One of my biggest regrets from my trip to Copenhagen, Denmark was that I had so little time to truly delve into the food scene there. As we had arrived on a national holiday, many of the restaurants were either closed or closed early (although the booze was still flowing, I can assure you…) and so I never had a smørrebrød, the famous Danish open-face sandwich.
Well, on my recent cruise to Alaska I knew I wanted to do things differently for my second non-Caribbean cruise and for starters, I gave myself another day in Vancouver. And I also booked a food tour. Vancouver is a massive city (it’s the third largest in Canada) and of course I knew there would be tons of things to see and do. But I wanted food, gosh darn it, and Taste Vancouver provided just that, thankfully in the neighborhood I was most interested in visiting.
The thing about the western coast of North America is that things aren’t “very old” (at least going by East Coast standards). So when you hear that Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, well, its origins still only date to the late 19th century. But hey, history is history. The other added bonus was that Gastown was within walking distance to our hotel (when in a new city, walking will always be my preferred means of transport).
The Gastown tour with Taste Vancouver, simply put, was fantastic. It wasn’t an overly large group (always a plus) and I truly loved the diversity of stops. But one of the best parts about the tour was the genuine ardor and love that our guide Tia exhibited. I’ve experienced a variety of guides over the years on food tours I’ve taken, ranging from the true culinary saveur to feeling like you’re dining in someone’s home to a person who truly loves what they’re doing, and Tia was definitely one of the most passionate and fun-loving ones.
As food tours go, this was definitely one in which I learned a ton about the neighborhood too; many food tours will give you some background but never really go on history overload.
The tour included a total of nine stops which I’ll detail below, including what we ate/drank while there:
The tour started at Waterfront Station and our first official tasting was a cold beverage from the Starbucks there. I thought that was a tad odd until I learned that that particular Starbucks was the FIRST outside of the United States, so it was neat in that regard.
Steamworks Brewing Company
Summer Ale-Beer is beer to me but those who were beer fans professed that the ale had a great taste to it. Steamworks does their brewing right on site; they’re housed in a historic building that featured some extremely neat interior details.
Cheese tortellini with salchicha sauce and homemade bread-I knew this was a dish we’d be having, I just didn’t know it would be from a “bakery” that had an extremely French-sounding name. But the owner is apparently Italian and does a whole lot more than just baguettes and brioche. This was probably one of the best pasta sauces I have ever tasted.
131 Water Kitchen & Bar
Fish and chips-My palette is way beyond the fish and chip spectrum in terms of opting to order that but I’d be lying if I said these weren’t some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. They also came in the most adorable presentation form. (Water is the name of the street the restaurant is on, hence its name).
Peck and Pah
Carolina BBQ sandwich-This was our only entree dish that we ate standing up outside. It was delicious (but when is BBQ ever not?), I just would have preferred to have eaten it sitting down. BBQ anything is a messy affair, especially when eating it on the go. Apparently Peck and Pah is THE place to go when craving BBQ and southern spirits (i.e. whiskey).
Baodownada (a marriage of a Chinese bao bun and an empanada) and a mango mojito-I had never had a bao before and obviously you know my love of empanadas, so a combination of these two was like a culinary explosion in my mouth, an explosion of the best kind, that is. The mojito was also sublime but these are my alcohol “never say never to.” My only true critique of the tour is that we didn’t have nearly enough time at this stop even though this had the most to partake (food and a full size cocktail). I felt time at the other stops could have been distributed better (i.e. we probably didn’t need to stay as long as we did at the first stop, Steamworks).
Soft Peaks Ice Cream
Softserve ice cream, milk flavor-Tia raved about this place, especially the milk flavor (as in straight up milk, no milk chocolate) and it delivered. I’ll always prefer the more unique ice cream flavors (blueberry basil), but on a hot day, this was quite refreshing.
Cheesecake-When you’re craving cheesecake in Vancouver, Trees is apparently the place to go. It was originally started by Israeli immigrants and even though they have since sold the business, it still maintains its reputation. There were three flavors to choose from, New York style, Chocoholic, and Raspberry White Chocolate.
Délices Érable & Cie
Maple syrup and maple cookie-The funny thing was earlier in the day when we had explored Gastown on our own, we stopped here and bought a couple of things. Don’t get me wrong, I like maple syrup. But drinking it as if it was a shot, not my thing. We tried three different flavors, golden, amber, and regular. I much preferred the maple cookie.
For our final stop, we sampled a chocolate at a local institution that dates back to the late 19th century. I naturally loved it and we had plans to return after the tour (the tour finished where it began, at Waterfront Station) only to discover it had closed, presumably only moments after our group had left. Next time.
For my limited time in Vancouver, I did pack in a lot but my food tour was definitely one of the most memorable doings. I got to experience a little bit of everything that Vancouver had to offer from a culinary perspective and that of course is why I love food tours so.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary tour in exchange for my review but as always all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.