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EAT! Vancouver 2009

By Kenneth Law, MMV Dining Writer

Given that this was my first time attending EAT! Vancouver, it is difficult for me to tell you whether it was good this year or not. The large crowds certainly suggest it was financially successful as always, and since I came with low expectations, I was easily satisfied with the variety of different plates the vendors catered to in one building and all in all, I had a reasonably good time for $20.

That is not to say that my level of gratification would apply to others, or there aren’t complaints or otherwise room for improvement. To begin with: “starter” bag we got – a bottle of Clamato and the tiniest bag of chips you have ever seen. I hate tomato juice. None of my friends who went drink it; it’s not something that many people enjoy. Why not something more conventional like apple juice or just a bottle of water to keep us hydrated (because you’ll need it to survive the crowds)?

Editor’s Note: This was my second year at EAT! Vancouver. The previous year I went, most of the vendor booths were giving out samples of everything from packages of rice to dog food.  You needed that Bosa Foods bag for all the swag you were going to carry home!

And the crowd was certainly large. There were no shortages of polite patrons who line up properly and move around accordingly, though as always there are the few that make things worse through pushing or skipping the long lines. You’d wonder why they don’t provide more seating along the aisles given the amount of standing and waiting in line you’ll have to do to get a sample from one of the more popular vendors. The best places to take a rest were at the food shows around the perimeter of the event; it’s too bad most of them weren’t very engaging and were also subject to huge crowds, especially if a big-name chef is presenting such as Chef Tojo (who, I must add, is a decent entertainer on top of being a great chef despite his very thick accent).

The majority of food vendors were for products you could try in-store; very few were for actual dining establishments.  Fortunately, many of the products were actually pretty good, yet it comes as both a disappointment and a relief that I can easily prepare most of the things I’ve tasted by going to the local supermarket and throwing said item in a microwave.

Editor’s Note: As mentioned in the MMV listing for this event, EAT! Vancouver is a food and cooking convention, rather than a dining experience.

Despite all that, I still found EAT! Vancouver to be a decent time for the money.  Here are five reasons why:

  1. The salmon vendor. $3 gets you plenty of smoked salmon that is done quite well;
  2. Plenty of free samples to try, however small. This included a helping of curry rice, kelp miso soup, organic milk, cheese and yogurt;
  3. Seeing (although not tasting) Tojo’s without the $200 bill;
  4. Certain vendors employing entertaining games, ie bouncing a coin into a cup to receive a free bottle;
  5. Fun with friends.

Speaking of friends, there was a large drinking section, mired in huge crowds all waiting to sample various wines and alcohol.  The highlight there was probably the $2 wine tasting seminar; ideally this entire section would have been scrapped to make room for more restaurants with only the tasting seminar remaining. The pet food section is a particular highlight… if you own pets. They gave away free dog food samples like it was just passing out candy, probably because the samples may have been hard to get rid of given that people going to EAT Vancouver won’t really be thinking of dog food. And what were the tissue paper, foot massage and Costco vendors doing there? That is not what I paid the price of admission to see, a trail-mix trade show for random things like a live television advertisement segment.

Advice for future patrons of EAT:

  1. Get cheap(er) tickets. There are often promotions floating about. Or you can try Craigslist. This is advice for any event, but because your actual cost can vary greatly depending on how much you eat it’s particularly wise to save up your food budget;
  2. Get the tasting tickets instead of using cash. Way easier for you throughout the event;
  3. Don’t come too hungry, the samples are not particularly large or filling. It’s not a buffet;
  4. Don’t come after a 2 hour hike either;
  5. Bring your own bottle of water.

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