Eatin’ up the Food and Arts scene in Vancouver

I spent yesterday at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s “The Colour of My Dreams” Surrealist art exhibit as my way to celebrate another year in transition. After the show, I was thinking of hitting a nearby restaurant, but time was tight and I should’ve made my way home. By chance, I happened to be at the Vancouver Farmers Market that was set up at Thornton Park, next to the Main St. Skytrain Station. This event runs at different locations throughout the year, and in this case, I was in the right place at the right time. This particular market runs from June 1st to October 5th.

I was pleasantly surprised at my luck (my birthday wish came true); and for wary travellers to destinations far and wide, this market is a great way to grab consumables to nibble on during the trip. I had 30 minutes to kill and that was more than enough time to look at what’s available: there were plenty of vendors selling products like fruits, vegetables, honey, fish, pork, spices, sauce and soap. They were even set up for credit/debit card transactions, which I thought was a rarity. When compared to elsewhere, the ratio of card enabled payment options to cash only is far higher here than in any other community—that’s Vancouver for you.

While I could’ve gone hog wild at grabbing some different flavours of the mainland to sample, I didn’t. In the few tables I sampled, I found the salsa that Momma Nellies (Burnaby) offered to be very delicious. Also, I was looking for a meal to tide me over during the early evening. I picked up some different looking heirloom tomatoes from Ice Cap Organics (from Pemberton) that I could eat on the ferry and bought Blackberry Honey from Valley Gold Bee Company (Abbotsford) to go along with my assortment of teas back home. After several spoonfuls of this honey, I’m enjoying its freshness and gentle sweetness straight out of the jar. This honey is unpasteurized; I could take one spoonful a day and feel good. I recently learned that this company also made some other varieties from bees doing its thing with Japanese Knotweed. I’ll have to track that down!

Or I could settle for some more of those freshly made maple taffy pops ($3) from Maples Sugar Shack (Squamish). Their website isn’t fully set up yet, but in remembering all the products this operation had on display, I’m assuming most of the product is shipped in from Quebec. You need the pure stuff when making these taffy sticks and when I arrived at their table, the seller was making one that I greedily eyed.

Before I knew it, I was making sweet French love to the creamy gooey delight, swapping spit and nibbling. I tried to keep my eyes on the path otherwise I’d trip. I didn’t want to get off my sugar high, but eventually that had to change. I ordered two soft tacos from Off The Wagon (website also coming soon).

I almost could not wrap the small tortilla shell (two had to be used, otherwise the taco would fall apart) over the hefty servings of meat and slaw. With my pulled pork taco, the coleslaw had a good citrusy flavour that wasn’t overpowering. They used red cabbage in this taco, and I loved the combination.

The jalapeño infused cabbage that I had with the beef brisket taco was just as equally enticing and it didn’t fog up my glasses. The avocado dressing is top notch and the onions had a great crisp to them. I can see myself coming back here for more.

What surprised me about this $7 meal was that it filled me up. I honestly don’t have any issues with the price because the portions were that large. If I had six of them, I’d be wanting to waddle. I’m thinking that the tweaking of the price will bring in more customers.

I almost have to wonder why the “authentic Mexican” places back in Victoria are frugal with their toppings. I can have some nice hefty tacos, and there are vendors who aim to satisfy. I’m willing to bet that the reason is in the attitudes of the owners, the chefs, and in either going fusion or being traditional. Off the Wagon now has a storefront at the corner of Burrard and Dunsmuir, from 11:30 to 3pm weekdays, and the next time I’m in town, I’m buying six of these to fill me up for half a day. They have some interesting offerings: roasted yams, homemade chorizo, acorn squash, and black beans … bring it on!

But the critic in me can’t even stop on the ferry ride home. Cafeteria food here very rarely, if ever, rates beyond a two bloke star count. And I wasn’t on the right sailing to dish out $12 for the Pacific Buffet deal BC Ferries has right now. If I caught the 3pm or 9pm sailing, sure, but I’d be questioning the freshness of some of the food at the end of the day. The Bacon Cheddar burger was a one star meal. That was also all I saw late at night on the deck as the clouds were rolling in. At least that made for a nice atmospheric view of the night over the Gulf Islands.

Off the Wagon
4½ blokes out of 5

Off the Wagon on Urbanspoon

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