Why? Because when it comes to food culture in Vancouver almost everything is focused on the downtown foodie scene. In a lot of ways East Van is where it is at when it comes to food culture in Vancouver but it is so often overlooked. A book dedicated to this particular world of food intrigued me.
I contacted creator Brad Hill and he graciously sent me a copy. To learn more about Brad and the inspiration behind the creation of this book, check out my interview with him. What intrigued me most about the book was not the recipes (believe it or not) but the stories—the stories behind the establishments who contributed to this collection.
Located at 843 East Hastings, Les Amis du Fromage shared their recipe for making a classic cheese fondue using Gruyere and Emmenthal, as well as a Moitie-Moitie and other versions. If anyone is going to know how to make a proper cheese fondue it is this place with its 12,000 square feet dedicated to cheese!
In this book you learn not just about making a fondue (as well as their classic Canadian mac & cheese) you get to read about why customers come in at Christmas time for the Vacherin Mont D’Or. Located in a restored concrete building that the cheese shop owners stripped to the studs to make it their own, this store considers its patrons to be their friends. Hence the name. I love it.
Not only did this section of the book make me want to go out and buy a fondue kit, it made me want to hop on the #20 and visit Les Amis du Fromage ASAP.
I was absolutely blown away by this photograph of The Red Wagon Cafe‘s pulled pork pancakes when I discovered it in The East Van Foodie. I could not stop asking myself if pulled pork with pancakes is genius or heresy?! I had the opportunity to try the combination at Deacon’s Corner and discovered it truly is genius. Now I have a recipe from the famous The Red Wagon Cafe to actually try in my own kitchen.
This is a place I have heard a lot about but have yet to discover for myself. Completely enamoured with nostalgia, this dinner at 2296 E. Hastings will know how to make pancakes! As I perused the recipe I quickly realized that as much as I personally wanted to make these in my own home, I was not going to be able to smoke the pork with hickory wood chips. Now, I still could do the eight-hour spice rub followed by the three hour low temp oven roast but it will not be 100% the same as getting it at The Red Wagon Cafe.
What Is This Exactly?
In fact as I went through the book I realized that there were some specialty ingredients (wild Nodding onions, lobster stock…) that make the dishes restaurant-quality but I may not find in my local neighbourhood market. That said, there are many recipes for the every-day pantry such as Bandidas Taqueria‘s handmade corn tortillas and Pizzeria Farina‘s pizza dough, both complete with photo tutorials.
So many stories and recipes intermingled together from the simple to the complex and all the way to the divine… This stunning collection goes beyond being just a cookbook. It is almost a documentary of the food life in East Vancouver. As much as the recipes intrigued me, all the work that goes into these dishes made me want to go visit the places where these examples of foodie brilliance originated.
But of course I did have to take on the actual FOOD! I decided to make Les Faux Bourgeois’ Tarte Flambe, mostly because this was more of a suggestion than a recipe. For the typical reader, the vagueness of instructions (cook until golden… no specific amount of time given) and the basic directions would be the best test.
It was a complete wash out because of issues with ingredients and such but I ended up with this delicious tart that in no way truly resembled the one in the cookbook. And it did not matter. It was delicious! In some ways I see the recipes as being a place for experienced cooks and bakers to search for inspiration more than come up with something to make for dinner.
The issue with doing a cookbook review for a cookbook that has recipes from many different sources is… consistency. They are all written differently by various chefs who do their own thing their own way. Some had meticulous instructions, others like the one I tried were basic if not vague. This may be an issue for the person who wants to make all the recipes in the book but that is the charm and challenge of this particular style of cookbook.
The Drinks & Foodie Conclusion
Life in East Van would not be complete without acknowledging mojitos at Havana on The Drive. Even I have participated in this patio ritual of hanging out people watching watching in one of the coolest neighbourhoods of Vancouver. There are a lot of recipes for other beverages of the city including Juniper’s East Van Bramble.
What an astoundingly beautiful book The East Van Foodie is. Visually the design and photos are absolutely epic and the writing is, well, delicious. Chris Dagenais knows how to share the intel about each location without sounding like a typical travel book by keeping us engaged with stories and fascinating details. He makes us want to go and see what he sees with our own eyes: “Every traveller, explorer, and person excited by the discovery of new flavours, textures or combinations, owes an eternal debt to the intrepid souls that have revealed possibilities to us where none were seen before.” In other words, he is a damn good writer.
Brad Hill‘s The East Van Foodie goes even farther beyond my expectations which were already ridiculously high. I love East Vancouver and wanted someone to truly represent its authenticity, uniqueness and brilliance and he did it. He did it with outstanding layout, photography, storytelling and research. I honestly do not think anyone could have done a better job. It is cookbook perfection that you just want to eat up.
I give this cookbook five out of five wooden spoons. Damn, I am so bloody impressed.