When you’re exploring a new city with a limited amount of time, it can be challenging to determine where to begin. With that dilemma in mind, and only so much room in my stomach, I enthusiastically decided to try the Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour by Vancouver Foodie Tours. Vancouver is one of the most vibrant cities in the world with renowned multiculturalism which is reflected in a diverse food scene of sustainable seafood, locally-grown meats, cheeses, and produce.
The Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour showcases some of downtown Vancouver’s award-winning restaurants and food shops on a three-hour food tasting and educational walking tour. Not only do they provide you with an eager local guide to show you around the downtown core and teach you about the city, but the tour also features 14 tastings along the way.
My tour guide was Nadia, a remarkably friendly expert on Vancouver culture with an ear to the ground of the city’s food scene and an eidetic memory for food and taste. She could tell you about every meal she’s cooked or eaten at any restaurant, and she knows nearly every single one in Vancouver. The tour allows participants to walk as a group between five restaurants where you have 14 tastings, sometimes paired with wine, beer, or a cocktail. The Guilty Pleasures Tour includes:
- 4 courses, 14 tastings
- An educational walking tour of the downtown core
- Runs all year round
- Alcohol pairings available
Some of my favourites featured on this gastronomic adventure included the best dim sum in Vancouver at Kirin Chinese Restaurant, exquisite (and some in the group said ‘life-changing’) sashimi at Market in the stunning Shangri-La hotel, unforgettable amber ale cheddar cheese from Urban Fare, and gelato from the award-winning Bella Gelateria.
Below is a sneak peek at all of the foods I ate during the tour:
1172 Alberni Street: Kirin restaurant served the best dim sum I’ve ever had – hands-down. It’s no wonder they’ve won ‘best dim sum’ by Vancouver Magazine several years in a row.
- Siu Mai pork and prawn dumpling
- Abalone chicken steamed bun
- Sticky rice in lotus leaf
- Jasmine green tea
- White truffle hummus on Terra Breads baguette
- Smoked salmon pâté in phyllo cup
- Amber ale cheddar by Village Cheese Co. and Dutch vermeer gouda cheese
- Thomas Haas caramel pecan truffle, lightly salted
- Blasted Church Vinyard’s Hatsfield’s Fuse white wine and Big Bang Theory red wine
Market by Jean-Georges at the Shangri-La Hotel
1115 Alberni Street: Market is a contemporary restaurant with impeccable and sophisticated dishes created by three-star Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. They are using local beef, sustainable seafood, and ingredients foraged in the British Columbia area led by Chef Ken Nakano.
- Rosemary popcorn with salt and olive oil
- Tuna tataki with citrus emulsion
- Lois Lake steelhead sashimi on crispy rice
- Soya glazed beef short rib with apple-jalapeno puree
- Ginger lime margarita with tequila, cointreau, ginger, lime, and ginger salt
1059 Alberni Street: Constantly buzzing with chocolate-lovers and a packed cafe patio out front, Thierry is a patisserie brought to us by Thierry Busset, a pastry chef from three-star Michelin restaurants in London and named “one of the finest pastry chefs in the world” by Gordon Ramsay. It’s the best place to get a cup of liquid chocolate to put a kick in your step, or a box of freshly-made macarons.
- House-blend liquid chocolate
1001 West Cordova Street: The last stop on our tour was to indulge, if you still had room, in the best gelato in Vancouver. In the spring and summer months, line-ups at their door fill the block and they don’t close until every last customer is served. They use classic Italian gelato machinery with a slow process to make small batches, from scratch with seasonal ingredients found locally, and they do it all in front of everyone with glass windows to the kitchen. In 2012 James Coleridge, the owner, went to Italy and won best gelato at the biggest gelato competition in the world.
- Salted caramel
- Sunshine citrus
- Chocolate sorbetto