There are few things I enjoy more than being a tourist in my own hometown and when I’m offered the chance to experience the city like a visitor it’s rare that I’ll pass it up. Last week, I was invited to participate in the Taste Vancouver Food Tour’s Gastown Tour. Meeting up with ten others, who hailed from cities around the globe, I received my ear-piece, my lanyard, and set out on foot behind our guide, John “Gassy Jack” Deighton himself for the next tour hours.
Right off the bat the tour became more than a culinary adventure. The first few stops mentioned the history of the waterfront, from its very first years as a part of Vancouver up until the last twenty years.
Our first bite was of lobster macaroni and cheese at Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar. I’ve been to Rogue before and I’ve ordered the lobster mac n’ cheese, and I would do so again. The portion was about the third of the size of the actual menu item and was a nice way to warm up our taste buds for the rest of the tour.
The second tasting stop was Steamworks where we met brewmaster Conrad Gmoser who told us a bit about the IPA we sampled next.
On our way again, we stopped next door at Rogers Chocolates for a sample, complimented with a quick story about the founders. The sweet treat was followed up with some rolled maple syrup from Canadian Maple Delights.
Heading West down Water Street we crossed over and hopped into the arcade where we learned more about the building and the unique tin ceiling in the hall.
Ending up on Cordova, we looped back into Brioche where owner Eduardo Bilardelo spoke to us about his style of cooking, his ingredient choices, and a little bit about his hometown in Sicily. We were each given a healthy portion of freshly-made tortellini.
Lobster, pasta, beer, maple syrup, and now cheesecake. Trees Organic was the next stop where we tried two of their top-sellers. The key lime and the mocha cheesecake.
What tour of Gastown would be complete without the compulsory stop at the steam clock? I was happy to hear our guide note that it was indeed a creation of the 1970’s and not as old as some might think it to be.
I then stepped foot into the Water Street Cafe for the first time. We heard about the history of the hotel building in which it sits, its significance during The Great Fire, and the story of the cafe. The sample crab cakes were moist and packed with meat, not over-powered by any sauce at all.
Our food tour took a few more detours, winding in and out of the John Fluevog store, the Smart Mouth Cafe (where Greenpeace once met, since it was formed in Vancouver you know), and ended up on the corner of Water and Carrall. There, we found Peckinpah
This North Carolina barbecue joint opened up on the corner of Maple Tree Square, just behind the statue of Gastown’s namesake. The smokey aroma gives you a great big hug when you walk in the door and our sample of briket and pulled pork was enough to make me run home (not immediately of course) and tell John we’re returning for a full meal very soon.
Looping around to Gaoler’s Mews (pronounced Jailer’s Mews) our last tasting stop was in Apres Midi, a quaint teahouse whose selection was reminiscent of Silk Road in Victoria.
We sampled their market spice tea which had floral, cinnamon, and honey notes. Our tour then finished up, fittingly, at the foot of the Gassy Jack statue.
I look at Vancouver with the eyes of someone born and raised in the area — and someone who regularly does historical research — so it’s not everyday that I learn something new. I have to give the organizers credit for throwing in at least two tibdits about Gastown that I had not previously heard. To me, that makes for a winning tour for locals and visitors alike.
The tour was $39 a piece which is reasonable based on the information, the ground covered, and the ample tasting opportunities. This Gastown Tour runs daily from 2:00pm to 4:00pm until January 8, 2012. You can also book private tours for your group of 6 to 16 people throughout the year.
Update for Summer 2012: The food tour is now open every day. Check the official website for exact times.
If you would like to head out on the food tour yourself, they have offered up two Gastown tours to one lucky reader of mine. You can explore Gastown with a friend or treat an out-of-towner. Here’s how you can enter to win:
- Leave a comment on this post naming your favourite hometown attraction (1 entry)
- Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
I will draw one winner at random from all entries at 10:00am on Tuesday, December 20, 2011. Must be 19 years of age or older to do the tour as there is the stop in the pub.
Update The winner is Linda (@lindabook)!