Warm up inside a restaurant during Dine Out Vancouver

Well the thought of cozying up at home during the weeks of rain and cold ahead of us is enticing, you will inevitably run out of groceries at some point. My thoughts? Skip buying them all together and eat out instead. As a hedonistic individual, I would never make a New Year’s resolution to cut out carbs, sugar, dairy, or any other “bad” food, and I hope that since you’re reading this we’re on the same page. With Dine Out Vancouver around the corner (Jan.17 – Feb.2) I, in fact, may do just the opposite.

With an impressive 263 restaurants participating in this year’s festival, it’s hard to not be overwhelmed by the choices. Since I have a flexible schedule and a slew of friends who love food as much as I do, we’re working collectively to find the “best” for our palate and, of course, our budget. As most of you already know, the festival includes multi-course menus for $18, $28 and $38, as well as a variety of events chock full of food, libations and entertainment. Many of the restaurants take reservations, while some of them don’t, just as some of the events sell out quickly, whereas others have tickets day-of.

Tourism Vancouver recently hosted a group of media representatives on a Dine Out Vancouver preview which saw us splitting into small groups and being escorted around the city, tasting along the way. I was part of Suzanne Raikes’ “Dine Out With Friends” group which, as the name implies, included restaurants to enjoy during a night out with your best buds. Since our theme was slightly more ambiguous then others, such as “Posh Nosh” or “Go Green”, our group was grabbing at nothing when guessing our three destinations. This made it all the more fun.

Our first stop was at Tap & Barrel in Olympic Village.

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David Stansfield, Tap & Barrel’s Sommelier, led us through the wine and beer pairings for our meal, while Chef Rob Holland came out to explain each dish. While this may not be the case when you dine there during Dine Out, there will definitely be someone on hand to give you a thorough description of the menu items and libation pairings should you choose to add them for an additional charge. Tap & Barrel’s Dine Out Menu sits in at $28, with BC wine  (on tap) pairings for $12 and BC beer pairings for $8.

My favourites included the rich Phillips Blue Buck Ale and Cheddar Soup and the flavourful Okanagan Goat Cheese Pizza with crumbled goat cheese with caramelized onions, roast garlic, fennel, arugula and balsamic syrup.

Note: They also have a gluten-free menu for no extra charge. 

Our second stop of the day…is a secret! As part of the Swallow Tail Secret Supper Soiree Series, I am obliged to bite my tongue for once so as to not ruin the surprise.

Upon entering said secret location, we were greeted with a delicious Pimm’s Cup made by Chef Robin Kort, and then seated at a long table where we were treated to an array of small bites and wine. The food included a Gin Marinated Qualicum Bay Scallop with Cucumber and Jalapeño; Roasted Carrot Soup with Smoked sablefish and Puffed quinoa; and seared Albacore Tuna with Yuzu, Radish and Seaweed. Wine included Perseus Winery’s Pinot Gris, Close du Soleil Winery’s Fume Blanc and Kismet Winery’s Mantra.

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In the actual event, edibles include canapés, dinner and two secret locations, plus a ride on a pink double decker. Although the theme of the venue and the food is “By The Sea”, the suggested dress code is 1930’s.

Cost:  $129 + tax/tip per person. Selling out quickly!

Our third stop of the day was surprisingly at Hawksworth Restaurant. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider this “the place to go with buds”, I wasn’t complaining to be there. We were treated to the “best of the best”, which is Hawskworth’s theme for their Dine Out event this year. Some items on the menu, such as their 48hr shortrib, have been on the menu since day one due to the requests of regulars. Other items include some of my favourites, the braised lamb, tuna carpaccio and the “KFC” scallop. See the menu for each of the days here.

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Cost: $48 + option of wine pairings

Note: Hawksworth chose to be with the “Dine Out With Friends” tour group rather than the expected “Posh Nosh” group because they host they’re dine out in the York Room (upstairs) and because it’s communal, family-style dining. 

With so many options to choose from you better start sleuthing for your favourite before reservations fill up and events sell out. I’ll be heading to Fishworks Friday for my first, and definitely not the last, Dine Out dinner of 2014.

On my radar for restaurants is:

$18: Cannibal Cafe, Hapa Izakaya , Las Margaritas, Memphis Blues BBQ (carnivores unite!), PICA, Romers Burger Bar (bargain), Trattoria Italian Kitchen and Troll’s (Horseshoe Bay)

$28: Fishworks, Abigail’s Party, Burnaby River Clubhouse, Cactus Club (great deal), Cardero’s, Central Bistro, Le Parisien, Libra Room (live music), Sala Thai Salmon & Bannock (Elk + Bison = yum), Twisted Fork

Also for those who don’t have a sweet tooth, Cork & Fin is offering three savoury courses for $28.

$38: Bistro Pastis (escargot lover), Chambar, Diva at the Met, Hart House, Mosaic, Poor Italian, Provence Marinaside (more options than med grill), West, Zen (Ocean Wise)


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