Vancouverites are in for a real treat this summer, with the city’s recent approval of 12 extra food carts. Yours Truly got a jump on the noshing through a press preview of some of the vendors’ cuisine. Here’s my report:
Gary’s Gluten Wagon
Gary Weeble describes himself as a “lapsed foodie” who works part-time at the TRIUMF nuclear physics facility at UBC. He says he was dusting the inside of the particle accelerator one afternoon when a colleague accidentally hit the “on” switch. In a flash, his culinary vision took form in his mind: all-gluten burgers and wraps, along with “Whipped Gluten on a Stick.” Although the retro food concept may seem like a stretch for this calorie-conscious city I can report that at least one item, the gluten veggie wrap, was not at all bad.
Thomas Haus’s Mobile Chocolaterie
Not to be confused with Thomas Haas, Vancouver’s premiere maker of high-end chocolate confections, Thomas Haus is a 43-year-old former Wall Street hedge fund manager and crossbow champion. After the collapse of investment house Bear Stearns in 2008, he arrived in Vancouver licking his wounds and hungering for a new line of work involving his first love, chocolate.
“Vancouver and chocolate go together like Vienna and Mozart,” the mesomorphic Haus told me in a vaguely Schwarzeneggerrian accent. His chocolate croissants in the shape of dollar signs certainly fit with our overpriced city. As I watched, he juggled a block of marzipan the size of a six-pack in one hand while pouring a hot chocolate with a foam likeness of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Impressive! Rich tastes with prices to match.
Gregor’s Chicken-Free Fajitas
Wow. This is wrong on so many levels, beyond a clear conflict of interest. First of all, in the strictest sense it’s NOT chicken-free. Mayor Gregor Robertson somehow hurdled the approval process with a food vending operation staffed entirely by hens. My food order appeared to set off a hellacious round of clucking and flapping behind the counter. In this avian free-for-all, a fajita was somehow put together—badly—and launched onto a paper plate in a cascade of feathers. To compound the confusion, I was splattered with olive oil and given the wrong change. The soy fajita itself didn’t taste all that bad, which is saying a lot considering the presentation.
The Bavarian Shezuan Snack Shack
It shouldn’t work but it does. I had the Kung Pao Schnitzel, which was excellent. And allow me to puncture a persistent stereotype about German-Chinese fusion cuisine. It’s untrue that an hour after eating you feel hungry for power.
Looking for animal by-product mixed with pink slime, and served up between two half-cylinders of white starch? Then get thee to Nat Bailey stadium, you half-conscious knuckledragger. Celebrity chef Rob Feenie is after more sophisticated palates with his all-organic bison hot dogs, served with a garnish of Vancouver cool. Five stars from this reporter.
Big Louie’s Kill Yer Own Cuttlefish
I took a pass on this one. Cuttlefish—small, smart cousins of squid—are capable of a wide range of behaviour, beyond jaw-dropping feats of camouflage. They can solve primate-level puzzles in laboratory environments, and undersea they shimmer in brilliant bioluminescent displays. But in Big Louie’s on-site tank they’re not much to look at, their skin colour a uniform beige of depression. Try to look away from the pleading yellow eyes as you choose your very own cuttlefish for Big Louie to fry up.
Monsanto’s Little Shop of Hors d’Oeuvres
The one big corporate street food vendor will offer Vancouver’s latest “edgy” food option: genetically-tweaked “nutriware” in the form of paradigm-scorching canapés. There’s everything from “Jurassic Pork Crostini” to “Mitochondrial Bruschetta.” Monsanto will have a few bigger take-away options available, including “Dr. Moreau’s Special. It looked to me like a blowfish with nipples, with a side of “Yam I Almost Am” fries.” The edible kelp serviette functioned as a printed brochure, which described Dr. Moreau’s Special as a recombinant DNA mix of “bluefin tuna, cod, lamb, and beef jerky.” Essentially, it was a chimeric glob of gene-spliced tissue, “bred in-lab without a nervous system.”
My journalistic estimate: my plate of grub looked like an extraterrestrial crime scene, but was quite tasty nonetheless. You go, globally dominating, life-messing megafirm!