozen team-up of delectable morsels and distinctive wine, all vying for votes from eager attendees. Chef’s from 13 of Vancouver’s finest restaurants crafted mouthwatering plates to pair with 13 exquisite BC wines.

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[Parc’s sous vide lobster tail]

2015 and 2016 Best of the West winner Parc Retirement Living returned in hopes of a hat trick, serving up a tropical-themed sous vide lobster tail, balanced with Laughing Stock Vineyard’s lusciously divine Chardonnay.

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[Cactus Club ceviche]

Sustainability was the theme for the Cactus Club Café and the Vancouver Aquarium with both competitors offering up their own versions of ceviche. Cactus Club featured steelhead and prawns paired with Poplar Grove Winery’s fruity Blanc De Noirs Rosé while the Aquarium served plump scallops in a wonton shell matched to Blue Mountain Winery’s bubbly Gold Label Brut.

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[Terroir’s seared scallop]

Scallops were also on the menu for both Milestones and Terroir KitchenHester Creek Estate Winery’s Old Vines Trebbiano soothed the heat from Milestone’s spicy blackened scallop dish. Rich and juicy, Harper’s Trail Pioneer Block Riesling was optimal for Terroir Kitchen’s seared scallop with minted peas. 

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[The Observatory’s smoked chicken breast]

There was no lack of creativity at this event. Quail’s Gate Estate Winery’s complex Pinot Noir paired well with The Observatory’s savoury smoked chicken breast with cherries and crispy skin. ARC Restaurant offered an upscale Dungeness crab salad alongside Culmina Family Estate Winery’s bright and subtle Saignée.

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[Feast’s smoked beef carpaccio]

Feast Neighbourhood Table’s tempting smoked beef carpaccio deserved Painted Rock Winery’s ripe, succulent Merlot. Haywire Winery’s citrusy White Label Pinot Gris is the perfect companion to Zen Japanese Restaurant’s inventive popcorn halibut with coconut yam chips. 

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[Mangia E Bevi braised pork cheeks]

The two surprises of the evening were from restaurants Café Ça Va and Mangia E Bevi. Scrapping the confit of duck rilette that was originally on the printed menu, Café Ça Va went with a bright and intricate salad featuring salted golden beets and sticky red beets.

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[Le Vieux Pin]

The taste combination was deliciously unexpected but did not quite mingle with Le Vieux Pin’s floral Violette Syrah, meant for the duck. Mangia E Bevi is an Italian restaurant, right at home in West Vancouver. They offered melt-in-your-mouth pork cheeks braised in syrah, paired with Burrowing Owl Estate Winery’s outstanding Syrah.

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One attendee described the combo as an “out of body experience.” Patrons were also wearing their bliss as I spotted many a gravy stain as they returned for seconds or thirds! No surprise that this combination was voted Best of the West winner.

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[Thomas Haas dark chocolate cake]

No gastronomic feast is complete without dessert. Temper Chocolate and Pastry offered a fresh and peachy brioche sponge cake with Road 13 Vineyard’s deliciously delicate Marsanne. Thomas Haas himself was spotted serving up a sumptuous dark chocolate cake alongside Tantalus Vineyard’s fruity floral Pinot Noir.             

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[Temper Chocolate’s sponge cake]

The majority of the patrons were an older, sophisticated crowd who seemed to enjoy the elegance of this gala. This is my first year attending but appreciate why this event is an annual sell-out and deserves repeat visits. Truly a sensational evening! 

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Mixology Night 2017

Last year’s inaugural Mixology Night was a spectacular and innovative celebration of the revival of mixology. Bartenders were invited to showcase their creativity in whatever fashion tickled their fancy. Their creative concoctions “intoxicated” guests and some have returned for another round!

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With free-flowing refreshments and scrumptious food, this designer drink competition was the toast of the town on Thursday night. Contenders included three returning mixologists and five newcomers.

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[Sabrine Dhaliwal]

Sabrine Dhaliwal from UVA returned for a second time and created her subtle Evening Whispers with Belvedere Vodka. Also returning was Robyn Gray from the Prohibition Bar. Grey used Suntory Toki Whisky for his zinger Toki Iced Tea.

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[The Pachamama]

Katie Ingram hailed from L’Abattoir and said that her Pachamama cocktail (made from El Gobernador Pisco) is a nod to the earth goddess and celebrated feminine energy.

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[Max Borrowman]

Max Borrowman from Juniper worked with Grand Marnier to craft his toothsome Cascadian. Chelsea Schulte of Cocktails & Canapes used Campari and Lillet on her luscious Better of Red.

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[Justin’s Blood and Champagne cocktail]

Justin Darnes represented the Trump Lounge with his extravagant Blood and Champagne cocktail while Ancora Dining’s Philipp Karatsyupa used Diplomatico Reserva in his bold, inventive Voila Venezuelan Festivus.

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[La Tierra Del Fuego]

Sergio Grandolfo crafted a vibrant La Tierra Del Fuego which literally means “land of fire”. The striking presentation and mash-up of sweet, sour and spicy notes propelled him into the top winner spot. Visit him at Cacao in Kitsilano and ask for this signature cocktail!

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[Roasted pig courtesy of Memphis Blues]

Last year, some guests complained that there wasn’t enough food but organizers have corrected this in a big way. There were plenty of tasty morsels including a whole roasted pig from Memphis Blues and yummy avocado crisps by Mamie Taylor.

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[Trio of Torched Temari sushi]

The intricate preparation of Cocktail & Canapes’ Trio of Torched Temari sushi provided entertainment in itself. These edibles were not as extravagant as last year (freshly shucked oysters, sushi, bison sliders, portobello skewers) however they were abundant and satisfying.

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[Toki Iced Tea]

The stars were the innovative sips — every mixologist delivered with dazzle and flourish. Ambleside Pier was also decked out with giant stars, giving off an edgier look and feel for the younger crowd at this event. Everyone would have happily chatted into the wee hours, but being in West Vancouver, we were gently hushed out just shy of 10 pm.

Cora Li and guest
[Photo courtesy of Harmony Arts Festival]

If you didn’t make it out to either of these culinary extravaganzas, consider setting a reminder for 2018. The caliber of both these events rivals any in downtown Vancouver, plus the parking is much easier. Best of the West and Mixology Night marry spectacular scenery and ocean breezes with gastronomic delights and daring libations. Where not expressly mentioned, photos by Cora Li.

About Our Contributor Cora Li

Cora Li

Cora dabbles in arts, technology, food, and travel. She loves that Vancouver offers a vast playground for exploring all of her passions. Cora’s most memorable job to date was working with VANOC during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Her next big pursuit will be in the newly-introduced field of forensic linguistics.

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