When people think of Vancouver in British Columbia, a thriving multi-cultural heritage and one of Canada’s greenest cities probably comes to mind. It’s hard to go more than a few blocks without running into a park or natural element, whether it’s a garden or rows of blossoming cherry trees bursting to life on the streets. But Vancouver is quickly becoming known for its cuisine as well, which takes its influences from a colorful history that includes everything from the early logging industry to the diverse immigrant experience.
Vancouver Food Tour general manager, and food and wine connoisseur himself, Carlos Gomes takes this loyalty to history to the next step as he guides patrons (visitors to the city and born-and-bred Vancouverites alike) on the Gastown Tasting Tour through a fascinating part of the city that features brick and mortar buildings that are still standing from the early 1900’s.
The Pourhouse, which for 30+ years was one of Vancouver’s hottest jazz clubs, bridges the gap between old-fashioned nostalgia and modern rustic with an Income Tax – a creative and citrusy take on the classic Manhattan martini. Top it off with a thrice cooked egg (soft-boiled, then fried in sausage and pakko, and finally baked) and gruyere stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and drizzled with vino cotto and you’ve got a dish that borrows from the original pioneer days, but has all the class of a Victorian-era establishment.
Gomes will generally fit four different locations into his tour, all of which are within walking distance of each other. The beauty of the tour is that many of these places are “off the map,” so to speak, and even people who have lived in Vancouver for years may be surprised to end up somewhere completely novel.
Such is the case with Salt Tasting Bar, a wine and cheese bar just off Blood Alley that prides itself on catering to local wines, cheeses, and meats. This is where Gomes’ extensive knowledge of wine pairings comes to the surface as he guides his guests through the nuances of flavors associated with each drink – whether it’s an Unsworth Pinot Gris matched with a local chévre goat cheese and locally source honeycomb, or a Bartier and Scholoefield Rose with Romano moccia and quince paste.
While it is at its core a food tour, Gomes’ friendly demeanor and real passion for what he’s doing comes across to make it really something special. After more than 15 years in the Vancouver tourism industry, he understands the need for engaging his clients, but it’s not just lip-service – he’s truly interested in people’s stories, and equally eager to demonstrate his knowledge on the finer points of brewing (whether it’s the fact that true Amarone wine has to be sun dried on straw mats, or the boon of adding hops before and after fermentation).
There are a few advantages to booking a food tour on a weekday: first, the group will be much smaller, which allows for a more intimate dining experience, and doesn’t feel overwhelming. Secondly, it can be a relaxing atmosphere in which to meet fellow like-minded food groupies, as well as fellow travelers. The variety in their choices of which establishments to visit means there is never a sense of boredom, and the reasons that the Vancouver Food Tour staff have been lauded for their quality service probably have as much to do with their courteous manner and broad expertise in the food and wine scene as it does with the fact that they are constantly on the lookout for new pubs and restaurants to include on their tours.